Vladimir Lieberman, rabbi of the Odessa Jewish Messianic Community: “The lawless one does his own iniquity, let the saint be sanctified…”

At the KEMO spring prayer retreat, we talked with Vladimir Lieberman, the rabbi of the Odessa Jewish Messianic Community. We talked about the beginning of the war on February 24, 2022, about organizing a humanitarian headquarters and helping refugees, about Jews and Christian churches, as well as about revival in Ukraine, ministry and the end times.

– Vladimir, let’s remember February 24, 2022. Where were you that day? What were your thoughts and experiences?

I did not believe until the last moment that the invasion would take place. I was not alone in such views, because many thought that “Putin is thoughtful, he will calculate everything to begin with, it is not profitable for him.” And my wife somehow turned out to be more sensitive in this matter and she prayed about this long before the war.

On the eve of the beginning of the war, we held prayer tours with prayers for Ukraine in different cities of the Odessa region. And the last prayer in the program, which was planned in Odessa, did not have time to take place on the appointed date, since the war began.

And it all started with us when my wife woke me up in the morning, because shots and explosions were heard – and since we live near the sea, we immediately felt it. On the very first day, we had a church leadership meeting, and we immediately prepared a rapid response team from the brothers of the community to assist in the evacuation of anyone who would need it.

And in such an active mode, our community operated for three months. I will say that I did not have time to be frightened for a minute during this time. Not for the reason that I’m a hero, or that I’m some kind of fearless man – we were simply hidden by God’s grace from all arrows of fear. God closed our hearts and we did what needed to be done.

I believe that it is largely a matter of structure, we were already prepared for such crises in advance, thanks in part to the pandemic. And it’s good that our community has its own 3-storey building in full use, 24/7, that is, we had a place where to expand our activities.

Regarding the fighting, I immediately said to the brothers: “Brothers, in addition to being believers, we are also citizens of this country, and if someone is called to war, we will serve where we are called, but we will serve as believers. I will go with each of you to the draft board.” And for all these 15 months of war in our community no brother was sent somewhere to the front line – everyone is busy with work, everyone is in place, everyone is in reserve, everyone helps and serves.

We also joined in helping Nikolaev, and this continued until April, when we opened our own humanitarian headquarters, with the help of other messianic communities, as well as cooperation with various foundations and city authorities.

In fact, from the first weeks of the war, refugees from neighboring regions began to arrive in Odessa – Nikolaev, Kherson, and not only. How did your church interact with these people? Did you provide any assistance to them?

The fact is that the previously mentioned humanitarian headquarters was opened in the first place to help such people, because there was a large wave of refugees from Nikolaev and Kherson. Also, which is somewhat surprising, we have a lot of people in Odessa from the south-east of Ukraine – from Druzhkovka, Konstantinovka, Slavyansk ja Kramatorsk.

We received many of our brothers and sisters from the New Testament Church (pastor Oleg Shcherbakov), some of them later went abroad and several families stayed with us in Odessa and actively participated in the ministry – and some of them don’t even want to return to Nikolaev.

Every month, more than 3,000 IDPs receive assistance at our humanitarian headquarters, until today. We are involved in work with orphans, taking care of them, we also help large families and disabled people.

We have formed a volunteer team involved in packaging, distribution, preparation, and logistics. At a certain stage, unbelieving Odessans also joined this cause, who later became believers – thank God!

During the war, we have already conducted three water babtisms in the community, more than 40 people entered into a covenant with God through tvila.

– Are they mostly refugees and migrants?

That’s just the third tvila – these are almost all the inhabitants of Odessa, who are connected to our humanitarian service.

We also have a prayer tent at our headquarters, where we communicate separately with each person who comes to us and pray for them.

During these 15 months of war, we held several military prayer retreats.

– And what is the peculiarity of the “military” prayer retreat?

Well, the fact is that our community is located in the port. And once a “Caliber” rocket flew during our prayers – at the very time when the grain deal was confirmed. Or the first strike of Shahid was right above us, and I could not understand what was happening at all. I remember, they just sang the Shema Yisrael prayer, and suddenly two Calibers fly by, one after another. We were saved by the tanks of the grain terminal, each 150 meters high – but the dust was as thick as fog…

– Did some of the people from your community leave after the start of the war, as was the case in many other cities?

