ASHKELON, ISRAEL – Every time the air-raid sirens sound, I have to interrupt my work of sharing the Gospel with my Israeli neighbors and dash to the nearest bomb shelter.
For me, there is no more vital task in Israel right now than sharing the hope of the Good
News of Jesus Christ as our nation stands on the brink.
The Israeli coastal city of Ashkelon where I live and pastor a local evangelical church is very
close to the Gaza border. When the war began, Ashkelon was the prime target for Hamas.
Hundreds of rockets rained down on our city, causing death and destruction, and generating
great fear among residents. Even my own apartment building was struck by the terrorists.
You might think I’d be eager to get out of town and live somewhere safer, somewhere less
likely to be in the direct line of fire.
But ever since I moved to Israel from my native Ukraine, where I was trained at an
evangelical Bible seminary, I’ve been committed to serving the people of Ashkelon, the
historic biblical home of the Philistines.
Facing the Giant
In the Old Testament, David stood firm to face the Philistine giant Goliath in battle. Today, I
and my faithful congregation face a different “giant” — religious skepticism and a Gospel
vacuum. So many Israelis have no knowledge at all of Jesus, their native-born Messiah.
They’ve never heard the Good News, and have no clue there’s a God who loves them, his
own chosen people.
As a Russian-speaking Ukrainian Jew who is a follower of Jesus, my deepest longing and
burden is to see my people, the nation of Israel, find the One for whom they’ve waited for
The sirens and rocket attacks are such a distraction from sharing Christ, our most vital
mission. If I am teaching Bible students, I have to cut short the lesson. If I am taking
groceries to families traumatized by the terror of past weeks, I have to stop. If I am talking
to someone about God, praying with them in their fear and anxiety, or sharing the Gospel
with them, the moment is suddenly lost as we run for cover.
Unstoppable Power of the Gospel
But I am convinced absolutely nothing will stop the Gospel from going forth in both word
and deed as the church stands strong. Especially not now, in the midst of war in the Holy
Land, when people do not know if they will still be here tomorrow, or in eternity.
Perhaps you’re thinking, “That may be true for you but, where I live, people don’t seem
interested in the Gospel.” Could I remind you that I live in the nation of the “obstinate
people” (Exodus 33:3, NASB), resistant and proud. We must never, ever give up sharing the
Good News, even in a difficult spiritual environment, because it is “the power of God for
salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek” (Romans 1:16,
Right now, with the support of Slavic Gospel Association, my congregation and other local
Russian-speaking evangelical churches across Israel are working around the clock to bring
urgent aid and the hope of God’s Word to our neighbors who are clinging on by a thread.
No number of rockets can stop the Gospel. This is the church’s time to show Israel the love
their Messiah has for them. This is the Gospel’s time, because “now is a day of salvation” (2
Corin. 6:2, NASB).
Oleg (last name withheld for security reasons) is a Ukrainian Jew and evangelical pastor
in Ashkelon, Israel, supported by Illinois-based Slavic Gospel Association, a mission that
has been serving Russian-speaking evangelical churches in Israel for decades.