Friday: Today I have a direct flight to Kiev, where I am scheduled for ministry this weekend at the Jewish Messianic Congregation in Kiev.
Friday noon: I am settled in my apartment in Kiev. A sister has given me the use of an apartment she rents out for business, it’s very nice. It was sunny, but now clouds have moved in, so I may go outside for a walk now that the sun isn’t blazing. Weekend schedule:
Friday 6:30 pm service
Saturday 11 a.m. Shabbat service (this is their main service of the week)
Sunday 2:00 pm meeting with worship and prayer leaders
This is my second time with this congregation, my first time being 5 years ago, also in June. I think the congregation is predominantly messianic Jewish, but they also have a strong Gentile contingent in the congregation. One of the largest messianic congregations in the world.
Ukraine is a land in identity crisis. One pastor said to me, I have people in my congregation asking me when will I expose Putin as the antichrist, and others asking that we pray for Putin to come and straighten everything out in Ukraine. This pastor’s analysis was that, whereas Russia and Ukraine started off somewhat equal in standing when the curtain came down, since that time Putin has pulled Russia forward into a strong advantage and Ukraine has fallen behind, locked up by inner turmoil politically. Economics is driving so much of Ukraine’s struggles. Ukraine feels isolated and alone. They’re at war with Russia, with all trade cut off. America has no interest in helping Ukraine, America is “homeland first” right now. They’ve been rejected by the European Union. Holding a Ukrainian passport has advantages almost nowhere. Getting out of the nation is one of the more promising moves to make. The population is elderly, and not enough children are being born to replace them. So Ukraine is diminishing in population. Pray for Ukraine.
Saturday morning: Last night was the kickoff of Shabbat. (It starts Friday sundown.) The service was a high time of Jewish-style celebration. The Jews really do have a charming way of celebrating Jesus together. Very focused on Jesus and yet highly interactive. The men dance as a group, and the women likewise. They join hands and form lines of dancing, skipping up and down all the aisles in the sanctuary, then returning to the front to follow the motions of the leader. As a Gentile, you look into it, enjoy watching what they enjoy, revel in the fact that you’ve been grafted into the covenant, and yet realize they have something special as a people group. To experience this kind of worship celebration I must come here, I experience this only here. I spoke on being a friend of God. It’s always difficult to measure in a different culture just how much people are connecting, so in these instances I do my best to follow the Holy Spirit, get a nod from Jesus, and release the rest.
Sunday 9:30 pm: Today’s service started at 11:00 a.m., I was collected at 12:15. By the time I got there, the worship was mostly over. They had a minute of corporate prayer that sounded like a roar in the room, I took a video clip of it, and will post to my FB public figure page. I’ll also post a clip of the congregation watching the Job 5-minute video with both Russian subtitles and Russian voice-over. It actually went over real well. I stood at the podium while the film was being played, so was able to pan the congregation as they watched the screen. I spoke today on seeking the Lord for His perspective on our lives and circumstances. I used, for illustration, the lives of Joseph, Caleb, David, and Jesus. As I was delivering the message, I was aware that the Lord was wanting to bless the people with a strong anointing on the word. Prior to the service, I had asked the Rabbi via our liaison whether it would be OK, at the close of the meeting, to invite people forward for prayer, call the prayer teams up, and have the prayer teams anoint the eyes of the people with oil and pray for them. The Rabbi indicated that he wanted everything I said to be done except for using oil. It was expressed to me like this, "We are very careful about the annointing and we do it in exceptional cases only.” I said sure, no problem. So at the close of the message, I invited people to come forward and the prayer teams would lay their hands on their eyes and pray for them. After I had finished the altar call and turned the service over to the Rabbi, I looked over to my right, and suddenly realized they were pouring oil into plastic cups and preparing to give oil to all the prayer teams. Later I was told that the leaders spoke together during the sermon and decided spontaneously to go with what I had first requested. I think perhaps they saw where the sermon was going, got a grid for what I was envisioning, and decided to break their own rules and go for it. I think almost every person in the place wanted prayer. But before that prayer ministry happened, the Rabbi invited forward those who wanted to express a first-time decision for Christ, and 12 folks came forward. I was told they might have anywhere from a few to 30 respond to that appeal every week. The harvest is ripe in Ukraine! The presence of God was strong in the house and it seemed that the message ministered in a meaningful way.
They had another speaker before me, so by the time the service closed down, it was 5 hours after the 11:00 a.m. launch. I asked them later, what was your shortest Shabbat service ever? Over 3 hours. What was your longest? Over 6 hours. What is your average? 4.5 hours. And then after that, we went out for dinner, and I didn’t get back to my place until 9 pm. Wow, that’s a long day. They literally give the entire day to the Lord and one another. They’re there until it’s done. And the hall is packed.
I asked what percentage of their congregation is Jewish/Gentile, and was told 50/50. They said it used to be a higher percentage of Jewish, but some have made aliyah to Israel.
Sunday 8:30 p.m.: This afternoon we met at 3:00 pm in a hotel (this church rents Saturday space from a Pentecostal church, so they have to go to a hotel on a Sunday). Turns out folks from 10 or more churches joined us. I asked, “How did they find out?” My hosts didn’t know, it’s just how the grapevine works here in Kiev. Cuz the event wasn’t advertised locally. Around 200 folks filled the hotel room. I spoke on following the river of God in corporate worship. They were reserved during the presentation. At the close, I led in a prayer. The more I prayed, the more they got into it. Then they overtook me and just went for it. I had to stop trying to pray over them. The Spirit was strong and moving in the room. Folks ended up praying for each other all over the place. Then the clock pushed us out.
All three sessions here have been meaningful, graced by the Lord’s presence, and the saints have connected with the message. My heart is grateful to God.