- Discovering Royal Connections
- Do You Want to Serve?
- Pastoring Through the Darkness of War
- Download July Newsletter
Discovering Royal Connections
My own story growing up Jewish in Ethiopia was that due to Communist oppression our family had to keep our Jewish ancestry under cover so as not to get the wrong kind of attention from the authorities. This gave rise to a curiosity and longing to explore and live in my full identity.
In the Communist-stricken metropolis of Addis Abeba, almost daily I saw the big palace that had belonged to the deposed monarchy of the Ethiopian Empire before the Communists took over. Every time we drove past it on the way to school, I wondered what the palace was like inside, and I imagined how the royal family must have lived there in opulence before being overthrown. I dreamt many times of visiting it and envisioned its beauty and luxury.
Through several crises and critical circumstances I found myself leaving my beloved parents in the Ethiopian capital city, and making aliyah (moving to Israel) all by myself at the age of 17. In my new homeland of Israel, I began to revive my Jewish heritage; and while doing so I encountered Yeshua and received Him as my Messiah! Ever since then I have sought to live out my complex identity as an Ethio-Israeli Messianic Jew, or Black-Ethio-Israeli Messianic Jew.
I recently had an opportunity to travel from Israel back to the city where I was born, Addis Abeba. While there, I learned that the secretive Royal Palace had finally opened up to the public for visiting. (Communism gave way to a democratic regime in 1991.)
Well, I seized the opportunity and entered the palace I had always longed to see. It is named after 19th Century Menilik II. His ancestor Menilik the First was also called “Ben Chacham” (Son of the Wise Man). Legend has it that Emperor Menilik the First was conceived when King Solomon tricked the Queen of Sheba (1 Kings 10:1-12), into sleeping with him; that the queen raised him as a Jew in Ethiopia; and then he traveled to Jerusalem to meet his father Solomon and was crowned as ruler of Ethiopia.
The modern emperors of Ethiopia have derived their right to rule based on two dynastic claims: their descent from from Menelik I, the son of Solomon and the son of the Queen of Sheba; and from the kings of Axum. This modern line of emperors of the House of Solomon has ruled Ethiopia going at least as far back as the 13th century. Menilik’s Solomonic dynasty thus continued 225 generations until Emperor Haile Sellasie was deposed in 1974. That was the year I was born.
Walking through the different rooms and courts of the Royal Palace, I found myself pacing through this long history of Ethiopian Jewry and their journey. I had already known of Ethiopia’s deep and official Christian connections going back to the first centuries AD. (We read how Philip explained the Good News of Yeshua’s atonement to the Ethiopian Eunuch-Treasurer in Acts 8: 26-40). However, to my surprise, while looking at all the various royal artifacts of gold, cars, royal garments, weapons, and beautiful architecture from the Royal Family, I couldn’t help but notice a theme common to all of them: the Star/Shield of David – Magen David! Almost every artifact was imprinted with the Magen David seal. [See photos of the white palace building, imperial coat of arms and Magen David symbols.] The more I walked through the palace, the more it dawned on my spirit how the royal family members were apparently the first Ethio-Messianic Jews!
Needless to say, I came back to Israel full of inspiration from my visit. My first thought went to the importance of each person’s own history. How important it is to know our roots! If we disconnect ourselves from our roots, we will be homeless, without a true origin of identity. Our history is like the ground in which we are planted. At times God allows us to revisit those grounds to deepen and strengthen our sense of calling and identity.
I wondered how it would have affected my childhood had I grasped that the Royal Family of Ethiopia were Jews. Instead, being Jewish was an identity I was encouraged to hide for fear of persecution. I wondered, would it have boosted my self-esteem or made me prideful? But then another question arose…
What if all of us were to suddenly discover that we are part of THE Royal Family in Messiah?
Simon Peter proclaimed, “You are chosen, a royal priesthood,…people for God’s own possession.” (1 Peter 2:9)
Paul claimed that all believers are adopted princes and princesses that God has “…blessed us with every spiritual blessing in heavenly places…chosen us…to be blameless before Him…predestined us for adoption as sons…to the glorious praise of His grace.” (Ephesians 1: 3-6)
Truly the most significant and important of our identities is the one we have through Yeshua. It is one adorned with royalty, one we could have not attained for our own selves. May we learn to celebrate the truth of who we are in Him and live out our calling and identity to the fullest.
Do You Want to Serve?
Why am I not in the “ministry” like the Levites? Or why can’t my family be in leadership like Aaron the high priest? Are they more worthy than I am?
I think believers who desire to serve often ask questions like these.
Perhaps they don’t preach sermons, but they do set up chairs in the sanctuary, clean the floor, or visit the sick. Perhaps they have ambition and desire, and they pray for the guidance of the Spirit! Perhaps they are yearning for a “higher” calling.
