Thirty 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 18-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. He got to know a lot of Christians, came to a wedding in the church, attended Sunday worship in new church plantings, but he did not want to live for God or get baptized.
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 incredibly 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, six. He worked as a computer administrator. His wife, Masha, is seven 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: 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 40th 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.