When a man lives a good life, many lives are affected.
Such a man is my long-time friend, Russell Resnik. This summer Russ stepped down from eighteen years of directing the UMJC (Union of Messianic Jewish Congregations).
Our connection goes all the way back to the 1960’s when we both attended the University of California at Santa Cruz. Then our relationship took a leap forward when Russ suddenly showed up at my New Mexico adobe “hovel” on the very day that my first son was born, in April 1970. A couple of years later, on a remote high mountain mesa, we were sharecropping side-by-side, farming the same piece of land. We were a commune consisting of two couples with our small children (see photo!).
We were further and inseparably bonded by a simultaneous experience of God’s grace in salvation through Yeshua in October of 1972. Kneeling on the dirt floor of a log and mud cabin, set amid the pines of the Jemez Mountain range, we simultaneously asked Yeshua to forgive us our sins and take over our hearts.
After returning to civilization, our paths continued in parallel. In the mid-1970’s we discovered the Jewishness of Yeshua and the New Covenant. This transformed our comprehension of God’s Word and of His call on our lives. Entering full time ministry in 1977, we continued to encourage one another. Along with our incredible wives, Jane and Connie, we were mentored by Eliezer Urbach and found our destiny in the fledgling movement of Jewish believers in Jesus.
Russell planted Adat Yeshua, a Messianic Jewish congregation, in Albuquerque, New Mexico. As he became active in the larger sphere of the UMJC’s congregations, he was recruited to be its General From the Tents of Mercy Network of Congregations and Humanitarian Aid Secretary. Over the years, due to Rabbi Russ’s diligence and gifting as a teacher, writer, and counselor, the role became described as Executive Director. From 1998 to 2016, through Russell’s leadership, the UMJC has enjoyed an era of strengthening, solidifying, and broadening of influence. With his considerable abilities cloaked in genuine humility, my dear friend has set a godly and biblical standard for others to follow.
In his “retirement” speech Russ chronicled his family history from the emigration of his Russian Jewish great grandparents to his grandparents’ life as part of the New York immigrant phenomenon, to his parents’ migration to Southern California. Now, he and Jane are actively passing on the legacy of their devotion to the God of Israel to their four children and seven grandchildren. He will also continue to serve as a mentor to congregational leaders.
“There is a friend who sticks closer than a brother” (Proverbs 18:24).
“Do not forsake your friend or your father’s friend” (Proverbs 27:10).
Through the fifty years that we have known each other, I have found a faithful friend, and a truly good man. By God’s grace I will never forsake him. Over time, our friendship becomes sweeter, deeper, more enjoyable and rewarding. Deep friendships are an essential portion of God’s design for us, and a major segment of His architectural plan to build an eternal kingdom on earth. May your friendships be as rich and life-impacting as mine is with Russell.
Every summer Tents of Mercy is privileged to host a summer sleepaway camp for elementary age kids from our network of congregations. “Reshet” (Network) Camp was initiated over 8 years ago as a covenant venture between Tents of Mercy and Beltway Church in Texas. The inspiration came from conversations between Katya, our Shabbat School director, and Randy, a senior pastor at Beltway. The camp quickly became an annual event, eagerly anticipated by kids and counselors alike.
We fill our days with fun activities and spiritual lessons designed to keep the campers active and involved, from morning to night. Our small leadership team plans and schedules for months in advance. But the true backbone of these camps is the counselors and the volunteers who freely and lovingly share a full week of their lives to guide, entertain, feed and teach our kids.
The young people who volunteer as counselors come from the congregational network. Most of them are teenagers. Many of the current counselors were once campers and are now giving to others what was given to them. I am proud and encouraged to see how so many of our teenagers have developed true servant hearts.
From Texas comes a group of equally generous people who serve in multiple capacities throughout the week. They do crafts, coach baseball, engage the kids in fun games, set up and break down the hall where all of our indoor activities are held, cook for over 100 kids and staff, pray for us and interact lovingly with the campers.
The interweaving of these diverse counselors and volunteers who range from teens to retirees and come from opposite sides of the globe, is a beautiful expression of Yeshua’s words: “By this all will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another” ( John 13:35). It is an honor and a blessing to serve the kingdom of God together here in Israel.
The project goals are achieved through close relationships with local congregations in Israel and in Norway. And to finish, the young adults participate in the International Youth Encounter Conference with worship, testimonies and teaching.
The project was born in 2015, and it is open to all Messianic congregations in Israel. It is our prayer that the Eagle Project will bear fruit and strengthen its participants, who are the next generation of Israeli congregants.
“I write to you, young men, because you are strong, and the word of God lives in you, and you have overcome the evil one” (1 John 2:14).
This July twelve young people from six different congregations in Israel took
part in the project. The program lasted four weeks and took place in Norway,
centered in the cities of Oslo, Bergen, Volda, and Levanger. Together with local
communities, we reached our goals through:
• Fellowship with local believers
• Staying with families and youth communities
• Physical rest in the outdoors, by the sea and in homes
• Making presentations about Israel to students at a local school
• Worship and prayer evenings
• Soldiers sharing their testimonies
• Bible studies and home groups
• Ministering in various congregations
• Participating in sports and hiking in the mountains. Fishing and sailing
God is working in the hearts of Israeli and Norwegian youth. We at Return to
Zion Congregation will continue to seek the will of God for these young people,
and we invite you to become a part of this ministry!