Igor had always been a leader. Although he became very successful in the Russian Mafia, he felt something was missing in his life, so he went searching. His search led him to a number of religions, until he finally found “the truth as it is in Jesus” and became a baptized member of the Seventh-day Adventist Church. As he shared his newfound faith, many others also joined the church. However, some weren’t so interested in what Igor was sharing, but even then, others were listening.
Vasily was involved with big money. He worked for a company that created contracts worth multiple millions of Russian rubles. Trained as a bodyguard, Vasily spoke with company leadership in code. He had expensive equipment that allowed him to eavesdrop into closed rooms. People who wanted to ruin this company recognized that Vasily was a key player in winning the big contracts, and because he was an obstacle to their goal, they had tried to kill him—twice.
The first time was during a trip to an outdoor market with his daughter to buy food. Although viciously attacked, he survived.
The second time he was shot multiple times, but was somehow able to get up and run to his apartment. Rushing in, Vasily collapsed onto the floor. Fearing he was about to die, he begged his mother to forgive him, but his mother assured him that he was going to live. With renewed hope Vasily began fighting for his life and called the police. He was quickly taken to the hospital, where he was placed on a stretcher and wheeled to the elevator. As they started to get out of the elevator, Vasily exclaimed, “Stop! Please let my head go out first. Only dead bodies go feet first through the door, and I’m still alive!”
Later Vasily met a Baptist man who asked him, “Do you want to kill the guys who did this to you?”
“Of course!” Vasily replied.
“Don’t do it,” said the Baptist. “Forgive them. If you kill them, you can never live peacefully. Just forgive.”
Sometime later Vasily went for a walk in the forest. As he was walking, he saw one of the men who had tried to kill him sitting in the forest with a girlfriend. Looking over at his potential killer, Vasily quietly breathed, “OK, I will forgive him.”
Six months later he learned that the man had died of a drug overdose. The second person who had tried to kill him became permanently disabled, and the third was shot and killed.
As the new year drew near, Vasily geared up for the big parties that took place around the holiday. He had many friends whose birthdays were in late December and early January, so with several birthday parties in a row, along with the big New Years’ celebration, it was two solid weeks of drinking vodka and smoking.
But somehow this time it wasn’t the same. Vasily no longer enjoyed the partying, and at the end of the two weeks he had had enough. “Was I born for such a dirty life?” he asked himself. The answer was a decided, “No! I need a new life!”
Falling to his knees, he prayed that God would help him. Somehow he was able to obtain a Bible, and with Bible in hand he went to each of his friends, inviting them to come with him to the forest for three days. Two friends decided to join him.
“We went to the forest, where we were quiet for three days, just reading the Bible,” said Vasily. As we were out there, in the quiet nature, suddenly a child came by on skis, calling out, “Merry Christmas to you!” Because it was so unlikely to see anyone else in such a desolate place, Vasily saw this as a special sign from God.
He prayed, asking God to “give me one month to live this new life.” And He did. Then Vasily asked God for a second month of clean living, and it was given to him. He asked his wife for forgiveness, and he is continuing to live a clean life.
When Vasily and Igor met, they realized that they had much in common. “In every place there are some people who like the truth,” said Vasily, “and I like such people.”
Vasily and Igor are now close friends who work together to spread literature through a special newspaper that is delivered throughout the region of Kazan. The newspaper is filled with information about how to obtain better health, as well as offering spiritual insights. It is one of the most popular newspapers in Russia. The two former Mafia men also work together finding sponsors so that thousands of Adventist books can be ordered and distributed around Kazan.
Vasily and Igor are earnestly looking forward to having the new church/center of influence in the center of Kazan, made possible through your generous Thirteenth Sabbath Offering gifts this quarter.
“Our stories seem to be terrible,” said Vasily. “But actually it is our world, so they really aren’t so terrible.” He and Igor just want to help people find a better way.
In the Julian calendar, followed by the Russian Orthodox Church, Christmas falls on January 7.