Mission to Germany
Right away, I knew everything in my life would change from that day on. Irina and I were baptized a few weeks later, along with 23 new Jewish believers. We continued worshiping with the congregation and grew spiritually as we fed upon the Bible.
Meanwhile, the Soviet Union’s final break-up in December 1991 created lasting turmoil. Our future looked hopeless. The economy collapsed. Good jobs didn’t exist, food was scarce, and the long-term health effects of the Chernobyl nuclear disaster troubled us, especially for our daughter Alexandra.
With anti-Semitism rising, we decided to leave Ukraine for Israel. However, relatives warned us against coming because of the Persian Gulf War. Germany seemed like the best alternative. The German government opened doors welcoming Jewish immigrants from Russia. I only wanted to stay there temporarily, but God had another plan.
We sold our household possessions, and in June 1992 we arrived at the immigrant center barracks in Stuttgart. Learning German proved difficult, but I found help by using a Gideon New Testament I discovered in a trash dump. Riding the subway to language school for eight months, I asked commuters to explain the meaning of words I was reading. Although they obliged, they questioned why I was reading the New Testament. This opened opportunities for sharing my testimony.
During the first week in our new country, I met a Russian-German Christian who helped me understand the Bible and encouraged me to start a Messianic home group. From eight people meeting twice weekly, we grew to the point of renting a larger room from a Baptist church. Unfortunately, officials in the state Protestant churches refused us. They warned, “You should not tell Jewish people about Jesus.”
Eventually I met a missionary couple from Holland who encouraged me to lead a Messianic movement in Germany. Although I was somewhat skeptical, I took a step of faith, leaving my photo-lab job in 1994 to launch Evangelical Ministry for Israel. Initially, I sponsored summer camps for Jewish youngsters and a national Messianic conference. The first conference attracted only 25 people, but it has grown ever since. I also visited camps popular with Russian Jews.
One year after starting my ministry, during a family hiking trip to the Black Forest, an incident brought home why God had called me to this work. Returning to our car, I noticed a woman staring at the rear sticker, which displayed three symbols: the Christian fish, the star of David, and the Menorah. When she asked about the meaning, I gave my testimony as a Messianic Jew. Tears painted her cheeks as she revealed how the Gestapo killed her father for hiding a Jewish family in her home during the war. I could see that, even as a German, she also suffered under the Nazis, and did not blame the Jews for causing her father’s death.
God used that moment to shatter every bit of my lingering hatred toward Germans. And it renewed my desire to bring reconciliation between Jews and Germans through Christ. In 1998, Evangelical Ministry for Israel established one of the first Messianic congregations in Germany. Now there are 40 growing congregations and groups across the country, four of which I supervise. Close to 200,000 Jews call Germany home, and I want to continue sharing Jesus the Messiah with them.
Anti-Semitism is growing in Germany. Hate crimes against Jews are at the highest rate since 2001. But what could happen if more Messianic Jews began telling Germans who have little or no faith about the hope of Christ?
Religious Jews often say this prayer when arising, based on Psalm 3:1-6: “Dear God, I thank you that you gave me back my soul so I can live this day for you.” If God wakes me up every morning, then I want to live every day in fulfillment of his will. That’s my calling.
Acts 5:30-31 — (Peter, to the Jewish leaders in Jerusalem): “The God of our ancestors raised Jesus from the dead—whom you killed by hanging him on a cross. God exalted him to his own right hand as Prince and Savior that he might bring Israel to repentance and forgive their sins.”
Acts 18:5 — When Silas and Timothy came from Macedonia, Paul devoted himself exclusively to preaching, testifying to the Jews that Jesus was the Messiah.
Acts 21:20 — When they heard this, they praised God. Then they said to Paul: “You see, brother, how many thousands of Jews have believed…”
Romans 1:16 — For I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God that brings salvation to everyone who believes: first to the Jew, then to the Gentile.
I Corinthians 9:20a — To the Jews I became like a Jew, to win the Jews.
Romans 10:1…12-13 — Brothers and sisters, my heart’s desire and prayer to God for the Israelites is that they may be saved… For there is no difference between Jew and Gentile—the same Lord is Lord of all and richly blesses all who call on him, for, “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.”
O God, who manifests your mercy and compassion towards all peoples, have mercy upon the Jewish race, from the beginning Your chosen people. You selected them alone out of all the nations of the world to be the custodians of your sacred teachings. From them you raised up Prophets and Patriarchs to announce the coming of the Redeemer. You willed that Your only Son Jesus Christ, our Lord and Savior, should be a Jew according to the flesh, born of a Jewish maiden in the land of promise. Listen to the prayers we offer you today for the conversion of the Jewish people. Grant that they may come safely to a knowledge and love of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Messiah foretold by their prophets, and that they may walk with us in the way of salvation. AMEN.
—Catholic Breviary for the Week of Christian Unity, Day 6