Suppose a brother or sister is without clothes and daily food. If one of you says to him, “Go, I wish you well; keep warm and well fed,” but does nothing about his physical needs, what good is it? In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead.’ James 2:15–17
This year we are celebrating 16 years of humanitarian aid ministry. The first consignment of aid arrived in Ukraine from the UK in February 1996. It was a great blessing as we visited Jewish communities with clothes, shoes, bedding and other needed things.
It was not easy to visit Jewish people and tell them that we Christians love them, as many would ask, ‘How do we know that you love us?’ It made a huge difference when we expressed our love in action by giving them what they were in need of.
Aid became a key which opened doors into many Jewish communities in Ukraine, Moldova and Belarus because many people were unemployed or pensioners and couldn’t - and still can’t - afford to buy the new things we were giving them. Also welcome were the consignments of good secondhand clothing and other things we gave to Jewish charities for distribution. After some years of doing this, however, we felt God wanted us to change our approach.
It has always been our desire to combine the aid programme with aliyah throughout the Former Soviet Union, but because of legal restrictions and high transportation costs it was limited to Ukraine and Moldova. Expansion came when we implemented targeted aid projects. Today we run 14 projects from eight bases - Moscow, Rostov, Yekaterinburg, Novosibirsk and Pyatigorsk in Russia, and Uzbekistan, Ukraine and Moldova. The titles of the projects are different but all have the same aim: to reach Jewish families individually, provide support for them with items they need, and to encourage them to make aliyah to Israel.
There are wonderful testimonies from our Yekaterinburg and Rostov bases about how local Jewish community and charity leaders have changed their attitude towards Ebenezer since staff members visited them to offer aid for the neediest families. They’ve been so touched by the fact that our people are always willing to visit a remote village to give a pair of winter shoes to one Jewish child. As a result, a Hesed charity leader gave us a list of families including those with children of limited abilities to visit. The charity also told the families we would provide aid for them and help to make aliyah!
We are greatly encouraged as we see the fruits of these projects. Families have gone to Israel because their hearts have been opened to the message of aliyah by the aid we provided. Some didn’t know they had the right to make aliyah. Finally, I would like to take this opportunity to say thank you for your faithful support and prayers which makes this work possible.
By Vadim Rabochiy
Deputy FSU Operational Director