< back to articles

A World Flowing Downstream

Andrey D

Andrey & Katya

Andrey was born in Moldova into a traditional Russian Baptist family. When he was seven, his family immigrated to the United States. Though hopeful for a bright life in America, Andrey’s childhood was soon swallowed up by a far darker reality. By age 12 he was already drinking alcohol, smoking cigarettes, and using illegal drugs. By middle school he had moved on to using some of the worst kinds of drugs, leaving his young soul battered with conflict and despair. At age 16 he overdosed and almost died. But when he woke up, by God’s providential kindness, he found his older sister at his side, praying for him. She pleaded with him to come to her church, and he agreed.

Despite having grown up in traditional Russian Baptist churches, Andrey realized that he had never before heard the gospel. The preaching he heard at his sister’s church unfolded God’s word and impacted his soul. And, for the first time, he actually believed that Jesus was the Lord God. He stopped partying, drinking, and doing drugs. He started attending church regularly, bringing the Bible, and taking notes. He was even baptized, but within half a year he fell back into the vortex of sin.

“I thought I loved the church,” Andrey explains, “but I loved my sin even more.” He moved into a “party house” and things spiraled out of control. Though deep in worldly pursuits, he kept coming back to the realization that he was on the brink of destruction. Eventually, he tried to flee it all, both the drug scene and the church. He moved to China, hoping to clean himself up on his own terms, but nearly as soon as he arrived he fell back into drugs and ended up dreadfully sick. “I absolutely hated myself,” he recalls, “I knew I was doomed, and there was nothing I could do about it.”

Andrey returned home, defeated and depressed. Several friends from church heard he was back, however, and invited him to a youth retreat in the woods. The theme was “Living Upstream in a World Flowing Downstream.” There he heard the gospel again, and it finally started coming together. Every successive sermon chipped away at his stony heart. Finally, on the last full day of the retreat, someone preached a sermon entitled, “The Quiet Rebel,” about the person who rebelled against God in his heart and held up his fist toward heaven, but who pretended outwardly to be Christian. “I knew that person was me,” recalls Andrey, “and in the middle of the sermon I ran outside and wept. I couldn’t go on like this, and I pleaded with God to save me.”

The LORD, who is merciful and ever near to the broken hearted, heard Andrey’s pleas. He drew him up from the pit of destruction, out of the miry bog, and planted him once and for all on the rock of saving grace. For the next six years Andrey faithfully attended his sister’s church, Word of Grace Bible Church (WGBC). He worked through the challenges of a new life in Christ under the loving care and guidance of his pastors and friends, the same men who preached to him the life-changing messages at the youth retreat.

“Though I had tried to push away everyone and everything that would expose me to the truth,” explains Andrey, “my church friends and the pastors at WGBC always cared for me. When God started to break me from a carnal lifestyle and lead me to repentance, they welcomed me with open arms and lovingly shepherded me through the infancy stages of my newly Christian walk.”

One of these men, Vitaliy, is also the director of Word of Grace Bible Institute (WGBI), a TMAI training center that reaches Russian speakers in over 39 countries. According to Andrey, Vitaliy’s friendship, leadership, and counsel profoundly influenced his life. “After I was saved,” explains Andrey, “Vitaliy is the guy who motivated me to get involved in the church. He challenged me by putting me in situations where I could serve the church with the life and gifts God had given me.”

Andrey G 2 480

Andrey discipling high school boys

Another of these men, Alexey, senior pastor at Word of Grace Bible Church, also teaches at WGBI as a TMAI faculty member. “Next to my dad,” says Andrey, “Alexey has had the biggest impact on me. I remember a time when I was feeling an immense amount of guilt and regret about my life, the way it had gone, the people I’d hurt, the lies I’d told, the things I’d done, and the ways I’d humiliated myself. It all balled up into a heavy burden in my heart. I asked pastor Alexey if he’d talk with me. We went out for a walk together and I asked him if it was right to just try to forget all of that. He lovingly looked me in the eyes and told me that Christ’s sacrifice is greater than my sin, and that when my sin weighs me down, I need to remember and rejoice in how great Christ’s sacrifice was for me. This has stayed with me until this very day.”

Andrey’s story is an important reminder that the men who work at our TMAI training centers are not only or even primarily involved in training church leaders. They are primarily men of the church, pastors, and shepherds. Their training of church leaders is never in competition with but is always an extension of their teaching and shepherding ministries in the local church. Andrey’s life is a witness to this. He explains, “The men running this institute (WGBI) are men who are committed to training leaders for the ministry, and they are equally men who are committed to the local church. I’m a testimony to that. Even when I ran from the church, I never for a single moment doubted that these men cared about me and loved me. Though I did not receive the formal WGBI training, the guys involved in that ministry transformed my life while carrying on these vital duties to the church. They were there for me when I needed it most, and they have helped develop my affections into a greater love for God and a desire to serve God’s church.”

Today Andrey is happily married and faithful in his walk with Christ. He is currently a first-year student at The Master’s Seminary, praying to be used by God to rescue as many as possible from a world that is rapidly flowing downstream.