An Optician Sows a Seed
What do the efforts of an optician in Lviv, Ukraine, have to do with the formation of a Russian-language congregation of Jehovah’s Witnesses in Haifa, Israel, some 1,200 miles [2,000 km] and several countries away? This is a story that demonstrates the validity of the Bible’s statement at Ecclesiastes 11:6: “In the morning sow your seed and until the evening do not let your hand rest; for you are not knowing where this will have success.”
OUR story begins in 1990 when Ella, a young woman of Jewish background, was living in Lviv. Ella and her family were preparing to immigrate to Israel. Shortly before their departure, Ella had an appointment with an optician who was one of Jehovah’s Witnesses. At the time, the work of Jehovah’s Witnesses was banned in Ukraine. Nevertheless, the optician took the initiative to share his Bible-based beliefs with Ella. He surprised her by saying that God has a personal name. That aroused Ella’s curiosity, and a fine Bible discussion ensued.
Ella enjoyed the discussion so much that she asked for another the following week and still another after that. Her interest was growing, but there was a problem. The time was fast approaching for the family to leave for Israel. Ella still had so much to learn! In order to make the most of the remaining time, she requested a Bible study every day until her departure. Though Ella did not resume her study when she first arrived in Israel, the seed of truth had taken root in her heart. By the end of the year, she was once again studying the Bible in earnest.
War broke out in the Persian Gulf, and Israel came under missile attack by Iraq. This was a frequent topic of conversation. One day in a supermarket, Ella overheard a Russian-speaking family of new immigrants conversing. Although she was still studying the Bible herself, Ella approached the family and shared with them the Bible’s promise of a peaceful world. As a result, the grandmother, Galina; the mother, Natasha; the son, Sasha (Ariel); and the daughter, Ilana, all joined in Ella’s Bible study.
Sasha was the first member of the family to reach the point of baptism—despite many trials. Although an honor student, he was expelled from school because his Christian conscience would not permit him to engage in premilitary training, a required part of the school curriculum. (Isaiah 2:2-4) Sasha’s case went to the Israeli High Court in Jerusalem, which commendably ordered Sasha reinstated so that he could finish the school term. The case received nationwide publicity. Consequently, many Israelis became aware of the beliefs of Jehovah’s Witnesses.*
Following his graduation from high school, Sasha entered the full-time ministry of Jehovah’s Witnesses. Today he serves as a special pioneer and a congregation elder. His sister, Ilana, has joined him in the full-time ministry. Their mother and their grandmother are both baptized Witnesses. The seed that the optician sowed was still bearing fruit!
Meanwhile, Ella continued making spiritual progress and was soon preaching from house to house. At her very first door, Ella met Faina, who had recently arrived from Ukraine. Faina was suffering from depression. Ella later learned that shortly before she had knocked on Faina’s door, the distressed woman had prayed to God: “I don’t know who you are, but if you hear me, help me.” She and Ella had a stimulating discussion. Faina asked many questions and carefully considered the answers she was given. In time, she became convinced that Jehovah’s Witnesses teach the truth from the Bible. She adjusted her program of university studies so that she could spend more time with the congregation and in the preaching work. In May 1994, Faina was baptized. She too took up the pioneer service, supporting herself by part-time work in the computer field.
In November 1994, while engaging in the preaching work, Ella suddenly felt very weak. She went to the hospital where tests revealed a bleeding intestinal ulcer. By evening Ella’s hemoglobin count had fallen to 7.2. An elder in Ella’s congregation, the chairman of the local Hospital Liaison Committee (HLC), provided the doctors with information on numerous medical procedures that did not require the use of blood.* Surgery was successfully performed without blood, and Ella made a full recovery.—Acts 15:28, 29.
Ella’s gynecologist, Karl, a German-born Jew, was very impressed. Then he recalled that his parents, who were Holocaust survivors, had known Jehovah’s Witnesses in the concentration camps. Karl asked many questions. Although extremely busy with his medical practice, Karl made time for a regular Bible study. By the following year, he was attending the weekly Christian meetings.
What has resulted from the seed sown by the optician? We have already seen what happened to Sasha and his family. As for Ella, she is a special pioneer minister. Her daughter, Eina, just out of high school, is embarking on her own career as a pioneer. Faina also serves as a special pioneer. As for Karl, Ella’s gynecologist, he is now a baptized Witness and a ministerial servant, sharing the healing power of Bible truth with his patients and others.
The small group of Russian-speaking immigrants that began as part of the Haifa Hebrew Congregation has now become a zealous Russian congregation with over 120 Kingdom publishers. This increase is due, in part, to the fact that an optician in Lviv took advantage of an opportunity to sow a seed!
For additional details, see the November 8, 1994, issue of Awake!, pages 12-15.
HLCs represent Jehovah’s Witnesses worldwide, assisting with communication between patient and hospital staff. They also provide information on alternative medical care based on the latest medical research.
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Ella and her daughter, Eina
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A happy group of Russian-speaking Witnesses in Haifa. Left to right: Sasha, Ilana, Natasha, Galina, Faina, Ella, Eina, and Karl