Pastor / Translator - Belarus
Slava is a pastor of a Baptist church and the director of Gospel and Reformation, a ministry that translates and publishes sound theological resources into Russian. HeartCry began supporting Slava in November of 2011. Belarus is a ‘restricted’ nation concerning the gospel and church planting. As a result the church there faces many obstacles.
Testimony of Conversion
I was born in the Soviet Union in 1977. My family was atheistic, just as every other family during that time. God, especially Jesus Christ, was never a subject of our family conversations. In school we were taught that all religion was worthless.
Religious life of my country, Belarus, began to change in 1989 when the church was granted freedom to evangelize in the streets. My father was invited to an evangelistic meeting in a Baptist church in 1990 and began regularly to attend this church. Church going was something very unusual for us. It was unbelievable that my dad got up early on Sunday morning and by 8 am he disappeared to be on-time for the service at 9 am. After some time he invited me to go with him and I had no reason to refuse. I was curious. I was struck by everything I saw in what they called “prayer house” – a small wooden cottage with one square room and benches without backs. I had never seen people praying before, and it was hard for me to believe that they were serious when they closed their eyes and bowed their heads. And there was singing – an elderly lady holding a hymnbook before my face. And there was preaching – some absolutely unintelligible and some very clear and interesting. I liked it. I began to attend the church regularly on Sundays. Then I stopped. Then I was invited to midweek youth meetings. Made friends. Stayed. One day – it was Easter, I believe – I was listening to a sermon and suddenly realized that I had been thinking differently for some time now. I had no doubt that God was real. I was sure that Jesus was not a myth but a real historical person. Moreover, Jesus is himself God and claims my life. Could I live as before? – I asked myself. Could I live without God and without Christ? My life belongs to Christ, – I told myself. It was Easter time of 1992. On June 13 of the same year I was baptized.
At what point in time the understanding of sin, atonement and grace came to me I cannot tell. However, the beginning of my spiritual life was quite intense in many respects: Christian fellowship, study of Scripture and Christian literature and a focus on regular prayer and Bible reading. Since then the spiritual changes have continued in my life.
Calling to & Description of Ministry
The story goes back to early 1990s of the last century. I was converted in 1992 and from the very beginning I was involved in Christian ministry. Let me briefly tell my story.
1. Student outreach.
When I was in my last year of high school I organized a Bible study in the school. For the whole year we studied in a group of 6-8 people the Gospel of Mark. As a result I found my wife, Anya: she came to faith in this Bible study. Then I entered university and continued the student outreach there. The method was invariable, only the place changed: for two years we studied different parts of the New Testament and one of my classmates was converted. My heart’s desire has been to bring the gospel to those around me from the very beginning of my spiritual life.
2. Translation ministry.
At the same time it so happened that I was involved in both oral and written translation from English into Russian. In 1990s when we still had relative religious freedom almost every month we had a western speaker in our church. I knew English and I was happy to interpret for foreign preachers. But I also translated books. The first two books which I did in 1995 (with the help of my wife) were Seeking God’s Will by Sinclair Ferguson and The Basics of Christian Faith by Roger Weil. Translation became my permanent work when Bill Patton, the founder of Grace to Russia ministry, came to Minsk from California and invited me to participate in literature ministry. Grace to Russia translated, published and distributed literature free of charge among Russian speaking pastors. My wife and I worked with Bill from 1996 until 2002. In these 7 great years we produced about 50 books, including the 6 volume set of Treasury of David by C.H.Spurgeon and 7 volumes of J.C. Ryle’s Expository Thoughts on the Gospels.
3. Church ministry.
I preached my first sermon in 1994. In 1998 I became the second pastor in our church and started to preach regularly – every Sunday morning as well as lead a mid-week Bible study group. By God’s grace I am continuing on in this capacity today.
In the university I studied physics. All along I tried to educate myself in theology. I graduated in 1999 and in 2000 Grace to Russia kindly and generously offered me to get formal theological training at Reformed Theological Seminary in the States. I accepted the offer eagerly and in 2004 got my MA in theology.
5. Gospel and Reformation Publishing House
In 2003 I began a new partnership with a British Christian publisher Evangelical Press which led to establishing Gospel and Reformation publishing house in Minsk. It was very similar to what we did with Grace to Russia. We continued to translate and publish Reformed titles only now we put a price on them. It was great to distribute free books in 90-s when pastors had very little money. But the time came to sell the books. Having experience of both free distribution and sales I can testify that when a person pays for a book even a little he values it more than when he gets it completely free.
Looking back over the past 20 years I can see the hand of the Lord in everything in my life. There is nothing incidental. Various parts of my life and ministry came together. As a teenager I played chess professionally. And I am fond of a chess metaphor in respect of the divine providence in my life: The Lord is like a grandmaster who moves pieces of my life with precision, purpose and power. If I were to choose myself what should happen in my life I would not come even close to the wisdom of my Lord and Savior in arranging events of my life.
The Present and the Future:
There is a dream which drives much of what I do: I want to be instrumental in starting a Bible-based seminary in my country. The nearest Bible-based seminaries are in Russia (Samara) and Ukraine (Kiev) – hundreds of miles away. But there are churches in Belarus and their present and future ministers need training. A young man from our own church is studying in Kiev seminary – I know how difficult it is for him to travel 800 miles (round-trip) every month.
That’s why I am doing doctoral studies in the Highland Theological College (Scotland) – not just to fulfill my ambitions but to be qualified for the seminary to be. I am grateful to HeartCry for providing support to cover the study fees.
Our publishing work/ministry is another instrument of fulfilling this dream: a seminary needs good theological books and this is what we are aiming at producing. Many good titles have been translated and published in partnership with Grace to Russia and Evangelical Press. Even more books are waiting to be introduced to Russian readers.