By Vladimir O
“I don’t believe in God, and frankly I don’t care whether or not there is a God. “ Big questions of the soul never crossed my teenage mind. I was content with my life and the only thing I really wanted to do was practice the piano, at which I was fairly accomplished. What room was there for religion in my life?
I had been baptized into the Russian Orthodox Church as a child, but my family’s relationship with religion was more cultural than spiritual. Then my grandfather died. Suddenly, the greatest role model in my life was gone, leaving me to mourn with my mother and grandmother. The tragic loss caused me to start having fundamental questions about the purpose of life such as, “What happens after this life?” and “Is my grandfather happy?” I struggled to find answers to these questions, but to no avail. I asked my mom if we could go to church sometime. “Maybe sometime,” she replied reluctantly. That “sometime” never seemed to come, and as time went on my questions about life and death faded from my mind. That is, until two young American men moved in next door.
These two Americans were certainly out of place living there in the ghettos of Saratov, Russia. My initial interactions with them were fairly superficial. I would run into them pretty much every day but our conversation never went beyond, “Hey, what’s up?” Then one day, out of curiosity, I decided to knock on their door to see if these two Americans would help me learn English. They introduced themselves in clear Russian as missionaries, and invited me to come to an English class at their church.
The class itself wasn’t that great, but as I was about to leave I met a member family who invited me over to their house the next week. I accepted their offer and as I continued associating with these people, I discovered that they had answers to the questions that had perplexed me following my grandfather’s death. They assured me that families can be eternal and that I would live with my grandfather again. They promised me that I could enjoy his companionship in the next life and that my family would be united forever.
I became interested not only in what they were saying, but in how they lived. I saw how understanding the gospel of Jesus Christ had changed their lives. I became desirous to do the same. Within a little over a year, I decided to become a member of their church. Since that time I’ve seen many others undergo the same positive transformation that has occurred in my own life. I have learned that people can change for the better through the Gospel of Jesus Christ, and for me, seeing this change is far more important than most things in life, even practicing the piano.