Pastor - Siberia
Andrey is a graduate of the Samara Center for Biblical Training. He pastors a young church in Siberia which he helped establish in 2008. Andrey is a man who has been radically transformed by the grace and power of Christ. He is committed to being a godly husband and father as well as shepherding the people of God.
Testimony of Conversion
My name is Andrey G. and I am 40 years old. I was born in 1972 into a working class family. Before I was born my father had already been in prison twice because of theft and drug use. The most vivid impressions I have from childhood are the beatings of my mother by my raging, drunk father, many tears, fear, and longings for a happy family. I remember that in our house the criminal lifestyle was glorified and looked up to. After eighth grade I started hanging out with kids on the street, looking for meaning and belonging in life. By the time I was sixteen I was sent to a prison for juvenile offenders. There I started to dream of being a crime boss. I started to gather around me a group of like-minded young men whom I could organize for criminal activity and to defend ourselves against other criminals.
After the juvenile prison I had another three prison sentences. I developed a very strong addiction to drugs and narcotics. To experience the next high I more than once betrayed the people who were closest to me. I lived as though I were the only person who mattered on the earth. In that condition I was sent for the last time to prison for drug use. Of course, at that time I was too blind to see the abyss of death that lay before me, but my meaningless and hopeless existence began to terrify me. All my plans had been dashed. I was alone and helpless.
My problems were aggravated after I began meeting with a Baptist pastor who would regularly visit the prison. I thought I could use these meetings for my own selfish purposes (to alleviate my loneliness, etc.), but it was through these meetings that I started hearing the gospel about the holy, merciful, loving person of the Lord Jesus Christ. This affected me deeply. I began to see my depraved, desperate spiritual condition. Despite my tough veneer, inside everything was corrupt.
I always remember that there was something about that pastor that drew me to him. He had a beauty in his dedication, genuineness, and selflessness. These were qualities that I had never seen before.
One day, still without the proper motivations and desires, I repeated a prayer of repentance. As I look back at that, I marvel at the mercy of the Lord. He did not neglect me, but he used all of my evil to bring good to me and glory to Him. After I prayed this prayer, I told everyone that I had become a Christian, and I began to do the outward behavior that a Christian should do. I quit smoking. I started reading a Bible which was given to me. But the more I focused on outward appearances, the further I ignored the need for true regeneration which only God can give. Yet by God’s grace, I began to realize that being a Christian was more than just quitting smoking and reading the Bible. I eventually saw that in my own strength I was incapable of overcoming my sinful desires, my fear of man, or my fear of God’s eventual judgment. I feared death. I was embarrassed to be around other Christians, fearing my hypocrisy would be exposed.
One evening while still in prison, I punched another inmate for laughing at me. I realized at that time I had no true Christianity. I withdrew to my cell shattered, but thoughts about Jesus flooded my mind. I began to reflect upon the Jesus I had heard about from the pastor, and from my reading of Scripture. I saw the great contrast between His life and mine. I saw the great reason for His death on the cross. I kept thinking that what Jesus did on the cross could not be applied to me. But the thought kept returning that what happened to Christ on the cross was indeed for me! He died for me! I fell asleep with this thought pounding in my mind.
When I woke up the next morning I was a new man. I had great joy and the deep conviction that what happened to Christ on the cross was for my own salvation. It seemed that my joy had no end. I had a very clear realization that now I was in the hand of God the Son. I had a strong sense of freedom from sin and fear of man–even though I was behind bars.
My life then truly changed, from the inside. I began persistently talking to the other inmates about the gospel. News about my conversion spread throughout the prison and people started to say that I had lost my mind. I began to meet with two other inmates who also had become Christians. Nothing brought me greater joy than to pray, read the Bible, fellowship with these other believers, and testify about the forgiveness of Christ.
Today, now that I have been out of prison for a good number of years, these very things are what I now spend most of my time doing. My life has changed completely. Christ, His truth, and His will have become the center of my life. Today I think about his glory. It is not that I never struggle with doubts. But I can say confidently that to this day these doubts have never once overcame my faith. This is because I believe that on the night in prison when I fell asleep with that dominating thought of Christ’s death, filled with tears from pain and the sense of my own insignificance, God by grace granted me saving faith in the righteousness of Christ and his substitutionary death for me. To God be the glory!
Calling to & Description of Ministry
I very much believe that God called me to the ministry at the time he saved me. The most joyful and satisfying things I did after my conversion were witnessing about the person of Christ and sharing the gospel, and then later, preaching God’s Word. I started testifying and calling sinners to faith and repentance back in prison and I tried to do it everywhere. Not only did this bring me joy, but I also felt a great responsibility before God to give to others the great treasure that I saw and received in Christ.
After I was released from prison I started to witness about Jesus to my old friends and family. In the Baptist church that I started attending there was a growing ministry to prisoners and drug addicts, and after I was baptized some men from that ministry invited me to start a rehabilitation center. I agreed without a lot of careful consideration about my lack of preparation for ministry and without taking counsel from wise ministers. Today, if I were to find myself in the same situation, I would decline such an invitation to ministry. But at that time I agreed – and I learned everything along the way the hard way. I read, listened, memorized. I tried to apply to myself all the lessons that I was also trying to pass on to others who came through my ministry.
Eight years went by of preaching God’s grace to drug addicts in the rehab center. During this time I also got married, the Lord blessed us with two children, and participated in the start of a new Baptist church, where I began to preach on Sundays.
One thing that played a significant part in shaping my ministry and my family was the training I received at Samara Center for Biblical Training. This training truly was a shock to my soul. The method of teaching changed the way I viewed the Word of God and opened up to me the greatness of God’s character. I saw my own sinfulness and the preciousness of Jesus in new ways. This training had a large influence on my own character, the goals and plans of my family, and my ministry.
With time I came to realize that the best use of my energies and giftedness was not in the rehab center, but solely in the one institution through which God calls sinners to salvation – His Church. Because of this, I–along with a group of several other men–began organizing a new church four years ago, where I would dedicate myself fully to the ministry. We began with just six people, but now, as of summer of 2012, we have 18 members and seven more are in process of begin formally accepted into fellowship. Moreover, after three years of prayer and testing, our small group decided it was time to ordain myself along with another minister, Sergey Petlin, as pastors.
Today my main ministries in the church are expository preaching on Sunday, teaching theology to the church members, counseling church members, and leading the music ministry. The things which constantly convince me to continue doing what I do are: 1) my desire–I do these ministries with joy and without a sense of burden or obligation; 2) I believe that the ministry of being a shepherd over God’s church is the greatest privilege and at the same time the greatest responsibility; 3) ministry is itself the engine that drives my own longing for sanctification.
I am very grateful to God for my wife who fully supports my convictions and strives with me to glorify God in our marriage and ministry. I believe that my successful ministry to the Lord will bring joy to my Savior and Lord Jesus Christ. I could not ask for greater joy. And all this is only because of His grace to me. May His name be glorified!