Some of you may remember the name of Georgi Vins. He was a Ukrainian pastor in prison for his “religious activities” in the Soviet Union several years ago. I was a BJU student praying for him in the Slavic Mission Prayer Band in the late 70s, and it was with great joy I heard years later that he had been exiled to the USA in exchange for Soviet spies. Children of the Storm, written by his daughter, Natasha, and published by BJU Press, tells of her perspective during those years of persecution.
Natasha was about nine years old when persecution began in her school (though ridicule of Christianity had begun years before), and it seemed to increase as the years went by. Teachers would hold her up for ridicule in front of her classmates and blame her for her class’s not making it into certain competitions. She was assigned to write a report on a boy held up as a Soviet hero who turned his father in to the KGB for keeping back a little of his grain for his starving family. The other children began to taunt and threaten her or just avoid her. She was threatened with being removed from her home and “re-educated.” These things struck a chord with me when I first read this book because my youngest was at the age Natasha was when some of this was happening, and I just could not imagine him going through these things. Yet as it all struck me as so sad, the Lord reminded me that He marvelously kept her through that time. And she was not even saved yet!
In later years she had a teacher who had similar interests, befriended her, was kind to her, and then began to undermine her Christian beliefs. This time Natasha listened, thought some of what her teacher said made sense, and began to question. When her father came home from a prison camp and she had an opportunity, she talked with him. Imagine coming home from being in prison for your faith to have your own daughter question your faith. Yet he did not express anger or disappointment: he just answered her questions as best he could. Not long afterward Natasha was saved.
At this time and place one truly had to count the cost of following Christ. Natasha was denied finishing her studies in her field of choice because of her Christianity. Her father had had to go “underground” by this time and sent word that he would like her to join him in the printing ministry. She helped for many years in vital ways, and even got to see her father here and there. Once they were to meet with someone who at the last minute had to postpone meeting with them for a couple of hours. Natasha and her father used the time to walk around the city and talk. He thought it highly likely that he would be arrested again, and his talks with her that day helped her to make it through the time when he was indeed arrested. Imagine having to prepare your child not for the remote possibility but for the very real likelihood of your imprisonment…and to do so in a way that does not leave her mourning or sad or bitter or feeling sorry for you or herself, but leaves her strengthened and resting in the Lord.
Natasha’s grandmother was also arrested when she was in her sixties and thought she would die in prison, yet the Lord delivered her.
The book tells also of Natasha’s mother and siblings, of visits to her father and grandmother in prison, of the persecuted church, of struggling to maintain a Christian attitude toward persecutors, of their reaction when her father was suddenly and unexpectedly exiled, of the family’s preparing to join him, of their impressions of America: one of the younger siblings was astounded that everyone carried Bibles to church. Natasha wept upon seeing a Christian bookstore. They left Russia with sorrow because it was their homeland, but before too long they began to see how the Lord could use them in the USA.
The epilogue of the book tells of the Lord’s help through their adjustments to the US, and then opportunities for ministry by publishing newsletters and several books and establishing a mission. After 11 years of exile, in 1990, Pastor Vins was able to make several return trips to the former Soviet Union, visiting and preaching openly, discussing with church leaders how the mission in America could best help them. He passed away Jan. 11, 1998, leaving not only a continuing ministry, but a legacy of godly man and his family.