In 1999, I traveled to Moscow with a fellow youth pastor to participate in a National Youth Pastor's Conference with the Russian Union of Evangelical Christians-Baptist (EUCB). At that time, I met a young youth pastor by the name of Eugene Bakhmutsky. I did not know it at the time, but it was the start of a good friendship. It seems like every couple years, the Lord brings our paths to cross. Almost every time I have traveled to Russia, I have been able to carve out time to visit him. And when he travels here to America, we somehow try to connect. Today, he is on his way to Ohio to spend the weekend with our family and church. I am so excited.
Who Is Eugene?
As a young university student in 1998, Eugene Bakhmutsky was offered a full scholarship to pursue a doctorate in scientific economics in Novosibirsk, Siberia. At the same time, he was feeling the pull to attend a Strategic Bible Institute (SBI) that was also being conducted in the city of Novosibirsk. Wanting to serve Christ, Eugene turned down the doctoral program and enrolled in the SBI. His studies intensified his love for God's Word. After completing the SBI, he continued his education at the new Novosibirsk Biblical Theological Seminary.
While pursuing his Masters of Divinity degree, Eugene served as the youth leader of the Novosibirsk Baptist Church. At the same time, he had an extremely popular youth outreach on secular radio, which attracted great opposition and even death threats from Satanists.
After graduation, the Baptist Union president asked Eugene to move to Moscow and lead the development of the youth ministries in Baptist churches spread all over Russia. He developed a national network of leader-trainers at the regional and state levels and trained them in founding their youth ministries on solid Biblical principles. In God's grace, more than 20,000 young men and women are blessing their churches and impacting their communities for Christ all across Russia.
In the spring of 2011, Eugene became the senior vice-president of the UECB, as well as remaining the leader of the youth ministries. He also is the pastor of the Russian Bible Church in Moscow, Russia.
How Are We Friends?
I ask myself this question often. How did we end up being friends? How does a Midwestern boy from America become friends with a Russian guy from Siberia? The only explanation for this sort of friendship is the Holy Spirit. In Ephesians 4, Paul says of Christians that
"There is one body and one Spirit--just as you were called to the one hope that belongs to your call--one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all." (vs. 4-6)
When a person comes to believe the gospel, many things happen. One of those things is that they are indwelt and baptized with the Holy Spirit. That is not a physical thing, but a spiritual thing. The Spirit of God places us in the body of Christ and makes us equal with all other Christians. Because of that, there is a connection that happens between Christians. While we might have grown up with different cultures, different foods, and different languages, we can be unified because of One Spirit bringing us into one body. My friendship with Eugene makes no sense apart from the Spirit of God in each of our lives.
Why Are We Friends?
The first time we met in 1999, he told me of how he was traveling from church to church in the Novosibirsk region, meeting with students and youth pastors. He was on bus after bus, hardly ever being home. As he told me that story, I asked him, "Don't you ever get tired?" His answer still rings with me today. He said, "I will rest in heaven."
That's why we are friends. Or at least, that is why I want him as a friend. He challenges me. He encourages me. He motivates me. He is part of the cloud of witnesses that is running the race of the Christian life. He helps me walk with Christ. I do not know why he wants to be my friend, but I know why I want to be his. He helps me love Jesus more in my life.
I am so excited to have him spend the weekend with our family. I am excited to have him share at church on Sunday (CBC - please be there). I will never tire of his friendship, and there are very few people in this world that I would say that about. It is just funny that it happens to be some guy from the other side of the world.