Natasha's Story

A personal testimony.

Natasha lvanova lives in Moscow, Russia. She is very active in Women's Ministries and enjoys entertaining visitors in her horns. She and her pastor-husband, Valore, have three boys,

I was born in Krasnayarsk 26, a secret military city. My father graduated from college as a military officer and was sent to Krasnayarsk to work as the leader of the Com­munist Party. He supervised a factory which produced secret military weapons. He was also a leader in the Youth Communist Organization; he taught many young people. My father's peer group admired him greatly for his musical ability; he sang and played the accordion. My father and his friends partied every night, drinking and dancing.

One night he saw a Bible at one of the parties and he thought to himself, "I know what Commu­nism says about the Bible. I know I am supposed to talk against it, but now I want to find out about it for myself. I want to know what it says." The Bible belonged to the mother of one of his friends, and when he asked to have it, she refused to give it to him. He continued to beg her, but she was afraid to give it to him because he was a Communist leader. Eventually, however, she did give him a New Testament.

My father and mother began reading the New Testament together athorne. Upon completion of reading it, he copied it in its entirety by hand.

Mother and father had many interesting things happen to them after reading the New Testament. They began to feel it was wrong to go to the movies, parties and dances. They asked the lady who gave them the New Testament what to do. She suggested they pray about it. She also invited them to her Baptist church in Krasnayarsk.

My parents started to attend this church regularly. They had to go through four gates from Krasnayarsk 26 (a factory complex) to the open section of the city. Several men began to question their Sunday trips. When father realized that others were sus­picious of his activities and beliefs, he decided to openly hand in his Communist documents and renounce the Communist Party. His superiors tried to discourage and humiliate him by putting him on TV. Newspaper articles were printed about him in an attempt to embarrass him.

Two of his  brothers-in-law, also Communist leaders in IChav arosk, put articles in the local paper asking people to save their sister from Christianity.

When the Communists realized my father was serious in his new found beliefs, they gave our family 24 hours to leave the city. There were four of us: my father, my mother, my elder brother, age 5, and me, Natasha, age 2. We left with two suitcases and went to the south port of Russia, Frenzie, where my father had family. All of my father's relatives, grand­father, three sisters and one brother, were staunch Communists. His brother gave us a three-room apartment.

I have fond memories of a friendly, kind-looking man who came to the house every week and gave coins of Lenin as gifts. One time I remember my father asking this man to leave our apartment and never return. He also told him we would leave the apartment. In later years, I learned from my mother that this man was a KGB agent who was promising my father a good job and a career if he would go to East Germany to work. My father refused all this, left the apartment, and began to build a house for his family.

My father was a leader in the Baptist church and studied the Bible regularly on his own. Based on his reading, he began to question the Baptist teachings like using home-brewed wines for communion and omitting foot washing as part of the ceremony. In my father's church, the church leaders tasted each wine, then chose the best. Some became so drunk they could not go up the stairs. Such actions made my father question the use of wine. When he began to question his fellow leaders they became worried and ques­tioned his allegiance to their faith and removed him as one of their church leaders.

The church had a membership of about 2,000 members. Many of these were youth who loved my father's spirit. They helped him build a new home in two weekends. When the house was finished, he built a barn and made the yard beautiful. Then he pur­chased cows, chickens and pigs. He also learned the carpentry trade when we moved to Frenzie; he was able to make beautiful furniture for our home and for others.

It was not possible to buy food for the animals directly from the government, so he had to buy animal feed from people who stole it from the government. My father did not feel this was right.

A conservative Baptist Christian from Barnaul in Siberia came to visit our home and told my father of the wonderful agriculture oppor­tunities there. He said the fairest forests and best rivers were in Barnaul. My grandfather realized my father was going to move to Barnaul, so he went first to wait for us. There he bought a home for himself and my grandmother. He told the local authorities about my father; he said his intent was to save them from Christianity.

We left Frenzie and went to a small village up the river, not far from Barnaul. When we arrived at this village, we bought a house. Soon after we purchased the house, we realized the foundation was being eaten by termites. This had been the only house for sale in this village. This had been the plan of the local Communist authorities.

Sometimes we stayed with my grandfather and when we did, I would ask him to turn off the TV so we could pray! He became upset with me and said, "This is a godly girl. I will never be able to take these ideas away from this child."

When we weren't living with my grandfather, we lived in our own termite-ridden home with no furniture except a table. We lived in this house for two months while my father went to find another home with what little money we had left.

In Bisk we bought a two-room house as well as a foundation for another one next to it. My father built a house on the foundation himself. I was seven years old and about to enter school that September.

All that summer my father worked on our home and we children tried to help as much as we could. Once again father became the leader of the Baptist Church.

In September, I entered the first grade. In the first grade, a child must be an Octroberist and wear a special star with Lenin's picture. I refused. Another girl refused. Because of our refusal, we en­countered many problems. I told my parents about this girl. My father became very interested to know why this girl also refused to wear the star. He asked me to find out about this girl and her religion.

I asked the girl if I could walk her home, Though she was sus­picious of my motives, she agreed. Then I asked her if she had a Bible at home. She was a very wise girl for her age and replied she did not. But her reserve left when I told her my family had a Bible. She finally admitted her family owned a Bible too. When we arrived at her home that Friday afternoon, her mother was cooking and the family was cleaning. The mother apologized to me for the family's business, but explained that they were getting ready for the Sabbath. Then the mother invited my parents to visit.

The following evening, which was Sabbath evening, my parents visited my friend's home. From that first Sabbath evening meeting, and almost every evening that foil owing winter, my parents walked three kilometers there and back through the woods in very cold weather to study the Bible. My father had many questions and persisted in having all his questions answered. As he and my mother would read the texts, he would say to her, "Vera, why didn't we understand this before?"

At the end of winter, our family killed a pig. The family broke out with severe illness. My father asked our new Adventist friends if they could tell him what was wrong with his family's diet! This kind man and his wife were not going to discuss diet with my parents until the end of the studies because they saw we had a big family and knew my parents needed the pig to feed us. Finally they opened up the Bible to Leviticus 11 and showed the chapter to my parents. My father was very upset, not over not eating pork but because the friends had not told him earlier. As it turned out, the kind Adventists were the pastor and his wife. Then came the question about what to do with the remainder of the pig. Father went to the pastor to ask what he should do. As he was returning home, he could see dark smoke coming out of the chimney. My mother hadn't waited for my father's return but had pitched the rest of the meat into the stove! The pastor had told my father we could give it to another family member or to the neighbors, but mother could not wait for an answer.

My parents were baptized that spring along with 12 Baptists from the church where my friend's father was the pastor. Father became an elder in the 100-membership Adventist church.

In the second grade, I began to keep the Sabbath and did not attend school on Sabbaths.

My family has been blessed to learn of the wonderful truth about Jesus. First we became Baptists, then Adventist Christians. I am so proud of my family and our love for Jesus.