My name is Neriyah Arabov. I live in Bat Yam, Israel and lead a messianic congregation in my town. My wife Anna and I have seven children, six of whom are currently in school. God gave us another son on October 18, 2015. I was not born in Israel; I grew up in the former Soviet Union. When I was 17, my parents and I moved to Israel without knowing why. Now, however, I understand the reasons for our relocation as part of God's plan for our lives. I see God restoring His people and am happy to be part of that restoration.
The First Part of Restoration: The Land
When I first came to Israel, I fell in love with the country. The first thing that touched my heart was the amazing sense of patriotism in everyone that I met. In the former Soviet Union, that feeling was alien to me. Shortly after my family's move, I first realized that Israel was meant to be my earthly home and that it is my responsibility to take care of it.
As the only Jew in my Uzbeki school, my name--Neriyah--stuck out starkly amongst the Mashas, Sashas and Pashas. I was different in many other respects. My skin was darker than that of my classmates, and I was not allowed to eat outside my home because our family kept kosher. Imagine the added blessing of arriving in Israel to realize that I would never again be called a dirty Jew by my countrymen. I was no longer persecuted on account of my race and beliefs.
The Second Part of Restoration: The People
When I went into the Israel Defense Forces, my connection to the people of Israel was further restored. I completely learned the language and the culture. The feeling of being a minority was behind me. I met a Russian man who shared with me that Jesus from Nazareth is the Messiah of Israel. At that point in my life, I considered myself an orthodox Jew. In our conversations, however, I realized that I did not really know the Bible. I started reading it more in order to prove to my new friend that he was mistaken about Jesus.
The Third Part of Restoration: God
Upon reading the Bible, my heart melted. I realized that I am a sinner, unworthy of God's grace and goodness, and that I was the one who was mistaken--not my friend. When I first came to a messianic congregation, there were about 12 attendees. Their pastor preached twice a week on Wednesdays and Saturdays. Each time I came and listened, he rebuked me with his sermons. I wondered perpetually how this stranger knew so much about me and the sins I'd committed. After some time, he approached me and asked if I was praying to God. I considered myself a Jew and responded that I prayed from the book. The pastor encouraged me to talk directly to God in the same way I would talk to my earthly father.
The First Miracle: Faith
One day, I was sitting in my home reading the Bible. Saddened, I asked God to show me truth about a personal matter that no one else knew. He did! I replied, with unbelief in my heart, that it must be a coincidence. He showed me truth again! I fell on my knees and prayed directly to God for the first time in my life. I said something very simple: "God, forgive me for my unbelief. I want to be yours, and You my God." Before I prayed, I had a fear that following Yeshua would return me to a minority status like that I had occupied in my home country. After I prayed, the fear was gone.
Immediately after that first prayer, I went to King of Kings Bible College in Tel Aviv. Part of the curriculum was to share the gospel with Israelis. I happily did it and still do. During that time I met a traditional rabbi I was able to share my testimony with. He listened to me as I shared all the verses I knew about Messiah: Isaiah 53, Daniel 9:24-27, and on and on. After securing my family's contact information, he relayed the details of our interactions to my relatives and loved ones. Soon after, they all took stands against me and against my new faith. I began praying to God for deliverance from the turmoil in my home and family.
The Second Miracle: America
Some time later, Dr. Mitch Glazer of Chosen People Ministries visited me in Israel. He asked me to move to the United States to attend a Bible college program. Immediately, I said yes--despite the fact that I did not yet speak English! Mitch reassured me that, just as I had learned Hebrew, I could also learn English. He was right. After a year in the U.S. I started to appreciate American jokes! Eventually I received a degree from Philadelphia College of the Bible.
The United States became comfortable to me. I wanted to stay--away from the conflicts that life in Israel can bring--but God called me home to Israel in His own unique way (as He often does). Disaster struck. Total kidney failure required my return to Israel to receive medical attention. Then, at home in Israel, I married a wonderful woman and started a family.
The Third Miracle: Kidney
After returning to Israel, I became an elder in the congregation where I first became a believer. The congregation grew tremendously, and I continuously prayed for healing in my body. I asked God why, after four years of learning in America--and with a growing congregation--He seemed to be calling me Home. I kept hoping that one day I would wake up with my kidney function fully restored.
One day, He provided an answer. Cynthia Barnett, a woman from Monroe, Michigan, felt a calling to come to Israel and donate one of her kidneys to me. Praise God--we were a complete match! One year later, in July 2005, Anna delivered a beautiful girl. We named her after Cynthia.
Unfortunately, Cynthia's donated kidney stopped functioning in 2011. I am not sorry or sad. God accomplished much in those six wonderful years. Anna and I took in two young Eritrean girls in 2010, and they have lived with us since. They speak fluent Russian and Hebrew because we use both at home.
In January 2012, Anna and I started a new congregation in our neighborhood. All of our congregants are able to walk to our services. For many years, we had been part of a Tel Aviv congregation and traveled out of the city each week. Now we are serving our immediate community in a variety of new and wonderful ways. We distribute food packages to needy families. We do free tours to holy sites in order to preach the Gospel. We are caring for Holocaust survivors in our town. We see the fruits of God's ministry constantly. Not long ago, we baptized seven people and I am currently discipling another four. More so we just absorbed four families from Ukraine, and they joined our congregational family.
People of my congregation continue to pray for my health, as three times a week I go through dialysis. The fact that God uses me despite my weakness is a tremendous miracle, and another miracle is on the way I hope!