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Destinations, Dreams and Dogs - International adventure with a fast-track family (& dogs) of Old World values, adopting the Russian-Italian-American good life on the go…!

Yom Kippor: The Day of Atonement

As Yom Kippor begins at sunset, our family is seated in the congregation. We are as diverse as the day is long, but united in our belief that God sees and cares.

Our family is Jewish with Christian beliefs, or Christian with Jewish roots. Take your pick. To some, one label means more than the other. Suffice it to say, we are similar to those early First Century believers.

As I look across our family, I recognize that each of us has been “saved”, both in the traditional, spiritual sense of being born-again by faith, but also in the physical sense, being rescued by God from certain demise. Let me explain.

My own family fled Russia in the days following the Bolshevik Revolution. The Red Army, then the White Army, then the Red Army swept through my grandmother’s city. She and her sister would sneak by the long pier jutting into the sea and try to figure out the identities of the latest war casualties, their feet weighted by rocks, and their hair undulating like seaweed below the surface.

Babushka was the only one who made it out alive, being put on the last British ship leaving Russia, the others too proud to board. She got as far as Constantinople where she languished for two years with fevers and sores, finally awakening to find her head shaved and her body wasted away. She was still a teen, a nurse by profession.

Through an aid society, she again grabbed the last boat bound for America. Outside of New York, the boat drove in circles, unable to come ashore. The Russian quota of immigrants had been filled. At last, the President passed an Executive Order allowing entrance for this one boat. My grandmother had been saved.

But she lived the rest of her life as an agnostic, traumatized by being ripped from her gentrified family lifestyle, close to the Tsar’s inner circle, but far from a loving God. In her mind, survival and success came from pulling oneself up by the bootstraps, which is what she did during her new life in a new land.

The other side of the family also came to America after the Russian Revolution. My grandfather was awed by the stories told by the Jewish tailor who had returned to their small shtetl, relating dollar-a-day wages and other streets-paved-with-gold stories. They had found the Promised Land and my grandfather traveled soon thereafter with him, marrying a good Yiddish-speaking girl once in America.

The couple and their burgeoning family were wooed back to the newly-formed Soviet Union by Communist propagandists working in America. At the border, their American passports were seized, along with any US Dollars they were carrying.

“Tovarishchee,” said the guards, “we have a new system where money is not used. All is done by barter, so you will not be needing this.”

And thus, this side of the family became stranded in Mother Russia as years of Civil War stretched into long days of death and darkness.

But my Russian family had praying neighbors, not-so-secret believers, the kind that would believe and pray, fast and pray, lifting up their voices until not only heaven, but hell heard them. It was late during one of these all-night prayer sessions that the neighbors had a vision of our family. The next day, they stepped forward.

“God told us to give you this,” they said, pressing long-hidden and even longer-saved funds into my grandfather’s hands. “With this, you will travel to America and serve the Living God. One day, He will use you mightily.”

Now, mind you, my grandparents were not born-again believers at all. But one night of a neighbor’s prayer made all the difference. Mother, father, and two young schoolboys who had already been born to them bowed heir heads, tears streaming down each face, lifting their hands to their new Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Their spiritual and physical freedom had been purchased for them, paid in full.

Those young boys grew into young men, producing Russian radio Bible broadcasts, beamed into the homeland during decade after decade of crushing Communistic persecution. Our family had been saved, not by our own bootstraps, but by Divine intervention.

Benedetto’s family history is every bit as fascinating and I’ll have to save that for my one-day, some-day book. He came to faith in Yeshua (Jesus) as the Jewish Messiah while living and working as an archaeologist in Israel. Too sarcastic and scientific in his thought processes to accept any such “mental crutch”, he changed his mind when confronted with modern-day miracles. Try as he might, he could not disprove the power of faith, plus the fact that Yeshua fulfilled more than 320 Messianic prophecies spoken centuries before, detailing where He would be born, how He would live, what He would accomplish, opposition that He would face, etc.

The prophecies were a statistical improbability with so many zeroes after it that mathematicians gave up trying to quantify the odds long ago.

Fast-forward to many years later. Benedetto was diagnosed with a very serious and advanced cancer, odd for someone in good shape, who ate healthy foods, and did all the right things. He rapidly dropped a lot of weight over a two-month time period, arriving to surgery emaciated, and emerging even worse.

The doctors gave him a grim prognosis. They said he would be flat on his back for five to six months, if survive at all. The cancer had spread to other organs.

We did the only thing that we knew to do: we prayed, knowing that we had a Redeemer, a Deliverer, a Messiah who loved us. Three days later, the doctors with befuddled looks entered his hospital room.

“There’s been a remarkable turn of events,” one started.

“This is a real head-scratcher,” reported another.

The cancer had literally disappeared. All of the tested tissue samples where there had once been cancer cells raging, came back clear. My husband was cancer-free, healed, and delivered.

Through the years, the Day of Atonement has become quite meaningful for us. It’s not only a day of fasting, repentance, and considering our ways, it’s also a day of confidence and gratefulness. We know in Whom we have believed.

There is a Redeemer, Jesus, God’s own Son. With Him, the sun shines brightly, even on the darkest of days.

I will share more of our faith in an upcoming blog, how it has affected our children adopted from Russia in some most unusual, as well as humorous ways.

L’shanah tovah tikatevu (May you be inscribed and sealed for a good year)!

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