I had a very happy childhood with loving parents while growing up in Russia. My parents were giving people and I never went without anything. Russia at the time was a part of the Soviet Unio- a large, atheist society that didn’t allow for the teaching of God in the school or at home. In fact, my father was a member of the Communist Party and could have faced serious ramifications if he had been known to talk of God in the home. The schools taught us that we were all basically good people who through self-sufficiency could achieve anything, as long as we put our mind to it and worked hard.
I remember wondering as a youth if there was a God. I even remember praying at times when I was scared or felt I needed help. I had questions about life and what happens after you die, but had no real answers. It might sound strange, but I had a fear of God, even though I didn’t really know Him.
As I grew older, I became interested in philosophy and started to collect books that offered thoughts about the meaning of life. I discussed the subject with friends, and I remember one time even asking a friend what her thoughts about the afterlife were. What actually happens when we pass on? Of course it was just talk, because we didn’t really know. I felt alone and wondered if everyone must feel the same way. I had friends, my studies, athletics, hobbies, a job, and eventually a marriage, but yet I still felt a sense of loneliness in my heart.
I began attending the Orthodox Church in Russia, as it was starting to become popular after the Soviet Union dissolved. I quickly began adopting the works practiced there, such as lighting a candle or reading a prayer assigned to a particular icon. I didn’t even understand the language being spoken during the Orthodox service, but followed along as people would cross their hearts and stand in line for oil to be placed on our foreheads and to kiss the hands of the priests. Looking back, I know I wasn’t there to worship God, but to make myself feel better. Not once can I remember an Orthodox priest ever preaching from the Bible.
I thought marriage would fill the void in my heart, but it did not take long to realize that this was not the answer I was seeking. No matter what happened in my life, I just grew more and more miserable. However, the good news is that my life changed the first time I heard the gospel of Jesus Christ. It happened in June 2006, when I first attended services at Bible Baptist Church in Grand Forks, North Dakota. The Pastor was preaching from I John, and I can say without a doubt that God was speaking to my heart when he read from I John 1:10. “If we say that we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us.”
I thought I was a good person. I justified myself by the world’s system of philosophy. I never knew what God said in His Word. It truly was like a veil had been lifted from my eyes. For the first time in my life, I realized that I was guilty before God. I realized that I was a sinner. I wasn’t a good person, but someone who violated all God’s commandments. I knew that I could never pay for my sins through the rehearsed works of a church or through my own undertakings. I needed Jesus Christ. I asked God to forgive me for everything I had done, and I became saved.
What happened after my salvation was truly incredible. I began to develop a hunger for the Word of God. I began to confront challenges by leaning on my Lord and letting Him guide me through difficult times. I learned to identify my failings,and through Bible teaching, prayer, and faith in God, I learned to deal with them. It is a day-to-day journey and, of course, there are challenges from time to time, but it has been so rewarding to know Christ as Saviour.
All of the things I’ve mentioned prior, whether it be church, friends, family, books, education, or government didn’t matter in the end. None of those things could save me. Only Jesus Christ could save me, and He did. I was lonely no more. The vacuum in my heart was finally filled.