God’s Hand in the Ukraine
By Valentin Sviontek, Director—MJBI Odessa, Ukraine
Greetings from MJBI Odessa! We are excited to report the great things Yeshua is doing in our, school, city, and country. Here are some of this year’s highlights.
Our February Purim celebration focused on a special play presented by MJBI students and members of the “Or HaMashiach” Messianic congregation. An evangelical team took to the very cold streets of Odessa to hand out event invitational flyers. Even with the cold weather—and no heat in the building—we were pleased with the turnout and response.
God also worked some amazing financial miracles during Purim. For example, a gentleman named Nahum prayed for God’s help to pay a particular debt. Without explanation, he soon found a $100 bill glued to his apartment wall!
Our congregation was also blessed when facing a shortage on monthly rent. A local church gave us a financial gift for the exact amount needed, simply saying “Happy Purim”…and indeed it was for many!
Prayer Against Anti-Semitism and Nazism
Early in March, members of our congregation and school joined national church leaders and other believers from sixteen countries to participate in the third annual “International Prayer Against Anti-Semitism and Nazism” meeting held in Kiev. This gathering was a crucial time of intercession over the Jewish people in light of rising anti-Semitism in Europe and the rest of the world.
Along with the conference, we participated in a bitterly cold and wintery prayer walk in Odessa to places where Jewish people were brutally burned and murdered during WW II (out of 180,000 Jews in Odessa before the Nazis, only about 600 survivors were found by their 1944 Soviet liberators). Along with prayers, survivors’ stories of those terrible events were read out loud near the city memorial.
(More information on this movement can be found at: http://baruhaba.org.ua/en/?p=1344)
Outreach to Orthodox Jewish Community and More
About once a month we visit a large Orthodox Jewish community 100 miles from Odessa. This group of 200 families has been very receptive to our benevolence outreach and to the good news of their Messiah. Some have already become born-again believers. Please pray with us for their continued openness to the Gospel message.
We are also excited about an upcoming event this September, planned to be the largest Odessa Jewish outreach since the “Hear O Israel” festival of 1995. Celebrating the 110th anniversary of the Ukrainian/Russian Messianic movement (started in 1903 by Leon Rosenberg), we are preparing to reach 10,000 with the gospel during a week of street ministry. Then on September 27 we will culminate the week with a large indoor evangelistic festival. We would ask for your prayers as we prepare for this important messianic ministry event!
Our spring semester brought sixteen eager students with great expectations to Odessa. Here are testimonies from two of them.
“My name is Vita. I am 19 years old and I want to be a missionary. I’ve been a student at Odessa MJBI since the fall of 2012. While knowing this was the right choice, it was hard and scary at first because I started noticing definite weaknesses in myself. But God slowly began changing me, revealing Himself to me in new ways.
When Pastor Olen Griffing (and grandson Landon Benjamin) came to teach, I learned I had closed myself off because of past hurts. Through their ministry, the Lord has healed me. I am learning again how to be open to people and their needs and problems. Plus, the Lord confirmed my call to youth ministry.
I am so grateful to be a part of the MJBI Odessa community. I’ve been blessed with a spiritual family, supportive friends, and a good theological foundation. I have also learned much about the Messianic movement and Jewish people. Most importantly, I know I have a deeper relationship with God and how to serve His people in a greater way.”
“My name is Jenya, and attending MJBI was on my mind for a long time. Last fall I finally started, and my main goals were to know God more and gain wisdom. I can see definite improvement in these areas over the past 6 months!
For example, the class devoted to understanding and resolving conflicts touched me greatly. As a technical person, it is important for me to understand how things work. Frankly, I had to implement my new knowledge almost immediately! In the beginning it was hard, but God began to change me and it became easier. Many people that know me say I have changed dramatically for the good.
I’ve learned the importance of my relationship with God as well as the role of the congregation in my life. Because I have devoted myself to Him, my attitude towards other people has changed, too. He is developing my gifts and talents, and I have been working in the youth and video ministries (I even use my car to help people). There have been many struggles in my life, but here at MJBI Odessa God is teaching me how to be a true disciple of Yeshua.”
(Val and Tatyana Svionktek are very thankful for the outpouring of love they have felt from MJBI supporters since his heart attack last fall. He is feeling much stronger and more able to carry out the work of the ministry. Please continue to pray as he uses wisdom in diet, exercise, and regular medical attention—he is believing for a full recovery. They add that “we know we could not have walked this path without you!” To God be ALL the Glory!)