Finding Christ in the Caucasus
By Andrew McChesney, Adventist Mission
Seventeen-year-old Stepan Avakov volunteered to help interpret when a group of Americans organized a Quiet Hour health expo in the southern Russian city of Volgodonsk.
When the expo ended, organizer Vincent Page invited Stepan to follow the expo to the North Caucasus region. It was summer, and Stepan was free. He asked his mother for advice.
“Why don’t you go?” she said. “You can practice your English”.
Local pastor Veniamin Tarasyuk also gave his blessing but added, “Remember, if you want to be baptized, come back and I will baptize you.”
Stepan was stunned. Are you crazy? he thought. I’m not going to be baptized.
But for the next two months, he lived a Seventh-day Adventist life as he visited various towns. The Adventist organizers woke up early, read their Bibles, prayed, and then had morning devotions together. To Stepan, it was a new world.
One day, Vincent invited Stepan to go to Lithuania next. Stepan, however, had left his passport at home. Vincent gave him a $100 bill.
“Go home, get your passport, and come back here in one day,” he said.
The next morning, the teen jumped out of the hotel bed promptly at 5 a.m., earlier than ever before. He didn’t know how to find a way out of town. As he left the hotel, he prayed, “God, if You exist, lead me to the bus station.”
Stepan began walking and, to his surprise, found the bus station. A bus was waiting with open doors. Inside, passengers were complaining, “Driver, why are we waiting? Let’s go!” As Stepan sat down, the doors closed, and the bus left.
Similar miracles occurred throughout the day. When Stepan returned to the hotel with his passport that night, he knelt beside his bed. “God, now I know that You exist”, he said. “You have shown that You love me and are drawing me to You. From this moment, You are my Lord, and I want You to live in me.”
In the morning, Stepan showed his passport to Vincent. “Here is my passport,” he said. “But something more important happened. Last night, I became a Christian.” Vincent and the other workers spontaneously clapped with joy.
Stepan was baptized by Pastor Veniamin three weeks later, on Sept. 10, 1993.
Six years later, Pastor Veniamin became Stepan’s father-in-law.
Stepan, now 42, works as a professional interpreter for the United Nations and other agencies. He also is the founder and director of an organization that helps Russian orphans.
His conversion story, he said, can be found in Romans 5:1, which reads, “Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.” (NKJV).
“This verse interprets my conversion story,” said Stepan, pictured.
Produced by the General Conference Office of Adventist Mission. Find more mission stories at adventistmission[dot]org
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