There are numerous growing churches in Kiev, however fewer churches in other Ukraine cities while rural areas are calling for Christian mission. If ever there was a time for a country ready and the harvest ripe, as Jesus challenged, now is such a time in the Ukraine and Eastern Europe.
I am recounting my 2005 visit with an international delegation, the situation has not changed. We encountered local Christians helping Jewish people at the lowest end of the socio-economic spectrum. Bridges for Peace has linked in with two existing local Christian groups in the Ukraine who are helping the Jewish community by providing monthly food parcels, a van, food distribution centers and administration assistance.
It involves ‘aliyah’ assistance in addition to humanitarian aid to the elderly who are not prepared to resettle in Israel. These workers help potential ‘olim’ by searching for records, helping with passport applications, travel transfer assistances and the like, in order that these marginalized Jews might be helped, should they wish, to reach Israel before they die.
A. Very few organizations are interested in the poorest of the poor, the destitute, the very elderly, the infirm, the marginalized. Who is there to care for such Jewish people? Once in Israel, the Israeli State ensures they have housing, food and health care. These Christian groups are not involved in proselytizing but are motivated by their understanding of the biblical prophecies relative to the return of the Jews to their ancient homeland in the “latter days” of human history.
They are also motivated by a profound awareness that Christian help was in short supply sixty-five years ago, the last time that Jews desperately needed Christian friends. These younger Christians weren’t old enough (many have been born long after WWII) to help then but they feel a moral responsibility to bring practical aid now.
B. Why is Christian help needed when the government of Israel, the Jewish Agency and various other Jewish groups are so active in both aliyah and humanitarian aid? The answer is that those resources are stretched to the limit helping the larger projects and most Jewish resources are grateful for these smaller Christian groups who help pick up the pieces in the more obscure areas. The State of Israel has to be careful not to be perceived as interfering with the internal affairs of other states.
The Christian aid groups however are able to do this in the name of humanitarianism. With anti-Semitism again on the increase in Europe (there have been numerous articles on this in recent years), and it is alive and well in most countries as it was in Australia before WWII. (Australian policy in the ’30s was to refuse the Jews of Europe escaping from Nazi Germany to migrate).
C. As Christians these organizations have an acute sense of responsibility to the past and in their eyes this is one way to retrieve a terrible blight upon mankind’s inhumanity to fellow man. Our Christian foundational beliefs are based on the concept of a Jewish Messiah.
The Jewish background in the Ukraine
Krakow in Poland is historically important to the Jewish history in the Ukraine. Pogroms against the Jews preceded the Crusades and continued into the Middle Ages in both eastern and western Europe.
In the early 1200’s Jews were banished from England and they moved to mainland Europe. The western European powers also distrusted the Jews and all were pleased when in 1333 “King Kashimicrz the Great” of Krakow welcomed the Jews. He saw long-term economic benefits to his kingdom. Here the Jewish Hasidic movement gained prominence (with their well-known attire based on the style of the Polish gentry).
The Hasidim had rules for every aspect of life, with classic traditions and insights of famous Rabbis. Our BFP group came to appreciate these traditions as we listened to the stories of our Israeli guide, Beverly. She regaled us with many tales of a Rabbi giving advice on any number of questions pertaining to the daily round of work, love and life in the time of the shtetls.
Between 1772 and the end of WWI 1918 Poland had been eliminated as a political entity and the land divided between Russian, Prussia and the Austro-Hungarian Empire. Jews were forced to live in the area known as the “Pale of Settlement.” From1834-1917 Jews were only permitted to live in this center of Europe in former Polish lands and certain parts of the east.
As their numbers and influence increased, local pressures forced thousands of Jews to move eastward.
The Ukraine became inundated with Jews. The movie “Fiddler on the Roof” recreates what it was like to be a Jew in the Pale and in Ukraine in the 19th century. Kings moved Jews by decree from one location to another without recourse or compensation.
The policy of anti-Semitism by Nazi Germany was received with welcome arms in the Ukraine and many Christian Ukrainians happily volunteered to do the nastiest work. At the end of WWII only 40,000 Jewish people were left in the Ukraine from a population of around 1.5 million Jews.
Of those remaining after WWII, many went to America, some to Israel but the poorest of the poor stayed and began to rebuild their lives amidst most difficult circumstances. Their neighbours were often the very ones who had either denounced Jews or supervised their transport to the gas chambers and ovens of Auschwitz. There was little love for these Jewish people.
Jewish Mission Objectives
The presentation was given to our group in Lviv in a large modern civic hall. There were four parts to the presentation.
a) A retired businessman from Florida spoke of his passion some years ago to see Jewish people from the Ukraine and Eastern Europe migrate to Israel. He visited Kiev on the leading of the Holy Ghost and (through miracle encounters) met likeminded Christian people. Together they established food distribution centers and he story has gone from strength to strength
b) A music worship group from Kiev sang in Hebrew and Russian (key board, guitar, two singers). The dance group of 10 young ladies from Danetsk gave us the most wonderful mix of Russian and Hebraic dancing in praise and worship in a variety of outfits (on video).
c) We were then introduced to several "Fisherman" - these are men and women whose mission is to seek out Jewish people in their humanitarian cause and assist in the research work for them should they wish to migrate to Israel. So many documents are missing in most cases. Money to fly them to Israel needs to be raised. There are some 35 Fishermen across the Ukraine. Those who were interviewed spoke of how the Lord led them to this calling. All are committed Christians. All have a passion for the prophetic word. All are excited when another Jewish person or family responds in the affirmative.
d) After lunch 35 Jewish people from Lviv attended a concert with the music group, the dancers, a presentation by the Fishermen as to why they might consider moving to Israel. On this occasion two families responded in wanting to explore this option.
Afternoon tea was served whereby we as the international delegates could meet these Jewish families and Jewish individuals.
The cities we visited were full of YOUNG PEOPLE and YOUNG FAMILIES - I lost count of the hundreds upon hundreds of prams with babies - the pram seller must be doing a roaring trade.
Evangelical work is growing. There is a huge vacuum. The populations are largely void of religious structure. It has been a communist state for 50 years. We saw an occasional Orthodox Church building and very few Catholic Church buildings. The harvest is ripe for evangelism in the non-Jewish community. This is a challenge to pray about.
In Lviv we stayed in the 1707 Grand Hotel which was refurbished like the classic Orient Express – it was beyond belief. And the staff were classic C18th waiters in tails. The young ladies were tall and served with poise. Any employee of the Grand Hotel who had the opportunity to visit any major hotel in any western city would be sorely disappointed. The Harp was played in the dining room.
The girls from eastern Ukraine (Danetsk area) are very tall whereas the men are medium in height. We spoke with a doctor who was one of the Fisherman in the presentation, who was likewise very tall as was her daughter. She explained it was in the genes, that the women are very tall.
On two occasions in two different cities we saw city square entertainment, both the Sunday and the Monday, a public holiday, “Victory Day” (end of WWII). It was all very colourful, young people, young families, family groups, grand-parents. It could have been anywhere in Australia.
Please pray continually, as I have never witnessed a situation in my 70 years where the harvest for the Gospel has been so ripe.
Dr Mark Tronson - a 4 min video
Chairman – Well-Being Australia
Baptist Minister 45 years
- 1984 - Australian cricket team chaplain 17 years (Ret)
- 2001 - Life After Cricket (18 years Ret)
- 2009 - Olympic Ministry Medal – presented by Carl Lewis
- 2019 - The Gutenberg - (ARPA Christian Media premier award)
Gutenberg video - 2min 14sec
Married to Delma for 45 years with 4 children and 6 grand children