CCI - Russia
Where were you born and where do you live now?
I was born in Leningrad, the second largest city of the Soviet Union and the former capital of the Russian Empire. I have never moved from there, but now I live in St. Petersburg, Russian Federation, which is considered the most beautiful city in the world.
How did you become a Christian and did camp play a role in your spiritual development?
I became a Christian at the age of 25 through an acute personal crisis while failing to find the purpose of life. By that time I had already been reading the Bible and interacting with believers for a few years. My wife and I became Christians within the same week (I know the precise date, she doesn’t, so I can’t tell you whether it was the same day and hour as I wish it was). This is my side of the story; the real reason and the real way God worked was through the prayers of my Grandma Barbara who was the only Christian in our family for 49 years. I never attended a Christian camp (or any other type of camp) as a child/teen, but it so happened that I came to one a few weeks after I reconciled with Jesus. I had been attending a church prior to that, but the camp was the place where I experienced the fullness and transformational power of Christian fellowship for the first time. Serving at a camp every summer continues to be the spiritual culmination of my life.
Tell us about your family.
My wife’s name is Dasha, and she is a very faithful person. We met at the University where both of us studied Philology. I abandoned this field decades ago, but she is still committed to teaching Russian as the Second Language at the same University. We celebrated our silver wedding anniversary this February and I’m not ashamed to tell that for us it meant much more than the ceremony 25 years earlier. By God’s grace I’ve got three arrows in my hand. Two older sons (Benjamen and Ivan) are married and run food joints 2,200 km apart from each other; the youngest (Egor) is still single, he’s a 18-year sophomore at a Christian University in Klaipeda, Lithuania (a country in Europe, for those challenged by geography). I wish I could also tell you about my Grandma and my Sister, but I’d rather keep those fascinating stories until we meet in South Africa.
What role(s) do you have in Christian camping? How have you been involved in CCI?
I have been the President of CCI/Russia (CIS & Baltics) since January 1994. I have also served on the Executive Committee / Board of Directors of CCI Worldwide for ten years, and chaired that Board in 2012-2014. Since training/leadership development is the core component of CCI, I lead seminars, have spoken at conferences and taught Christian camping at dozens of events in various countries, including Russia, Latvia, Lithuania, Estonia, Belarus, Ukraine, Moldova, Uzbekistan, Georgia, Spain, Netherlands, USA, Canada, Panama, Guatemala, Korea, China and probably somewhere else that I forgot.
What do you do on your day off?
Most of my days off are Sundays so the most common pastime on those will be preaching and serving at my church. I also like to travel whatever the means are: by foot, bike, car, or boat. My walks often lead me to the woods where trekking is happily combined with mushroom picking. I like swimming in the open – my wife says if a body of water is not covered by ice or oil spill I will most likely step into it (and float). A brother in Christ lead me to Facebook two years ago, and this perilous addiction has been aggressively consuming the time previously devoted to other hobbies. I think I need to do something about it (like most of you).
Besides the Bible, what is your favorite book?
CLASSIC (1) Don Quixote by Miguel de Cervantes; (2) The Silver Dove by Andrey Bely; (3) The Foundation Pit by Andrey Platonov. MODERN (1) John Fowles; (2) Julian Barnes; (3) Jose Saramago.
What kind of music do you like? Any favorite recording artists or song?
CLASSIC (1) Italian Baroque; (2) J.S. Bach; (3) Peter Tchaikovsky. MODERN (1) Boris Grebenschikov & Aquarium; (2) Paul Simon & Art Garfunkel; (3) Leonard Cohen.
What is your favorite Bible verse? Any story that tells us why?
“Blessed is the one whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered.” Psalm 32:1
I once realized this verse can refer to me, and it made all the difference.
What’s the best advice you’ve been given?
Never discuss anything that happens in your bedroom with anyone besides your wife.
What else should we know about you?
I believe that words matter. It all started with words (the Word), and the words will remain when everything else is burnt. This has been my profession by choice, and I profess it still.