Chernobyl’s Jewish Liquidators

The Chernobyl liquidators were civil and military personnel, who were called upon to deal with the consequences of the 1986 Chernobyl nuclear disaster. Countless liquidators were Jewish and during the early 90’s almost 5,000 made Aliyah. Today there are hundreds who remain in Ukraine, suffering from debilitating health issues and the haunting memories of death and destruction.   

Vera’s story:

“We all have defining moments that change the course of our lives forever. For some, it’s their wedding day, for others, maybe the birth of a child. For me, it was the pounding on my front door in the early morning hours of Sunday April 27, 1986 that still haunt and consume my soul. 

The day before started out like most of my work days as I set off early for my job in our regional hospital. It was my week to serve as the attending physician in our busy emergency ward. By midday, I must have seen over 70 patients due to a severe outbreak of influenza in our community. After 14 exhausting hours, I was finally back home in my bed and immediately fell asleep as my head hit the pillow. 

BANG, BANG, BANG… I was jolted awake from the banging on my front door. My first thought was that there was probably an emergency at the hospital. As I cracked open the front door, there was a stranger standing before me in military uniform. He barked out orders to get dressed immediately and come with him. I followed him down the stairs of my building and was taken by the arm and loaded onto a bus with others. We drove for hours without a word being spoken.” 

Anton’s story:

“I was at the height of my military career in the spring of 1986, or at least that’s what I thought at the time. I was an officer in the Soviet Army, in charge of many young men who were eager to serve their country. We were training at our base for combat when I was pulled aside and told to ready my men immediately for a secret mission. 

After all of the preparations were completed, we were all loaded onto an old bus. After two hours of driving, our regional commander stood up and delivered the following announcement. 

You are all here because there was an explosion in a power plant, and it’s very possible that you will not return from this mission. You are defending the state just as your grandmothers and grandfathers had done. Many of them died in the wars protecting our motherland. This is your opportunity to do the same…”

Bringing their story together:

Vera and Anton were assigned to the same unit after both arriving at the Chernobyl accident site on the morning of Monday April 28, two days after the meltdown began. They were assigned to work together as liquidators in an environment that was filled with deadly levels of radiation. Their mission was to save the lives of those caught in the explosion. What they experienced during their three weeks of working there was nothing short of a living nightmare that would change their health and lives forever. 

“It was truly a miracle that we survived our days at Chernobyl”, says Vera. “We formed a bond immediately while working together and depended on each other to survive. Destruction, death and suffering were around us everywhere, but somehow we made it out alive and married a short time after”.

Vera and Anton had been suffering for years when our emergency rescue team found them living in a small village outside of Kiev, Ukraine. Both have debilitating health issues and are in desperate need of medical attention and humanitarian assistance.    

My family, let’s wrap our loving arms around this couple and provide them with life-saving food, medical treatments and rehabilitative services as we work to bring them home to Israel. Together we can show them just how powerful Christian love is during their greatest time of need. 

May God bless you for helping to bless and save our suffering Jewish brothers and sisters. 

Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.

I used to be like most people in the check-out line, waiting impatiently for the checker to scan my items and bag them so I could be on my way. Then, one day a few years ago, I actually stopped long enough to look at the person scanning my groceries…really look at them. And what I saw was a tired, sullen lady, mechanically scanning my items without even looking up. Instantly, I felt a check in my spirit—you know the one—the sweet prompting from the Holy Spirit to reach out.

So, I simply asked, “How is your day going?”

With the look she gave me, you would have thought those 5 words were, “You’ve just won the lottery.” She literally stopped scanning, looked up, and gave me the biggest smile.

“Thank you so much for asking!” She replied. Then, she went on to share with me all about her day. Her whole demeanor had changed! I helped bag my groceries, wished her a wonderful day, and left the store in shock at what one simple question could do.

Since that day, I’ve made it a point to ask that same question as often as I can. At the gas station, the drive-thru, the post office…and every time I ask it, I’m blown away at the wide-open door that results from taking a moment to simply care.

