Valia was arrested in a Tel Aviv drug bust but the police wanted to see her off the streets more than they wanted her in prison. They knew who to call.
Lydia, a member of the Tents of Mercy ministry team, was soon on her way to Tel Aviv from her home north of Haifa. A woman needed her help. Valia was like many young women caught in the prostitution trade, a new immigrant unable to find her way in the fast pace of Israeli society. Crisis followed crisis until Valia found herself sold to a prostitution ring.
Lydia assured Valia, "I've come to help," but all Valia could do was cry. Lydia left Valia her card and told her she could call her anytime. The police released Valia but despair had so taken hold of her that she slit her wrist and tried to throw herself in front of a bus. The police again turned to Lydia for help. This time Valia opened her heart to Lydia and let herself be placed in a shelter run by believers in Haifa.
Day after day Lydia met with Valia to comfort her and to pray. Slowly, Valia trusted her new "spiritual mom" and further opened her heart. This time to the One who loved her with perfect love, Yeshua the Messiah.
Gilad is a reservist medic called up to serve in last summer's conflict. During an intense firefight Gilad was seriously wounded. Despite his own injuries he stayed at his post attending to 14 other wounded soldiers. In the fray of battle Gilad lost consciousness.
Under enormous pressure, the surviving troops evacuated the area, leaving Gilad on the field, presumably dead. Hours later he awoke to find himself huddled next to several casualties - the lone survivor.
|Gilad, Lydia and Gilad's wife|
When a helicopter came back to retrieve the bodies they found Gilad alive and rushed him to emergency medical aid. Gilad underwent several operations and was discharged from the hospital one month later. Because Gilad is i the IDF reserves his employer is required to continue providing his salary but an unfortunate mix-up left Gilad, his wife and two small children with mounting bills and no income to pay them. Gilad's stressful circumstances coupled with the shock of his recent trauma were too much to bear. He was re-admitted to hospital unable to cope.
Lydia's compassion again launched her into action. Friendship translated into advocacy; through her contacts and loving determination Lydia persuaded a Knesset member to visit Gilad. The MK in turn pressured Gilad's employer to pay his back salary and Gilad received over three months wages' compensation. This Israeli hero deserved no less.
Who is this woman of mercy, this champion of the downtrodden? She is Lydia Nikitin, one of Tents of Mercy's outreach workers; a woman with a passion for justice and a heart for those in need.
From the outset of her faith in Yeshua, Lydia sought to respond to God's love by working on behalf of others. Together with her husband they founded a children's centre near Vladivostok to bring practical help to needy children in their home town. After making aliyah to Israel in 1998, they continued to help needy children, fostering five others along with their own four children.
Lydia explains, "When I arrived in Israel I started to look around for what I could do. I had no language, no applicable profession (Lydia had been a Soviet army engineer), but I relied on God to help me." Four years ago, Lydia connected with the Israeli women's organization, Woman to Woman, a national program to help women caught in the snare of prostitution trafficking. The work was hard and discouraging but Lydia drew strength from Yeshua's words, "I say to you, inasmuch as you did it to one of the least of these my brethren, you did it to Me." (Matt. 25:40).
Lydia's work with prostitutes eventually led her to develop her own outreach program under the guidance and leadership of Tents of Mercy. Along with a group of Tents of Mercy volunteers she travels to the sites of solicitation, befriending and encouraging the women, letting them know that there is help and hope to live a different life.
Lydia's work has gained her respect on a national scale. On January 1st she was called to make a special presentation to the Knesset outlining the problems she has discovered in her work with women in prostitution. Her dream is to establish a rehabilitation center to assist women who want to be liberated from the shackles of prostitution.
But how did this friend of prostitutes get involved in ministering to wounded soldiers? Following the Second Lebanon War, Yishai Reinhardt, of Hands of Mercy-Israel (an organization dedicated to helping wounded soldiers and terror victims) approached Eitan Shishkoff to enlist our help in visiting wounded soldiers in Rambam hospital. Eitan chose Lydia and her team for this assignment because he knew they were equipped for the task. A smiling face and a word of prayer is medicine beyond a doctor's prescription. In the immediate aftermath of the war, Lydia and her team reached out to 40 soldiers recuperating from their wounds. They continue to do follow up work with wounded soldiers and civilians who live in Northern Israel.
Galina, a civilian victim of the war
and Outreach workers
COMPASSION BUILDS VISION
"Everything is possible to those who believe." is Lydia's motto. "I never thought that someone like me, without any special abilities could be used to help so many people." Lydia is not resting on her laurels. She reminded me, "Yeshua calls us to take action, to impact individuals and society at large. We are called to defend the weak and down-trodden."
What motivates an ordinary woman to do such extraordinary feats? "I have had a lot of difficulties in my life. God has changed my life and is restoring me from everything I have suffered. When I see others oppressed I cannot be silent."
Lydia's dedication is a marker pointing us back to Yeshua's words to reach out to "The least of these". Dear reader, perhaps God is stirring you to reach out too. Lydia and Tents of Mercy invite you to join with her in her ministry to women in bondage and soldiers in need. Please pray for Lydia, her family and her team. They are challenging forces of darkness that have established strongholds in this land over the millennia. Pray for provision for Lydia's dream of a rehabilitation centre for former prostitutes. As Lydia knows, all things are possible for those who believe.
If you would like to get in touch with Lydia you can e-mail her at: firstname.lastname@example.org
|Let us know what you think - why not comment to this article. The authors of these articles are often involved in intense ministry and are thus unable to respond to most comments. As is normal with print and online magazines, Tikkun reserves the right to publish only those comments we feel are edifying in tone and content.|
Also in this issue of the newsletter:
|Daniel Juster: Zionism & Justice|
|Eitan Shishkoff: The Harvest|
|Idan's Testimony: To Bind Up The Broken Hearted|
|Betty Intrater: O Little Town of Bethlehem|