HAPPY REUNION: Phil White (second from left) stands with the Tishin family (Slava, Luba, and Galena) in Russia in 2008.My mind journeyed back through the events that led to this emotional reunion. The story began the summer of 1992, when I was a young pastor in western Washington State in the U.S. The iron curtain had recently fallen, and a group of Russian Adventists came to my church as part of a North Pacific Union Conference initiative known as Operation Bear Hug. They shared their stories of life in the former Soviet Union and the urgent need to evangelize those who were now hungry for Bible truth. Among the group were a pastor, Vasiliy Stolyar, and a young adult, Gennady Kasap. “Come to Russia,” they invited. “Bring an evangelistic team and hold meetings.”
ADVENTIST CHURCH: The church in Saratov, Russia, planted as a result of Operation Bear Hug.In June 1995 my wife, Jan, and I returned to hold a week of revival meetings in Saratov before attending the General Conference session in Utrecht, Netherlands. Once again, Luba was in attendance. After her baptism she had faithfully continued attending the Adventist church. To the surprise and concern of her parents, her interest in Christianity intensified. It was decided that her mother, Galena, would attend the church to discover how they could refute Adventist beliefs. To the disgust of Galena’s husband, Slava, she also embraced Adventist teachings and was baptized. Though more resistant than ever, Slava consented to attend the revival series, but only because he was asked to video the meetings. I encouraged Slava to give his life to Christ, but he refused. Having been an active member of the Communist Party and a military officer in the Soviet Army, he was a hardened man. At one time in his career he was stationed at the Berlin Wall and was trained to shoot anyone trying to escape to the West.
EARLIER DAYS: The Tishin family in 1995 after attending revival meetings. From left: Galena, Sasha, Luba, and Slava.So why was Slava in attendance at the fifty-ninth General Conference session of the worldwide Adventist Church? This man who had at one time been a Communist and KGB informant? This man who’d had a hardened attitude toward God? Now a local church elder and the director of publishing ministry for the Seventh-day Adventist Church in the Saratov region of Russia, Slava Tishin came to Atlanta as an official delegate, not for the Communist Party or the KGB, but for his Lord and his church.