Feature

Higher Ground

The Master takes control

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As a child I used to look into the heavens and ask myself, “What’s way, way out there?” But it was hard to believe in God because of Darwin’s theory and the “bright communist future.”

I arrived in this world as an illegitimate child in 1957 in Lower Prong in the Habarovsk state. The little village is located at the very mouth of the Amur River. In clear weather, you can see Sakhalin Island.

I was two years old when my parents moved to the Rostov Oblast and got married. When I was seven I started school like everyone else. Later I entered the Harkovskaya Institute for military aviation. During this time I went through all the stages of atheism—from a young Communist “pioneer” all the way to party member.

During my years in the air force, I mastered six types of aircraft, including the high-altitude interceptor MIG-25 and the highly maneuverable Su-27. It seemed to me that I’d reached the maximum in my life: I regularly flew at altitudes high enough to see the curve of the earth and the purple light of the upper atmosphere; I saw stars in the daytime and the border between night and day. I was a “master pilot” of some of the world’s best aircraft.

Losing Altitude

Everything changed in 1991 when my wife, our daughter and I were in a serious automobile accident. By some miracle we survived, but my flying career was over. As a 35-year-old major I was all washed up, with three children, no marketable profession and a small pension. Worst of all, I had no definite goal in life. From those great altitudes my life had fallen into an abyss.

However, one day while traveling to the wedding of my cousin, I began to talk with her father. He said something quite strange. “No matter what you are doing or are trying to do, ask God for help and He will absolutely help you.”

Shortly after this I came across a book that compared the theories of Creation and evolution, and Darwinism was debunked for me. From that time I began to seek God. I bought a Bible and began to read. I had many questions, but I couldn’t find answers. And so things continued from 1992 until 2000.

Things had been getting steadily worse for me, and in the periods between getting drunk, getting into fights and talks of divorce with my wife, I again and again returned to the Bible trying, with my own intellectual abilities, to understand, but I really wasn’t getting anywhere. The Holy Scriptures were closed to me. The periods of “normalcy” grew shorter as I fell faster and faster into what seemed to be unavoidable destruction. Everything ahead looked empty.

Walking on Air

On September 3, 2000, my wife came home full of joy. She had been with a friend at the service of an Evangelical Christian Missionary Union church (sister denomination to the C&MA in Russia), where she had met God and repented of her sins. She and her friend began to tell me about Jesus Christ and what His purpose had been on earth. In a week I read the whole New Testament. More than once my face became red with embarrassment as I thought about what the Bible said about my sin.

The next Sunday, I went with my wife and her friend to church, and even though I was skeptical, I really was ready to give up my old life. When I heard the praise songs, I felt goose bumps on my arms and I was choked with emotion. When the preacher asked if there were any in the congregation who wanted to receive Christ, I went forward. “Forgive me!” I begged God. I couldn’t help crying and in my head two thoughts were at war: Why are you, a major in the air force reserves, standing up here in front of people crying? And the other thought was, Don’t be afraid; I’m with you.

From that instant my life changed. I no longer simply walked—I walked on air. God had given me peace in my soul.

Not long after this I was lying on the couch thinking about the Bible and suddenly I “saw from above” the military base where I was living. As I watched I flew still higher and could see the whole city below and then my state and then the whole earth as it hung in space. It seemed it was all an arm’s length away, but the view was from outer space. I then heard a voice that couldn’t be confused with any other. The Lord asked me, “Do you see yourself down there?”

“No, Lord,” I answered. “Do you see any of the things you’ve done or deserved?” “No, Lord,” I answered again. “But do you see how high I’ve lifted you up?” “Yes, Lord!”

In fact, God has lifted me to such heights that now I look at my past accomplishments and abilities, and they seem so far away that I am indifferent toward them. I have come to love the Lord Jesus Christ with all my heart and soul, and now I follow Him. I now have direction in life. It is the guiding star, Jesus Christ. My wife and two of my children were baptized with me. In 2002 I heard God’s call to serve Him as a church planter in the city of Slavansk-on-Kuban. To this very day we feel God’s hands and His leading, which gives us the strength to complete this mission He has given us—to help fulfill His Great Commission. To that end, I am studying at Kuban Evangelical Christian University in Krasnodar.

A Real Man

Soon after I came to God in repentance, Christians congratulated me and rejoiced with me, and many cried with me. One person said, “You have to be a real man to do this.” And, really, that’s true. To curse at or hit someone is the easy way to deal with conflict, and a lot of men think it proves you’re a man. I once thought that way. But, in fact, to publicly admit that you’re wrong and to ask forgiveness, to suffer humiliation and be modest—those are things only a real man could do. Jesus was such a man.

Real men don’t offend women, especially not their wives or children. Real men love their families and their homes and their countries. God is the one who has created all things, visible and invisible, and gave me the gift of love. So now I’m learning to really love my wife (the way I related to her before could hardly have been called love), my children and my neighbors. I am significant in God’s eyes, and I try to do the things that please Him. I’m confident in the future, and this confidence gives me the power to live and serve.

What would have happened if God had not found me? It hurts me to look at the lives of those I served with in the military. Many have lost their direction and any purpose at all for living, so they drink. Some who are younger than me look much older. I’m not better than they are at all, and I was a lot worse than many of them, but God found me and pulled me out of the swamp, put me on a firm foundation and gave me eternal life. Now my life is a testimony to the verse in Joshua, “But as for me and my household, we will serve the LORD” (24:15).

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