Upon arrival in Israel Lydia said to our staff, 'Thank you, I've kept my promise.'

This was a promise made 83 years earlier to her grandfather!

God hears the promises we make - and never forgets them. He helps us keep those promises when they are in accordance with His will.

Lydia’s family lived in Russia. In 1921, her grandfather, a religious Jew, travelled to Jerusalem to pray at the Western Wall, returning two months later.

He soon became very ill, and shortly before he died, he called Lydia, who was only 8 years old, to his bedside. He made her promise that she would go to the Promised Land before she died.

Fast forward to October 2003: -

Anya in the Ebenezer Office in Southern Russia sent us application forms for Lydia, now 90 years old, and her husband Vitali (73) to come to our house in Beit Shemesh.

Vitali & Lydia in Russia

Lydia and Vitali had been married for two years, but they had known each other for over 12 years. This was Lydia’s first marriage, but Vitali had been married before, and had a daughter in Ukraine. We were told he had been a champion boxer.

As we could only receive elderly people who could look after themselves, we reluctantly informed Anya that we could not accept them as they required too much care.

At that time, we did not know about Lydia’s promise to her grandfather.

Phone calls and emails continued between Russia, England and Israel as Anya continued to appeal against our decision on behalf of Lydia and Vitali.

Their persistence paid off! After six months we sent an email saying we would accept them after all.

Lydia and Vitali went to the Israeli Consul to get their visas. They were told by the Consul’s assistant at the first visit that their papers were acceptable. This time they saw the Consul himself. He told them he would not give them a visa for three reasons - firstly, they were too old, secondly, they did not have enough documentation, and thirdly, they needed someone to look after them. He was suspicious of the invitation we had sent. Anya was summoned in to speak with the Consul. She told him about Ebenezer’s work and reassured him of the nature of the work of Streams in the Desert. He told her that if only Lydia had a copy of her old Russian passport which stated she is Jewish, then he would accept them.

Anya raced back to her office to get the copy she had made of Lydia’s passport before it had been surrendered for the new one and returned to the Consul. With this extra document the Consul issued the visa to go to Israel. This was a miracle!

Lydia and Vitali flew to Israel. It took them a few days to adjust to their new home. Having lived in a care home for ten years they found it very difficult to adjust to a more independent situation where they had to do things for themselves. Our staff in Beit Haverim were convinced we had made the wrong decision to accept them!

Then Lydia related her promise to her grandfather. Wow! We were Lydia’s last hope for her to keep that promise! No wonder she was so persistent in appealing our decision. God heard her prayers and prompted us to relent and accept them after all.

God made a way for Lydia to keep her promise, and she was so grateful.

Sadly, Lydia’s health quickly deteriorated, but she refused to see a doctor. We were investigating possible nursing homes when she finally gave in. The doctor admitted her to hospital, and she was found to have terminal cancer. She went to be with the Lord shortly afterwards.

Lydia had one more miracle – against all protocol, the authorities allowed her to be buried in the Jewish cemetery despite her not having original documents (she only had copies) to prove her Jewishness.

Lydia & Vitali 1

This dear couple had a close, loving relationship which was precious to see. Vitali was devastated to lose her and turned to the bottle to drown his sorrows. However, he did enjoy going on outings, including one to the Hot Springs.

He became friendly with some of the ladies, and eventually wanted to marry one of them. Not surprisingly, she was put off by his drinking!

The following year Vitali told us that his mother was 100% Jewish, but he did not have documents to prove it. Unfortunately, there was no time to follow up on this as he suffered a serious stroke a week later. Within three months he was reunited with Lydia.