Meeting with Reinhard Bonnke
Imagine closing out a week-long outreach trip with young adults with a pep talk from arguably the most successful evangelist in world history. Reinhard Bonnke is in Kiev for two days and it just happened to be the days that our team is here. Daniel Kolenda, who is being groomed to take over the ministry, opened the door for our team to come to their team devotions this morning. It is not that Pastor Bonnke is the greatest of motivators (although he is that), it is realizing that you are sitting before man who seen more than 50,000,000 people make professions of faith in Yeshua. He shared with us about not settling and leaning into faith. He told us to believe God for all that He has called us to! Don’t settle for 50% or even 75%, but press into God for 100% of what He has reserved for us. After 10 days of ministry here in Ukraine, I have to admit I was tired. However after his brief word of encouragement I was so inspired that I am ready to do it again. He shared about when, as a struggling missionary with very little fruit, the Lord told him that “Africa would be saved.” The other missionaries mocked him, but he believed. He had no reason to believe. Not much was happening in his ministry 50 years ago. But he pressed in and trusted the Lord and now 50 years and 50,000,000 souls later, at age 70, he is seeking to inspire a new generation of young evangelists. It was the perfect ending to an amazing week in which so many of you played a role.
Blown Away in Berdichev
Eleven years ago I sat in my apartment in Odessa wondering why God had sent me there. Working with the Messianic Jewish Bible Institute was wonderful, but I just had a feeling there was more. Jonathan Bernis came to teach at the MJBI and over dinner suggested that we spearhead an outreach and congregational plant. I asked where? He said, either Berdichev or this other city. For the life of me I cannot tell you what the name of the other city was, as it became clear that God was calling us to go to Berdichev.
With the help of so many people (MJBI, Valentine Sviontek, Anton Antonovich and his son Misha, congregations in Kiev and Nicoleav) we moved forward. On the last day we laid hands on Vadim and Fayina as the founding pastors. What I saw yesterday blew me away. I was in tears as I saw one of most healthy Messianic congregations I have ever seen. Even though our team led worship, you could see that this is a worshiping congregation. They have a vibrant group of young people that came out and danced Jewish dances. Two young ladies sang Hatikva (Israeli national anthem). The violinist that played with our team was wonderful. And Dima, the worship leader (the same one from 11 years ago) had his young son, maybe eight years old, play the bongos. People came up to me saying that I immersed them in water ten years ago on a visit. One woman brought pictures of her immersion and there I was taking her into the water, with lighting flashing all around us. It was on that day that learned that Ukrainians don’t fear lighting like Americans. I was terrified, but didn’t want to show my fear (of being electrocuted!!!) as no one else seemed concerned. When Vadim got up to share for about 10 minutes before I preached, I could not believe that this man of authority, wisdom and passion, was the same shy twenty-nine-year-old who barely said a word. He stands in the pulpit like a man who belongs there. Last year he and Fayina adopted two Jewish boys. Their father was in prison and the mother was a drug addict.
The older boy, four at the time, would open and close the door over and over again to play—that’s it. The baby, 5 months old when they got him, was yellow from hepatitis C. Now he is healed. And if you see these boys today, you would assume that they were always in a loving family. While we had very little to do with the success of the congregation, that didn’t stop me from feeling like a proud papa and having an amazing sense of satisfaction. When the service was over I was met by the man who may have had more to do with their success than anyone—Pastor Leonid.
When we came to Berdichev, we sought out a pastor with a heart for Israel. We found Leonid, a true apostolic leader. Virtually all the founding members of the Berdichev Messianic Congregation came from his church with his blessing. He let go of key leaders and a talented and anointed worship leader. He continues to play an advisory role in the congregation, even while he pastors his own church, plants a new one and is in the midst of building a 24/7 prayer center in little Berdichev. Leonid came out to dinner with us and poor Miri, our Israeli interpreter was just about wiped out when the day was over. Somehow she found time to eat her fish as she switched from Russian to Hebrew all night long. Even though Miri is fluent in English she always would interpret from Hebrew (except when I was preaching), which forced me to use my Hebrew. I even preached a little in Hebrew and she would interpret into Russian. During the service we had ‘Y’ (pictured)
share his testimony. His father is a rabbi in Jerusalem. After a long search he found Yeshua. He is a new believer with a gift. Eli Birnbaum, one of our leaders preached for 10 minutes about the power of God to take whatever you have and multiply it visavis the fish and the loaves. And then I had the opportunity to share. Afterward our team prayer for everyone there. It was a wonderful day.
Back Home in Israel
Whew…on the one hand I am feeling the limitations of this Jar of Clay. On the other, I can wait to take another team to Ukraine and Africa. It challenges me to stay in shape physically and focus on my diet. At 45 there is no question that my body is not as excited about sleeping on trains as it was at 25. Nevertheless, there is grace. It is always strange entering back into ‘civilian life’ after going on a trip like this. You immediately struggle with depression because you miss the people in the other country. In addition you miss the team members that you ate, slept, ran after trains, preached, prayed and lived with for the last 10 days. Thank you all for standing with us. There were many times where it didn’t look like we would have the funds to pull this off. There were days when I wondered why I was even doing this—trying to raise the funds to take Israelis on outreach trips. And once out of the boat, walking on water, there were many moments where I was sinking like Peter. But the Lord reached out His hand and pulled me up. He provided. He used so many of you. May the Lord let you share in the reward. To the ends of the earth (Acts 1:8), Ron Cantor