“For me to show God’s love is to share my life with people,” said Kristina, who serves in the Caucasus among people who’ve never heard the gospel. “By sharing my life with them and offering friendship, I hope they’ll see Christ in me.”
Having grown up in a Christian family in Russia, Kristina learnt much about God and was active in the church –– attending Sunday school and participating in youth camps. “I thought that my life was fine. But actually, I didn’t come to God. I didn’t realise that I was sinful,” shared Kristina. She attended the church and read the Bible because she had to.
At the age of 18, Kristina got sick and as she felt very bad, started meditating about where she would be after death. Reflecting on this, Kristina realised that she wasn’t going to be with God –– she didn’t have a personal relationship with Him. She turned to God and repented.
After she got baptised, Kristina started dreaming about living a meaningful life. “I met many people who were serving in different places: in remoted villages in Russia and even in India. I thought: they have a purpose in life. And what is the sense of mine?” Although she participated in many church ministries for kids and teens and in worship groups, that was not enough for her. She began to look for information about missions trainings to dedicate her full life to serving the Lord.
One day Kristina’s cousin told her that she was going to study at OM’s Missions Discipleship Training (MDT) Centre in their home country of Russia. That was exactly what Kristina had been looking for. Eagerly she joined the MDT programme. “The studies broadened my horizon. I could see not only myself and my church but also the fact that the world is so big and diverse. There are so many missions and churches, so many ways to serve God,” Kristina recollected.
Meeting the need
Having learnt about different opportunities to serve God, Kristina started thinking about where she would fit in best and asked the Lord for His guidance. An OM staff member suggested she serve with teens and kids in Abkhazia, in the Caucasus. “Initially I had been considering another place," she explained. "But when I learnt about that concrete need in Abkhazia, I realised that God was showing me this place. Why was I looking for something else if I could be useful and apply my skills and experience there?” After finishing her studies at the MDT centre and getting her church’s approval, Kristina and several other students went to Abkhazia with a one-year commitment.
"I didn’t know much about this country,” admitted Kristina. She experienced the hard reality of life in Abkhazia only just after arriving in Tkuarchal. The town suffered badly from the ethnic war of independence with Georgia in ’92 - ’93. Only 4,000 citizens are left; many of them live in war-damaged houses, that still have not been repaired. Youth face many problems, such as trauma, poverty, unemployment, alcohol and drug addictions and a high suicide rate.
“Many people in Abkhazia are on the verge of a depression,” shared Kristina. “They don’t have jobs and have to borrow money for living.” Despite significant problems, Abkhaz people are very hospitable and ready to give everything they have to their guests. “At first it seemed very unusual to us, but this cultural habit is an advantage for sharing the gospel. They are very open, always ready to have guests.” Kristina tells local people about God through friendship. “They understand that we don’t want to impose our beliefs and vision on them, but that we are interested in them. They feel loved and valued,” she said.
However, telling the truth about Jesus Christ is not as easy as it might seem to be. The majority of the Abkhaz follow mystical rites. “There are certain days on which they offer sacrifices to some gods and they celebrate the day of the dead,” shared Kristina. ”This is passed on through generations. I consider these traditions to be a spiritual battle. If people are used to following these mystical beliefs from their childhood, it is difficult for them to get rid of them. However, we continue to share the love of Jesus with them.”
New opportunity to engage in society
After the initial year, Kristina decided to stay. Now, she has been living and serving in the Caucasus for three years. In the first two years, she focused on sharing God’s love with kids and teenagers, helping the local church and discipling people. “Being a young lady, it was a real challenge and rather confusing to me to disciple people who are older than me,” she recalled. “But after a few years, my perspective has changed a little bit. I see that they respect me for the decision I made to live and stay in Tkuarchal.”
Last year God opened up a new opportunity for Kristina to engage in society and share God’s love with more local people. She took a Brow Master course and began to work as an eyebrow artist in a local salon. “For women here it is essential to look beautiful. That is why this service is very appealing to them. There were not any brow masters before me,” said Kristina.
For her, it is not just a job or a way to earn money. It is an opportunity to share the gospel and be an example to other people. “My colleague hairdresser always recommends her clients to use my service, and she also tells them that I am Christian,” she said. “It helps me to easily start a conversation about God with women in the salon.”
Kristina desires to be a light for her colleagues as well. “One of them often asks me questions about faith. I have deep conversations with her and her children and we have a close relationship. She also sees my attitude to people, to her and her family, and that is a big testimony to her. I try to live my life in such a way that it testifies about Christ.”