Slava is a pastor of a Baptist church and the director of Gospel and Reformation, a ministry that translates and publishes sound theological resources into Russian. HeartCry began supporting Slava in November 2011. Belarus is a “restricted” nation concerning the Gospel and church planting. As a result, the church in Belarus faces many obstacles.
TESTIMONY OF CONVERSION
Iwas born in the Soviet Union in 1977. My family was atheistic, just as nearly every other family in the U.S.S.R. during that time. God, especially Jesus Christ, was never a subject of our family conversations. In school, we were taught that all religion was worthless.
The religious life of my country, Belarus, began to change in 1989, when the church was granted freedom to evangelize in the streets. My father was invited to an evangelistic meeting in a Baptist church in 1990 and began to attend regularly. Church-going was something very unusual for us. It seemed unbelievable that our dad would get up early on Sunday morning and head off to attend church.
After some time, he invited me to go with him, and I had no reason to refuse. I was curious. I was struck by everything that I saw in what they called the “prayer house” – a small wooden cottage with one square room and benches without backs. I had never seen people praying before, and it was hard for me to believe that they were serious when they closed their eyes and bowed their heads. During the singing, an elderly lady shared her hymn book with me so that I could read along. The preaching was a mixture of things that were absolutely unintelligible to me and things that were very clear and interesting. I liked it. I began to attend the church regularly for several Sundays; but eventually, I stopped going.
After a time, I was invited to the midweek youth meeting. I made friends and decided to stay. One day – I believe it was Easter – I was listening to a sermon and suddenly realized that I had been thinking differently for some time. I had no doubt that God was real. I was sure that Jesus was not a myth, but a real historical person. Moreover, I believed that Jesus was God and held a claim to my life. I began to ask myself, “Can I live as before? Can I live without God and without Christ?” I realized that my life belonged to Christ. On that Easter day in 1992, I became a believer. On June 13 of the same year, I was baptized.
The beginning of my spiritual life was quite intense in many respects: Christian fellowship, the study of Scripture and Christian literature, and a focus on regular prayer and Bible reading. Since then, these spiritual changes have continued in my life.
CALL TO MINISTRY
Iwas converted in 1992, and from the start I was involved in Christian ministry.
When I was in my last year of high school, I organized a Bible study in the school. For the whole year, we studied the Gospel of Mark in a group of six to eight people. As a result of this Bible study, my future wife Anya came to faith.
When I entered the university, I continued with a student outreach. My methodology did not change. We studied different parts of the New Testament for two years, and one of my classmates was converted. From the very beginning of my spiritual life, my heart’s desire has been to bring the Gospel to those around me.
While I was in the university, I became involved in both oral and written translation work from English into Russian. In the late 1990’s, we still had relative religious freedom, and almost every month we had a Western speaker in our church. I was fluent in English, and I was happy to interpret for foreign preachers; but I also translated books. In 1995, with the help of my wife, I translated my first two books – Seeking God’s Will by Sinclair Ferguson and The Basics of Christian Faith by Roger Weil. At that time, Bill Patton, the founder of the ministry “Grace to Russia,” came to Minsk from California and invited me to participate in literature ministry. Grace to Russia translated, published, and distributed literature free of charge among Russian-speaking pastors. My wife and I worked with Bill from 1996 until 2002. In these seven great years, we produced about fifty books, including the six volume set of the Treasury of David by C.H. Spurgeon and seven volumes of J.C. Ryle’s Expository Thoughts on the Gospels.
In 1994, I preached my first sermon. In 1998, I became the second pastor in our church and started to preach regularly – every Sunday morning – and to lead a mid-week Bible study group. By God’s grace, I have continued in this capacity to this day.
In the university, I studied physics, yet all along I tried to educate myself in theology. I graduated in 1999, and in 2000, Grace to Russia kindly and generously offered me the possibility of receiving formal theological training at Reformed Theological Seminary in the United States. I accepted the offer eagerly, and in 2004, I received my master's degree in theology.
In 2003, I began a new partnership with a British Christian publisher, Evangelical Press, which led to the establishment of the Gospel and Reformation publishing house in Minsk. Our work is very similar to what we did with Grace to Russia. We continue to translate and publish Reformed titles, but now we put a price on them. It was great to distribute free books in the 1990’s, when pastors had very little money, but the time came when it was more appropriate to sell the books. Having experience with both free distribution and sales, I can testify that when a person pays for a book (even a minimum price), he values it more than when he gets it completely free.
Looking back over the past twenty years, I can see the hand of the Lord in everything in my life. There is nothing accidental. The various parts of my life and ministry have come together under God’s hand. As a teenager, I played chess professionally, and I am fond of using a chess metaphor with respect to the divine providence in my life. The Lord is like a Grandmaster, who moves pieces of my life with precision, purpose, and power. If I were to choose myself what should happen in my life, I would not come even close to the wisdom of my Lord and Savior in arranging everything according to his design.
THE PRESENT AND THE FUTURE
There is a dream which drives much of what I do: I want to be instrumental in starting a Bible-based seminary in my country. The nearest Bible-based seminaries are in Russia (Samara) and Ukraine (Kiev), both of which are hundreds of miles away from the churches in Belarus and our ministers who need training. A young man from our own church is currently studying in the seminary in Kiev and must travel 800 miles (round-trip) every month.
It is for this reason that I am doing doctoral studies at the Highland Theological College in Scotland. I am not just seeking to fulfill my own ambitions, but to be qualified to begin the seminary. I am grateful to HeartCry for providing the support to cover my study fees.
Our publishing work/ministry is another part in fulfilling this dream. A seminary needs good theological books, and this is what we are aiming to produce. Many good titles have been translated and published in partnership with Grace to Russia and Evangelical Press. Even more books are waiting to be introduced to Russian readers.