by Moti Cohen
Sometimes our work serving the homeless in south Tel Aviv can be intense and emotionally challenging, but one thing I have learned: God always gives us grace to continue in the calling He has given us by showing us that we are doing is making a difference. I would like to share a couple encounters we had over last few months which were a great encouragement to me and to the teams of volunteers who serve with me.
A Surprise Encounter at the Super Market
Each month we prepare 1,400 hot, home-cooked meals to serve the homeless, so, needless to say, I spend a lot of time in the supermarket. The past several months I noticed that a young Arab man who worked at the meat counter would go out of his way to give me wonderful service. He always smiled at me, almost like he knew me, and made sure I was getting what I needed, even if he wasn’t serving me directly.
One very rainy day in Tel Aviv, I was doing the shopping during a downpour and I practically had the place to myself. When I got to the meat counter, the polite young man was there to greet me with a smile. “You don’t recognize me, do you?” he asked me. I told him that I didn’t. “I’m not surprised that you don’t recognize,” he replied. “The last time you saw me a year ago, it was in a rainstorm like this, and I was lying like a dog in the street. You and your people brought me hot tea, soup, warm clothes and a sleeping bag.”
I was shocked. The young man standing before me was tall, handsome and looked healthy. I remembered that night, and back then he was a shadow of the man standing before me. “I will never forget what you all did for me,” he said. “The love and kindness you showed me stirred something up in me, and that night I vowed to get off the street.” He explained to me how has a daughter and that he promised himself to get off the street for her.
Each time I go into that store, I ask him how he is doing: he is grateful for his job which keeps him busy during the week. He said that the weekends are difficult because he is alone, and every few months he cracks and goes down to south Tel Aviv for a hit. I asked him, “Do you remember what we talked to you about that night last year?” I reminded him that we shared with him about the love of God. This young man is from a Muslim background, and God is giving grace on how to share Messiah with him. Please keep him in your prayers!
A Seed that Bears Fruit Comes back to Visit
This past year we have begun partnering with a discipleship program run by Yuval and Valerie Yanai called Your Kingdom Come: each week during their studies, the students of the program join me in preparing food and serving it on the streets in Tel Aviv. One evening after our outreach on the streets, we still had food left over and decided to distribute it at a nearby park where many drug addicts and migrants congregate.
There in the park, a certain young man caught Valerie’s eye, and she tried speaking to him. When she realized that he only spoke Russian, she asked one of the youth serving with them who knew Russian to translate for her. Valerie felt burdened for this young man and he seemed open and receptive: she shared with him about God’s love, that He has a plan for his life, and that God’s grace will give him strength to get off the street. Finally, they gave him the contact information of a drug rehabilitation for Russian-speakers in Jerusalem run by believers.
Fast forward two months: Valery is at their discipleship training center near Jerusalem when she notices a young man fixing a light and recognizes him: it is the is the same young man she witnessed to in the park! It turns out that he contacted the rehab center that very night and has been there ever since. How did he end up at Yuval and Valerie’s discipleship center, you ask? The leaders of the rehab center decided to bring some of the young men in their program over to help with some building maintenance at the discipleship center and to join their program for the afternoon.
That afternoon, Valery got to see the young man she had witnessed to in the park two months earlier leading worship for the students in the program: it turns out that he is a gifted musician and has found what is intended for—worshipping God. Praise God for his goodness and faithfulness to save the lost and to bless us so deeply by giving us glimpses of the fruit that comes from seeds of the gospel we sew!
Thanks to your generous support, we are able to continue reaching the homeless in Tel Aviv!