My friends, isn’t that what walking the walk is? It’s caring for others as we care for ourselves. It’s taking the mundane moments and turning them into opportunities to bless others—even if it’s only with a question!

So, here is the challenge. Begin asking God for opportunities to bless people. Ask Him to lift your impatience long enough to look someone in the eye and ask how they are. Ask the Lord for a listening ear—not a half-listening ear, glued to your smartphone—a genuine, tuned-in ear that really cares.

You may not realize this, but our ministry at Christians Care International is full of asking. We ask God for divine direction. We ask our faithful donors for support. We ask our suffering Jewish brothers and sisters how we can best help them. Asking is such a big part of what we do! 

This passage in Matthew 7 describes it best…

 “Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks it will be opened. Or which one of you, if his son asks him for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a serpent? If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask him! “So whatever you wish that others would do to you, do also to them, for this is the Law and the Prophets.” (Matthew 7:7-12)

You know, most children in elementary school learn the Golden Rule and can recite it by heart. “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” But let us not merely recite these words, my friends. Let’s look at others beyond the surface of the check-out counter. Let’s ask ourselves how we would want to be treated if we were in their shoes. Then, let’s take that opportunity to connect.

I’m truly grateful for that day in the check-out line several years ago. I sometimes wonder how many times God tried to wake me up to the needs of others, but I was too preoccupied to listen. However, it is never too late to start caring. Ask God for that check in your spirit, prompted by His Spirit, to notice someone in need. Then, simply ask, “How is your day going?”

Walking the walk with all of you,

Jennifer Waddle, CCI Ministry Development Team

Standing in The Gap

Olivia Acute Leukemia

On the evening of February 4th, 1999, my husband and I welcomed our only daughter into the world. She was round and pink with a head full of dark hair and we were instantly smitten by her. The nurse wrapped her in a blanket and handed her to me—she was the loveliest thing I’d ever seen! 

Moments later, the nurse leaned over and said, “I need to take her for a minute.” My daughter was rushed to a nearby examining table where nurses began suctioning her throat and doctors began filling the room. Something was terribly wrong.

Hours later, I followed my husband to the NICU where our girl was intubated with a breathing tube. Unbeknownst to us, she had been born with a benign tumor called a teratoma that had grown above her soft palate and was largely blocking her airway. 

Through intensive surgery and weeks of recovery, the worry and fear we experienced was grueling. There were moments where we faced the unthinkable possibility of losing our daughter. At my lowest point, I remember leaning over her hospital bassinet and coming to the realization that God might not heal our baby. I was faced with this question:

Will I still be able to say that God is good if He chooses not to heal?

Oh, how I wrestled with that question! My prayers turned to cries, which turned to begging, which finally turned to…surrender. It was at that moment of surrender that I began to sing…

God is so good, He’s so good to me.

Over and over I sang that chorus, clinging to the Scripture, “Oh give thanks to the Lord, for He is good, for His steadfast love endures forever!”(Psalm 107:1)

If you’ve ever experienced a serious medical challenge with a child or loved one, you know that sinking feeling of helplessness. There is, perhaps, no worse fear than the possibility of losing a life that is precious to you.

As you may know, Christians Care International has walked the healing journey with many families over the years. One of the most recent journeys has been with the family of our dear, sweet, Olivia, who is fighting for her life with a battle against Acute Leukemia. I can only imagine the worry and fear that has gripped Olivia’s parents as they helplessly stand by, hoping for the best.

My friends, let us stand in the gap for precious Olivia and for many others who deserve a fighting chance! As CCI assists Jewish orphans, widows, Holocaust survivors, and suffering families in Ukraine, let’s join hands in prayer and life-saving medical contributions. Without our help, there would be little chance for them to get the proper medical attention, or even have a chance at survival.

Along with supporting our Emergency Aid Program, I’d like to personally encourage you to reach out to someone close to you who is facing a medical challenge. Because my family went through it, I know how much it means to have people rally to your side.

