Holocaust survivor meets the Messiah



Last year, Aviel Sela, CWI's missionary based in Jerusalem, met Uri, a Jewish Holocaust survivor. While Uri shared his tragic story of survival, Aviel shared the gospel as he reports below...

Uri was born into a large Jewish family in 1932 in the small Ukrainian town of Breslev. The war started in 1941 when Uri was nine years old and his two older brothers both died on the battlefront. That summer the Nazis took control of the local area. Many Jewish families fled but Uri’s father decided that his family would remain. This turned out to be a very bad decision.

Around 200 people remained in their small village. When the Germans arrived, all the Jewish people were rounded up and put in a ghetto.

One morning the Nazis marched everyone 15km at gunpoint in the snow to a concentration camp. Those who could not make the journey were shot dead. The march ended late in the evening when they reached the Pechora Concentration Camp, also known as ‘The Death Loop’, where many Jewish people, including Uri’s third brother, were killed by systematic starvation.

Later, at the end of a long hard day’s forced labour, Uri’s father and sister were shot dead by Nazi guards who couldn't be bothered to walk them back
to the camp.

Only Uri and his mother survived ‘The Death Loop’. 30,000 people had passed through the gates of this camp but when it was liberated only 300 were left. Thankfully Uri, and his mother were among them.

In 1994 Uri and his wife Fruma emigrated to Israel and now live in Jerusalem. Uri regularly tells his survival story to groups at the Yad VaShem Holocaust museum in Jerusalem. When I shared the gospel with him the first time, he answered me very honestly: ‘Aviel, you know that it is so hard for me to believe that there is a God after all that I have experienced in life!’
I told him that God had given him the strength he needed to survive, and had a plan and purpose for his life. He acknowledged there was truth in what I had said. At the end of our conversation I offered to pray for him and he agreed. He still had many doubts about God and even more questions.

Every time I visited Uri and his wife over the following months I would take them a gift. They were puzzled as to why a stranger would give them gifts, which gave me the opportunity to speak to them about the God who gave us the greatest gift of all, his Son Jesus, so that we could be saved.

In May I visited Uri and Fruma again. Uri said that he had passed out twice in the last month and the doctors had identified a problem with his heart. I told him this made making his peace with God even more urgent.

I was so encouraged when Uri replied saying he had been seriously thinking about what I had told him the last time I had visited. Uri had realised that true peace with God could only come through Jesus and was ready to put his trust in the Messiah and have his sins forgiven! I was taken aback by this and asked Fruma whether she felt the same way and also wanted to turn to Jesus for salvation. It was poignant to have Uri interrupt me and say, ‘Of course she does, am I going to be the only one who receives forgiveness today?’

It was a joy and privilege to be able to pray with this couple in their living room as they turned away from their sin to their Saviour.

Please pray for Uri and Fruma as they grow in grace together and for Aviel as he looks for a local congregation for them.


Victory in Vic's life



Just under a year ago Igal Vender met Vic, a Jewish drug addict, on the streets of Tel Aviv and invited him to a pop-up café for the homeless. Vic accepted the invitation and Igal was taken aback when Vic told him that he recognised Igal from many years before. As Igal reports, this meeting marked an important turning point in Vic’s life.

Vic is a 42-year-old divorcee who moved to Israel from Uzbekistan in 1998 with his wife and daughter. Of the 21 years he has lived in Israel, 16 of them have been spent in prison. His wife divorced him during his first prison sentence and he turned to drugs for consolation. Life outside was difficult to adjust to and, tragically, prison was the only place he really felt at home.

Despite Vic saying he knew me from years back, I couldn’t remember him. After he had eaten, he listened intently as I explained the gospel before telling him how Jesus had transformed my life. Vic looked me straight in the eyes and told me that he found it impossible to believe. He went on to explain that we had been in prison together back in 2001 and during that time he saw me having a vicious fight with another prisoner. I immediately remembered the incident, which gave me another opportunity to emphasise the change Jesus had made in my life.

I explained how I had struggled to accept that God could forgive my sin and all the wicked things I had done but that the very moment I repented and believed, God changed me. So much so that for the past twelve years I have been serving God by sharing the Good News about Jesus with Jewish people, particularly those who are in the position I was once in. I invited him to come to our rehab house and challenged him to discover the change that God could make in his own life.