Just thanks to the structure of the community and the correct teaching, 20-30% of our members left us, no more. With God’s help, it was possible to save the entire backbone of the community – all the dance, music, counseling and prayer services – almost all of them remained in Odessa.

We also helped with the evacuation of about two dozen Jews, mostly elderly, some of them went to Israel, and the other to America.

And two ministerial families from our church who have gone abroad are now serving in Belgium and are the backbone of the Messianic community in Brussels.

– As you know, communication and interaction between pastors of different churches and communities is well established in Odessa. Has anything changed in this regard since the beginning of the war? How are our brothers and sisters in Odessa doing now?

Since 2017, I have been the chairman of the Protestant Odessa Council and I can say that the situation is different. There were also bad cases when pastors left their churches and left with a church cash desk – these are isolated cases, of course … And then they told from abroad about what dreams they had and how God blessed them …

We can say that we have a very “working” council of churches. We may differ in some views and opinions, but with regard to work and assistance – humanitarian, psychological, various types of support – we have one of the most working pastoral councils in Ukraine. Everyone is working, everyone has occupied some niche, everyone is doing something useful.

Unfortunately, at first we were the only ones from this council who developed the team of chaplaincy. But now the situation has changed, I became a regional chaplain for the Odessa region, from the Corps of Military Chaplains of the KhSP, and people added. Moreover, even from other pastoral councils and fellowships.

And now we already have about a hundred volunteer chaplains, and this ministry is developing – including ministry in military hospitals. Thank God for various useful connections and meetings – we were given a separate room in the regional hospital, but they were upset, however, that we did not put icons and crosses there.

We also plan to organize a veterans’ hub. A former church building has been found, about 300 square meters, and we want to make a place to serve the military, who have returned to civilian life.

– Of course, no one in this world, except the Lord, knows exactly how many Jews there are in Odessa, but what, based on your information, is the situation with the Jewish community in Odessa? How many Jews left? How is Jewish life in general now in the city?

The statistics, of course, have changed. Many Jews were evacuated. I will say that there are many Jews who did not want to leave for Israel – so they went to Germany, and then returned back to Odessa.

So yes, a lot of Jews left, but I also know that of those who got to Israel, some then went further, to Europe.

As for the work of synagogues and other Jewish organizations, there was a lull for some time, but soon everyone also got involved in active work. And it is clear that we can hear some negative stories, but in principle, something positive is not often told to each other. Therefore, for example, people from Chabad also participate in our project to help families with many children, who ask us to bring them help so that they do not have to sit with us for a long time and listen to something.

That is, especially the Jewish life in Odessa has not changed. Someone left, and someone, on the contrary, came – he felt, while sitting in Israel, for example, that he needed to be in Odessa, because he was a great savior and patriot of Odessa and Ukraine. For sure, many have heard these stories about the former soldiers of the Tsakhal, who deliberately came to Ukraine to help in the defense of the country.

– Today, many believers in Ukraine see signs of awakening and clear God’s action – among the refugees, among the military on the front lines… Can you comment on this, based on the experience of your community?

The community of God now has a very great authority, because a lot of volunteers, chaplains, people who are involved in active work are mostly believers. And we already have many different gratitudes and letters of appreciation from authorities at various levels, because they understand that only people who are motivated by something else can serve so disinterestedly.

In general, we have very good people in Ukraine. People are very responsive to other people’s grief, they are ready to sacrifice and help. And yes, it’s hard for us too, and many are also “blown away” from this incessant work – I see that they donated more earlier, and interest was lost a little …

I will say that a lot of people come to church now, but I cannot yet say that a lot of people come to God.

Here is a simple example – 3,000 people receive help at our headquarters every month. Of these, only 30 people have been reached, brought to twill. Although, of course, many more people repent, the seed is sown – but this is just a foretaste, a beginning.

I understand that revival, first of all, now begins among believers. Now people are “running in”, new ministers are rising, people are preparing for new challenges – and through this, I believe, God will very strongly awaken the believers first in order to raise this wave of awakening, including among the Jews.

