An interview with Andrey and Emmie, leaders of Tents of Mercy Congregation Youth Group. They are married, have a one and a half year old daughter Hoshen, and are pregnant with their second child.
Andrey: I moved to Israel from the Former Soviet Union (FSU) at age 12, and two years afterward came to know Yeshua. I received a heart for the generation in Israel that does not know the Lord. Year by year I became increasingly connected with the people and the land of Israel, in spite of being a new immigrant. This happened in the spirit. I knew less of the Hebrew language and of the popular Hebrew TV programs than the teenagers around me, but the connection and belonging began in the spirit, and started to reflect in other areas of my life. My first school year in Israel as a new immigrant was 8th grade. Out of 11 subjects, I received 8 failing grades due to my beginner’s Hebrew. At the completion of high school, I had learned the language well enough to graduate with honors.
I grew up attending Tents of Mercy Congregation. By the time I finished 12th grade, I was helping lead our youth group. At the same time, I had started a youth group for our sister congregation Shavei Tzion and was also participating in three different praise and worship teams. It was a busy season in my life, culminating in a period of equipping at Gateways Beyond Training School in Cyprus. Next I enlisted and served as a member of a tank unit in the Israeli army. By this time I was feeling quite rooted in the land. When I met Emmie – my wife to be – I was amazed to see that she had this adopted rootedness as well.
Emmie: I had already come to faith in Russia before moving to Israel at age 14. As a child, the main thing I had known about being Jewish, was that “Jew” was one of the curse words spoken by children at school. Even my mother barely knew that she was Jewish. The family had tried to hide their lineage after my great-grandmother suffered greatly because of Soviet persecution of Jews.
At a certain point in time my mother’s friend suggested we move to Israel. Mother started to pray about this. She received the revelation that the Jews really were our people and began to speak with the rest of the family about making aliyah [immigrating to Israel]. I was in 8th grade when mother told me we might be moving to Israel. I had been accepted into an institute to learn jewelry making, and my life’s path [in Russia] was set out clearly before me. But I gave it a chance and prayed. Strangely enough, as I walked through the familiar streets of my home town, suddenly I felt I did not belong there anymore.
We started going to a Messianic Jewish congregation in Russia just before making aliyah, becoming accustomed to a more Jewish lifestyle and hearing some Hebrew. I began participating in youth activities conducted by the Jewish Agency.
Then our plane landed in Israel. As we touched down in the dark of night, before I even saw the country in daylight, I felt I was home. However, the homecoming had some awkward moments. In my school in Tiberias, there was no concept of trying to meet the needs of new immigrants. Three immigrant friends used to sit with me in shock at the rear of the classroom, as we watched the teacher yell and unruly kids overturn tables. In Russia I had been accustomed to a culture in which pupils dressed in formal uniforms, and stood to show respect for the teacher as he or she entered the classroom! The education officials later transferred me to a kibbutz boarding school for new immigrants. By that time I already knew a good bit of the Hebrew language.
In spite of the cultural adjustments and loose morals around me, living in a kibbutz community was an enriching experience that helped me to adopt this land as my own. I received new revelations and a rooted perspective. This continued in the army where I served as a teacher for underprivileged children and later as an officer. I took part in the emotionally sensitive army operation surrounding the withdrawal from Gaza.
Andrey: Some who immigrated to Israel from the Russian republics, did so more to find new economic opportunities, than to take part in the prophetic restoration of Zion. When they realized how hard it was to start anew “from zero” as new immigrants in a new land with a different language and culture, many ended up leaving.
Imparting the Vision to our Youth
Andrey: At age 17 when I began to teach the Bible in youth groups I made the [tough] choice to switch to reading the Bible only in the original Hebrew language.* [The vocabulary of the Hebrew Scriptures is 2500 to 4000 years old, and as such is not so easily understandable, even to native speakers of Modern Hebrew.]
One of our biggest prayers for the youth is that they grow in their true identity, as sons and daughters of God, and as Jewish Israelis in this land. Until recently believers’ youth camps and ministries have focused almost solely on building up their spiritual lives. Yet the issue of Israeli identity is one the youth face every day. We want to strengthen their connection to this people and this land, as well as to the body of believers. Gradually this change is happening. A rooted identity is growing. They are beginning to see themselves less and less as immigrants or children of immigrants.
