Team leaders Leonid Vasserman and Gregory Furman
Gregory Furman and Elizabeth T. are both from the former Soviet Union, but have been part of the regular team of Jews for Jesus in New York for some time. This summer however, they were joined by 27 brothers and sisters from Russia and Ukraine in order to reach the largest population of Russian-speaking Jews outside of the former Soviet Union. That would be Brooklyn—with a smaller but still sizeable concentration in Queens.
Some of our Russian-speaking evangelists teamed up with the Queens campaign, but the rest spent their long summer days and nights proclaiming Jesus in Brooklyn, often at Brighton Beach, known as “Little Russia by the Sea.” They distributed broadsides, went door-to-door to visit with people and placed evangelistic ads in Russian newspapers. As a special outreach, there were showings of Chagall artwork (see Queens campaign on p. 3) one of which drew more than 100 people, of whom 64 (nearly all Jewish) gave their contact information for follow-up literature and/or visits.
The setting for ministry is different than in Russia and Ukraine, and the Chagall outreach is unique. But other than that, team leader Leonid Vasserman, who heads up our work in Odessa, commented that ministry in New York is not so different from ministry at home. The possible exception is that “in Odessa, people are more likely to be apathetic, whereas here it seems most are either more hostile or else more open and interested in our message.” That makes sense because Jews for Jesus has had a strong missionary presence there since we pioneered our work in Odessa in 1991. In New York, our Russian-speaking staff are few, and spread out between Brooklyn and Queens. So for many, as Leonid put it, “Jews for Jesus are still a novelty.”
More than half of the 241 Jewish people we prayed with to receive Him were Russian-speaking. Our missionaries were also able to encourage some who already knew Him but were not yet bold in their faith.
Yuliya Sokol reports, “I met a young man named Hank who was like Nicodemus, who believed in Jesus secretly for a while. Hank confessed that he did not want to reveal his true faith to anybody. Suddenly, a hostile woman approached me and began yelling at me. I did not quite understand what she was saying, but to my surprise, Hank began defending me—and not just me, but the Messiahship of Jesus.”
The Russian-speaking team encountered some of the more active anti-missionaries, particularly since Brooklyn is also home to many Orthodox and ultra-Orthodox Jews. Quite often, God used the antimissionaries to quicken the interest of Jewish seekers rather than driving them away. Theyd see the anger of those who are against us in contrast to the patience and perseverance of our missionaries and wonder about our message.
In conclusion, Mira Gracheva from Moscow says, “God is alive and wonderful. And here is one of His wonders. I was asked whether I wanted to stay longer in New York to follow up with the many Russian-speaking Jews we met this summer. I replied that either way, staying or going, would be fine with me. Then I had a dream: I was on the seashore and fish were jumping out of the water toward me. I realized that God wanted me to remain here to be a fisher of men during this season when the harvest is ripe. Then I went to the beach and met Lyudmila, who was absolutely ready to receive Yshua. More confirmation of what God is doing at this time. Praise the Lord!”
Miras dream also confirmed Gregory Furmans view of how this campaign differed from other NY campaigns hes experienced, at least in terms of the Russian-speaking component. “It is unique because the harvest is always there but on this campaign we had the laborers. We went fishing and have caught a lot of fish.”