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Raising Up a Leader by Denis Kozlov

16 September 2013 No Comment

IMG_20130811_165750I recently shared a story of Pastor Sergei Stagneev, a pastor who showed little promise of being an effective  leader at the beginning of his ministry.  This story about Pastor Dmitry (Dima) has similarities.  He reminds me of Sergei because few had faith in him and there was a lot working against him.

Even Dima lacked faith in himself. He grew up in the northern parts of Russia known for Soviet-era GULAGs and labor camps.  In his early twenties, he became addicted to drugs, taking them daily for six years, and became known as the town addict.  Soon, his life fell apart.  His mother was heartbroken, and he stole from her to feed his addiction.  He fell into trouble with the law.  The police were after him, the Mafia was after him, and his friends turned away from him.  Once a talented martial arts fighter, his body was now falling apart, and he realized that–at the age of 30–he was dying.

He hit rock bottom, feeling hopeless.  He knew that it would take a miracle for his life to be restored, so he began to think about the One who is said to work miracles.  But he wasn’t sure God really existed, so his first prayers were “God, if you exist, please help me.”  God responded by sending Christians who began to care for him and who put him into a Christian drug rehabilitation center that was started by one of RRR’s key leaders, Vladimir Osipov, in the historic town of Pushkin

There, the gospel was proclaimed.  He was saved and immediately began to experience the power of God.  What he thought was unbreakable bondage was broken instantaneously.  He experienced no withdrawal symptoms, and his severely deteriorated body was gaining strength daily. Before becoming an addict, Dima was involved in karate, so he knew what a strong and obedient body felt like.  The supernatural restoration of his health showed him that God truly works miracles today as fd0OykvCqWsHe did in biblical times, and it motivated him to get to know this God as much as possible.

After he finished the rehabilitation program, Dima stayed in Pushkin because he felt strongly that Pastor Vladimir Osipov was a man of God.  In time, Pastor Vladimir encouraged Dima to consider full-time ministry.  Many did not support Vladimir because they thought it was too risky, but  Vladimir saw something in him that many did not.  Dima highly respected Vladimir and did what was asked of him out of  obedience and respect, which is precisely how he ended up in seminary.  He did not believe he could ever become a minister, but since Vladimir recommended he go to seminary, he did.

In seminary, he met his wife, Anna.  She was raised in a Christian home which is a very rare thing. In fact, her father was a minister in the USSR when the church was severely persecuted.  When he graduated, he still did not believe he was able or worthy to become a pastor, but Vladimir encouraged him.  Dima wanted to be helpful to Vladimir, so Vladimir suggested he start a karate club for teens and young adults as an outreach.  He was happy to oblige, and, soon, he had a vibrant community of Christians and non-Christians studying martial arts.

dL7pZGqrQrsIn time, Vladimir told Dima that he actually planted a kind of church, and he was the leader.  Dima realized that Vladimir was right all along.  So, he decided to start a small Bible-study group. They began with five people in his apartment, and, within a year, had to move because they could no longer fit everyone in the apartment.  This October, they will celebrate three years as a church.

Dima has a dream to one day minister to the Japanese people…. maybe even go there as a missionary once the church is firmly established.  He believes God will use Koreans and Russians to reach the Japanese, and he is praying to be one of those people.

Please pray for this young pastor to be able to fulfill God’s plan for him and his congregation.  When Pastor Rick Ives, the founder of RRR, spoke at Dima’s church, he told me that he had a great time with his church, and that it was like things were in Russia in the 1990s when he was helping young pastors take their very first steps in planting churches.

RRR, as a church-planting ministry, continues,  but now it’s not solely Americans that train and raise pastors and church-planters, it’s vKMHvF96wL8also done by Russian leaders.  The current emphasis of RRR is to equip and help Russian visionary leaders such as Vladimir who raise other leaders to plant churches all over Russia.  That is our strategy: to see the Kingdom of God expand in the last days.  Maybe, one day, we will witness people like Vladimir and Dima start ministries called Japanese Reaching Japanese or Jews Reaching Jews.

May the Lord bless you dear brothers and sisters for your prayerful support for this work.

Sincerely, Denis.

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