A Resurrected Life
Dead on Arrival
Ivan was born in Krasnoyarsk, Siberia, and he died there - but that wasn’t the end of his story. In what seems like a scene from a movie, Ivan arrived D.O.A. at the hospital and was sent to the morgue — where he received a second chance at life.
Ivan’s childhood was one of an absentee father who never told him he loved him and a mother who worked most of the time. He was left at home with his grandmother, who allowed him to do whatever he wanted, and rarely disciplined him. Tagging along with his older brother much of the time, he was introduced to the world of drugs and alcohol, and by the age of six, he was already smoking cigarettes and drinking.
At 14, Ivan was kicked out of school for using drugs and his brother was arrested and sent to prison. His father felt publicly disgraced and disowned them as sons. Ivan continued to experiment with drugs and was soon using heroin on a regular basis, yet never considered himself to be an addict.
At the same time, Russia was facing an epidemic of heroin laced with cockroach poison that was killing most of its victims, and that’s how Ivan ended up in the morgue. After taking what he considered to be a small amount of heroin, he collapsed on the steps of his home where the neighbors found him lifeless. He was rushed to the hospital and pronounced dead on arrival. After being moved to the morgue with a sheet placed over his body, an observant physician noticed fresh blood on the sheet covering his body and began to resuscitate him. He spent the next 10 days in ICU before being released to his mother’s care. Unfortunately it wasn’t long until he fell back into his same old ways, which led his mother to throw him out to the streets.
He was rushed to the hospital and pronounced dead on arrival.
With no home, family, or friends to turn to, he found himself sleeping on a park bench. One day, he watched a family crossing the street to the market – a father, mother, and two children.
They looked so happy and healthy. He looked beside him to see another broken drug addict and heard a voice inside him say, “You can live and have a family full of joy, or die like this drug addict.” At that moment, he knew that was what he wanted – to have a happy family.
Meanwhile, Ivan’s brother, who had gone to prison, was now healthy and living a recovered life – thanks to a Teen Challenge program. He had heard about Ivan’s near-death, went looking for him and found him living on the streets. He encouraged him to get help at the Teen Challenge program where he had found hope and a relationship with Jesus Christ. Ivan agreed and it didn’t take him long to see that there actually was hope for him too. In the program, Ivan asked Jesus into his heart and his life began to change. He discovered a new way of living, free from drugs, crime, and the temptations that used to torture him. And do you know what else he found at Teen Challenge? A family. Just as he envisioned on that park bench, he now lives his dream of a joyful, healthy life with his wife and two children.
FINDING HOPE AND PURPOSE
A healthy sense of purpose and nurturing family were not ingredients found in Natalya’s childhood in Novokuznetsk, Russia. With an alcoholic father and an overworked mother, she and her brother had to fend for themselves. They spent much of their time on the streets, which lead to poor decisions and added conflict to the already dysfunctional family. By age 14, Natalya was smoking marijuana and struggling with depression, having no sense of belonging or meaning in her life. One failed suicide attempt, followed by another, left her more and more desperate.
In what should have been her lowest point, Natalya instead turned to heroin to dull the physical and emotional pain she carried day after day. Eventually the drug abuse took its toll on her body, leading to organ failure and two strokes. A third stroke left her in a coma for five days and her parents were notified to take her home to die.
Alone one night in her bedroom, Natalya cried out to God, “I am so tired of this torment. I have lived my life with no purpose. If you want me to stay here on this earth, please change my life and heal me. If you don’t need me, please take me now.”
Alone one night in her bedroom,
Natalya cried out to God...
Natalya had lived most of her life in a recklessly fearless way, unafraid to kill herself with her addiction, yet in that moment in her conversation with God, she was instantly filled with fear – afraid of dying before living out her purpose. From that moment on, her physical and spiritual outlook began to improve.
A friend who had been through a recovery program invited her to visit Teen Challenge and she accepted. She has since completed the program, and has found the purpose and wholeness that she desired her entire life.
Natalya is now happily married to Ivan (from the cover story) and is the mother of a son and a daughter. She and her husband are both leaders in their church. Ivan and Natalya are committed to walking out their calling and purpose in life, and sharing the hope they have found with others.
THE SEARCH FOR A FURRY HAT
In my role as Vice President of Development at Global Teen Challenge, I am held accountable as a steward of your contributions, using them around the world to invoke change and foster program and leadership development. For the most part, that stewardship is led from my desk in Columbus, Georgia. When I was given the opportunity to visit the frontlines of our work in Krasnoyarsk, Russia, the mission to “put hope within reach” was about to become even more real.