My recent training as a professional Israeli tour guide has given me a real context for understanding the people, the land and the language, which I try to pass on to the teens. During youth activities, we seek to integrate the Biblical history of our people with the modern history. I want them to see how prophecy is being fulfilled in the re-establishment of Israel in the land.
The teens are experiencing spiritual growth, both in our congregation and around the country. Our youth group is slowly increasing in number. We want to equip the teens to share their faith with their peers. We have come into a season of more openness in society regarding religious beliefs. God is building an infrastructure for things to come, and we are praying for His strategy.
“…then I will restore to the people a chosen language, that all may call upon the name of the Lord, and may serve him…” (Zephaniah 3:9).
*Andrey and Emmie’s pioneering stance regarding leaving behind their common mother tongue of Russian, and choosing to live and worship in Hebrew is significant, and indicative of the up – and – coming generation of indigenous New Covenant believers in Israel.
The latest Tents of Mercy congregational men’s gathering fell on “May Day” (International Workers’ Day). So it was decided to use the gathering to honor working men and our role as providers for our families.
Avi shared the theme through the verse, “It is good and fitting for one to eat and drink, and to enjoy the good of all his labor in which he toils under the sun all the days of his life which God gives him” (Ecclesiastes 5:18).
This was a poignant theme for a few reasons:
Most of the men in the congregation are immigrants who, because of language challenges or other issues, have not succeeded in getting the kinds of jobs that could push them firmly up into the Israeli middle class. For some it has been very hard to find and keep a job, even at minimum wage. Sometimes in order to simply be employed, older congregants have had to take work with very physically demanding and difficult duties. And for a few, the problem of finding work has become acute.
Also, many of the men in our congregation grew up in Communist countries in the former Soviet Union in which May Day was a huge national holiday. In modern Israel it is a very minor event on the calendar.
So it felt right to use the irony of these factors, in the midst of challenging economic conditions, to honor working men, and to celebrate and fellowship together, thanking God – the true provider.
One brother shared about how his family and children had been praying for him to get a raise at work. Then “out of the blue” his manager called him and told him the overseers had seen his work and decided to give him a significant financial perk that is rare for a non-management worker to receive.
And lastly, by the way, that verse in Ecclesiastes did say something about it being “good and fitting…to eat and drink.”So we enjoyed a nice barbeque and had great fun preparing food together and serving one another as brothers.
Rainbow of Sounds Music School is managed by Nina Mazin as one of the “Return To Zion” ministries.
We started Rainbow of Sounds in 2010 with only a few instruments and a vision to offer
affordable, quality musical education to children from different backgrounds. In addition to the excellent benefits of musical training, we believe that many of the children we are teaching will make up the worship teams of tomorrow. With the help of faithful partners around the world, we have been able to increase the number and variety of instruments the children can play. Last fall we had thirty students enrolled and five instructors.
In 2012 we began a new program which assists children from financially challenged families, whose parents cannot afford the monthly tuition fee of $130. There are many talented children in the families that receive help from our soup kitchen. With all their youthful energy, one cannot expect pre-teens to stay at home and do nothing. They soon wander off to the streets. I strongly believe that a childhood interest in music will help these pre-teens to steer away from all sorts of anti-social behavior later in life. We have seen that it is worthwhile to invest in these young lives and music lessons give them an outlet for their energy. Many have fallen in love with playing their instruments and prefer to stay at home and practice.
The young are not the only ones who benefit from playing an instrument and it’s never too late to begin. In some instances music lessons can even be a rehabilitation tool, as in the case of Yashar (“Upright”), a recovering alcoholic. One day, when visiting our soup kitchen, he informed us of his lifelong dream to play the piano. Since then he has been an eager student in our music school who never misses a lesson. Enabling him to fulfill this musical dream of his heart has helped keep him on the narrow path in gaining victory over past addiction.
It is music students like these that greatly benefit from the support of our donors. We want to invite our ministry partners to sponsor lessons for these children. Would you like to join us in this special musical endeavor?
For more information, please write to firstname.lastname@example.org.