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From Russia with God’s Love

Max Kostryukov

Jonathan started with a few immature kids; but by the time he was ready to leave, our youth group had grown to include sixty strong disciples of Jesus Christ, who went out into the streets of Moscow to spread God’s word.

Moscow UMC e0981hIn 1992, a year after the fall of communism in Russia, people were finally free to go to church and to worship God without fear of persecution.That same year, Jonathan Park graduated from college and traveled all the way from sunny California to Moscow, Russia, where he planned to dedicate ten months to spreading God’s word. Jonathan chose a one-year-old congregation, Moscow United Methodist Church, as the location for his mission.

As a young Russian teenager, I visited Moscow UMC because the congregation offered free English lessons. I met Jonathan; and because of him, my life changed. I became a Christian.

Jonathan started a youth group in the church. Only a few people came to the first gathering, and they had never heard the word of God. Soon this group was involved in worship, Bible study, and—of course—free English lessons. It was amazing to watch these young people begin to read the Bible for the first time and to see how it changed their lives—and mine.

It’s hard to explain what a tremendous thing God did through Jonathan in the ten months he was in Moscow. How many lives he touched and changed! He started with a few immature kids; but by the time he was ready to leave, our youth group had grown to include sixty strong disciples of Jesus Christ, who went out into the streets of Moscow to spread God’s word.

Just One Candle

Max2 moya mordaThe year 1992 was a difficult time for Russia, economically and politically. People weren’t sure what would happen to their country in the future and found it hard to believe in anyone or anything. During that chaotic time, I saw a billboard that I have never forgotten. On a dark background was the image of one lighted candle and these words: “It is better to light one candle than to curse the darkness.” Jonathan came to Russia to light candles. When he left, many other candles were lighting the darkness; and those candles continued to light more candles. The people who were in Jonathan’s youth group in 1992 are now great leaders in the church. One serves as Assistant to the Bishop of the United Methodist Church in Eurasia, and another is responsible for New Church Development in Eurasia. One is a professor of evangelism at the seminary in Russia; another is studying to be a minister at a seminary in the U.S. These young people have helped The United Methodist Church in Russia to grow from a few congregations in 1992 to over one hundred churches today.

At many times in our lives, we doubt our power to make big changes. But faith calls us to light one candle. You never know what a big flame one little candle may become. Remember the movie Pay It Foward and how many lives one little boy changed? He started with one kind deed; and by the end of the movie, his street was filled with candles held by all the people whose lives he had touched. Don’t underestimate yourself. By lighting just one candle, you have already started to change the world.

Candles TS 101483649

DIG DEEPER

In a dark room, light a candle and notice how the flame lights up the darkness. Think about your own life story. Who has touched or changed your life in powerful ways? Give thanks for them. How are you passing on the light of love, faith, hope, or encouragement? Ask God to bless your efforts.

Max Kostryukov (pictured above at 16) was the marketing manager for devozine when he wrote this article.

—from devozine (September/October 2006). Copyright © 2006 by The Upper Room®. All rights reserved.

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