The decisive mark of a disciple is not their words (though they be wise) or even their exploits (though they be strong) but their fruit; the growth and evidence of character through steady and enduring faith and obedience. A day is coming when those who have multiplied their talents will be honored by Messiah. I expect many of those called out for special commendation will not be well known personalities but faithful men and women who perhaps labored in obscurity attracting no one's attention save the One who sees all things and knows the thoughts and intents of every heart.
If you come to Tents of Mercy, you may come to appreciate the wisdom of some of our teachers or the talent of some of our musicians. It is a privilege to be a part of this ministry but there are many people working behind the scenes who are as worthy of honor as those with more public ministries. Sha'ul puts it this way: "the parts of the body that seem to be less important turn out to be all the more necessary; and upon body parts which we consider less dignified we bestow greater dignity." (I Cor 12:22-23, CJB)
Everyone who works at Tents of Mercy will tell you that an indispensible member of our team is a man most visitors will never meet. Sasha is our facilities engineer. He can fix or build just about anything, from welding up stock racks to restoring electrical appliances to renovating an office. Sasha keeps us up and running and manages our warehouse too. He is a remarkably talented man whose work, for the most part, goes unnoticed except by those of us who are so beholden to his help and handiwork.
Sasha is from a small village in Belarus. He is from a large family - the 6th of 7 children. Fourteen years ago Sasha married his wife Tamara. They have 4 children, Miriam the youngest was born here in Israel shortly after the family made aliyah in 2002.
Sasha was always intrigued with Israel, Tamara has the Jewish roots but it was Sasha that encouraged her to connect with her Jewish identity. Tamara's grandfather, Moshe, was a Jewish believer in Ukraine. Because of his faith he was arrested in 1936 by the infamous "NKVD", Stalin's secret police, the precursors to the KGB. Moshe was summarily executed in a NKVD prison and left behind a wife and 5 children. At the outbreak of WWII the 4 older children were scattered and only Tamara's father, Isaac, remained with his mother. In an attempt to hide from the Nazis, Isaac's identity papers were changed, to indicate he was of Ukrainian descent, not Jewish. In those days "Ukrainian" Moshes didn't name their sons Isaac. The ruse didn't work and mother and child were soon rounded up by the Nazis and placed in a concentration camp.
Israel said yes but Belarus said "not so fast." Leaving Belarus was not a simple matter and Sasha and Tamara found themselves beleaguered by a Soviet style bureaucracy that required them to receive permission to emigrate. Everywhere they turned led to a dead end with no one having a clear answer or ability to make a decision. But Sasha would not give up and took the matter right to the Interior Minister. How did it all resolve? Sasha: "It was a miracle!" In an effort to cover all the bases Sasha found what seemed to be an insignificant document but for reasons he still cannot explain, this broke the log jam and cleared the way for them to leave Belarus.
The family left Belarus with Tamara 7 months pregnant. They knew one couple in Haifa, so they took whatever money they had received from the Immigration Ministry and rented an apartment there. They now had no money, and an apartment with no furniture or appliances except for one bed and one table. Adjustment was not going to be easy.
Sasha: "We knew nothing about Israel, not the culture, not the food, the currency, nothing. The only thing we had was faith. I didn't know how we would make it but I knew we would. It was such a hard time but we made it through." Their friends and neighbors helped them out - a broken down old appliance that Sasha took home and fixed, a discarded piece of furniture picked up off a street corner; slowly Sasha and Tamara put their new life together. Sasha admitted, "If I knew what we would have to go through beforehand I am not sure I would have had the faith to go through all the difficulties we had to face. But I have never regretted coming here - I really love Israel."
Because Sasha had a lot of experience as a contractor in Belarus he was able to find work in Haifa. Sasha would work 12 - 14 hours a day and then go home and struggle through the arduous process of learning Hebrew. Sasha and his family joined our Haifa congregation, Shavei Tsion, and when Tents of Mercy needed some rooms built, Sasha was referred to us for the job. Guy Cohen was serving as the Tents of Mercy administrator in those days. He was so impressed by the quality of Sasha's work that he offered him a full time job. We are all still very impressed with Sasha's skill and work effort!
Sasha understands that to integrate into Israeli society requires perseverance. Sasha: "In Israel every day there is something new to learn. If you stop learning you are going down. In Europe or North America you can live your life but here everything is so much more intense. It is not just life in Israel; it is 'turbo life.'"
Sasha is not only our facilities manager he is an elder at Shavei Tsion and Tamara overseas the childrens ministry - they are an example to us all. I have never seen Sasha preach a sermon or give a musical performance but his life teaches volumes and his dedication sings God's praise.
|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: Rediscovering the Roots that Remain|
|Eitan Shishkoff: A Tribute to a Spiritual Father|
|Freddy Intrater: Light to the Nations|