How I found the Orthodox Church...
I was married in June of 1997 and In November of 2000 we decided to buy a home in Svoboda, Russia. This is a small village about 30 km NE of Kursk, a city where my wife Yulia had lived. Located here in Svoboda is the Korennaya Hermitage and the home of the famous Russian Kursk Root Icon since 1295 when the Icon was found. Our house needed to be remodeled but it was a nice dacha (a country house) for us to enjoy our summers.
I spent the summer of 2001 in Korennaya. Spending a lot of time at the Monastery I got closer to God than I ever had but coming from a background of a Baptist, I had many questions about the Orthodox Church. I spent a lot of time reading the Bible and learning more about the early Church Fathers and the History of the Christain Church. As I had no TV or radio that I could understand and there was many other outside distractions.
As it was getting closer to the time to leave I knew I wanted and needed to be baptized as I never had been even though I had excepted Christ as my savour many years before. I did not know if I should be baptized in the Baptist or Orthodox Church. The last week of my vacation was spent on this question. I had no one to talk with in Korennaya as I had questions that my wife could not understand because of our different relgious backgrounds. So I asked Jesus to give me wisdom and asked Him to show me the way.
Shortly before our vacation was over I wanted to spend a day by the Holy Kursk Root Spring and asked for a sign that the Orthodox Church was good place for me to be baptized. There was no one speaking English in Korennaya, and I was only thinking about Jesus sending me any kind of a sign. I was not expecting or demanding exactly how Christ would answer me but just was praying for a sign to help guide me on my baptism and future following Christ.
After a few hours I was sitting next to the Holy Kursk Root Spring dipping tank there were the monks and the priests who came to immerse themselves in the Holy Water. A vistiting Priest came up to me and talked to me in English. He said he was only there for a few hours and he wanted to visit the Holy Springs. He only spoke a little English but after a couple of minutes he said that he would like to visit with me more. He was an instructor at the Moscow Orthodox Seminary teaching new priests and he never did any idle chatting but this time he had a feeling that he needed to approach me. He apologized for interrupting me and he was gone into the woods to visit other Holy Springs.
A sign to become Orthodox!
After he had left I couldn't believe that this must have been the sign that I was looking for as I had been here for the whole three months and had not even meet anyone who spoke any English! And here was a priest that said that he was drawn to me even though he did not want to do any idle chatting with anyone. So I decided that with faith I should be baptized in the true Holy Spring Water where my personal miracle happened. I told myself if it was God’s will I would like to be baptized in the Kursk Root Holy Spring Water. There was no time to accomplish this in the last two days.
So I started planning my next summer in Korennaya Hermitage to be baptized. I wanted to be baptized by the monk that had been so kind and loving to me during my many hours at the monastery but he was only a monk not a priest. When I returned in 2001 the monastery made quick arrangements for my baptism in the Holy Spring Water. To my surprise a Priest Monk named Father Philip had been reassigned from the Kursk Monastery to Kursk Root Monastery and was going to baptize me. It reminded me of the story in the Bible (Acts 8:26-40).
Father Philip baptized me just before the Kursk Root Icon Procession. I had my daughter Yana translate the Baptismal service to me. Father Philip is a large strong young Orthodox Priest. He had been in the Kursk Monastery since 15 years old and he was from an orphanage in the Kursk Region. He had been in the Church for 14 years. I truly thank God for sending me Father Philip. I also want to thank Abbott John for getting a special permission to baptize me from the Bishop of the Kursk Region, for monasteries normally do not baptise people but send them to the local churches to have this done.
I am very touched by the amount of people at the Kursk Root Icon Procession. Over 30,000 Orthodox Christians take part in this day long procession. It reminds me of the Gospel when Jesus was preaching 2000 years ago. I had never had such a celebration before with so many people coming together for a religious ceremony. I can only imagine what type of celebration it will be when the original Kursk Root Icon returns back to its roots were it was fond in 1295.
Growing in the Orthodox Church
My life in Orthodoxy is growing but I still have many things to learn. One of the biggest things that I have learned is that the Bible came from the Church as a tool to keep Christians strong in Faith. I'm a slow learner and am more like Aposel Thomas; I've learned that I will never know all about the Church and the Bible, so I'm learning to be a better Christain as the Holy Spirit lets me see. I'm at peace and am happy in the Loard Jesus Christ!
In 2005 I was directed to an Antiochian Church that I now attend in America and Father David had converted his whole congregation to Orthodoxy from a Protestant Church. I still call my home Church the Korennaya Hermitage and with God's will I hope to return there again this summer.
I have been ill the past couple of years but have had a lot of extra time to learn how to build web pages. So I offered to set up a website for the monastery. The Korennaya Hermitage sent photos and information to me thru the monk Averky. The Abbot Benjamin also blessed me to build this web site. Pray for me as I endeavor this challenge and on my Orthodox learning.
NOTE: Just study the Christain History and the true path of the Christains and you will see there is still a Church that Jesus started that has not changed in 2000 years but holds everything that Jesus passed down both writen and oral Holy Traditions. For some unknow reason it is never talked about but just skipped over by Protestant and Catholic Churches. Look at the Christain Timeline Page as the Roman Catholic Church broke away from the other Four Christain Churches to go their own way and then the Protestant Church broke away from the Roman Catholic Church. The Roman Catholic and the Eastern Orthodox Church claims to be the One Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church. There were five original Orthodox Christain Churches; Jerusalem, Antiochian, Alexandrian, Greek, and Roman. Rome broke away from the Holy Apostic Church but the other four are still one united Church. The Eastern Orthodox Church is the same as it was 2000 years ago - What about your church?
May our Lord Jesus Christ Bless you as you grow in the Lord!