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. 

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.”

Remember The Joy?

“As soon as the voice of your greeting sounded in my ears, the babe leaped in my womb for joy.”  (Luke 1:44)

I still remember the big, white bus that came through our neighborhoods, picking kids up for the Wednesday night service at a church across town. I also remember the one and only time I rode that bus with my two-year-old brother at my side. I was terrified!

The leaders in the front of the bus sang, “I’ve got the joy, joy, joy, joy, down in my heart,” while I clung to my little brother, fearful of the unknown. Once we got to the church, they separated us, whisking my brother away to the preschool room while I was taken to the first-grade class. I cried. Needless to say, we never rode the Joy Bus again!

A dozen years later, as I came up out of the baptismal water, having met my Savior, I finally knew what it meant to have the joy, joy, joy, joy down in my heart…a joy that was there to stay.

Luke chapter one records the indescribable joy that caused an unborn babe to leap in his mother’s womb. That same joy, from the Holy Spirit, would carry John the Baptist through a life of all-out commitment to the Lord. There is, perhaps, no better example of a person walking the walk of missional living. Through hot desert days and cold desert nights, with cries in the wilderness, John preached the message of the kingdom of God.

I can only imagine the isolation he must have felt, as he spoke about a foreign gospel, introduced the baptism of repentance, and set himself apart to prepare the way for the Messiah. Ridicule and mockery must have been his lifelong companions, as he walked the walk of devotion to Christ. For John, there were no seasons of laid-back complacency. To him, joy was the fuel for his mission.

Do you remember the joy?

For each believer, joy resides deep within, not as a superficial happiness mustered up by a positive outlook, but by the fruit of the Holy Spirit. It supersedes the “stuff” of life, the ups and downs, and rollercoaster rides of circumstance.

Think about it for a moment. John hadn’t even taken his first breath, when he was moved with joy by the Holy Spirit in his mother’s womb. From the very beginning, joy propelled John into a wholly-devoted life for the sake of Christ!

In reflection of John’s testimony, I have to ask. Where is the joy that once inspired us to leap in whole-hearted devotion to God? I’m contemplating the same question, as I sense the ever-growing tide of complacency rising to untold heights.

It’s everywhere…this lack of urgency, lack of compassion, lack of…joy. I’m afraid we’ve lost the conviction that once made us leap in response to God’s Spirit. The joy that used to motivate us has faded into the background of a distant calling. 

And yet, there is hope. 

There is hope in Paul’s words to the Philippians, when he said, “I am sure of this, that He who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.” (Philippians 1:6)

I am sure of this!

I am sure that we can move forward in the mission of CCI, no matter what wilderness lies ahead. Together, we can remember the joy that first called us. And in that joy, of wholehearted devotion to God, we can walk the walk in leaps and bounds.