by Kostya*, a Frontier Fellowship ministry friend in Central Asia
When I was 5 years old, my dad died. A week later, my mom got married to another man, and I went to live with my grandmother. She was one of the ‘old believers’—Russian Orthodox. Our home was full of Orthodox icons. She taught me all of the commandments, including “you shall not make any images or bow down to them” (Exodus 20:4-5), which confused me and caused me to fear the icons.
When I was 12, my great-grandmother died and I attended a Pentecostal church service for the first time. I had been to the church before, because they gave out gifts to children around the Christmas and Easter holidays. I used to count the days until I could go and receive these gifts. But one day, I saw the pastor anointing people with oil to pray for them, and was scared when I saw people falling down in worship. I stopped going to church altogether—I stopped believing in anything.
A few years later, I decided to have nothing to do with Christianity. I began searching online and found an Islamic school that taught in Russian, based in Saudi Arabia. I secured the necessary documents and enrolled. Soon, I was learning all about the Quran. The Islamic holy book was interesting to me—the rules, what’s allowed, what’s forbidden. I worked hard to learn all the rules, and I read the Quran front to back. The teachers were pleased with my work, especially when I wrote a sermon after taking a course on preaching.
For two years, I studied at home, but in the third year of my studies I had to go to the mosque. As the only blonde-haired, Russian person in the mosque, I felt out of place. Months went by with people telling me, “You must receive Islam.”
I grew tired of saying ‘no’ and was very close to accepting Islam, but that very night I had a bad dream. In the dream, I saw myself standing beside the mosque dressed in all black. I woke up terrified and I changed my mind about becoming a Muslim. I still completed my four-year theological course on Islam, but for the time being I remained indifferent to religion.
I had a clear opinion about Christianity and thought nobody would change my mind about it. My studies of Islam led me to believe that Christianity was untrue. A year later, I met Almaz. He hired me to cook for a Christian youth summer camp, but didn’t talk to me about God at first. Following the camp, Almaz invited me to hike into the mountains with him and some of the youth. We filled our time with talking. I argued with Almaz about God, Jesus and death. Despite my debating, the words Almaz shared sank deep into my heart. When our group arrived at the mountaintop, I saw the other youth who believed in Jesus. They came and told me they would pray for me.
By the time we had hiked down the mountain, I had decided. I didn’t know what I had to do, but I knew that I wanted to believe in Jesus! Almaz’ friendship helped me see God—and Christianity—in a new way, and I knew I wanted to be a part of it. A month later, I lost my job, and Almaz offered me a position as an administrator of the Christian academic center that he facilitates. What I didn’t know at the time, was that this would be the place that fostered my love of working with youth and young adults in ministry!
Join us in praying for Kostya, and others like him around the globe, who are learning about Jesus and choosing to follow him in often challenging contexts. He now wants to become a youth pastor, and is particularly interested in sharing the Good News of Jesus with Muslims. He is still the administrator of the academic center in Central Asia, where more than 50 young people are studying languages in a Christian environment.
*name changed for security