In February 2015, Wayne invited us to become a part of OIC. We do not consider ourselves very capable and talented We really need God’s help and His wisdom. We have a dream, if God is willing, that the ministry of Biblical Counseling would grow in Russia to such an extent that, after while there will be an organized Association of Biblical Counselors of Russia. It is a great honor for us to be part of the OIC team!
We recently began a Church Leadership Training program in Vladikavkaz, a city in the North Ossetia region of southern Russia. Our Lord has given us a great group of people eager to learn in this very interesting part of our country.
We are also excited to be starting CLT programs in Vologda and Bryansk in the Fall of 2016. Please pray with us that God will bless these ministries.
Stepan & Natasha’s Story
I was born in a big family. I, Stepan, am the youngest of five sons. My parents, being Evangelical Baptist Christians, took their kids to church since childhood. Of course, it did not make me a believer from my birth, so being a teenager I was very attracted by this world and led a double life. In that time, I used to sing in the choir and played the guitar with the string orchestra. Unfortunately, there was nobody in church who would be seriously interested in the condition of my heart. No one knew about my life and its priorities. Reading the Bible, I clearly understood that I am a great sinner, that Christ died for my sins and I need to have peace with him. Now it is difficult for me to figure out the exact date when I was born again, but I know for sure it happened before I went to serve in the army. When I was about 15 years old, I read a book that made a strong impression on me. It was about five missionaries killed in the Auca tribe, one of whom was Jim Elliot. Then I prayed: “Lord, if You want, lead me someday to the Nenets (people in the north of Russia), so I could learn their language and preach to them about You.” God took His time to make me ready, so 10 years passed since that prayer until my family went to the mission. Then being still unmarried, I also prayed to God saying, “Lord, I want to help other believers in their lives.”
Of course, I did not understood at all the meaning of such a prayer. However, I felt the big desire in my heart to do so. Coming back from the army in 1992, I got married to a wonderful woman Natalia. She grew up in the unbeliever family. However, since her childhood she heard a lot about God from her aunt. My wife worked as a geodesist in Russia. In 1988, she was converted, accepting Jesus as her own Savior. She became the first Christian in her family. In 1996, my family moved to Donetsk (Ukraine) where I became a student of DCU (Donetsk Christian University). In that time we had two small children;: a son, Stepan and a daughter, Anna. After graduation, the Lord called us to the missionary work in Yakutia (north region in Russia). Four months later, after we moved there, on Christmas Eve, my wife gave a birth to the third child – our daughter, Angelina. I was a pastor-missionary, and Natalia worked in Sunday school in the church. She also was a teacher of Christian ethics at the public school-gymnasium. In 2001, we returned to Ukraine. I started to study at the Kiev Theological Seminary in Theology. After graduating in 2004, we got the invitation to have the ministry in Ulyanovsk, Russia, where we have lived until now. Here is a small church where am their pastor. Throughout my ministry from Yakutia to a meeting with Wayne and Susie Vanderwier, I have been constantly tormented by the fact that actually I am not able to provide serious pastoral assistance to believers. Even worse than this, the ability to give Biblical answers, I was not familiar with Biblical Counseling. Of course, in Yakutia, God did many things for us and through us, but there was a serious gap in issue of Biblical Counseling.
Before I met Wayne, I passed through several Christian Educational Schools, at one of them I got a master’s degree. Everywhere, when I studied counseling, it was integrated psychology. Being first a pastor in Yakutia then in Ulyanovsk I had felt a great need to solve my internal experiences as well as to help other believers to solve their heart problems. There was no one who could help me in this matter. However, by the great mercy of God, in 2008 I attended a modular program for biblical counseling at the Moscow Theological Seminary, where I met Wayne and Susie Vanderwier. The interesting fact is that my wife Natalia convinced me to go to this training. This training has become a great blessing for my family and me. In 2014, I graduated from a master’s program in Biblical Counseling from the Kiev Theological Seminary. God has greatly used Wayne and Susie Vanderwier in my life, as well as in many other teachers. I am very grateful to God for them. God has changed my life and the life of my family and in the church, where we do our ministry. I also see how God changes the lives of students from different countries when I teach in some Christian schools or churches. The Biblical Counseling has become an integral part of our lives, church and family. My wife teaches women in the church.
Sometimes my children also teach me. Once, I was driving a car, and my wife asked me to slow down. I must confess that it touched my pride so I expressed my dissatisfaction with my wife’s request. Suddenly, my youngest daughter, who was in the backseat, said to me: “Dad, the problem is not in the problem, the problem is in your heart.” I knew it, I taught it in college and church, but her words rang with me. I slowed down and asked my wife and children to forgive me. God is working on me. After graduating from the master’s program in Biblical Counseling at Kiev Theological Seminary, I constantly was concerned about how to spread Biblical Counseling throughout Russia. I saw how the Lord has changed our church, when I began to teach the Biblical ways to the solution of all spiritual matters. However, I also saw how psychology seeps into churches under the guise of a wide variety of “healing programs”. My passionate desire and prayer is that all the churches in Russia would return to faith in the sufficiency of Scripture and realize that the children of God, in fact, have everything needed for life and godliness (2 Peter 1:3) and that the ministry of counseling is a ministry for every Christian.