In recent issues of this Newsletter we reported on an evangelistic tour to the Soviet Union by some of our Los Angeles staff and two other ministers, and we also published some encouraging pictures.
We know that our five-person team made a definite impact for the gospel during that trip, and we expect to hear more good news as time goes by. The encouragements continue to trickle in, and we have chosen three of them to share with you, our Newsletter readers.
The first is a letter from a Russian Jewish man who wanted to know more about the gospel after encountering one of our team members. He wrote:
Shalom, choshere hern!
[We think he meant chosere herren, German for kosher people.”]
I learnt your address from the man from your organization Jews for Jesus who was on a visit in our city. He told us about God’s love to Jews and no[n] Jews. And we found that we, the citizens of the country of the militant atheism, know nothing about religion. Therefore I, one of them, who knows almost nothing even about the Bible and wants to know everything, write to you. Please, help me if you can.
Yefim G. [signed in both English and Hebrew characters]
(With God’s help, we surely will help Yefim and others like him!)
The two accounts that follow are reports from Elizabeth T., one of our staff workers in Los Angeles. She especially seeks out and ministers to Russian-speaking Jewish people in Los Angeles, and was one of the five-member evangelistic team we sent to the Soviet Union last spring.
As a tourist returning from another country, many ask me, “What do you most remember from your trip?” While I was in the Soviet Union drivers asked, “Where can I take you?” The answer was, “Somewhere memorable.” I and my missionary team were taken to such a place one day, but the reason it was memorable for us was different from the driver’s reason.
In Russia, after a wedding many couples go to Red Square or the Lenin Mountains, or somewhere else historically significant. On the day I am describing, three couples came to the Lenin Mountains where our driver had taken us. For two of these couples it was merely a memorable occurrence. For the third, however, it was especially memorable.
Avi Snyder, Dr. Elliston and Rev. Kuzichev walked on ahead. I was lagging behind and I noticed a newlywed couple about to break their glasses after drinking a toast. I stopped them and asked why they were doing that. “Tradition,” was the answer. I explained that there was someone here who could give them a reason for it, and I called Rev. Kuzichev over. He began to speak with the new husband. I explained to Avi in English what was happening and discovered that part of the group, one man in particular, spoke English. I introduced Avi and off they went to talk. I took a third small group to one side and began to witness to them in Russian. They were hungry to hear who Jesus is, and what he did for us when he died on the cross and rose again.
As I was witnessing, the man who was talking with Avi prayed to receive the Lord. Then Rev. Kuzichev and the new husband came over to me. One man in my original group prayed with me while the whole group was present. The new husband then prayed with Rev. Kuzichev. A fourth man came forward and said that he also wanted to pray!
Avi told me to go ahead and talk with him, but not to push. I asked the man if he was really serious or just wanted to pray because others had prayed. He said, “No, I have read the Bible and I have searched, but I just didn’t know what I needed to do. Now I know. I need to pray to receive Jesus.” I prayed with him, and both of us had tears in our eyes.
The Lord indeed made that a memorable place. It was memorable for a couple on their wedding day, memorable for three others who embarked on an adventure with Jesus and memorable for our team, that we had met and witnessed the birth of new brothers into our family.
So I can only say, “Thank you, Lord, for the memories.”
One Young Man’s Death Saves Another
A common story? Maybe. Hero stories are often printed in the newspapers. This story is about a different kind of hero—a hero who will never have a parade. But let me start at the beginning.
During the two weeks I recently spent in the Soviet Union, our small group was invited to many churches to speak. Most of the Russian services followed the same order. First our host would preach, then Eddie Elliston, professor at Fuller Theological Seminary, would preach. Then it would be my turn to speak.
At one church in Odessa I told the following story with hopes of some response, but I never expected what happened. I told of a young man here in the United States. He was a college student. He had heard me give my story at one of my church visits, and it had touched his heart. He had friends with him that day, and because of that he was embarrassed to talk with the preacher of the church.
The preacher arranged to meet with him at a later time in his apartment. The young man came, and the preacher told him the way to salvation. The young man exclaimed, “I am a sinner, and I want to repent. What must I do to be saved?” The preacher said that he must pray to receive the Lord Jesus Christ as his Messiah and Savior.
The young man looked at his watch and realized that he was late for a date. He inquired as to how long the prayer would take. “Two or three minutes,” the preacher explained.
The young man said that he would be late for his date if he stayed any longer, and he would come back. As the young man was leaving the apartment, someone who was coming in had thrown a banana peel on the ground. The young man slipped on this banana peel, fell, hit his head and died right there. It would have taken him just a few minutes to take that saving step of faith, but instead it was too late.
I related this story to the congregation in Odessa, and after the preaching was finished an altar call was given. A young woman came running up to the pulpit and fell to her knees.
She cried, “0 Lord, forgive me of my sins! Forgive me now!” The people in the church prayed, she prayed, and she accepted Jesus.
The service ended. As we were walking out, this same young woman came running back to me, threw her arms around me and hugged me.
“Thank you, thank you for telling that story,” she said. “This was the step I needed. I was afraid that what happened to that boy would happen to me—that I would die before being saved.”
In my telling about his death, that young man was instrumental in bringing someone to the Lord. A hero? Perhaps he is, in the sense that he was used to help someone—that through his experience, another person became a child of God. But unfortunately, because he is dead, this “hero” will never receive any honor or march in any parade. Saddest of all, because he procrastinated, according to Scripture he also will miss the eternal glory promised to every child of God in Yeshua.