Monday, May 24, 2004

From Atheism And Cynicism To Christianity

After a brief nap on the train from Moscow to Nizhny on Saturday, Jeff, Masha and I talked at length about politics, culture and, of course, religion in Russia. (Tom didn't get as much sleep the night before, so he slept throughout most of the train trip.) The seven-hour trip passed quickly because we really enjoyed our conversation. I loved hearing about the things our countries have in common and the ways we differ. But I especially enjoyed hearing more about Tom and Masha and how they came to be Christians. Here's the scoop:

Masha's parents were both atheists. Her father left the family when she was 10 and her brother was 13. Both of Masha's parents were atheists, but she was exposed to religion by her great-grandmother at a young age. As young as age 7 or 8, Masha noticed when her great-grandmother, a member of the Russian Orthodox church, would pray and cross her pillows at night. Those traditions had an impact on Masha. Not until she was in college and trying to learn English in the mid-1990s, however, did Masha, who is 28 now, begin really hearing about the Bible. She learned from Charles Gant, who started the gospel work here, and eventually was baptized.

Tom and Masha met at a nightclub. Tom's band, which played a mix of rock and bluegrass, was apparently quite popular back then and even won a festival competition in Germany. Tom was quite familiar with the Bible before he met Masha but, as Masha said, was quite cynical. He had visited Pentecostal churches and others in Russia and was convinced that you could never find the church of the Bible on the earth today. He agreed to attend services with her but definitely had low expectations. Now he's a gospel preacher.

Two souls are on a completely different track than they were less than a decade ago, and the kingdom of God is benefiting by their commitment to faithful service. I am grateful to be a part of that work, if only briefly.


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