HeartCry has begun to support a new missionary in Eurasia. Anatoly C. is a gifted pastor and translator in Belarus. Previously, he taught English at the Linguistic University in Minsk and is now working with “Gospel and Reformation” to translate much-needed theological resources into Russian. He is also currently taking classes by extension through Reformed Theological Seminary. Anatoly is married to Anya, and they have two children – Vita (daughter) and Vladislav (son).
I was born in Minsk, Belarus, in 1983 into an ordinary family with two children. I was the second child, born four years after my elder brother Nikolai. My mother was a formal member of the Eastern Orthodox Church, and my father was indifferent to all religion. I was baptized in the Orthodox Church at age six, but it did not mean anything to me at that time.
Things began to change when my brother and my cousin were invited to Sunday school at Central Baptist Church in Minsk. It was a great novelty in those days, as we never had any experience with Baptists. My brother went there and brought back a copy of the Bible as well as candy and other treats that I had never seen before in my life. Naturally, I wanted to join him. I wanted both to learn about God and to get chocolates and toys! But I was unable, because the small Sunday school classes could not hold all those who wanted to attend! I had to wait for a couple of years before I could join.
When I was finally able to go, I was deeply moved by the godliness and kindness of the teacher and the general atmosphere of love and reverence for God. However, I was a growing teenager who felt that a holy life was too difficult for me, and I wanted to give up Sunday school so that I could immerse myself in the joys of this world instead. In God’s kind providence, that never happened.
I was invited to attend a summer Christian camp. The two weeks I spent there changed everything. I finally understood what the Gospel was. I saw godly counselors who really loved the Lord and made it evident in their actions. I knew that I did not have what they had and that my faith was not real. Finally, I trusted Christ at the age of thirteen in 1996. The following year, I was baptized and became an active church member. Over time, I became involved in every area possible: visiting the elderly, singing in the choir, singing and preaching at village churches, and handing out leaflets in the street. My life was by no means perfect, but God still used it and His Word to make a strong impression on my mother. She was converted three years later. We praise Him for His grace to us and hope that other members of our family will follow us and embrace Christ.
As soon as I became a Christian, I became a fanatical Bible reader. I also read any Christian book that I could get my hands on. One year after my conversion, at the age of fourteen, I preached my first sermon. Our youth group would often travel to small villages and towns to visit other congregations. I usually participated as a preacher, a guitar player, or a singer. Sometimes I did all these things. When I was about eighteen, I became an assistant at a Bible study group for a couple of years. I was thrilled to explain the meaning of the Bible to people. I never had any doubt that my calling was in the area of preaching and teaching. I knew that I wasn’t particularly gifted as an evangelist, but when I taught, people seemed to get a better understanding of Scripture. That encouraged me a lot.
When I was twenty, I was involved in a church plant. It was a congregation of people mostly in their twenties and thirties. Young as I was, I was one of the elders. It was a time of growth, a lot of work, and a lot of learning through various mistakes. I preached one or two Sundays a month and taught a weekly Bible study in my home. My wife and I loved having people at our house. Our place was always busy with meetings and discipleship appointments.
After seven years in that church, I made a transition to the church where I currently serve. This move changed my ministry in many ways. First of all, I found myself among people who were much older than I, and because of this, I had to learn a lot of humility. I came to understand experientially that I was not the savior of the world and that I could not do everything for everybody. My circle of friends and connections grew tremendously. I learned how helpful interaction between different churches can be. I was taught a great deal from older pastors with grey hair. I saw the needs of many smaller churches – the need for encouragement, sound teaching, and trained ministers.
Since then, my ministry has taken a certain shape. I am more aware of what I can and cannot do. I am one of two pastors in our church. As a pastor, I preach about twice a month, teach a weekly Bible study, and do counseling on request. I also speak at other churches and at conferences when I am invited. By God’s grace, I am building relationships and gaining influence within a circle of pastors who are wanting to move their churches in a more biblical direction. I make it a priority to visit these smaller churches that need help. I see it as an important expression of practical love between churches when a larger church can occasionally share its resources and people with other small churches. Finally, I also have a blog on which I write articles about theological and practical issues relevant to Evangelical churches in the nations of the former USSR. Writing is a skill I would like to develop for ministry.
Another important area that God graciously opened up for me is seminary education through the help of HeartCry. As of September 2014, I am now an online student at the Reformed Theological Seminary. It is definitely a new thing for me, and I am sure it is going to demand a lot of my time and energy for the next three years or so. Thankfully, in this whole endeavor, I enjoy full support from my wife and my church. I believe the Lord will use it for my spiritual and intellectual growth. I hope it will enable me to make a lasting contribution to the work of the Gospel in Belarus and beyond.
I was born in Belarus in 1981. Our family was quite happy in the first years of my life. However, our family environment took a poor turn when my father began to drink. Suddenly, he no longer got along with my mother, and he started to spend most of our money on himself. He would often come home drunk and dirty. He would shout at us, call us names, and threaten to beat us. When he was sober, he always behaved as if nothing had ever happened. He never admitted to being an alcoholic. Our mother divorced him when I was in my teens; however, he still lived with us in the same apartment, because we had no means to move away.
The first Christian in our family was my grandmother. She was raised in a Christian home, and her father was a pastor before World War II. She only came to faith in her forties after suffering many difficulties in her family and developing a serious disease. Because of her, I began to attend Sunday school. I went to church with her for a number of years.
In 1999, our church was visited by a famous Russian evangelist. We came to hear his sermon, which was quite powerful. He presented the Gospel and urgently called unbelievers to come to Christ to receive forgiveness of sins. I had heard all of these things before, but for the first time in my life I felt convicted that I needed to make a radical decision. My mom, my sister, and I all went forward to receive Christ. We began to attend worship services and Bible studies. I gave up many of my sinful habits (especially swearing) and began to serve the Lord in whatever way I could.
I continue this service to this day, primarily as a pastor’s wife and a mother of two children. I love the church. It is like a real family to me. I hope that the Lord will use me to glorify His Name and advance His Kingdom in our country.