To say that my Russian experience was different would be putting it mildly. From the warmth of the southern USA to the bitter Siberian cold, with no Google maps to rely on, I put my trust in my Russian Teen Challenge colleagues as we ventured out to find my daughter a traditional furry Russian hat as a souvenir. Did I mention it was cold? The -21˚ F weather made our journey uncomfortably challenging.
We roamed from one storefront to another, street to street, asking the local merchants where we could find a furry hat, with no luck, until we encountered Maxim. A conversation ensued, none of which I could understand. But I did understand the change in Maxim’s facial expression when he learned we were not the people he was expecting – his drug couriers.
In this particular area of Russia, websites are spray-painted onto buildings. Through these sites, you can order drugs, and some local police officers even receive kickbacks for directing you to your pick-up. Once an order is placed online, customers receive an address to meet a courier. And now, much to our surprise, we were being mistaken as the drug mules!
Much to our surprise, we were being mistaken as the drug mules!
As my friends explained our shopping mission to Maxim, he walked with us and we told him about Teen Challenge and shared personal stories of addiction. He listened, but refused any help – and had many reasons why:
his numerous failed recovery attempts, his seasonal work as a fire jumper, his one-year-old son, his recent divorce, and the biggest challenge of all – he was not permitted to leave the area because of his debt. My friends continued to challenge him, explaining that none of these excuses should keep him from seeking help and true freedom. Asking what I could do, they encouraged me to pray for a miracle.
At a break in our conversation, we realized that our search had led us to a dead-end alley. As a former law enforcement officer, it did not look good. With only a 10-ft. drop onto a busy highway as a means of escape, my nerves were now on edge, thinking we were about to be robbed, or worse, killed. Instead, Maxim had called a cab to drive us back to the hotel. We exchanged phone numbers, thanked him for his help, and wished him well as we parted ways.
Throughout the evening my colleagues continued to text him about Teen Challenge, and eventually he asked for help to get into a recovery program! That’s when I received a valuable education on why our funds are needed globally and how they are used to help people like Maxim. His willingness to surrender to recovery was only the first step – the journey from Krasnoyarsk to the Teen Challenge in Kyrgyzstan (500 miles away) required immediate funds.
While we worked on the transportation arrangements, our prayers focused on Maxim, that he would actually show up the next morning. When I saw him and his family in our hotel lobby, I knew it was a miracle and his journey to recovery was about to begin. Once the excitement settled down, I remembered my quest for a souvenir hat for my daughter. The next day I found one for her, and had a story to go with it! It’s one that my family will retell with joy for many years to come.
Last month Maxim completed his recovery program, became a trained leader of Royal Rangers (a boys’ scouting program), and has decided that he wants to work with children at the church he now attends.
After months of dedicated labor and faithful support, a new Teen Challenge men’s center will be welcoming students in the spring. Phase two will include a women’s facility.
Women with Children
A second floor and new roof is underway at this Teen Challenge women’s center, which will house 20 women and their children.
A 3-day training and leadership forum was held in Phnom Penh for Teen Challenge leaders. New curriculum was presented (now available in 29 languages), and the need for translated personal study materials was discussed.
Spring always welcomes in a season of growth, new hope, and renewal. We are grateful for your faithful support that allows us to bring the good news of hope to people all over the world who are struggling with life-controlling issues.
In anticipation of Easter and the message of resurrection, it’s only fitting that we share the story of Ivan, who was D.O.A. at the hospital morgue, and miraculously found his way back from certain death. Given a new life through a Teen Challenge program in Russia, Ivan’s victory story gets even better – he started a family with Natalya, whose story of finding purpose in the midst of hopelessness is also included in this issue. Together, they are now not only living out the miracle of recovered lives, but are serving others at a Teen Challenge in Siberia.
It’s my honor to take this opportunity to thank you for your generous support in helping to meet the need. Through these stories, I hope you’ll realize the direct impact of your contribution. From our headquarters in the U.S. to the streets of Russia, lives are being changed as you help us put hope within reach of every addict, in every nation.
Psalm 10:17 (MSG)
The victim’s faint pulse picks up;
the hearts of the hopeless
pump red blood
as you put your ear to their lips.
Orphans get parents,
the homeless get homes.
The reign of terror is over,
the rule of the gang lords is ended.
HELP US PUT HOPE WITHIN REACH OF EVERY ADDICT!
GLOBAL TEEN CHALLENGE | 15 W 10TH STREET | COLUMBUS, GEORGIA 31901 | PHONE (706) 576-6555 | WWW.GLOBALTC.ORG