Lighting the Way for Jews to Know Jesus
Moody training Sergey for full-time ministry leading Jewish people to Christ
When Sergey and his mother moved from Ukraine to Israel, little did the then 5-year-old child know that God had incredible plans for his life that would send him half a world away to train for full-time ministry as a missionary to his fellow Jews.
Today Sergey is a senior at Moody Bible Institute preparing to graduate in May before seeking a vocational career proclaiming the gospel as part of a ministry to the Jewish people.
"I want to work in Jewish ministry," Sergey says. "I was a student missionary with Chosen People Ministries—raising support, working with churches, and sharing the gospel with Jewish people in Rogers Park (Chicago). My passion is to lead Jewish people to our Messiah."
From Israel to New York to Chicago
Sergey himself came to know Christ as his Savior shortly after transplanting from Ukraine to Israel. He and his mom were poor and struggling to find work when they were invited to a Christmas event at a church. At the service they heard the gospel for the first time, surrendered their lives to Jesus, and spent as much time as they could volunteering and worshiping in the church until Sergey heard about Moody from another church member.
After serving a required stint in the Israeli military, Sergey moved to New York City to get involved in evangelism to New York University students with Chosen People Ministries before applying and being accepted into Moody in 2019.
"Chosen People Ministries is close to Moody because of Dr. Michael Rydelnik, professor of Jewish Studies," Sergey says. "I knew the basics of the Bible but needed to go to school for formal education if I wanted to go into full-time ministry. I wanted to major in Jewish Studies, and Moody is the only accredited Jewish Studies program in the States."
Ministry experience through Kesher
Once enrolled, one of Sergey's first decisions as a freshman at Moody was to join Kesher. The student group is dedicated to reconnecting Moody’s student body with the roots of their faith by introducing them to Jewish culture and history. As a Jew who is passionate about communicating the good news of Christ to other Jews, Sergey especially loved Kesher's commitment to educate and equip students for evangelism to Jewish people.
"Kesher in Hebrew means bond or connection. Our biggest desire is to introduce the Jewishness of the faith, the holidays and events like Passover and Festival of Lights and Hannukah," Sergey says. "We show students that there's a Jewish part of the Bible and to share the gospel with Jewish people. At Shabbats we invite students each week to learn more about the tradition and what Jewish people do around the house. We also want to explain anti-Semitism and how it's affecting the Jewish people."
While in the classroom Sergey has developed a solid biblical worldview and an extensive understanding of the Jewish faith and how to reach fellow Jews for Christ, in Kesher he has seized the opportunity to put those lessons into practice through real-life, practical ministry. As a senior he is president of Kesher and oversees a core leadership team that operates weekly meetings on campus and service projects off campus.
One of Kesher's most popular events was a recent presentation about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict that attracted 75 students and professors and helped enlighten them to the realities that the people of Israel face in a world where terrorism against Jews is sadly a regular occurrence. Another campus event was a discussion of anti-Semitism and how it has grown in the US and around the world.
"We're here to educate and talk to students," Sergey says. "After the Israel-Palestine conflict presentation, people came up to me afterwards and said they never knew that side of the story. We've had no bad responses about Kesher from students yet. The majority are supportive of us."
Prepared for God's leading
Sergey is grateful for the education and training he has received at Moody and excited to apply what he has learned in his classes and ministry experience after graduating.
"God has definitely grown my Christian faith and my Jewish faith through my work in Kesher and my studies at Moody," Sergey says. "I'm an Israeli, I talk about the land of Israel, anti-Semitism, and it has pushed me to understand more and learn more that God's heart is for the Jewish people to know the Messiah."
On the Frontlines
How God led Caleb to an amazing homeless ministry run by MBI students
If Caleb has learned anything over the last three years, it's this: Nobody wants to be invisible.
Caleb came to Moody in the fall of 2019 as a pastoral studies major. After a semester with his first PCM (Practical Christian Ministry) assignment, Caleb felt he wasn't a good fit for the outreach, and he requested a ministry change. His academic adviser suggested he check out a group that was meeting that same night—Frontlines homeless ministry.
An encounter that changed his life
A "kid" from Hobart, Indiana (population 29,000), Caleb had never even been to Chicago before coming to Moody. He had no experience with the homeless, and he was sure they were not much more than a collective group of unkempt outcasts with addiction issues. Warily, he followed along with the Frontlines team.
"I was a freshman in Bible college. I knew all there was to know about the Bible, right?" he says, rolling his eyes. But during that first night out on the Chicago streets, Caleb struck up a conversation with a young woman who surprised him with her knowledge of the Scriptures.
"She absolutely schooled me on the Bible, things I didn't even know," he says. "I went back and did my own research. It turned out that she was absolutely correct. It really struck me that all these misconceptions I had were just that—misconceptions."
'We may be the only people they talk to that week'
Frontlines began in the fall of 2003 when a group of Moody students took the inspiration they received at that year's Missions Conference and put it to work on the streets of Chicago. "They got together, and they started getting food and supplies," Caleb explains. "They started going out into the streets talking to homeless people. Then they went to the PCM board and said, 'Let's make this a PCM!' And they said, 'Okay!'"
Caleb is grateful for not only the foundation that Moody provided for the group but also for the ongoing support. Having a budget means that teams can distribute bags with bottled water, hygiene supplies, and food provided by the Student Dining Room.
Frontlines typically leaves the Moody campus and travels three routes: north on LaSalle Boulevard and east and west on Michigan Avenue. Teams focus on building relationships through casual, compassionate interactions with the homeless. Caleb loves that approach. Conversations often begin with "Hey, I've got some gifts for you. Here's some food and hygiene supplies. How's your day going?"
