Yeshua’s Fresh Bread is the name of an amazing ministry here in Israel. As a person who has been eager to find ways to minister to and serve the Jewish community, which is not always an easy task, my involvement with Yeshua’s Fresh Bread may be one of the sweetest things the Lord has ever done for me. Part of me feels I’m only really going to know the full value of this ministry in my heart some time down the road.
If you can imagine a couple of dozen elderly people pulling bags on wheels into the industrial area of the city, you’re beginning to get the picture. A group of 30 or so seniors gather on the same day every week and take the elevator to the upper-floor or a warehouse. They wait outside for a little while, and when the doors open, they’re welcomed by a number of smiling faces (speaking all sorts of languages) and find the tables set.
The director of the ministry has told me many times that we try to give these guests a five-star meal. The ministry is of limited means—the setting is simple and the cutlery is plastic—but we try to serve the guests a three or four course meal. The volunteers serve in any way they are able, from pouring coffee to prayer. It’s an opportunity for anyone to demonstrate the love of Yeshua, Jesus, to some of the most vulnerable people in Israeli society.
And the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.’ (Matthew 25:40)
The guests are mostly seniors, and mostly Russian speaking. They come from all sorts of backgrounds and histories, but for the most part they are Jewish immigrants to Israel from the former Soviet Union—one of the places where it has been the hardest, historically, to be a Jew.
Some of them are Holocaust survivors. Some of them are Red Army veterans. But they all have difficulty getting by in Israel, where the cost of living is extremely high and there often is not enough government support even for the Holocaust survivors.
I’ve learned (and forgotten) a few words of Russian to try and get by, but a smile and the international language of hand gestures is usually enough. Some of the volunteers are Russian speakers themselves, and have been able to form some good relationships with the guests. Though the director of the ministry doesn’t speak Russian, it’s his love for the guests that shines through in terms that cannot be misinterpreted, and he too has built some wonderful relationships with the guests.
After the meal the guests are able to take home some bread, which is received by the donation of the excess of a local bakery. Sometimes the limit is however much the guests can stuff in their bags, and sometimes is nothing at all. God supplies!
There is also a number of new and used donated clothing for the guests to search through, and sometimes some other things to give away, like other foodstuffs or quilts or whatnot. The material ministry is important and helps to support people who sincerely need it, but it’s the spirit behind all of this which is the most striking. The volunteers come from all over, and sometimes it’s not clear who will make it to help or if there will be enough help, but God provides. Though sometimes the bread table is bare and other times there’s more than we can put on it, God has blessed the ministry. The conversations are good, and if you can just smile and nod, that is good to.
Behind all of the outward signs is the inward truth of supernatural love, which is so wonderfully addictive. There is nothing intrinsic to the human heart which impels us to love a stranger. When we are moved to compassion for someone we don’t know, and perhaps can’t even speak with, and delight in their company and just doing the smallest task for them, there is something of the love of the Messiah in us. And the hope and ardent prayer is, always, that that spark of holy love would change lives.
Associated with this ministry is another ministry across the city in the open market where another group of volunteers (often a very similar group to the soup kitchen!) distributes groceries to many of the same guests. This ministry is much simpler—packing two burgeoning bags of food into bags on wheels for people in need, but is also reaches many more. Hundreds of bags of groceries go through the door on the day it is open, and I’m often working like a madman in the back trying to pack enough of the bags to keep up!
More than just coming and leaving, the guests are served tea or coffee and offered prayer. Through both of these ministries many people have come to faith. What a beautiful miracle! Many of those from the Soviet Union were raised in an environment of government enforced atheism, so having any faith is new territory. More than that, many Jewish people have had their hearts hardened to the Messiah, but…
I do not want you to be ignorant of this mystery, brothers and sisters, so that you may not be conceited: Israel has experienced a hardening in part until the full number of the Gentiles has come in, and in this way all Israel will be saved. (Romans 11:25-26)
Paul wrote a long time ago. It is so amazing to see his words come alive. Despite all the hard history, the persecution, the atheism, and the false teachings, the Messiah is the victor. Bonhoeffer said that when the Lord asks us to follow, the only response is yes, simply because he is the Lord. Hallelujah!
God, for a fuller harvest!