Europe

Vera Izotova

Spiritual conversations include astronomy, football and watercolors

Laurie Lind, Entrust staff writer

Vera Izotova is the director of National Women’s Ministry Training, a cooperative effort launched in 1999 by Entrust and several like-minded organizations, equipping women in ministry across Russia.

Vera loves “witnessing to people in my environment about the love of Christ and his salvation.” She credits Entrust’s Evangelism & Discipleship course with strengthening her readiness to dialogue with anyone, anywhere, anytime about spiritual truth. Let Vera’s courage and boldness, her ability to turn any topic to spiritual things, and to let spiritual questions linger in people’s minds, inspire and encourage you.

 

Encounter 1

With a 40-year-old woman. “Are you saved?” I asked. “If you died today, would you go to heaven?” The woman cried for a long time and told me her story. It turns out, because of the collapse of her family and not seeing any further sense in living, she wanted to commit suicide. After two hours of conversation, she accepted the gospel. I keep in touch and pray for her. 

 

Encounter 2

With three young fans of the Spartak football team. The first was a member of the Orthodox Church, and his mother had read the Bible to him when he was young. When I asked if he was saved, he answered sarcastically, “By whom? Spartak? An archangel?”

 

The second was a national socialist who believed only Hitler can save. “But,” I replied, “Hitler himself died. How can he save you?” The young man went silent.

 

The third, a Hare Krishna, asked me, “Are you a Jehovah’s Witness?”

 

In reply, I asked all three, “If you died today, where would you go?”

 

The Orthodox man said, “The apostle Peter will decide whether to let me go to heaven or not. Don’t you know that he is at the gates of heaven? Are you not Orthodox?”

 

“I am a Christian. I believe that only Christ saves,” I said, to which he asked, “What are your conclusions about us [Orthodox church members]?” I told him I felt prompted to action.

 

“What kind of action?” they all asked. “To pray for you!”

 

Encounter 3

With a young, beautiful, blonde girl named Anna. As she unloaded children's watercolors from the trunk of her car for an exhibition at the Palace of Railway Workers Children, I saw that one of her pictures was called Christmas.

 

“Imagine, a child of ten years old painted this!” Anna explained with delight.

 

“Yes,” I replied. “I work with children. Children feel the spiritual world. Especially the birth of Jesus. May I ask you a personal question? Are you saved?”

 

“I do not know. God knows,” Anna said.

 

“Honey,” I told her, “Jesus came into the world to save us. For salvation you need to believe in Jesus. He who believes in the son of God has everlasting life, and the unbeliever is already condemned."

 

Encounter 4

With two young Armenians.

 

“May I ask you a question?”

 

One of the men pulled his friend by the sleeve and said, “Let's go!” But the second guy agreed to talk with me. “Go ahead,” he said.

 

“Are you Christians?”

 

They answered in chorus, “Yes, we Armenians are Christians.”

 

“You Armenians are Christians since the third century. But are you personally saved by Christ?”

 

The first guy, hiding behind the friend, said, “I told you, let's go.” But the brave friend kept thinking. “Saved from what?”

 

“From sin and death.”

 

Taking advantage of the pause, I blessed him in the Armenian language: “Astvats orhni e kiz, Erik! God bless you, Erik!” His gray-green eyes widened in amazement. “What did you call me?”

 

“Erik.” Obviously, he had not heard his friend briefly utter his name. He took me for a clairvoyant, one who even spoke his language.

 

“If you died today,” I asked, “would you go to heaven?” This brought the first guy to a panic and he was ready to run.

 

Erik showed courage and answered, “If it is necessary for God, then I will get this.”

“God did everything to make you go to heaven,” I told him. “For this, you need to believe in Jesus Christ as your Savior and repent of your sins.”

 

“Thank you, Vera-jan,” he answered, using a term of respect for a woman.

 

Encounter 5

With a young couple, Anna and Cyril.

 

Cyril was baptized in the Orthodox Church and knew about Christ. But young people are not interested in questions of faith, and they don’t go to church.

 

“Are you saved by Christ?”

 

“We’ll come back into this life for redemption,” Cyril said.

 

“Cyril, God gives us only one life. Ask yourself, if you died today, would you go to heaven, where God is?”

 

“This is a tough question.”

 

“Right. Difficult and not solvable. The answer to it can be found in the gospel of John. Do you want to read the gospel?”

 

Anna and Cyril willingly took the New Testament I offered them. I told them that my grandson’s name is Cyril, and my daughter-in-law is Anna. We parted warmly and with a sense of being related.

 

Encounter 6

With members of the Astronomy Fan Club. Yuri, Andrey, Valery and Oleg were in the park near my office, looking at Mars through a telescope. They told me that every two years Mars comes within 100,000,000 kilometers of Earth’s orbit, and that every 15 years, there is “the great confrontation,” when Mars is only 85,000,000 kilometers from Earth. They gave me a look at Mars through the telescope.

 

When I asked if they believed in God, the youngest, Andrey, declared that they were atheists. I wondered how these lovers of astronomy, observing the heavenly bodies created by God, could be atheists. I reminded them of the wise men who observed the sky and found a star in the East, followed it and came to worship the newborn Christ.

 

Andrey rained philosophical and esoteric terms on me and accused the church of dictating peoples’ lives. He said he wasn’t concerned about death. Even if we all disappeared, the universe would still remain, he said.

 

My question to him was direct. “Are you saved from death?” He immediately became serious and confessed that he had read parts of the gospel. He agreed to read the gospel according John, once again.

 

Valery said he’s a fan of Alexander Dolsky and is impressed by the lyrics of this poet’s song: “We all hope in God, and God trusts in us.”

 

I told him those words were taken from the second page of the Bible. God created man in his own image and likeness and settled him in the garden of Eden, then entrusted him with cultivating the land and ruling over all creation. But man failed to fulfill that trust.

 

Oleg said he’d read all kinds of literature, including religious, but was indifferent to God. He advised me to buy a telescope and watch the stars in my yard to learn more about the universe.

 

Encounter 7

With Agnessa, an attractive, rich woman with dark glasses. As she got out of a posh car parked in front of me, I saw she was wearing a diamond cross.

 

“The cross symbolizes the suffering of Christ. Do you believe in Christ?”

 

“I believe,” she said.

 

“Are you saved by Christ?”

 

She thought for a while and answered, “Only in the end it will be clear.”

 

“And if the end comes today, since none of us knows the day of his/her death, will you go to heaven?”

 

“Go where?

 

“To heaven, where Christ is now.”

 

“It’s up to God. I do not know.”

 

“Jesus Christ, in whom as you say you believe, gives salvation. Do you want to read in the gospel how you can be saved?”

 

“I do.”

 

“Read the gospel of John. There you will find the answers to these questions. ‘Goodbye, Agnessa. Be blessed.’”

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