Even so, some on the street can be skeptical and suspicious of the group's motives. "There's obviously that immediate distrust," Caleb says. "But after we talk with them for a little bit, we ask them their stories. We may be the only people they talk to that week."
"They want social interaction. They want to know that they're not invisible. And so that's what we're trying to do. We're trying to show them that they're not invisible, that they are loved and that we want to be friends with them."
Rewarding but challenging
Three years after his first ministry venture into the Chicago streets, the kid from Hobart is now the president of Frontlines homeless ministry. And Caleb has learned that Frontlines can be rewarding but challenging.
"It's an easy PCM physically, but emotionally it can be extremely difficult. You're seeing poverty, drug abuse, a single mother with two babies on her lap struggling to feed them."
While it's important to the Frontlines team to build relationships that lead to deeper discussions and opportunities to present the gospel to the homeless, it's also a priority to offer resources that address those immediate physical and emotional needs.
"We have these (business) cards that our academic adviser made, and they have a list of churches, homeless shelters, resources like that," Caleb says. "We give the cards to people and say, 'Hey, if you need a place to stay or if you need help, this is the place to go.' We're trying to eventually get connected with one or two churches and homeless shelters in this area so that we can say, 'Tell them that Frontlines sent you.'"
Impacting the homeless one person at a time
When asked how Frontlines is impacting Chicago, Caleb doesn't have to think long. "One person at a time," he says. And one particular person comes to mind quickly.
"We were walking down State Street, and there was this man living in a box on the corner of State Street and Wacker. And when we first started going up to him, he wanted nothing to do with us because he didn't trust us. He just wanted to be left alone. And then by the end of the semester, he didn't want us to leave. Just seeing how we can impact the lives of the homeless in Chicago makes it all worthwhile."
Unique Mission Field
Army Chaplain Travis Dalsis is a missionary to the soldiers in his care
Already married and working as a middle school teacher, Travis Dalsis ('16 MDiv) wasn't expecting a new call to become an Army chaplain. Yet, while watching a video about the Chaplain Corps—he just knew.
Growing up in an unchurched home, Travis had professed his faith in Christ at age 15 through the outreach of a nearby church. Soon after, he felt God calling him to preach. Now both these calls came together: God was asking him to minister and care for soldiers.
With his wife, Leah, as his biggest supporter, Travis saw God open every door along that path. Travis had joined the Army Reserves in 2012 and would now need more training, certifications, and at least two years of ministry or professional work experience. So, in addition to a residency as a hospital chaplain, in 2016 he helped plant a church with Friendship Church in Canton, Michigan—the same congregation that first introduced him to Christ.
After graduating from Moody, he applied to the Army Chaplain Corps, and in 2018 he entered active duty with the rank of Captain. During his first assignment, at Fort Polk, Louisiana, he embraced his belief in the importance of a ministry of presence. As he explains, chaplains do their work by "being there."
"The chaplaincy is missional type of work," says Travis, now chaplain with the 92nd Civil Affairs Battalion in Fort Bragg, North Carolina. "A ministry of engagement or presence—it's what I do every day with my soldiers. Whether that's talking with them, doing PT with them, or stopping by the motor pool, offering them a breakfast burrito, and picking up a wrench."
An 'energizer bunny'
This hasn't gone unnoticed by those around him. During his time at Fort Polk, Travis was described as an "energizer bunny" by Garrison Chaplain Derrick Riggs, who said, "He runs with them, sweats with them, hurts with them, does everything with them. He's the most integrated and most influential battalion chaplain on the entire installation. He loves his soldiers, he loves his Lord, he loves his family."
A key role of a military chaplain is to advocate and support the religious rights of all who serve, no matter what their background is. This is where Travis leans into his deep belief in God's ultimate authority and control of all things.
"Regardless of a soldier's faith, I am their chaplain," Travis says. "For some, there may be a struggle to work pluralistically. But I am called to be in the Army and work with people of different faiths. Even if we don't agree, I meet them where they are and know God is sovereign and that opportunities will come when God appoints them to come."
Travis credits Moody professor Dr. Brian Tucker ('02 MA) for helping him live out this process.
"He taught us the importance of identifying and expressing our own theology," Travis says. "Knowing and being able to articulate my faith makes me more comfortable in a pluralistic environment. I know who I am and what I believe, no matter who I'm speaking with. In practice, as long as a soldier knows I care about them, whether that soldier is an atheist or of another faith completely, I've always found they will listen and are open to my help."
Travis, who received Moody's distinguished expository preaching/homiletics award, also recalls the influence of Dr. Eric Moore, the Moody professor who taught him how to teach and talk in front of groups—another important component of his chaplaincy.
'We are like missionaries'
Travis strives to live out the three core competencies essential to his work.
"The first competency is to nurture the living," Travis explains. "This means I support the spiritual, emotional, and physical growth of each soldier in my unit. I also care for the wounded—being there in moments of crisis, representing the presence of God. And finally, I am called to honor the fallen, which includes participating in funerals and memorial ceremonies for those who have sacrificed their lives for their country."
Travis creates events like resiliency training and lunch-and-learn training. He counsels soldiers suffering through fractured relationships or tough news from home. He recently led a memorial service when a soldier's daughter was killed in a car accident.
As Travis travels alongside soldiers in their daily lives, experiencing similar hardships, he identifies with the incarnational work of Jesus Christ.
"Jesus took on flesh and became man. Chaplains take on this uniform and we learn what it means to be an Army soldier," he says. "We are like missionaries who go into a culture, learn that culture, and are part of that culture. Our job is to be a calming presence in their lives, to let them know they’re not going through their struggles alone."
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