Bringing Light into Hard Lives
My husband Andrey, my daughter Samantha, and I experienced another amazing Medical Missionary (MM) school in Russia. Just like the last time, all of us, students, teachers, cooks, and the house residents, lived in a large two-story house owned by Ivan and Irina Galagyov, with their two teenage sons. The family and staff participate in outreach programs and work with their online health food store and in the health food store that they opened in July 2015 in a nearby city.
During the beginning of our stay in Russia, my husband was the translator for Daniel Garcia, the founder of Woodland Health Retreat in Portugal. Ivan invited him to conduct a four-day health seminar in his home. The last time we were in Russia I made friends with a few families in the Galagyovs’ neighborhood. One family is into new age theology and another family is Russian Orthodox. I invited them to Garcia’s meetings and they came! Even though he spoke about God and His word, the mother of the new age family, Anastacia, said she enjoyed the meetings very much.
Kristina, the teenage daughter from the Russian Orthodox family invited me to their house for tea. The new age family went with me because they are good friends. There was another young lady visiting their house. She is a Hare Krishna. Kristina is an athlete and has anemia. Her father began asking me many health questions and I explained the vegan diet and its health benefits. Kristina said her track coach told her she especially needed meat for her anemia. Her father looked at her and told her she should give the vegan diet a chance. Then I began answering questions about my life to the Hare Krishnas. When I shared that my parents were hippies, she was very intrigued because the Hare Krishna religion began during the hippie movement. This led to her asking me how I became a Christian. Everyone in the room heard this question and stopped talking to listen. I’m thankful for the testimony God has given me to share how He led me to Him. At the end of the story, they said it was better than watching a movie. Glory to God!
Allow me to highlight a few of our medical missionary students. Their testimonies are so moving because each one has the common threads of atheism, alcoholism, and a hard life as a result of the conditions in Russia that were created by the Communist regime.
Svita is a beautiful soul and she impressed me with her deep love for God and others and her kindness was sweet like honey. She grew up in Ukraine and is married to a pastor who wants her to teach his church members about medical missionary work and to conduct health seminars in their church. She grew up under Communism and declared herself an atheist in college. But God knows how to penetrate a hardened heart. Random people would approach her to witness about Jesus and her heart began to soften and she wanted to know more. Soon after Communism fell, she desired to own her first Bible and asked her friend to go with her to buy one. When they arrived at the bookstore, her friend became nervous and backed out. Svita was confused. She wanted to go in but not by herself. She circled the bookstore a few times but intimidation overwhelmed her and she went home without a Bible.
Soon after this incident she saw a poster heralding the news of upcoming evangelistic meetings, the first of their kind ever to be held in Ukraine. And the poster said if participants went to every meeting they would receive a Bible at the end. Oh, how she wanted to go! She wanted that Bible! But the meetings were in the evening and that is when she worked. She was so disappointed. She knew her boss wouldn’t allow her to take off from work to go these meetings. At work she couldn’t get her mind off the meetings. Then she made a decision, she would sneak away from work to the meeting, hoping no one would notice she was gone. And you know what? She was able to sneak away for every meeting, and no one ever noticed she was gone. I wouldn’t say that was the right thing to do, but I am grateful for a loving and merciful God who understands every situation and every heart.
At the last meeting, participants were invited to be baptized. Without hesitation Svita went up and was baptized into the Seventh-day Adventist church. Those who had been baptized then formed a line to shake the hand of the evangelist. When Svita reached him he exclaimed heartedly, “Slave Bogu!” (praise God) and handed her a Bible.
Maria is hard-working, always cheerful, and gives tight hugs, expressing her love for everyone. She grew up with several siblings and alcoholic parents. The situation became so bad in the home the authorities put the children in an orphanage where they remained until they could make it on their own. Maria suffered abuse in two marriages, both husbands were alcoholics, one died and one went to jail. Life was very hard as a single mom. Back then the Russian government gave very little help. Maria’s sister had given her life to Christ and was baptized into the Seventh-day Adventist church. She called Maria to witness to her about Jesus and it didn’t take long for Maria to give her heart to Jesus and also become an Adventist. She now lives with her son and his wife and two daughters in a two-bedroom apartment, a common living situation in Russia, at least she is able to provide her kids with good and comfortable mattresses. They are not Christians. She brought her two granddaughters with her to the MM school and they attended all the worship services. I saw that they love their grandmother very much. Maria has an amazing non-condemning love and acceptance for them. It’s very possible this grandmother’s influence will lead them to the cross.
Marina is very personable and warm. She became an Adventist when she was married. Her husband was an alcoholic and he abused her and their children. When she tried to protect their children he would double his abusive wrath upon her and refused to allow her to go to church. He then died but that also made life very difficult for Marina and her children. They didn’t have money and became homeless. Once the children grew up they became atheists. Marina managed to find church members to live with. She heard about Ivan and his MM work. Last year she called him and asked if she could visit his home for a few days to learn from him. He gladly invited her to come. To this day she lives in his home and works for him in their online health food store. She loved being a student in our school. She said she is very content with her life right now and praises God for bringing her to the Galagyovs.
I ask you to please pray for the Galagyovs, their coworkers, and the precious students in Russia. Isn’t it always wonderful to learn of another part of the world where the Three Angels’ Messages are being proclaimed? Jesus is coming so soon.
By Amy Pershin.