Thousands of Jews are moving to Israel. Some are fleeing Holocaust-style threats in the former Soviet Union while others are yearning for their biblical homeland. Amid this 21st century exodus, Christians are providing Jews with humanitarian aid, prayer and hope.
Johannes Facius knows the hour is late. He can see the fear and desperation in the eyes of Jewish emigrants as they pass through the customs hall in Odessa, Ukraine, their last checkpoint before boarding a ship for Israel.
He knows one day the gates for these people will close in the former Soviet Union. Jeremiah 16:16 declares it with the ominous warning: "I will send for many fishermen and they shall fish them; and afterward I will send for many hunters, and they shall hunt them from every mountain and every hill" (NKJV).
Since 1989, more than 1 million Jews have left the former Soviet Union and "made aliyah"--an English-Hebrew term used to describe a Jewish person making Israel their home. Facius is chairman of Ebenezer Emergency Fund, a Christian organization that charters passenger ships to ferry Jews from the Black Sea port of Odessa to Haifa, Israel. In nine years Ebenezer has helped more than 60,000 Jews reach the promised land by sea and on Jewish Agency-sponsored mercy flights.
Today, more than a million Jews still live in the former Soviet Union, and with the political climate growing darker in Russia and anti-Semitism exploding in some former Soviet republics, Jews and Christians working with this modern exodus fear another Holocaust might be near.
Facius himself has heard reports of beatings in Jewish communities, and persecution at the official level occurs in some areas. One mayor in Siberia who was seeking re-election rallied citizens with a promise to finish the work of Hitler by destroying the Jews. After he was elected he ordered Jewish families to hang a white Star of David on their doors, a marking similar to the one that taunted persecuted Jews in Nazi Germany.
"The spirit of evil has no logic," Facius says. "Some Jews are threatened if they try to make aliyah. If [local officials] hate them so much, why don't they let them get visas? Why not let them go?
"The ridicule of the Jew is coming back," he adds. "That's the first thing that happened when the Nazis came. Then it ended with murder in the gas chambers. You can see the same pattern happening."
Answering the Call
In an effort to prevent what they see as the inevitable outcome of such ridicule, Facius and other Christian leaders are working urgently to relocate Jews to Israel. They see their mission as part of the bigger picture that God has to awaken the entire church to embrace His plans for Israel.
They say God is looking for people who will cooperate with Him in loving and restoring the Jewish people in fulfillment of Isaiah 49:22, which says He will call the Gentiles to carry the sons and daughters of Zion back to their land.
Answering the call worldwide are ministries, humanitarian organizations and individuals. Leaders who work with this modern migration believe God is drawing Jewish people to Israel from other Gentile countries as well, including the United States, which with about 6 million Jews is host to the largest Jewish population of any country.
Helping to spread the message of aliyah across North America are Bart and Deborah Kellogg, who last year founded Preparing the Way Ministries in Fort Collins, Colorado. Their organization trains volunteers to reach out to Jewish people and to pray against the obstacles that prevent them from returning to their biblical homeland. The ministry provides the airfare--$450 per adult, $300 per child--for American Jews who need financial help to move.
"The West will probably be the last exodus," Deborah Kellogg says. "In America we see the Jewish people as prosperous and secure. We don't see the way God sees. We don't see that the Jew is in bondage, bound by materialism and all the other gods of this nation."
By contrast, God remains "jealous over His covenant people," she points out, and says that the Scripture clearly outlines His end-time plan for Israel.
"God says in Jeremiah 30:10 that He will save them from the land of their captivity. He will return them to Israel to restore and give them rest," she says. "In the end, all Israel will be saved."
Linking that verse with Zechariah 12:10, Kellogg says the Jews then will yearn for the Messiah and that He will return to save them and set up His kingdom.
"This can only be fulfilled with the Jewish people in their land," she says. "As Christians, we are to stand with them."
Steve Lightle, an international speaker and key player in the aliyah for the last 26 years, believes today's exodus is a prophetic signal to the world that the return of Jesus Christ is near.
"God is telling the church, and anybody else who will listen, to get ready," he says. "The Holy Spirit is speaking to people in so many of the churches, and they are praying for Israel and helping the Jewish people.
"But it's not coming from the pulpits," he adds. "I'm not here to criticize, but anybody with spiritual eyes recognizes what God is doing."
Cracks in the Wall
A warm and unassuming man from Bellevue, Washington, Lightle once owned a business in Seattle called Dippy Duck Car Wash. The business' amusing name belies the way God used Lightle and small teams of intercessors to shake the Soviet Union with prayer in the 1970s and 1980s and to help open the doors for a modern Jewish exodus.
During a key prayer mission to the Soviet Union in 1983, Lightle and the three men with him wrestled spiritually for the release of the Jewish people. At that time fewer than 100 Jews per month were allowed to leave Soviet lands. In each city Lightle and his com panions visited, they circled a statue of Vladimir Lenin and proclaimed that the idol and the communist ideals it represented would fall.
Even though they dressed as tourists and operated in secrecy, the intercessors nevertheless attracted the attention of the KGB secret police. Lightle's group was monitored so closely that in one city, as the men were praying in tongues, Lightle felt someone behind him and discovered an agent was leaning in with his hand cupped to his ear, trying to eavesdrop.
The KGB was baffled by these strange men who spoke an unknown language.
"They said I had the best-kept secret in the world," Lightle says. "They knew I had something to do with the Jews. They couldn't find my organization or bank account because I had none. [They] couldn't put [their] finger on anything I'd done."
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