Bringing hot meals, caring for our older children, purchasing gift cards, and offering to run errands for us were things people did during those weeks of medical crisis. I can’t tell you how wonderful even the smallest acts of kindness were!

Who needs your prayers and loving support during their current medical challenge? Will you find a way to reach out and support them? Thank you for standing in the gap. Your kindness will forever be remembered!

Walking the walk with all of you,

Jennifer Waddle, CCI Ministry Development Team

All In and In Step

We’d been fishing for nearly an hour when my grown son leaned over and said, “Uh, Mom, do you still have bait on your line?” 

“Oh, yeah,” I replied, confidently. “I’m sure I do.”

Then my son asked, “Do you have a weight on your line? Most of the fish are at the bottom.” 

Reeling in, I saw that there was no weight. There was no bait. And there was no hook! I’d been so sure I knew what I was doing, (and equally sure I was going to catch the first fish), I’d rushed to get my line in the water without securing it.

So it is with the Christian life, isn’t it? We are so confident we know what we are doing, we take off running, only to realize we’ve run way ahead of the Lord without His provision.

Walking the walk of faith is both “all-in” and “in-step.”

If we live by the Spirit, let us also keep in step with the Spirit. (Galatians 5:25)

So what does this mean for our day-to-day lives, my friends?

I’m afraid there have been some confusing messages concerning the call to follow Christ. And if we’re completely honest, being “all in” for the Lord can feel overwhelming. 

However, what if walking the walk is really about small, faithful steps of love? In your sphere of influence—your family, neighborhood, and community, who might need an extension of God’s love through you?

A family member might need your forgiveness and a fresh start.

A neighbor might need your time and talent to help finish a task.

A homeless person might need a meal and a listening ear.

My friends, this is what walking the walk looks like!

You should know, that it is only by taking one faithful and loving step at a time that we, at Christians Care International, are able to reach our suffering Jewish brothers and sisters in Ukraine. Although we are eager to help as many as we possibly can, we know that it is by extending God’s love to one beloved person at a time that we are making the greatest impact for His people.

So, my friends, in what way will you walk the walk today? Don’t be overwhelmed! Be encouraged. You don’t have to rush to be the first one to cast your line. You don’t need to worry about who catches the first fish. Your small cast of love is the perfect first step!

My son and I still laugh about the day I cast my line into the water without bait or hook. It’s a silly memory I won’t forget. But it’s also a reminder that there is a sea of people in need of God’s love. Whatever sandy shore you find yourself standing on today, please know that the tiniest ripple you cast will join the swell of other ripples, becoming a wave of God’s unstoppable love.

Walking the walk with all of you,

Jennifer Waddle, CCI Ministry Development Team 

It Is Written

“You shall worship the Lord your God, and Him only you shall serve.” (Matthew 4:10)

It’s just like the enemy to wait until we are most vulnerable, before creeping in to cast doubt and confusion, isn’t it? Upon the weary mother, he whispers, “You don’t have what it takes.”

Or, to the struggling student, he says, “Give up now.”

Especially when people are doing the work of the Father in heaven, the adversary swoops in like a summer storm without warning. And if we aren’t prepared, we may be thrown into a whirlwind of doubt and confusion.

Jesus knew, all too well, the severe temptation to give up, give in, and believe the lies of the enemy. After forty days and nights of fasting in the desert, He was at his lowest physical point. By all human standards, it wouldn’t have taken much for Him to command the stones to become bread as Satan ordered Him to do in Matthew chapter four.

Yet, as I read about the temptation of Jesus, and the wiles of the devil coming at Him over and over, I see a common theme. Three times, in the first eleven verses, Jesus responds to Satan with the words, “It is written.” He then follows it with the very words of God, to silence the enemy. In fact, the third time Jesus replies, he precedes it by shouting, “Away with you, Satan!” 

