“What did you have for breakfast?” I asked the elderly Jewish lady in front of me. “A cup of tea,” she replied. “And what will you have for dinner?” I asked her, hoping for a more promising response. “A cup of tea,” came the same heartbreaking reply. As we stood in the soup kitchen filled with elderly Jewish people having a hot, nutritious lunch, I realized with horror that this could be their only meal for days to come. Each Jewish patron who comes through the door out of the bitter cold carries a container in the hope that there will be food left over to take home. The staff at the soup kitchen is well aware of the bare cupboards these precious people face at home and will do their best to stretch the food to fill the containers. The meager extra portion will have to last for the next two days until they can visit the soup kitchen again.
In Beregovo, Ukraine, the Project Tikvah (Hope) soup kitchen runs three times a week from a local synagogue. Now that winters’ coldest days have set in, those who eat at the soup kitchen’s table have to brave subzero temperatures to be welcomed as family with warm smiles and a hot, filling meal. Their delight and gratitude for the sustenance Christians from around the world supply are often clearly visible.
Thanks to your generous donations to Project Tikvah (Hope), nine soup kitchens across the former Soviet Union served 55,554 hot meals to elderly Jewish people last year. Had it not been for your financial support, these precious people—many of whom are Holocaust survivors—would have had only tea for breakfast, lunch and dinner.
Our hearts are moved when we hear that many elderly Jewish people in the Ukrainian Diaspora have fallen into a cycle of hopelessness. They are too old or frail to immigrate to Israel, and with the younger generation fleeing the countryside for better opportunities elsewhere, they are left to fend for themselves. The monthly state pension is as little as US $60 per month, which is not enough to make ends meet under normal circumstances. But in winter, when the cost of heating and extra food sends expenses skyrocketing, the situation is dire. Our Project Tikvah (Hope) program coordinator Stanislaw Gawel recently explained the cycle of hopelessness to our team in Israel: “If they don’t have enough money, they do not buy enough nutritious food, which makes them weak and vulnerable to illness. When they get sick from lack of nutrition, they spend the little money they have on medicine, which means less food and ultimately more illness.”
Stanislaw requested our prayers for the continued work of his team. Every trip to the Ukraine is a test of their faith, as they have to cross the border into Ukraine from their base in Slovakia, drive on the precarious Ukrainian roads and then meet and care for many ill, impoverished people who are unable to help themselves. The Project Tikvah (Hope) team prays before every trip that the Lord will go with them and empower them to show the love of God.
Bridges for Peace is standing with the Jewish people not only in Israel but also in the Diaspora. We follow the instructions in Scripture to reach out with love, care and provision to those Jewish people who are unable to fulfill the prophetic call to return to land of Israel due to sickness or old age. For many living in far-off towns in the former Soviet Union, survival is a daily struggle. Our Project Tikvah (Hope) coordinators meet with Jewish leaders in these communities to distribute more than 3,800 food parcels. At the same time, they provide financial support for hospital stays, medicine, surgery and funeral expenses and heating in the freezing winter months. Project Tikvah (Hope) puts an end to the vicious cycle of hopelessness, giving them hope to survive.
What will you eat for dinner tonight? And what will you have for breakfast tomorrow morning? As you sit down to enjoy your meals, spare a thought and a prayer for the poor, elderly Jewish people in the Ukrainian Diaspora. But also open your heart and give generously to the work of Project Tikvah (Hope) in the former Soviet Union. Give a gift from the bounty of your many blessings to ensure that each meal at the soup kitchen is a double portion meal—with more than enough for each person to take home on the cold winter nights.
Blessings from Israel,
Rebecca J. Brimmer
International President and CEO
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