More than once the Scriptures describe conflicts in which one brother resented another for his calling, even leading to fatal outcomes. This was the case with Cain and Abel. We also read of the strife between Ishmael and Isaac, and between Esau and Jacob.
But then we read of a refreshingly different brotherly relationship; Aaron comes out to the desert to meet Moses. Aaron does not oppose the leadership position that Moshe, his baby brother, has been given! The Lord God takes this humble attitude into account. Later those sons of Aaron who have the same spirit as their father, receive the highest position in the ministry of the Tabernacle.
The New Testament describes similar human characteristics. During the last supper, Yeshua tells His disciples, “The greatest among you will be your servant” (Matthew 23:11). This reminds me of Aaron’s acceptance of Moses’ calling!
We are now in the season of Shavuot (Pentecost). The Spirit of God, the Spirit of the Messiah, is working in us, entrusting good deeds into our hands, refining our attitudes, and investing in us the Messiah’s thoughts and intentions.
It’s so important to open ourselves to God in humility. Let Him create in us not greatness or power, but RIGHTEOUSNESS IN HIS EYES!
Here is an example of practical ministry as seen in Numbers 4:21-25:
The Lord said to Moses, “… This is the service of the Gershonite clans in their carrying and their other work: They are to carry the curtains of the tabernacle…”
When you help out practically by “carrying the curtains,” cleaning the floor, inconspicuously exhorting, or visiting and supporting those who need it; may you simply burst with a feeling of gratitude to God that HE, the CREATOR of all things, is using you for HIS purposes wherever HE PLEASES!
Be satisfied with what God has set out for you to do. Be joyful that you walk before Him and participate in building the local and regional Body of the Messiah. And one day a great reward will be added to this satisfaction. “So do not throw away your confidence; it will be richly rewarded” (Hebrews 10:35 NIV).
Recent news: Israel continues to experience a great wave of Aliyah – returning exiles, comparable in size to what it was in the early 90s. All the pastors and ministers of our congregation have additional work. It’s a blessing; I’m not complaining at all! Yet still, I ask for your prayers. The cost of supporting these many newcomers has also increased dramatically. Therefore I also ask for your contributions.
Blessings to you in Yeshua
Leon & Nina Mazin
Pastoring Through the Darkness of War
“Woe to those who call evil good, and good evil; Who put darkness for light, and light for darkness; Who put bitter for sweet, and sweet for bitter!” (Isaiah 5:20)
Pastor Vadim was simply travelling around the Poltava region of Ukraine and telling people about Jesus. This was back in the nineties when people in Ukraine had only one “god” – Communism. Vadim wasn’t being paid for ministering. The only support he had was his wife. Today he pastors the biggest church in the Poltava region, “Blagovistia” (the Good News Church), with many daughter churches in the regional villages.
When I asked Pastor Vadim before the war what was his main task, he replied: “I want to bring to the Lord as many people as I can. You cannot imagine how many people in remote villages have never heard of the good news.” He told me excitedly about God’s miracles which occurred when he and his team went to the farthest villages of their region to share the good news. In Frunzovka Village a lame man walked. In Colotiyi Village a 10 year old boy dying of blood cancer was healed.
A central objective of the Good News Church is reaching out to Jewish people. The church has a big team helping Jews in Ukraine understand their calling as part of the Jewish nation and the importance of Israel. They help Jews to move to Israel in any way they can, by assisting with navigating the bureaucracy and through financial support. The ministry also prays regularly for Israel, Messianic congregations in Israel, and Katzir Asher Congregation, in particular.
This year, though circumstances have drastically changed, Pastor Vadim’s vision and focus remains the same. When the war broke out, Vadim had an opportunity to escape, to move to another country with his wife and two children, but he didn’t. I asked him why, and he answered that if he leaves his country and his people, he cannot be a pastor again. “I’d better think of a career of a cleaner.” He laughed, but I knew what he meant. He meant that God raised him to a position as pastor of many churches, He blessed him with an anointed team, guided him and blessed his service, and all these would mean nothing if he failed his people in days of darkness.
Now Vadim, the leaders, and many members of the church spend their days helping those who are in need. They go to bombed cities and villages to bring food and supplies. They help Jews leave the country quickly and safely. They take care of the 53 refugees who sleep in the church building. They do anything they can, and the only thing that the pastor regrets is that they cannot do more. I look at the pictures he sends us almost every day, and don’t understand how he can continue smiling. Yet, the answer is simple: he is happy because God is manifesting His power and truth through their work, and nothing brings more satisfaction than that.
“For behold, the darkness shall cover the earth, And deep darkness the people; But the Lord will arise over you, And His glory will be seen upon you.” (Isaiah 60:2)