The small church of 18 members in Volgograd has had to say farewell to a young father, baptized just two years ago, who passed away suddenly just before Christmas, of apparent heart failure. Here is his story, told by a childhood friend, who helped him become a disciple. It was published at www.icocnews.ru on December11, 2017:
30 years ago, my friend Zhenya Kochetkov and I – we all called him “John” -- were walking along the street together in the small city of Volzhski. Actively and passionately, he was trying to convince me that God is real, and was using the Bible as his proof. For a fourth-grader in a Soviet school, this was a remarkable conversation. After that conversation with Zhenya, I started to believe in God.
Eight years later, having become a Christian in Moscow, I came to the city where Zhenya was living, and excitedly told him about the First Principles of life in Christ. Zhenya said that he wasn’t interested anymore, he was fully immersed in his very busy student life. From that moment began the eighteen-year-long conversion to Christ of Zhenya and his family. We tried everything – studied the Bible, he built friendships with everyone in church, he came to Christian conferences hosted by our church in different cities. We got to know a lot of Christians, Zhenya came to a wedding in the church, attended Sunday worship in new church plantings, but to live for God or get baptized, was not what he wanted.
When his older daughter became a teenager, Zhenya said: “I don’t like my daughter’s friends, I want her to be with your church – I see that you are like a family…” And he began to commute, 40 kilometers, with his entire family every week to church, but he was not ready to consider baptism.
In this unremarkable way, Zhenya’s spiritual road to God began. After a little time passed, his mother, Masha, was baptized. For another year and a half, God worked on and prepared his heart. On the 8th of March, 2016, we had a great celebration: the baptism of the incredible active, good-hearted, encouraging Zhenya. Well before his baptism, he was an integral part of the life of the church, took on responsibility, shared his faith in God at work and with his friends. Once he began to develop a personal relationship with God, this helped him blossom even more. The brother is a peacemaker – as soon as he became aware of any kind of misunderstanding, on the spot, he would make haste to reconcile. Husbands of our sisters would ask, “will Zhenya be at church today? We like talking with him heart to heart, and about God.”
Zhenya was 39 years old. He has two beautiful daughters – Katya, 13, and Nastya, 6. He worked as a computer administrator. His wife, Masha, is 7 months’ pregnant, expecting another daughter, Dasha. The entire family loves the church deeply. A week ago, I read to Zhenya this passage from the Bible:
"However, do not rejoice that the spirits submit to you, but rejoice that your names are written in heaven." Luke 10:20
We rejoiced together over how great it is, that our names are written in heaven. Two days ago, on the 5th of December, Masha called in great distress, asking for us to pray, as, suddenly, after work, Zhenya’s legs wouldn’t work. We all prayed. Zhenya was taken to the hospital and Masha went with him. There, Zhenya’s heart suddenly stopped. God called him home…just two weeks short of his fortieth birthday, and he has made it to heaven. Acquaintances and distant relatives, with great empathy, are saying to Masha, “how are you going to get along with three children and a bedridden mother who is an invalid?” She answers, “I am not alone. I have God and the church.”
We are doing our best to spiritually support our dear sister Masha and her daughters, Katya and Nastya. They love God, are holding on to Christ and are getting ready for the birth of the new baby, Dasha.
Editor's note: Last night, (Feb 4) I spoke with Anna Lopukhova, a young mom in the church in Volgograd, who is close to Masha, Zhenya's young widow. Two nights ago, at over 40 weeks' pregnant, Masha realized it was time to go to the hospital, and got herself into a taxi with her bag, by herself, and went to check into the hospital where she will deliver her third daughter. Her father, who has terminal cancer, is thankfully able to stay with Katya and Nastya. Masha's mother is an invalid and completely bedridden --Masha is her caregiver. Please pray for the spiritual strength of this young family! The rest of the church lives quite far away from them. If anyone is interested in more information about how Masha and her daughters are doing, as time goes on, please feel free to e mail email@example.com.