How are those of your people who left Ukraine? Are they going to come back after the end of the war? And what are your general expectations for ministry in the aftermath of the war?

“I think that we will only have more work to do. Therefore, we are already preparing training on working with PTSD, on helping people in difficult circumstances – in general, we are trying in every possible way to prepare the community for the future. Because what we see now is only a harbinger of what will happen next. And then we have a lot of work to do, including with people who have returned from the front, who will face a choice – because some simply have nowhere to return to.

Therefore, I now call on our people who have some entrepreneurial abilities to receive grants and open businesses, create jobs – do something through which we can subsequently reach people. Now there are all the prerequisites for this, and God gives us grace for all this – we have now begun to enter where we would not have entered so easily before the war.

– What special things did God reveal to you during this time of the war? Maybe something that you did not notice before, some kind of understanding from the Lord?

I can say that I have established myself in one very strong thing. I was strengthened by God, and this is why: when there was a pandemic, all these crises, everyone rushed to look for something apocalyptic, everyone talked about the end times (and they are talking now) … I was even asked: “Rebbe, why don’t you preach on book of Revelation? And I answered: “I live according to the book of Revelation. And this is the last chapter, the 22nd, where it is said: ‘Let the evildoer still do evil, and the holy still be holy… And the Lord says: Look, I am coming soon! My reward is with me, and I will give to each person according to what they have done.”

And it is important for me – God told me: “Let the holy still be holy.” And I will be sanctified, I will do it. For me, this has become the strongest motivation – even if this is the last time, I need to be sanctified, and God will come and deal with all this. And I’m just waiting for Him. If I start looking somewhere now, wondering how it will all be, this is inevitable. The question is what does it change for us.

That is, we must strengthen ourselves in what we have been doing. “Let the holy still be holy, for the Lord will reward everyone according to his deeds.” This is a word about grace, and about our part. The very last chapter of the last book of the Bible says that God will judge the world according to its deeds. Not according to intentions, not according to the words that we once said, no – but according to what we did for His glory, for His Kingdom, how we served, especially in such times. “Let the holy still be holy”…

Interviewer — Alex Fishman.

Source: https://ieshua.org/vladimir-liberman-ravvin-odesskoj-evrejskoj-messianskoj-obshhiny-bezzakonnik-tvorit-bezzakonie-svoyo-svyatoj-da-osvyashhaetsya.htm


Gennady Glatsovsky, Messianic rabbi in Kharkiv: “We see the growth and development of the community. These terrible events have served us well!”

At the KEMO spring prayer retreat, we met and talked with Gennady Glatsovsky, rabbi of the Kharkiv Jewish .....

Pyotr Tymošchuk: “The visible is temporary, the invisible is eternal.” War and messianic ministry in Zaporizhia

At the KEMO spring prayer retreat, Rabbi Petr Tõmoštšuk of Zaporizhia's Messianic Jewish community talked about helping refugees .....

Alexander Golota: the story of how a successful IT specialist came to God, moved to Uzhgorod and created a messianic church

At KEMO's spring prayer, we talked with Rabbi Alexander Golota of the Messianic Jewish community in Uzhhorod. We .....

Eduard Sarukhanyan, rabbi of the Lviv Messianic Jewish community: “God is looking for those who say “yes” to Him…”

At KEMO's spring prayer, we talked with Rabbi Eduard Sarukhanyan of the Lviv Messianic Jewish Community. We talked .....

Interview with Vadim Shkvarinski about the opening of the messianic service in Kamyanets-Podilsk: “The main thing is not to give up”

At KEMO's summer prayer retreat, we talked with Rabbi Vadim Shkvarinsky of the Messianic Jewish community of Kamianets-Podilskyi. .....

Messianic Rabbi: A Zeal for the Torah

In the book of John chapter 17, we read a beautiful prayer about unity that Yeshua prayed for .....

Messianic Rabbi: Praying for Your ‘Saul’—Even When You Don’t Feel Like It

One of the most powerfully moving moments shared in the Bible is when Yeshua (Jesus) spoke words of .....