Vic was astonished by the change he saw in me. But he told me that, as a Jewish man, he didn’t believe Jesus could help him. He then simply got up and walked away. This saddened me although it wasn’t a total surprise. However, I committed to pray for him. Two months later my prayers were answered as Vic returned, this time asking if he could come to the rehab house for help.

We began reading the Bible together, starting at the Gospel of John before moving onto Matthew. I showed him that Jesus and his first disciples were Jewish, before explaining that the Messiah had first come to the Jewish people and the offer of salvation was then opened up to all nations. Over the days that followed, I saw the Lord at work in Vic’s heart. He told me that for the first time since he was in prison he felt a sense of belonging.

A few weeks ago, after another Bible study, Vic told me that the previous night he had woken up in floods of tears with an overwhelming awareness of his sinful condition and his need to repent. I was overjoyed as we prayed together and Vic turned to Jesus as his Messiah and Lord!

Praise God that Vic was recently baptised! Pray for him as he grows in his faith and for Igal as he disciples him.



Joseph Steinberg on UCB:
The rise of anti-Semitism in the UK



CWI CEO Joseph Steinberg was recently featured on UCB News to comment on the rise of anti-Semitism in the UK.

The number of anti-Semitic hate incidents in the UK has reached a record level for the third year in a row. 1,652 cases were reported in 2018, a rise of 16%. Joseph told UCB's Helen Price, he's not surprised by the figures…

You can listen to the full interview here...




Aviel Sela, CWI missionary in Israel, met Joshua, an Iranian Jewish car park attendant, last summer. Aviel had noticed Joshua’s sad demeanour so struck up a conversation.

Each time I saw Joshua at the car park I noticed the sadness in his eyes so I started to talk with him about how we can know peace in our heart. Very quickly Joshua opened up and shared his life story with me. I soon found out why he had no peace or sense of fulfilment in his life.

Joshua was born into an Iranian Jewish family in 1940 and grew up in Iran’s Muslim culture but always felt connected to his Jewish heritage. In 1974, something happened that would be unimaginable today, Israel sent its international football team to play in Tehran! This took place prior to the Iranian Islamic revolution when Iran and Israel enjoyed a better relationship.

This match turned out to be a turning point in Joshua's life. When the Israeli team lost, his fellow Iranians erupted into anti-Semitic cursing against the defeated Israeli side. Joshua went home and thought long and hard about what he had just experienced. He then made the decision to emigrate to Israel.

This was not a decision he took lightly. He was a successful businessman and it meant he had to sell his home and business and uproot his family. The timing turned out to be providential when, shortly after he left Iran in 1978, the Islamic Revolution took place.

His wife gave birth to two children in Israel, a boy and a girl, and, as his family grew, he developed a successful business. The business was so profitable that he was able to buy four properties. Things seemed secure for the family.

Sadly, this didn’t last long. Their 15-year-old daughter suddenly became ill with unexplainable head pains. After much testing, the doctors diagnosed that she had an incurable virus which caused her to be paralysed. The medication that she was finally prescribed helped a little but it was very expensive and only available in Switzerland. Joshua and his wife fought for their daughter for many years, selling their properties and the business in order to buy the medicine their daughter needed. Tragically however, after 8 years of suffering, their beloved daughter died at age 23.

Joshua's wife fell into a deep depression which lasted for years. Joshua sought peace for himself and his wife but could never find it. This was why he was so interested when I talked to him about finding peace with God.

I shared with him that the only way to have real peace was through the Messiah who paid the price for the sins of his people. I explained that God gives true peace to those who put their trust in Jesus for salvation.

I could tell Joshua was open to what I was sharing and he gratefully accepted a book on Isaiah 53. Over the following four months, I called him so we could discuss what he was reading in the book. I answered the questions he had and the more we spoke, the more I could see that God was drawing him to faith in the Messiah.

In December, I quoted Joel 2:32 – ‘whoever calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved’ – to Joshua before asking who he thought the Messiah was. He told me that as he had read Isaiah 53 in his own Persian Bible, it became very clear to him that Jesus was the Messiah and God!