What an amazing example for us. On this mission to defend our Jewish brothers and sisters, the enemy will try to set up roadblocks at every turn. He will constantly say, “Give up now. You don’t have what it takes.” Yet, with the absolute truth of God’s Word, we can plow right through every blockade that stands against us!

Are you sensing the rising up of strength as you read this? God’s mighty power is working in each of us—the same power that raised Jesus from the dead! For the Holy Spirit nurtures, feeds, and strengthens us, even when we are coming out of a long desert season. In fact, it is when we are weak that He is very strong.

“My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore most gladly I will rather boast in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in needs, in persecutions, in distresses, for Christ’s sake. For when I am weak, then I am strong. (2 Corinthians 12:9-11)

God’s strength is made perfect in our weakness. In our infirmities, persecutions, and distresses, the power of Christ rests upon us and we are made stronger than ever.

Dear ones, whether you are at your lowest point today, or on the highest pinnacle of life, arm yourself with the most powerful ammunition you could ever carry—the Word of God. And, when the enemy comes, setting up false signs that say, “Road closed,” knock them down with the simple, yet powerful proclamation…“It is written.”

Adam’s Notebook: What does Our Easter Story Say about Jews?

This year, 2018, the Jewish celebration of Passover coincides with Easter, which only happens on occasion due to the fact we use different calendars.

Passover Eve this year begins on a Friday evening at sunset, just as it did on that Good Friday circa 33AD. This is one of the holiest times of the year for both Christians and Jews as we respectively remember the crucifixion and celebrate the resurrection of Jesus, and celebrate the Exodus of the people of Israel from Slavery in Egypt on their journey to freedom in the Promised Land.

Surely this is a time when Christians might also share in celebrating the events of Passover too, and recognise our Jewish brothers and sisters in doing the same?

Unfortunately, celebrating Easter every year we often read the story in a way which threatens to cast our Jewish brothers and sisters into a distinctly negative light. This is a problem which has its roots in the biblical texts themselves, or more accurately, in our handling and interpretation of them. This portrayal tends, in my experience, to be an unintended outcome of retelling the story but one which can be redressed once we become sensitive to it.

I wonder if any of these features of the Good Friday and Easter narratives are familiar to you at all?

– We read about “the chief priests and the teachers of the Law assembled in the palace of the high priest” [Caiaphas] who schemed to arrest Jesus secretly and kill him. (Matthew 26:3; Mark 14:1)

– We hear about how one of His disciples called ‘Judas’, which unfortunately sounds rather too close to the word ‘Jew’ was the one to betray Him.

– We read about how the Sanhedrin held a trial for Him at night. How they testified falsely against Him, and beat Him. They accused him of blasphemy and “condemned him as worthy of death.” (Mark 14:64)

– We read about how Pontius Pilate, the Roman governor, wanted to release Jesus knowing that He was innocent, but that he gave in to the will of the crowd and released a murderer called “Barabbas” because the crowd were calling for him to be crucified. John identifies the crowd as “the Jews” (John 19:4).

-The people in Matthew’s gospel even seemingly accept guilt for the crucifixion of Jesus: “His blood be upon us and our children”. (Matthew 27:25) They say, “We have no king but Caesar” (John 19:15).

This is not an exhaustive list. Let’s just say though that if you combine these ingredients, you have a story in which the visibly Jewish characters do not emerge well. We find here too some of the context for some of the horrendous anti-Jewish statements of Church Fathers which have become part of our Christian heritage.

Whilst these details of the Gospels are recorded as the historical details of the events, they are also sensitive details which need to be carefully treated and interpreted so that they cohere with the Biblical texts and are understood as texts which are Jewish in authorship. Their immediate Jewish readers (at least) would never have taken these events as a criticism of the Jewish people as a whole. This happens only when they are read, as it were, by an outside party.

Unfortunately, for many Christians today, even amid the increased diversity of our societies, the Easter narrative is likely to be a central narrative for formulating our perception of Jews, even on a more subconscious, emotional level. It is hardly surprising therefore that many Christians, even those who have rightly recognised that antisemitism is diametrically opposed to the Gospel of Jesus Christ, may often still ‘feel’ fairly indifferent towards them.

