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Today’s Prodigal Son’s Story by Denis Kozlov

9 August 2012 No Comment

One year ago, an American supporter of RRR introduced a biblical counseling and discipleship program to some of our Russian churches. In one of my previous articles, I conveyed how this material personally ministered to me and my family. Shortly thereafter, I began using it to help a number of people here in Russia, and I joyfully report to you that this ministry has had great impact on many Russians.

One RRR leader, Pastor Vladimir Osipov, was deeply touched by this program as well. In fact, he decided not only to introduce it to his church, he also began using this program for the many leaders he oversees. When this material was brought to Russia, it resonated with Pastor Vladimir, and he recognized that this was an answer to many years of prayer as he saw God work through this material to restore his oldest son Max.

Pastor Vladimir has two sons. Both are Christians, and both were raised in the church. Ten years ago, something happened, and his oldest son Max, who was actively involved in the ministry, was offended and decided to leave the church. He became rebellious and pursued the world rather than God. Before he knew it, he developed a lifestyle that was far from the Christian faith. He began dating a non-Christian girl and ended up marrying her. His life began to go downhill, and, within a few years, he was plagued by depression and suicidal thoughts. Needless to say, this was a real heartache for Vladimir and his wife.

When the first conference to introduce this program was held in Russia last November, Pastor Vladimir talked Max into coming to the two-day event. Max was sitting in the very back of the hall. I was translating and I could see him with his arms crossed, frowning at the speaker and me. It seemed that was not open to receiving anything being said.

On the final day of the conference, there was a time for feedback and interaction. People began sharing about what they experienced during the conference. Not unexpectedly, there were many positive and encouraging responses, when suddenly, the church became quiet. Everyone was sitting on the edge of their seats as Max stood up and walked forward to share. Most knew Max and what his situation was. He shared that he didn’t want to attend initially and was hoping to sit through the conference just to be nice to his father. But, as his was listening to the lessons, God touched him deeply and spoke to him. When the author of the materials, David Ritzenthaler, shared his testimony about how he thought he was done with Christianity, that was the last straw for Max. It pierced his heart. On the way home on the first day of the conference, Max said that, for the first time in years, he prayed and cried out to God.

That was the turning point for him. While he shared, he was overcome with tears, and as I looked over at Pastor Vladimir and his wife Elena, their eyes were filled with tears of joy. The next conference was scheduled a few months later, and I was eager to see how Max was doing and wondered if he was still on the track to restoration. When I saw him, I was blessed to see not only him in the church, but his wife as well.

Praise the Lord!

When I returned from my recent trip to the

US, I plunged myself into helping people who originally brought this material to Russia, spending two weeks in June ministering to groups and individuals in Russia, including Pastor Vladimir and his church. Max was there as well, and he shared how his life is changing and how he hopes to be used by the Lord in the future. What the Lord started last November proved to be fruitful and timely, and, through RRR connections, the Lord is uniting ministries and resources in the US and specific churches and individuals in Russia to build a substantial Bible-based counseling and discipleship ministry to serve Russian churches for years to come.

Pastor Vladimir and I care a great deal for this ministry and have a burden to see it become firmly established in Russia. The people that brought this ministry to Russia originally, Doug Carson, along with the author of the program, David Ritzenthaler, are led by God to focus their efforts in Russia. I feel led to help them as much as possible because I see the lasting fruit it produces.

Please pray for the two conferences planned for the fall of 2012 where a deeper level of training for those who feel called to become directly involved in advancing this program will take place. There are many invitations from Russian-speaking churches and the Lord has provided funds for a reliable commercial printer necessary to print materials.

We continue to hear wonderful testimonies. It’s like ripples on water. Each conference and each trip to Russia seems to add to what was started in the fall of 2011. Pastor Vladimir shared that he spent twenty years of his life in the Russian navy and merchant marines. Over the last twenty years, he invested himself in building churches and raising Christian leaders in Russia. Because he believes this program is God’s answer to his prayers, he wants to dedicate the next twenty years of his life to planting spiritual centers for Bible-based discipleship and counseling in Russia in order to bless the Body of Christ in Eurasia and all countries historically related to Russia.

Please pray for this huge but rewarding undertaking. I will keep you posted.

Sincerely, Denis Kozlov.

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