Feature

A Beautiful Brother

“Don’t touch him—he’s mine!” said the Lord

By Anonymous

One of my greatest joys in being an Alliance international worker in Russia has been in visiting various orphanages with members of one of our partner denominations, the Evangelical Christian and Missionary Union (ECMU). As the teams interact with the children, sometimes it’s difficult to tell who is ministering to whom. Though initially cautious about our work, the directors and staff of these homes usually warm up when they see our love for the children.

For quite a while, we haven’t been allowed to visit or send ministry teams to an orphanage where we used to be welcomed. Its new director tells us that we can bring gifts but cannot come in; however, when we sent Christmas gifts we found out that they weren’t given to the residents. Nonetheless, through some kindhearted workers on days when the director isn’t around, we can sometimes meet with a resident named Vadim just outside the gates.

Not everyone in Russia’s system of state-run homes is a child. Vadim, now 42, has lived in the orphanage since he was three years old. He was a healthy child until he fell on his neck from a swing at a playground. When it was clear the boy’s injury was permanent, his father abandoned the family. As a result, Vadim’s mother had a stroke, which left her confined to a wheelchair. Since she could no longer care for him, Vadim was committed to the state-run home. When he arrived, his mother stayed with him for a week and then came again for a shorter visit. He hasn’t seen her since. To this day he has no idea if she is still living or, if not, where she is buried. He never heard from his father again. 

Vadim did not learn to read or write. In fact, on the basis of his appearance, his gait and especially his difficulty talking, most of his caregivers assumed he had no intelligence. One even told him he wasn’t smart enough to sit in a common room used by some of the higher functioning residents.

Andrei, a member of a local church, drove us to the meeting he had set up with Vadim. Although it was around 95 degrees, Vadim was sitting on a bench under a tree, eagerly awaiting our arrival. Andrei has spent much time with Vadim and can understand his speech better than most. He explained that he would be “interpreting” for me, which made Vadim laugh.

“I’d like to tell you how I met the Lord,” Vadim said. One day in 1987 Vadim had a dream that changed his life. In it, he was in a long corridor filled with smoke and didn’t know where to go. The devil tried to take Vadim away with him. But then the Lord appeared and said to the devil, “Don’t touch him—he’s mine!” Then the Lord took Vadim by the hand and showed him where he was to go.  

Later, Vadim heard the Lord telling him to ask for a Bible from a certain medic who worked in the orphanage. The next day, when no one was around, Vadim asked her, “Do you have a Bible for me?”

“Why do you want a Bible? You can’t read.”

“The Lord told me to ask you for a Bible, so I’m asking you,” he responded.

She later brought him a pile of newspapers with a Bible tucked inside and asked him not to tell anyone she had gotten it for him. Because the country was still under Communist rule, she was afraid to let others at the home know she was a Christian.

When he was alone, he looked inside the Bible but couldn’t read a word. The letters meant nothing to him; they might as well have been Chinese characters.

“Why did you tell me to ask for a Bible if I can’t read?” he asked God. For several weeks, Vadim prayed and prayed and kept opening the Bible to see if anything had changed. Then one day something happened; he started sounding out the letters, and before he knew it, he was reading and understanding the words. It was a miracle.

Andrei asked Vadim if he’d ever left the orphanage. He told us that, once, one of the caregivers took him home for a short visit. And a former staff member who had befriended Vadim came to visit and “stole” him for a day without permission. She took him to her home 30 or 40 kilometers away to spend some time with her family. When he said the word “stole,” he laughed and laughed. It obviously tickled him to think that he was worthy of being stolen away for a day by someone who wanted to spend time with him.

Vadim told us he is able to communicate with the outside world through a cell phone he bought with money from his government pension. Also, friends from the visiting ministry teams gave him a laptop computer so he can use the Internet and a cassette player and Christian tapes that he listens to and shares with other residents.

I told Vadim that one reason we wanted to meet him was to deliver a card from a group in California that’s been praying for him. I showed him the notes and signatures, as well as the translation we had written out for him. When I asked Vadim if there was anything he wanted the group to pray about, his first request related to his future. A Christian man, who has known Vadim for years, has begun the process of assuming guardianship of him. This possibility has given Vadim hope. He asked for prayer that it could actually happen, that he could finally live in a home with a family that loves him.

His second prayer request concerned a couple of girls at the orphanage who are his friends; they care for each other like family. If he left, it would be very hard on them. Another girl makes fun of Vadim for being a Christian and is only kind to him when she needs something. Also, he would like to be baptized but can’t get permission to leave the grounds.

I told Vadim that people love him and pray for him and asked him not to give up hope. I reminded him of the words of Ephesians 3:20: “[God] is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us.” We prayed with him in the shade of the tree, just outside the gates of the home that isn’t a real home and tried to give him hope. It was time to leave, but we had to keep moving toward the car in stages, because Vadim clearly didn’t want us to go. We hugged him good-bye, and as we drove away he waved until we were out of sight.

It is hard to express, but from the moment we met Vadim, it was clear that this was a divine appointment and the story we were hearing was sacred. We had a glimpse into the heart of a beautiful brother in Christ. If our paths never cross again on this earth, we will meet again one day and hear his story told in full with no interpreter needed.

And Vadim will know in full the Lord that he met one mysterious day in a dream.

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