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God’s favor in the midst of troubles (by Denis Kozlov)

30 July 2013 No Comment

Igor Sokolov is one of our key leaders and pastors in Russia and is well known in our Christian circles as a good teacher. He is also one of the official representatives of John Maxwell in Russia, and was instrumental in introducing the concept of cell-based churches in late 1990s.

About ten years ago, Igor had a vision to start a Christian school where children are taught math and science while being immersed in a wholesome atmosphere created by Christian teachers. As well, the curriculum was designed to nurture their faith in God, which is contrary to what is done in our secular schools.

Igor launched the school by mobilizing people from his church who were credentialed and experienced. They truly demonstrated a pioneer spirit because Christian, private schools were virtually non-existent. But God blessed their efforts, and soon, after the school was started, the word began to spread to churches in Saint Petersburg and many Christian parents sought admission for their children.

The school became a blessing for many churches, and, this year, they held their first graduation. Currently, there are 60 students enrolled and 15 teachers who are Christians and active members of local churches. As they were celebrating that first graduation and the many blessings God bestowed upon the school, the attacks of the enemy escalated.

Several government officials did not like the idea of a Christian school so they launched a series of official inspections from various government agencies. Keep in mind that government inspections can be routine and somewhat benign, but there is a longstanding tradition in Russia of using inspections for hostile intentions or tools to shut something down. In the days of the USSR, those type of tactics were widely used to shut down churches. So, when people from the prosecutor’s office showed up at the church, it was obvious that they had a prejudice against the church, the school and Christians in general.

First, they sought to intimidate the teachers. Then, they summoned Igor to their office. Their intentions were clear: Shut down the school. Churches began to pray.

The prosecutor’s office found some violations and sent an official request to higher government authorities to check things more thoroughly. These officials were to finish the process and, ostensibly, shut down the school. There were two government controlling offices the school had to deal with. One was for fire hazards and the other for hygiene and sanitation.

The first official had to decide how to punish the church for the violations. The biggest fine he could levy was $15,000, but, when he learned that it was a church, he reduced it to $5,000. Igor found favor with him, and he said that, after the fines are paid, he will try to put an end to the harassment, which was a pleasant surprise.

The second official was from Federal Service for Supervision of Consumer Rights Protection and Human Welfare (the FSSCRPHW for short!) Igor expected a bigger challenge with this official, but, as she looked at the papers and then at Igor, she asked if

Igor remembered her. Igor apologized because he did not. She stated that some years ago she came to faith at his church and attended regularly. At the time, it was a very difficult time for her because her family was falling apart. When she began to attend church, she learned so much and was avidly taking notes during each sermon. As she applied what she learned to her life, a miracle happened in her husband. They became reconciled and their marriage was healed. She then expressed her gratitude to Igor.

All of this amazed Igor. Before him stood a government official with the authority to makes things incredibly difficult for him, the church and the school, Instead, she did everything within the law not to damage the church, and now Igor has a friend in at FSSCRPHW as well!

This chapter is not yet closed. The school will need to find a creative way to overcome the violations because the building they are using is old and some things cannot be easily or readily fixed. But, they already see the hand of the Lord helping them, and they believe this whole situation and the hostile intentions that some may have had against them has been used by God to bless this ministry even more.

Please pray for Igor, his church and the school while they are dealing with this. I promise to keep you posted.

Sincerely,

Denis Kozlov.

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