Ukraine | September 13

From Cigarettes to Castles, Part 2

Rusland and his family

When I was planning to be baptized, my sisters told me that I should ask my parents for forgiveness. Both of my parents were crying with happiness. And that’s when I realized that you can have all sorts of victories with God. 

One thing that amazed me was that as we started to build a church, people brought such offerings to the church as gold and jewelry, and they would commission me, knowing my past, to sell it. I was amazed and touched with that kind of trust. And I was very responsible with it, always looking for the best price and doing my best to get every penny for the donated item.

Later I became a literature evangelist (LE)and a youth leader. It was during a gathering of LEs that I met my future wife, Bogdona!  

We now have three lovely daughters, and I’ve been elected an elder in our church. I’m just amazed at how God was able to turn me around and give me this life that I never even dreamed of. In a way my dad was right: the end did come in 1999—the end of my former life. 

A Message for Young People Today

There is one thing I regret—the years of my youth. I regret it because that time was spent in vain. They were completely empty years of my life—no purpose, no meaning, no satisfaction, no direction. I understand now that it is better to live with God. You can have all kinds of victories in your life when you’re with God, when you pray sincerely to Him.

Whenever I have a problem or difficulty in my business or family or raising my children, God reminds me of the first steps of faith. Then I remember that when you pray, it’s not you but God who does it. But it has to be your decision and your request first.

Bouncy Castle Business

I’m now a small business owner. I sell toys, and I have some bouncy castles that are set up in various spots around Vinnytsia. Every client that comes to our business receives a free Adventist newspaper filled with good health and spiritual information. 

The most popular days for people to go to the park is Saturday and Sunday. The central city park belongs to the city administration, so when I do good business, they receive a good percentage. But the challenge is that I don’t work on Saturdays. In the beginning we had some challenges with the city over that. They tried to force me to be there, but I was firm—either I don’t work on Saturdays, or I don’t work at all. They could see that I was firm, and they could see that we worked properly. They appreciated our work, and they knew that we were people of principle. 

At the Cemetery

Sometimes I visit the cemetery where my mom is buried. As I walk past the graves, I see the names of some of my friends who are buried there. I’m especially sad when I see three specific names, because when I became a Christian, I talked with those guys. I invited them to come to church and to follow the path that I had taken, but now their names are at the cemetery. 

The last time I was home, my wife was given the opportunity to see the horrendousness of my former life. As we walked through the cemetery, some of my old friends were there, sitting on a bench. When one of my old friends saw me, he ran toward me, fell on his knees, and started crying, “I’m tired of the life I’m living.”

I told him that not long ago, on that very spot, I had told our friend, who was now in the grave, to go to church. And now I was telling him, “Go to church!” But he wouldn’t listen to me either. He said, “I’m going to have the same fate as the guy in the grave.”

I pleaded with him: “It is much easier to go to church than to the cemetery. Look at me now, and my wife and children.”

He looked at them as I assured him, “You can start a new life. You can have all the things that I have.” But he just turned back to the old friends, back to drinking. He didn’t have a family. He didn’t have anything. He just spent every day looking for another bottle of booze.

As we walked away my wife whispered, “Now I see what you used to be in the past.” “Yes,” I acknowledged, “and I was the worst one of them all.”  

Ruslan and Bodgona’s children, Sophia, Nadya, and Polina, are looking forward to studying at the new Adventist school in Vinnytsia. Thank you for helping to make this school a reality by giving generously to the Thirteenth Sabbath Offering.

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