No, this blog entry is not a movie review of an oldie or the announcement of a James Bond remake coming to the silver screen. Instead, it is about a young Russian I met on a recent Sunday, while making a church visit.
As one of my ministry assignments this year, I called the pastor of First Baptist Church, Piedmont, earlier this year and informed that I was the state missionary assigned to come his way for a church visit. Philip Cooper, the pastor, was so kind to offer a mutually advantageous time for the visit, which was the second Sunday in April.
The weather had turned colder, but the fellowship among the people was warm and friendly. Philip had so graciously asked me to preach for him that Sunday morning, and I was excited about the opportunity. As is my practice, I arrived an hour or more before the worship service was to begin.
In the hallway I saw the pastor talking to young man and pointing to the pictures of the former pastors. When I stepped forward the pastor immediately introduced me to Vladimir from Russia. Vladimir did pronounce his last name for me, at least twice but I could not repeat it for the life of me.
The pastor indicated that he met Vladimir about 10 years ago on a mission trip. Since then the young Christian from Russia had visited the U.S. and now had returned for a second visit. He had been staying with the pastor for almost a week.
Vladimir is 35 years old and has been a Christian all his adult life. His family has a nominal affiliation with the orthodox Christian church in Russia, and they do not understand his fervor of faith in Christ.
Vladimir, in many ways, represents the new Russia, which has emerged since the dissolution of the Soviet Union. He is trained in software engineering, and his intelligence is further evidenced by the fact that he taught himself English by watching British and American television programs.
Vladimir is concerned for his country. He wants to see his fellow Russians turn to Christ. As a young single adult in his country, Vladimir is worried that the ill of the old Soviet system of centralized government is now being replaced by another ill: the self-absorption of the Russian people, similar to attitudes in the West.
This young man is the genuine article. He is bright and blessed with a godly wisdom. He visits America as one coming from Russia with love.
Vladimir identifies with evangelical Christians and loves to worship our Lord. I told him that he was a part of our family of faith. He understood what I meant. Our identity in Christ transcends geographic boundaries, linguistic communications, demographic categories and nationalistic allegiances. He literally radiates the love of Christ, and Vladmir’s presence made this church visit both unique and enjoyable. I am glad I have made a new friend and met one of my family members.