Leonid has planted a small church among the Russian Jews in a city in Israel. Though the church is small, their hope is that God would use them to bring many hearts to His Son. Leonid, as well, helps Antony and others with their evangelistic tour ministry. He also performs evangelical concerts in cities throughout Israel. He writes articles on Israel that are published in various Christian magazines. He has published these articles in a book entitled Around Jerusalem with the Bible. In the past, Leonid has been severely beaten for preaching the Gospel and he has suffered much for the sake of Christ. Pray for him as he ministers in two cities in Israel.
Testimony of Conversion
I was born in the atheistic country of Ukraine to an atheistic family. My father was a committed communist and a leader of the local party organization. As a child I knew absolutely nothing about God. I remember that when I was ten years old a girl in my class admitted to me that she believed in Jesus. I was able to tolerate this somehow, but when she added that our teacher was also a believer, my confusion knew no bounds: “How could an adult in our country believe in some sort of God? We are supposed to believe only in communism!”
When I was seventeen, I watched a new film about the Russian artist Rublyov. One scene from the film shook me so much that for a long time afterward I pictured it before my eyes: a man with Jewish features named Jesus was walking along carrying a heavy burden, stumbling, and falling on the way to His death. I do not know how this scene passed through the strict Soviet censors. In school, they taught us that such a man had never lived.
From that time on, I began to be interested in the person of Christ and read through the Bible. I was happy to know that this great person was, like me, a Jew (Jews love to remember the names of all their great fellow tribesmen, such as Einstein, Freud, and others.) For me, Jesus was just another in a line of famous Jewish personages. I outright rejected the thought of Him as God. I was sure that the authors of the Gospels had simply created a fantasy around the true person. I was happy to read the Bible and learn about the history of Israel, but I could not consider it to be the Word of God.
The Chernobyl catastrophe turned the life and thoughts of my people upside down. It announced to the world the beginning of the end of Communism and the beginning of Perestroika (a Russian word that now everyone knows). At that time, many Russians wanted to obtain a Bible, but at the end of the 1980s there were not enough Bibles to go around. I began to make money by getting free Bibles from my friends and selling them. The thought never entered my mind that I was doing something wrong. Once a week, I went to the market with a packet of Bibles. They were literally ripped from my hands. People were willing to pay money to such a sinner as I in order to have the Scriptures in their home.
Together with the positive changes that took place in our country, anti-Semitic organizations also began to grow in strength. Once while in Moscow, I accidentally happened onto one of their groups. They all pointed at me and laughed. Upon returning home, I opened the Bible and read: “Then I heard another voice from heaven say: ‘Come out of her, my people, so that you will not share in her sins, so that you will not receive any of her plagues'” (Revelation 18:4). At that moment, I felt that I should leave Russia, but where could I go? In 1990, Israel was the only country receiving Jews. I immigrated there, not because I had any particular love for Israel, but I thought that Israel would be a stepping stone to the United States. In one year, I received my Israeli passport, but when I applied for an American visa, I was rejected.
After my rejection, I traveled to Toronto. There I contacted some wicked men, who promised to get me over the border for a fee. One of them offered to make me a fake document. He said, “The most important thing is to get through customs. There they will ask you where you are going. You need to say clearly, with an American accent, Willow-Dale.” For three days I tried to say the word as I was told, but was unable to say it correctly. All this time, I was living with Christians from a Messianic congregation in Toronto (some acquaintances in Israel had given me their address). Every evening they took me with them to their meetings. During the day I was talking with all sorts of deceivers, smugglers, and forgers, and in the evening I was fellow shipping with God’s people. Finally, I came to the realization that I needed to go back to Israel.
When I returned to Israel, I went on an excursion to the Christian sites in Jerusalem. I quickly found nice people to talk with on the tour bus, and we had a good time discussing different issues. Then the bus stopped at the Garden of Gethsemane and everything changed. We went into the Church of the Agony of the Lord. I looked at the central mosaic, which showed the lonely, suffering Jesus, and I remembered the words “My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death. Stay here and keep watch with me” (Matthew 26:38). In one split second it was as if the wonderful guide and all the nice people with whom I had been talking simply disappeared. Only Jesus was left. I understood from the Garden of Gethsemane, that Jesus went through horrible sufferings, through unimaginable mocking and scorn. He went through a terrible death in order to redeem mankind from their sins. I understood not only that He was a great man, but that He was also something much more important: Jesus was my God.
That was in 1992: the year I repented and joined a group of believers that soon afterwards became the congregation “Simkhat Yeshua.” For eight years I was an elder in this congregation. Now I am serving in the congregation in Jerusalem called “A Voice in the Wilderness” and have started a new congregation in Jaffa. After my conversion in 1992, I began to write songs about the Lord, and since that time, have recorded three CDs. I also arrange and perform in evangelistic concerts in many Israeli cities.
I can share with you a testimony that demonstrates the importance of music. A certain couple used to come to our congregation. The wife had already received the Lord a long time ago, but her husband did not even want to hear the Gospel. He said that he did not even believe that Jesus had ever existed. Finally, one Saturday I decided to begin the service with my song “Golgotha.” After the song, the man came to me in tears and said, “I was so foolish. I read the Bible and did not understand anything. I listened to my wife and laughed about her words about Christ. Your song explained to me the whole truth about Him. I repent of my sins and want to be with Jesus.” He cried and I was so thankful to the Lord for the opportunity to serve Him with my songs.
Since I had become a believer during an evangelistic tour, I made this one of my primary ministries. I began leading evangelistic tours around the Old City of Jerusalem, but now I am leading tours in Jaffa. I also write a column called Through Jerusalem with the Bible for the magazine “My Jerusalem.” I also write articles for Christian newspapers in the USA and Germany.
We have many adversaries in Israel. In different cities around the country they put up my photograph with the title “He baptizes Jews. Stay away from him!” They stand near our gatherings and yell insults at us. They send their agents to us. They are also trying to pass a law in the Parliament forbidding us to evangelize. But nothing and no one can stop the Good News from being spread.
I understand now that the Lord loves His people so much. He loves Israel. We need to do all we can to witness to God’s people, regardless of all the obstacles. I love Israel and am so happy to be serving my people.