Tuesday, May 25, 2004

A Family Reunited In Christ

The story of Slava and Leana Moskvin (I'll have to check the spelling of their names) is even more inspiring. They reunited as husband and wife in 1999 after about a decade of separation. Masha told Jeff and I their story Sunday, and I found it so inspiring that I wanted to hear it from their perspective. Revisiting the painful times in their past clearly was difficult, but I am so glad they agreed to share their story with me and with you.

Their journey together began in 1986, a year after they met at a youth organization and began dating. But not long into their marriage, and soon after Tatyana's birth, Slava was sent to prison and divorced Leana.

By 1995, after his release from prison, Slava was seeking the truth, and he found it with the Christians in Nizhny Novgorod. As he studied the Bible, Slava realized that he had been wrong to divorce Leana because God allows divorce only for adultery and that was not the reason for his divorce. "Our separate life was not right," he said. But because he was involved with another woman at the time, he did not immediately repent.

"I had to change my lifestyle that I was accustomed to," Slava said. "Then I was coming back and going forward from this lifestyle because theory and practice are two different things."

After two years of soul searching, he ultimately decided that his only option, if he were to be pleasing to God, was to reunite with Leana or have no other relationship with a woman. He credited the brothers and sisters in Nizhny with their patience and support in helping him accept the truth.

His acceptance of God's teaching was just the first step, however. Slava and Leana divorced when Tatyana was only three months old, and Leana moved to Voronezh, which is near Ukraine and about seven hours by train from Nizhny. Slava had contacted after his release from prison and before he became a Christian, but he never visited Leana or Tatyana and soon changed. She decided then that she did not want to meet with him or get any more letters.

After Slava became a Christian and decided to try again to reconcile with Leana, he wrote to her regularly. The women in the church at Pavlovo also wrote to say that Slava was a changed man. "When I was getting all these letters ... I thought that it was weird," Leana said, adding that she thought maybe Slava had joined a cult engaged in some bizarre kind of fornication.

But Slava was persistent, and because Tatyana wanted to meet her father, Leana contacted Slava when she was headed to a seminar in Moscow. She agreed to stop in Nizhny for a visit and let Tatyana meet Slava and Slava's parents, who also live in Nizhny. Charles and Kay Gant, the Americans who started the work in Nizhny, provided a place for Leana and Tatyana to stay, and several of the other brethren made a point of visiting. "Having spent some time with them, I could realize these were quite normal people," Leana said.

The decision to reunite took another two weeks, however. "I liked Christians, but I was still far from getting married," Leanna said. "You can thank Tanya for that because she always wanted a father, and you can thank the Lord because He changed Slava and I could see that he had changed."

Slava and Leana renewed their vows informally before the brethren July 22, 1999, and they made their marriage formal before men by registering in Russia a year later.

Leana did not become a Christ until three months later. She read the Bible from start to end, asking Slava questions when she was confused. But she emphasized that most of the Bible is easy to understand. She even attended classes at the church in Pavlovo. During one car trip to Pavlovo with some of the Christians in Nizhny, she decided to be baptized. "I remember thinking, 'I am quite a good person ... but if we have an accident ... they will be saved and I will be lost."

Slava baptized Leana Oct. 22, and Tatyana became a Christian Dec. 3.

"Slava is the greatest example to me," Masha said when telling his story. She recalled a time when Slava spoke to the congregation and Kay Gant told him that one day he would deliver a great sermon. Masha was doubtful then but no more. "Five years have passed, and he has delivered a great sermon."


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