It was an overwhelming moment as we prayed together and Joshua repented of his sins, receiving Jesus as his Lord and Messiah. Finally at the age of 78 he found the peace that he had been looking for all his life - peace with God.


Only ‘Jesus the Notzri’ can help you...



CWI missionary in Israel, Igal Vender, received a telephone call from a Jewish mother who said she had got his phone number from some ‘Notzri’ – a Hebrew word for Christians which means Nazarene but has negative connotations.

The Jewish mother, named Miriam, had been told that our rehab was run by Jewish believers in Jesus but that we could help her son, Shimshon, who is an alcoholic.

Although Miriam had taken the step of making the call, she told me that she did not believe that ‘Jesus the Noztri’ was likely to help. Despite her unbelief, I shared the gospel with her and told her that Jesus was the Jewish Messiah and the only one who could help.

I then called Shimshon. I explained who I was, as well as the opportunity of the rehab centre. He had been through many government-run rehabs but had always returned to his alcoholism and didn’t see how another rehab could help. I pointed out how we were different because we believed that Jesus could give him real freedom. I shared my testimony which demonstrated how this had been true in my own life. I also explained that he needed to take the first step and come to the rehab centre, where he would hear more about Jesus.

The next day I met with Shimshon and took him to the centre. Three days later he came to me excitedly, saying that the place was so different from the other rehabs he had been in. He said he felt different and no longer had the urge to smoke or drink. I sensed that the God was already at work in Shimshon's heart.

We began studying the Bible together. I helped him to understand about sin, atonement and the forgiveness of sin, and explained the part that Jesus played in all this. Very quickly, I could see the Lord at work in Shimshon’s heart as he began reading the Word of God regularly.

A few days later he came to our congregation where I was preaching a gospel message. Once I had finished preaching I asked if there was anyone who wanted to respond to the things I had been expounding. My heart leapt for joy as Shimshon approached me.

Praise God, we went on to pray together as he repented of his sin and turned to Jesus for salvation. After Shimshon prayed, I asked all those who were present from the rehab to stand up so that the church as a whole, could pray for them all.

Please pray for Shimshon, his mother, and for all who are currently receiving practical help and spiritual care at the rehab centre.



Joseph Steinberg on UCB


CWI CEO Joseph Steinberg was recently interviewed on UCB radio about his early experience as a Jewish believer.

Joseph related his own experience of growing up in a traditional Jewish home and recalled his first Christmas as a Jewish believer in Jesus.  

You can listen to the full interview here...



Baptised in the bath

Aviel Sela, one of CWI's missionaries in Israel, was introduced to a Jewish believer who had asked for someone to share the gospel with her Aunt Bebe. Bebe wanted to speak to someone outside of the family about Jesus,

Bebe was born into a large Jewish family in a small town called Zhitomir in Ukraine in 1939. She was the youngest of seven children. When she was two years old the family fled Ukraine to escape the Nazis, however she became very ill on the journey and her spine began to rot. She survived but as a result started developing a hunch back.

After WWII Bebe and her family lived in impoverished conditions in a small one room apartment. She shared a bed with her brother for many years as her health problems grew worse. She faced much rejection as a child, but the worst came from her own father who would say in front of her: ‘It’s a shame that Bebe didn’t die on the journey when we fled the Nazis!’ He was always cursing at her which destroyed her confidence.

As Bebe grew older she learned to overcome the humiliation of her father’s verbal abuse and hard surroundings. Despite these factors, she completed her education and became a qualified engineer. She thought that if she was intelligent, people would respect and accept her. However, this didn’t satisfy her in the way she expected. Life’s frustrations and challenges resulted in bad decisions and deep regrets. She became pregnant out of wedlock, had an abortion and was left alone, with no husband or child.

In the 90s those in her family who survived the Holocaust, emigrated to Israel while she stayed in Ukraine. The loneliness became too much for her though, so in 1998 she travelled to Israel to join her brother in the hope that she could have some kind of normal family life. Sadly, he didn’t want any contact with her. Bebe once again found herself totally alone.

