My Soviet Reaction to Church: You will Never See Me Again!
Dear American friends,
In a country where less than 1% of the population is evangelical Christian, true conversion to Christ is very rare. But where the opposition is great, God's power to save is even greater. And God sometimes does extraordinary things in the darkest places (as they often are in the Russian-speaking world). God did an extraordinary thing in one of our students lives in 1994, as you can read below, when he healed his handicapped son's foot. Victor is in his 2nd year in our seminary, and although in his 50s, he gets the best grades out of all of our students! He is an elder of the Kingdom of God Presbyterian Church in downtown St. Petersburg. Enjoy his moving testimony below.
Dean of students
In 1994 I came to Nizhni Novgorod (746 miles south of St. Petersburg) as a builder. We built houses for our soldiers leaving the Eastern part of Germany. There were workers from different countries – China, North Korea, Poland, Bulgaria – and of course from Russian cities, mostly from St. Petersburg. We all worked together and lived in barracks.
That period was very difficult in Russia – it wasn’t easy to find any job. So I felt lucky to have one. My family – wife Lucia and our children Andrei and Galina – stayed home in St. Petersburg.
Victor with wife Lucia and children: son Andrei and daughter Galina. 1994.
Now let me tell you about my son Andrei. He was born in 1985 with cerebral palsy. Left side of his body was partly paralyzed. The labor was so hard that my wife had to spend about 10 days in the intensive therapy room. As for our son, right after the birth he was taken to hospital with jaundice and spent 40 days there before we were allowed to take him home.
We were atheists. Therefore all these ordeals were a real shock for me. In the Soviet Union, life was hard anyway, and to have a severely handicapped child was considered a curse of fate. I did not want to live. I did not see any hope. I was sure my life was ruined completely. Even when we were together again – with my wife and disabled son – I wished I would have died as soon as possible because I thought my life failed.
We lived in a communal apartment with 24 people sharing one bathroom and a kitchen with two stoves, one sink and no hot water supply! Our family occupied a room of 14 sq m (which is about 150 sq ft). We had to put our son to hospital every three month for 40 days. After all our efforts he began to walk by 2. But he suffered from constant epileptic fits and it made us sad even more.
Then two years later our daughter Galina was born healthy.
Victor's family today. From left to right: son Andrei, Victor, Lucia, and daughter Galina.
When I built houses for our soldiers in Nizhni Novgorod, I met a man who told me a very interesting story. Doctors wanted to operate on him because he had water in his lungs but his church prayed for him (that was something very new for me!) and when he came to be examined by doctors, they said there was no reason to operate on him since he was absolutely healthy. The name of this person was Joseph. He was Polish but lived in St. Petersburg. I asked Joseph if it was possible that his church would pray for my son Andrei. And he said, “Of course!” and promised to call me.
Upon return I told Lucia about Joseph. I thought she would mind going to church with him since she has Muslim roots. Both of her grandfathers were active imams before the revolution of 1917 but then they were exiled to Ural Mountains because the Soviets prosecuted all believers – including Muslims. I thought, “If she does not want to go to church, no problem. We just won’t go.” But to my surprise she agreed.
Victor with Sergei Sukharev, pastor of his church.
Victor's ordination as deacon.
I can’t describe how weird that meeting was for me. Dozens of people gathered in a former Soviet club meant for completely another purpose. After the sermon they invited us to come forward. We were very embarrassed when we stood in front of all those people who actually were very friendly. There were some Americans there. I remember two of them who became our friends later. Those were Bill and Betty from Florida.
Suddenly they all began to pray for us. That was an incredible experience. I began to sweat. My wife and children pressed close to me. My only wish was to get out of there! Betty took our Andrei and prayed for him.
After the service people surrounded us. They laughed and cheered us. I thought, “Ok, enough. You’ll never see me again!”
When we came home, I took off the orthopedic shoes our son had to wear since he could not walk in normal shoes. I noticed that his left foot became longer. Before it was much shorter than the right foot because Andrei used only his right foot. But now his left foot had really grown for 1.5-1.9 inches. And his left heel was 3-4 times bigger. It was completely new flesh, very white! I was shocked. Even though it was getting late, we decided to call our friends to celebrate that remarkable event and bought normal shoes for our son. Some of our friends whom we invited that night still go to church with us. It was June 12, 1994.
I had to leave my family again and go on business. I returned in 4-5 months. My wife and children went to church and I had to join them. God was good to me but for a time I remained semi-Christian.
In the course of time my Lord became the meaning of life. I fell in love with His Word. I began studying English to read literature which had not been translated into Russian yet. Then I began studying Greek to read the New Testament in original language. Then about two years ago, after serving in my local church as a deacon, I decided to systematize my knowledge and enroll in the SRS intensive leadership training course. The Biblical Theological Seminary of St. Petersburg run and funded by SRS is changing my worldview and I am slowly becoming more open to the ways of Christ, and more aware of the remnants of my judgmental Soviet mentality.
Dear American brothers! Thank you very much for your selfless contribution on my life. It’s impossible to appraise the work you do to have the light of Christ shine upon those who are in the darkness, in the shadow of death. You sacrifice your lives so that together with you we would be able to become heirs of the Kingdom that has no bounds.
"If you have tasted the kindness of the Lord", says the Apostle in 1 Peter 2:3. I have.
2nd year student of the Biblical Theological Seminary of St. Petersburg
The Slavic Reformation Society is a mission of North American churches initiated in response to the great commission of Jesus Christ, which is to make disciples of all nations of the earth. (Matthew 18:19, 20)