June 3rd 2011
When We Choose God, He Gives Us His Kingdom
To choose God’s way is not always easy. When a person in an atheistic country chooses the Lord, it usually requires a sacrifice of something in his life. However, in exchange, God gives him something much greater – His own Kingdom. This very difficult, but blessed choice was made by Pastor Mykhailo Pishtoi. He does not regret that decision today.
Mykhailo Pishtoi was born in southern Ukraine. His parents became Christians when he was one year old. His grandmother was a devout believer, and it was her brother who first brought the Russian Gospel to their village after World War I. The Christian community that developed from his preaching went through much persecution during Stalin’s reign in the 1940s.
The first serious test of faith came to Mykhailo’s family when his parents took part in an open baptismal service. The Communist party leader in the village ordered the believers to quit, took out his pistol, and began shooting in the air aimlessly. The believers bravely continued the service, and by God’s grace, no one was harmed.
When Mykhailo was in seventh grade, teachers decided to “reeducate’ student believers with the Communist point of view. The school director mocked Mykhailo daily. “My director did not even realize that by doing this he made me read my Bible even more diligently,” Mykhailo says today. One day he called Mykhailo to his office. “I will use a different method on you. I am going to beat your religion out of you,” the director said. He did not do it, but used serious psychological pressure on young Mykhailo.
"You are an enemy of our country"
This pressure continued during all Mykhailo’s school years. Because he was from a Christian family, the teachers gave him poor marks. Mykhailo received a paper after school containing a short remark that characterized him for life: “His parents are Baptists”. With this remark no Institute or University would accept him into their educational program. “You are an enemy of our country. With such a paper you can only go to prison,” expresses Mykhailo.
After finishing school, Mykhailo Pishtoi began to work at a building brigade but was soon fired without any explanation. He knew it was due to his faith.
Then came the time that Mykhailo had to do his service in the military. The KGB major often tried to persuade him to renounce his faith. It was a very difficult time for Mykhailo. He was constantly told that he was an enemy of the Soviet people. ‘”You not only have no right to live in a Soviet country, but you have no right to live at all,” he was told.
One night he was awakened by three soldiers. They took him outside to a dark place near a barrack. Then they asked him if he was a Baptist. Mykhailo replied, “I am, and you know that.” One of the soldiers put a knife to Mykhailo’s back and another soldier-sergeant said, “You have one minute to think. You will either renounce your faith and become one of us, or we will kill you.” Mykhailo answered, “I am grateful to you. I want to use this minute to pray to God about myself and you as well. When I say ‘Amen’, you do what you want to do.” After that they hit Mykhailo in the back and left.
"I was able to listen to
During times of persecution, Mykhailo and his family constantly listened to TWR broadcasts. “When we had free time from work, we always listened to TWR programs. They inspired us. TWR broadcasts were special because I really wanted to study the Bible, but had no opportunity to do so. Through the broadcasts I received spiritual support. It is interesting that even in the Army some soldiers brought me a transistor radio to listen to Ukrainian and Russian folk songs, which I also loved. So I was able to listen to TWR even in the Army.”
Many years later when the iron curtain fell and Ukraine became free, Mykhailo had an opportunity to meet with his former school teachers. Some of them asked for Mykhailo’s forgiveness. Others sincerely confessed they hated him and other believing children. With some of the teachers Mykhailo prayed and asked God to forgive them.
Mykhailo was not able to study during Soviet times, but later graduated from a Bible institute and seminary. Today Mykhailo Pishtoi is a pastor, preacher, and Christian counselor.
When we choose God no matter what may come, He gives us His Kingdom. He is faithful to do that. The only thing we need to do is remain faithful to Him.
Source: They Lived Through It (a program aired twice a month in Ukraine containing testimonies of people that experienced persecution for their faith during the Soviet)
Lead Photo: Kirill Simonov