When I was a little girl, about 70 years ago, I learned to love the Jewish traditions of my family – singing, praying, and celebrating the holidays. With Communism in power in Russia, however, Jewish traditions were forbidden. I spent most of my life without them, and, as I got older, I found myself missing these Jewish things more and more.
So you can imagine my surprise when, over a year ago, I received a card at my home in southeast Moscow, inviting me to a free program of Jewish music in my neighborhood. I decided to attend, and really enjoyed it. A new congregation in the area had put together the wonderful program, and they said that anyone was welcome to attend their services. The next week, I was there.
I had longed to return to my Jewish heritage, and I found the opportunity to do so with this congregation. The people there were very welcoming to me, and Youri,* the congregation leader, invited me to join him for a Passover celebration. It was a beautiful evening, full of Jewish traditions I had grown up with. But there was one element of Youri’s Passover story that startled me. Youri talked about Jesus, the Jewish Messiah, who had sacrificed Himself as the final Passover Lamb. This night, I left with tears in my eyes at the beauty of the Passover story.
The next week, I brought my daughter, Svetlana, and my grandson to the congregation with me. I wanted them to learn about Messiah and experience their Jewish heritage too. They enjoyed the service, taking the message of Jesus to heart, and soon Svetlana was helping to clean up after the congregation’s gatherings, and her son would help to set up for the service. When Youri announced the decision to have home groups during the week, I volunteered my apartment.
We didn’t know we were supposed to tell someone of our belief in Jesus, though; so one day, Youri simply asked us, “Do you believe that Jesus is the Messiah of Israel, and your Lord and Savior?” Immediately, Svetlana and I both knew we were right to announce our faith. We replied, “Yes, we do!” Soon after, Svetlana and I were both baptized. What joy in our congregation that day!
* Youri leads a Messianic congregation in southeastern Moscow that is sponsored in part by Chosen People Ministries.