My challenge this Easter is for us to be vigilant to the story which is being retold, to listen and to hear whether this negative portrayal Jewish people is being allowed to contaminate the Good News which is being celebrated in our local church community. We need to be pray for those delivering the message. We may even need to question whether the portrayal of the narrative needs to be directly addressed.

There are, of course, details which balance our interpretation of these events. Jesus was every bit as Jewish (more Jewish, indeed we must say, if we are calling Him ‘Christ’) as His opponents. So too where His disciples and the crowd which greeted Him into Jerusalem waving palm leaves six days earlier (this was not the same crowd which called for Him to be crucified). Jesus’ opponents were a very small minority of Jewish people, who did what they did for a number of reasons (some of them very understandable), and who in no respect can be permitted to represent other Jews before or since. Jesus also taught that His crucifixion came about through His willingness to submit to it as part of God’s redeeming purpose for everyone,

“The reason my Father loves me is that I lay down my life—only to take it up again. No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have authority to lay it down and authority to take it up again.” (John 10:17-18)

So, as we celebrate this Easter, let us take a moment to give thanks for our Jewish brothers and sisters and the gift that they are to the world.

Let us celebrate that Jesus died and was raised for them, just as He was for us.

Finally, let us pray for the healing of the division in God’s family as we reach out in the love of God to help those among the Jewish people who desperately need our care and services which will raise them up out of poverty and suffering, and help them home to the promised land of Israel.

Adam’s Notebook: Eternal Creatures

Have you even had moments when you have asked yourself, “What am I here for?” I believe that everyone wants – perhaps even needs – for their life to count. We desperately want to know that we matter. I have good news. We do! You do!

Human beings are eternal creatures, created for a future living as part of a renewed creation as God’s people, thanks to the completed work of the cross of Jesus Christ. For those who have received and believed in His Name, we know this: eternal life isn’t something which kicks in after we have died, like a cosmic insurance policy. It has already begun. We are living it. Jesus said He came that we might have “life to the full” and the life we live now is assured to continue on into eternity. ‘Heaven’ isn’t up there, a place we will all one day all go. It is the reality of God – the Kingdom of God – which is coming to earth to remake it according to His ultimate design: “…on earth as it is in Heaven”. Our purpose is that we have an indispensable role in building, maintaining and belonging to it forever: the greatest undertaking which has ever been or ever will be.

Human beings are eternal creatures, created for a future living as part of a renewed creation as God’s people, thanks to the completed work of the cross of Jesus Christ.

It is therefore unsurprising that there is much in the Bible to remind us about dedicating ourselves to the things in life which will endure forever without becoming preoccupied with our immediate needs, important though they are,

“…Seek first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness”, Jesus said, “and all these things will be given to you as well.”

Jesus also taught on balance that it is through how we handle material riches, which are of temporary value, that we learn how to be entrusted with real ‘riches’ which are of eternal value (Luke 16:11). God entrusts to each of us resources and gifts and we need to find exactly the right balance between fulfilling the responsibilities we have to our families and ourselves, and each of us playing our role in building His Eternal Kingdom.

What is of ‘eternal value’? These are the things which we can take with us.

…not our possessions, but our relationships:

with God, family, friends, our neighbour.

…not our home, our car or bank balance, but our character

shaped by what we chose to value most.

…not the things we did, but the things which we did for others.

In other words, our hearts: love!

So my challenge to each of us is this: Let us not neglect to set our hearts, efforts and resources towards the things which will last. At Christians Care International, we know that the love which we show to Israel and our Jewish brothers and sisters will last forever. When we work to heal the life of an orphan, or care for the elderly holocaust survivor, this brings forward a glimpse of that redeemed, eternal future into their lives and ours. And it brings a smile to our Heavenly Father’s face.

What could ever be of greater value than that?