But this wasn’t the end of Bebe’s story. Her niece, a Jewish believer in Jesus, reached out to her and shared the gospel with her for the first time. For some reason Bebe didn’t want her niece to tell her more but asked her to find someone who could explain how she could be saved. By God’s grace, this wonderful privilege came to me.

I called Bebe and she told me that she was having dizzy spells and was very sick. I felt a real sense of urgency so shared the gospel with her.

I was overjoyed as she expressed her desire to receive the offer of forgiveness of sin through Jesus the Messiah. A few days later I visited her in her apartment. We had a wonderful time together following which I began visiting her weekly to study the Bible and, at her request, prepare her for baptism.

At the beginning of October, a pastor from Ashdod and I had the joy of baptising Bebe. Because of her physical limitations she couldn't leave her flat so we could not baptise her by immersion. Instead we had to pour water over her head in her bathroom using a saucepan. How beautiful!

All her life, for various reasons Bebe had faced rejection at every turn but finally she found acceptance with God and redemption through Jesus.


Saved from Suicide

CWI missionary in Israel, Igal Vender, was recently out sharing the gospel on the streets of Tel Aviv. There he met Alan, a depressed man in his late forties who, that very day, was planning on taking his own life..

Alan was divorced and the father of a 14-year-old son. He had emigrated to Israel 15 years previously and initially found work as a crane operator. Sadly, the construction company he worked for went bankrupt and he was left unemployed. For the next two years he was unable to find work anywhere. During this time, Alan turned to drink and five years ago his wife had enough of his drinking and divorced him. This resulted in him becoming homeless and living on the streets of Tel Aviv. Alan began stealing to pay for his alcohol addiction and eventually spent a year and a half in prison for theft.

I shared my testimony with Alan but he struggled to believe that Jesus had freed me from my old life. He thought I was making it up until I showed him some old photos of myself and even then he could hardly believe the changes Jesus had made in my life.
I read John 1:1-5 to him, explaining that those who turn to Jesus can have their lives turned from darkness to light. I reasoned with him: ‘If Jesus was able to change me, then surely he is able to change you too.’

Alan looked shocked and told me he couldn’t believe we were having this conversation. He told me that he had woken up that morning with thoughts of suicide. He had decided that if he didn’t meet someone that day who could help him, he was going to hang himself in the evening!

Equally shocked, I explained that our meeting was obviously God at work in his life. This was clearly a divine intervention, arranged so Alan could hear about God's love for us in Jesus.
That same day I took Alan off the streets and to my congregation’s rehabilitation house where I volunteer. My wife Milana bought new clothes for him while I took him to get washed and shaved. As he put his new clothes on, he looked up and began weeping.

I asked him why he was crying and he said it had been so long since anyone had showed him such love and he felt overwhelmed. I told him that we did this in the name of Jesus. He had loved us first and called us to love those whom we were once like.

Two months into his stay at the rehab centre, Alan was back on his feet again and working in a restaurant kitchen. It was amazing to see the change that the Lord had worked in Alan’s life. Since the time we first opened the Scriptures together, Alan had been enthusiastically devouring God’s Word.

On the first day of the Jewish Feast of Tabernacles, Alan came to me and said something that profoundly touched my heart. He said that he had lived for too long in the tabernacle (tent) that he had built for himself and wanted to leave it behind. He told me: ‘Igal, Jesus is changing me from day to day and I want to follow him.’

Praise God! Together with the pastor of my congregation, we prayed as Alan professed faith in Jesus as his Lord and Saviour.


Proclaiming peace in Paris

Thank you to all who prayed for and supported our Paris summer outreach team in August!

Over the course of the outreach over 25,000 gospel leaflets were distributed, hundreds of conversations about the Messiah took place and twenty four Jewish people gave us their contact details so that our missionary in Paris, Aurel Vidal, and his team of local volunteers could follow them up and tell them more about Jesus. Many Gentiles also stopped to talk, including one tourist who professed faith in Jesus having heard the Good News from our team.

While we had a core team of 17 missionaries, mission associates and international volunteers, a large group of local volunteers meant that the team actually numbered over 80 people. Every day we had around 25-30 people out on the streets sharing Jesus with Jewish people and anyone else who would stop to listen.

