God must have quite a sense of humor: A former Soviet-Muslim named
Vakif is leading the Messianic Jewish congregation "Netzer HaGalil" in
Upper Nazareth. The article below is taken from a recent interview with
I was not born Jewish. I grew up in a
nominally Muslim family in a region of the Former Soviet Union (FSU)
called Tatarstan. After Communist travel restrictions lifted slightly in
1973, my parents moved the family to Siberia to seek economic stability.
There I met my wife Tatiana who is of Jewish lineage. At the time my
Muslim background and her Jewish roots had virtually no significance for
us. In 1991 we moved back to Tatarstan to take advantage of an
agricultural land opportunity and start farming. I had never farmed.
Even though I worked hard and enjoyed it, we could not pay back the loans
we had taken for farm equipment at very high interest rates. I despaired
as the reality of our condition sunk in, and prayed a desperate plea,
"Help me" to a power I did not know!
In 1997 in the middle of our terrible financial plight, various family
members began to believe in Yeshua. I was opposed to this, and decided to
visit these religious meetings to make sure they were not too detrimental
for my family. On my second or third visit, I fell to the floor in
conviction and said, "This is what I want". God soon performed a
miracle, and the bank wrote off our farm loan!
We went back to Siberia where I spent many months unemployed. Much of
this time was spent reading the Bible. I felt strongly that I needed to
be immersed in water. The day following my immersion, I miraculously
received a highly desirable position as an electronics and measurement
Israeli believers from Haifa came and spoke at our church, encouraging
those with Jewish ancestry to make aliya (immigrate to Israel). My
wife Tatiania was deeply touched and wept for days. We began to consider
making aliya. I fasted for 3 days and then heard a very clear voice
inside saying "What, you're still here?!"
Within less than a year we moved, landing in Israel in late 1999 with our
2 teenage children, but with no money, no friends, no extended family,
and not knowing the language. I only had one contact when we arrived. It
NETZER HAGALIL CONGREGATION
In 2005 Netzer HaGalil Congregation was started in Upper Nazareth by Leon
Mazin and several families as an affiliate of the Haifa congregation
Shavei Tzion (part of the Tents of Mercy network). When the congregation
was established, they rented a small facility in the industrial area, and
recently remodeled the interior.
From early on, Netzer HaGalil has had a humanitarian food ministry,
distributing basic food items each week to dozens of economically
challenged households in Nazareth. Congregational leader Vakif says, "We
want to lend a helping hand, letting our actions speak louder than our
words and even before our words. This basic expression of concern has had
a spiritual impact on those who are the recipients of the food. We are
also planning a children's music outreach program." In addition to
regular weekly prayer and worship services, and a home group in the
nearby town of Migdal HaEmek, the congregation also conducts a teaching
course for new believers.
Vakif relates: "I don't know of anyone who came to God who did not
have problems. But then we see things beginning to change. We see that
the people are coming more and more with an expectation to receive from
God. And we are seeing an increase of fellowship connection among us.
Also, people are developing a connection to the Biblical, Hebraic roots
of their faith, for example the celebration of the feast of unleavened
bread with all the symbolism of Passover."
Many new immigrants from the Former Soviet Union (FSU) have settled in
the Nazareth area. Although they have Jewish ancestry, for most the
connection with Jewish life and the Bible had become extremely minimal
after decades of Communist rule. Some had even been Russian Orthodox
Christians in the FSU, and are confused as to how they can resolve that
with living as Israelis in the Jewish homeland. Vakif explains, "When
they are exposed to us, suddenly they see that faith in Yeshua is not
irreconcilable with Jewish-ness. We read the Torah portion weekly and
celebrate the Biblical Jewish feasts. Recently some visitors have been
surprised to discover that we are really living as Jews."
At this time in Nazareth there are many Arab churches but only two
Messianic Jewish congregations. Please join us in praying for a
permanent facility for Netzer HaGalil Congregation. This is significant.
Unlike in other towns in the Galilee such as Capernaum, Yeshua was not
received by the ancient Jewish population of Nazareth, though He lived
here most of His life. We want to change that history.
1.Leon was (and still is), a pastor in the
Tents of Mercy network. Vakif found work in a factory and also began
serving with Leon in the Haifa congregation and then the Nazareth
congregation. Since 2010 Vakif has served full time as pastor of the work