Adam Raffell
Director of Ministry Development

Adam’s Notebook: Looking Forward

I sometimes reflect that life can at times feel a bit like being a passenger on a train: we are aware of the scenery rushing past on either side, the familiar senses and sounds of the clicking of the tracks and the swaying of the carriage. We perhaps have a good sense of where we are because out of the window we see the places and landmarks we pass, but often lack a front-facing view of the way ahead towards our destination.

Our mission is to be God’s hands and feet, to raise them up and to stand with them as Christians.

At Christians Care International we are working to help Jewish people in need – this is where God has led us. Serving these people in accordance with Isaiah 49:22 has to be an end in itself which keeps us in step with God’s own compassion for them. When a child is suffering, or an elderly person is lonely, this is not what God wants for them. I know, personally, that a short encounter with people in such desperate need is like a splash of cold water and a reminder that God calls us to intervene and to find the best ways in which to help them. The same goes for when we identify a Jewish person who is desperate to make aliyah to Israel, either because they see a brighter future in Israel, or no possibility of one where they presently live in the FSU. Our mission is to be God’s hands and feet, to raise them up and to stand with them as Christians.

The nature of our call and work requires that our focus is predominantly on immediate needs: a bit like looking out of ‘side windows’. There is nothing wrong with that. It’s even intrinsic to an Isaiah 49:22 focus upon individual Jewish people, but that equally means it is doubly important for us to regularly consider our forward direction. If our mission is standing with Israel and the Jewish people, what is the ultimate purpose of doing so and are we, in fact, directed towards it?

CCI’s BIG picture is that all people, everywhere – Jew and Gentile alike, might be able to receive the gift of living as a forgiven and redeemed child of God for all eternity, ever changing from glory into glory as part of a renewed and restored creation. That’s the final destination.

Yet to all who did receive him [Jesus Christ], to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God—children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God. (John 1:12-13)

This doesn’t equate to calling oneself a ‘Christian’ or joining an institution called ‘the church’. It means simply being God’s people, although, “yes”, from a Christian perspective this can only mean ultimately, sooner or later, explicitly or implicitly, knowingly or unknowingly, faith in Jesus Christ becoming central to our identity and, “no”, not everyone will do this (contra universalism).

We need – and this is the key – to partner with the Jewish people in order to achieve this purpose.

However, God called and chose the Jewish people to be His people, a light to the nations so that all can receive God and share in Israel’s inheritance. The coming of Christ not only endorses but enhances that call and purpose. In other words, if the Word of God and knowledge of Messiah is to be spread across the world, Christians cannot make this happen on our own. We have to operate in conjunction with the mission and promises which God entrusted to Israel, rather than attempt to circumvent it or go it alone. A restored Jewish home – Israel – for example, is integral to that mission.

We need – and this is the key – to partner with the Jewish people in order to achieve this purpose. We are going to need their insight, their guidance and their witness, just as they will also need ours. Israel and the Church are inextricably bound together through Christ and our partnership has to begin without belittling, but also notwithstanding, the (humanly speaking) irreconcilable divide between Christians and Jews over the identity of Messiah.

God is already moving in our world. From within comfortable Western society, it is easy for us to miss entirely that He is bringing many people from nations all over the world to faith in Him. Looking forward, Christians and Jews have a shared destination in Messiah and in God, a common task in communicating the Good News of redemption to the world, and a common vested interest in a restored physical State of Israel from which the Word of the Lord can go out. Christian faith in Jesus commits us to His people, and the important task of breaking down the centuries-old barriers between us, one brick at a time.

At CCI, we are doing just that: chipping away at the barrier by equipping Israel and Jewish people for life, and also for this vital, God-given common task ahead. We are bringing Israel’s sons in our arms and daughters on our shoulders because God loves them, we love them, and it is painful to see so many suffering as they do, but we are also raising them up to be ready. We all have a part to play on our way to the final destination.

Excited yet? Good. It has begun.

Adam Raffell
Director of Ministry Development