The call: from the books for the books
For most of my life, I had no idea what the call is. I was born into an atheistic family in the Soviet Union. Literacy was compulsory in the country for the sake of making people receptive to communist propaganda (even by now Ukraine, according to the UNESCO rating, is the most literate country in the world alongside North Korea). We loved to read and we were reading a lot.
I was reading everything interesting I get, including some “spiritual” stuff like Bhagavad Gita or Tao Te Ching. That was prohibited, and we considered it so cool to read what is prohibited. For the same reason, I even read the Gospel once (I can not recall now which one, but believe it was Luke). A grandmother of my friend kept a copy in Proto-Slavonic (Old Bulgarian), and I had to learn the language to read it! I enjoyed the story very much, though it sounded pretty sad. The good guy was killed by the authorities without any guilt or particular reason. Well, this is life! In our country, 20 million were slaughtered by the regime in the same manner.
The weird issues of the Gospel story, – like sin, redemption, resurrection, etc., – did not make any sense to me and I just skipped them. This is just a novel; it should not be absolutely consistent. Soviet propaganda was making all of us logically and morally challenged, accustomed to contradictions and inconsistencies. After all, taking the courses of Marxism-Leninism Philosophy, History of the Communist Party and Scientific Atheism was compulsory at the university, and we were quite comfortable with all that inconsistent mythology. We were trained not to ask uncomfortable questions.
I graduated as a research physicist, specializing in laser optics, and completed advanced studies in geophysics. By the age of 30 I was a Senior Researcher, had been published in scientific journals, had patented inventions in geophysics and laser optics, and was ready to defend Ph.D. theses. I knew everything a Soviet scientist should know about the Bible: most of it is just a collection of fairytales for the babushkas (illiterate elderly ladies). There are so many good and useful books around – why should I waste my time reading that one?
But God has a sense of humor, hasn’t He? He made me read the Bible by sending me almost to the North Pole alone with nothing to read but the Bible (a Norwegian pastor gave me a copy on the way). Having not much to do after the research equipment was installed and worked automatically, I decided it will not hurt to read some fairytales, and started from the very beginning. However, the account I found in its first pages sounded much more reliable than the atheistic cosmology I faced before – about nothing that exploded to well-organized something operated by sophisticated laws we try to intelligently learn now).
The biblical story of the origins sounded much more reasonable than any other explanation. Eventually, I found that everything I know from my personal experience and my science fits with this book. This was the only “spiritual” book that told the truth about “earthly things” which I experienced and could put to the test. So, if looking for a reliable source of information on matters I cannot test, on “heavenly things” — this was it. And if I accept a part of it on the basis of the facts, I have to accept the rest of it by faith.
But it went even farther. In the context of the Genesis first chapters, everything I learned before from the Gospel about Jesus started gradually making sense to me. From Genesis and the rest of the Old Testament I found out why the Gospel is so important, and why Christ had to come and sacrifice His life. So through science, I came to the Bible, and through the Bible, I came to Christ, and have committed my life to Him eventually.
The question disturbed me nevertheless: how did I manage to live till the age of 30 knowing a lot about the world and even knowing some about Jesus, but still not knowing Jesus personally? Why my friends and colleagues, having access to the same information, did not see this amazing truth either? The answer became obvious: there was no room for the Good News in our worldview. The story of Jesus was good enough for us but was not the Good News per se. As Paul puts it, the proclamation of Christ crucified is foolishness to Gentiles (1 Corinthians 1:23). We were gentiles. The system of atheistic propaganda and education shaped our worldview with the immunity to the message of salvation. Nobody is interested in salvation without understanding the danger to the parish. The bad news is what turns the message into the good news. As gentiles, we did not know the bad news of the fall, and that is why we were deaf to the Good News of the redemption.
I still did not know what the call is, and neither I was aware of the concepts like ‘ministry’, ‘evangelism’, ‘apologetics’, or something. I just found wonderful truths that bring real sense to my life, and I wanted other people to see this truth as well. I started to share it and was surprised how little people care about the truth actually. The university administration was not happy with what I was doing at all, and I had to hold underground meetings with students, professors, and colleagues at first, and either give up on doing this or give up on my Ph.D. pursuit eventually. I can not say I was a strong bold believer who made that decision easily. It was a great challenge for me. But the treasure I found was greater than academic success anyway, and I have decided to continue sharing the truth.
I did not know any devoted Christians who could guide and instruct me back then. And love for reading helped me again. I was reading and studying everything I can find about the Bible to know more about it. Somehow I got some books by College Press published in Russian through Literature and Teaching Ministry, and they were extremely helpful in shaping my vision and understanding of the ministry.
I came to the conclusion that in a post-soviet society where people had been indoctrinated in atheism and worshipped science for several generations, the way I came to Christ could be a very effective way to win others for Him. They should hear the bad news by learning the truth about the Bible, about creation and the Creator, about the fall, and about moral absolutes. With this in mind, I have left the research activity and started the apologetics ministry that got the name Christian Center for Science and Apologetics later on (https://scienceandapologetics.com/en/). It exists for introducing the Truth to skeptics; strengthening the saints in their confidence in the Truth, and equipping God’s people to proclaim God’s Word effectively.
We started it with my wife Olga in 100 square feet room that was our bedroom, office, print shop, and warehouse at the same time. Printed materials were the key tool from the very beginning of the ministry. Because people in post-soviet culture preferred to avoid direct discussions, giving them something to read was the most effective way of outreach. The first materials were the tracts and brochures manufactured by the noisy dot matrix printer under our bed. Like with a baby in the room we were half-sleeping, half listening. But with the baby, you wake up when hearing a noise. With the printer, we had to wake up when it got silent. This meant the paper is jammed and should be fixed. Very soon however the Lord arranged our partnership with LATM and we start publishing in a much more efficient way.
Books led me to the Book, the Bible. Books helped me to grow in faith. Books became the key tool to spread the message to others. Internet and media have expanded our outreach enormously as well afterward. Most of the recourses we published were translations. But whenever we could not find a foreign book on a specific issue the ministry and national church needed, we had to write it ourselves.
Life with Christ is full of joy, blessings, and surprises. God’s vision is always greater than our one and His plans are more amazing than anything we ever can imagine. Following His guidance, our small family ministry accomplished a lot in many various areas of outreach we would never even dare to start ourselves. It grew up into an informal movement across 8 time zones in 12 post-communist countries. Our online resources are requested from about 100 countries of the world. We published more than 200 books, and some of them were reprinted more than once. Looking back it is hard to believe that all this happened to us.
God is always faithful in His calling when you obey it, even not having no idea what the call is. «Now unto him, that is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that worketh in us, Unto him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus throughout all ages, world without end. Amen» (KJV Ephesians 3:20,21).