Just as in the desert many streams gather and flow into the low places to form one mighty river, even so,
Afikim BaNegev gathers people from a diversity of places and experiences, pooling their resources and talents toward a unified work. We are so grateful for the incredibly dedicated group of people who wholeheartedly embrace this challenging work with children, youth, and single mothers. This organization could not exist without them. Below you can get acquainted with the members or our staff and with some of the dedicated volunteers, who keep coming back time and time again to help out with this ministry.
Marianna Gol serves as administrator and director of Afikim BaNegev. She oversees all aspects of its practical operation, fund raising, and management. Marianna also finds time to work one-on-one with most of the women, participates in many of the activities for the youth and children, and cooks fabulous gourmet meals for our staff gatherings.
Marianna grew up in St. Petersburg, Russia, where she became a believer in Yeshua in 1991. In 1992, the Lord called Marianna to full-time ministry, and she began to serve the Lord with different groups and organizations. In 1997, she made aliya and moved to Netanya, Israel.
Marianna has been involved with a variety of reconciliation, ecumenical and social initiatives. According to Marianna, “In 2004, while I was living in Netanya, the Lord shared with me His heart for the widows and orphans. For one year I held this burden in prayer. That year the Lord began to bring single mothers and widows into my life-- into the home group or to the women’s ministry that I led. I was faced at times with their overwhelming needs and with their amazing victories, but more than anything else, with God’s burning passion for the widow and the orphan in The Land. In 2005, I started a Single Parent Family fund in the congregation in Netanya.“
Marianna’s years of working with women in Netanya was the preparation for her work with Afikim BaNegev. After moving to the Beer Sheva area in 2007, the Lord opened doors for her to head up a nascent outreach to single mother families from the various Beer Sheva congregations. Since then, the number of families served by the ministry has increased and includes some referred by the social services of the city of Beer Sheva. The range of activities has expanded, and, to facilitate this, the staff has grown as well to include both part-time, paid staff members and a growing cohort of dedicated volunteers.
Marianna’s call to children’s ministry caught her feeling unequipped for the task, but obviously the Lord saw otherwise. She illustrates this with the story of David being sent to battle with Goliath with heavy military equipment that did not fit and with which he had no experience. He cast it aside and replaced it with his own simple and humble slingshot, along with five smooth stones. She says, “I was called to kids’ ministry precisely because it didn’t fit. I had no chance to succeed in this in the natural. The weapons that fit me are praise, obedience, prayer, patience, suffering in intercession, and joy. Our own weapons often look small and are deemed without value in the eyes of many, but they are very meaningful in the plan of God.
“We are engaged in a battle for these children, but I know they will stand, and that the Lord will build from them an exceedingly great army. I once had a vision of a tent in the desert filled with all kinds of weapons, and I saw the kids each coming inside to choose their weapons. The tent is the tabernacle in the wilderness, the abiding presence of the Lord. The work of Afikim BaNegev is bringing these kids into encounters with the Lord and helping to prepare them to wield spiritual weapons and to do battle for their generation.”
Yuri Apel provides much needed practical and spiritual help to single parent families. He helps the women with household repairs, electrical work, plumbing and painting. But his main activities are with the children in contexts outside of the home. He plans and conducts sports activities and other after school programs for younger children and youth. He organizes outings for the youth to national conferences of believers. He organizes and oversees our yearly summer camps as well as the three day desert hikes and camp outs that take place twice a year at the Passover and Sukkot holidays.
Regarding these interactive times with the kids, says Yuri, “Youth connect with me, ask me many questions about the faith, about how to walk in their faith, what is worthwhile and acceptable to do, and what isn’t. The Lord and the word of God and praise and thanksgivings are always at the center of these discussions. The camp setting, in particular, provides focused time together to share the gospel and to bring the kids to the idea of the cross, to go deeper into the consequences of sin, and to present Yeshua as the solution.“
Yuri shares an experience from one of the hikes. “While at the campsite, of their own initiative, the kids were spontaneously and enthusiastically singing songs of praise. This drew the attention of other campers surrounding our group and led to much interest and many questions.”
Yuri’s background in Ukraine before making aliya and then coming to faith at age 22 included training as an electrician; and then in Israel, after the army, he trained as a physical education and sports instructor. He sees how all of this had a purpose in preparing him for the work he is now doing. He shares that in prayer he often receives words of wisdom and words of knowledge for specific children regarding particular circumstances in their lives, and then he has the opportunity to share and then, of course, to pray with them concerning what he has seen and understood. Yuri’s practical talents and spiritual gifts harmonize to have a significant impact on the lives of the children he works with.