The September issue of The Herald features more reports and pictures from the outreach. If you want to hear more news about how God was at work through our team in Paris click here to sign up to receive it by email.





God’s perfect timing

Even when we think that we are running late, we can never be late for one of God's divine appointments. This was the case when CWI's Head of Ministry Richard Gibson met Natan and Lev on the Paris underground.

I was running late on the way to an outreach location with another team member when Natan leaned over the train aisle, pointed at our shirts and asked what they were all about. I explained we were in Paris to tell Jewish people about the Peacemaker and, guessing Natan was Israeli, asked if he could read what was on our shirts. Natan read out 'MiHu' and we started speaking in Hebrew.

I reasoned with Natan that as God created all humanity in his image, then there must be a single solution to the mess the world is in. This solution is the same for Jewish people and for Gentiles, whether they be Israelis, Arabs, Christians, Muslims or Orthodox Jews. I shared that we were in Paris to tell people that Jesus is the Messiah of Israel and the Saviour of the world.

Natan had never read the New Testament but was very keen to take a Hebrew language version, promising that he was serious and wanted to read it. He then asked me to repeat everything I had just told him to his Jewish French-Algerian friend Lev, who didn’t speak Hebrew! Shortly afterwards, Lev gave me his phone number and said he'd be happy for our missionary in Paris, to visit him and tell him more about Jesus in French. Natan also gave the team his contact details but was on his way to the airport to fly back to Israel later that day.
Please pray for Natan as Igal Vender meets with him in Israel and pray for our missionary in Paris as he gets in touch with Lev to tell him more about the Saviour.




Three former addicts baptised in the Jordan

At the beginning of the year Kyle, a homeless Jewish addict, approached Igal Vender on the street asking for money for food. When Igal told him he had Good News to share and instead invited him for a meal at a local café, neither imagined where it would lead…

Kyle wanted to know why I would bother trying to help a homeless man like him. I explained that it was because of the One who lives in me and who transformed my own life – Jesus! I shared my testimony with Kyle before we opened the Scriptures and ate together. Kyle listened carefully to what I was saying before I prayed for him and we went our separate ways.

When I got home, my wife Milana and I committed to praying regularly for Kyle, not knowing if I would ever see him again. Two weeks later however, as I was walking down the street, a man approached me and asked how I was - it was Kyle!

This time round Kyle opened up about his own life. He is a 41 year old Russian Jewish divorcée who emigrated to Israel 15 years ago. In Russia he had a responsible job as a chief engineer but when he arrived in Israel the only job he could get as a non-Hebrew speaking immigrant was sweeping the streets. His inability to find a good job caused depression and he turned to drink. When his wife divorced him eight years ago, he began living on the streets. At this point in his life he stopped heavy drinking but turned to hard drugs and spent three years in prison. Kyle opened his heart to me, weeping as he recounted his life story. I gave him a big hug, told him that God cares for him and how Jesus could change his life.

Kyle told me that he didn’t trust people but when we first met he could sense there was something different about me. He also said that when I prayed for him he was overwhelmed by a sense of peace – something he had not felt for a long time! I offered him a place at the rehab centre I volunteer in and he gratefully accepted the invitation.

A month later we were studying the book of Ephesians at the rehab. When we finished Kyle approached me, declared that he believed Jesus had died for his sins and told me he wanted to repent and ask Jesus to be Lord of his life! Here was the answer to months of prayer right before my eyes. We prayed together as the other men in the rehab centre watched on.

Around the same time, two other men in the house also professed faith in Jesus. Over the months that followed, Kyle, Cyril and Greg grew in their faith as we studied the Scriptures together and they began serving in the rehab as well as in our church. Praise God, they even began joining us reaching out to other homeless people and addicts on the streets of Tel Aviv, sharing the Good News of Jesus the Messiah and the way he had transformed their lives. In June, following baptismal classes, we travelled to the River Jordan to the place where John the Baptist was baptising Jewish people two thousand years ago. There all three were baptised! Please pray for these three men as they continue to grow in the Lord and as they reach out to others around them.






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