“Our Ancestors Were Orthodox”

I’d like to ask you, perhaps, a very personal question. After conversion, did you feel the blessed help of Jesus Christ Our Lord in your life? It is said in the Holy Scripture, It is good to guard the secret of a king, but gloriously to reveal the works of God. (Tob.12:7). That is why when we tell about this blessed or miraculous help of God, we do not promote ourselves, but instead tell people about things that our choice has brought into our life, about our true relationship with God. Many people think that faith simply means that you have to think in a particular manner. They don’t really understand that for a believer faith is an ongoing communication with God.

Mikhail: I often heard various people who converted to Orthodoxy (especially if they are from non-Orthodox nations) say that miracles happened to them. Frankly speaking, my life was quite uneventful in that respect. I didn’t experience any obvious miracles, I didn’t see a vision of St. Nicholas the Wonderworker. But from my childhood I had communication with God. For example, if I came home late, my father used to punish me, so when I saw that I was being late, I said “God, I know that you can do anything. I’m a bit late tonight. Make it so that my father is not home.” And he wasn’t home when I got there. This happened all the time. When I converted to Orthodoxy, all my requests were fulfilled. Anything I asked for. It is true. I had an illness that I suffered from since childhood, and after baptism it cured on its own and never returned.

When I talk to my Muslim friends, including Kabardians, they try to talk some sense into me, tell me something about Islam. They say, “You simply got used to thinking in an Orthodox way. You lived all your life there and listen to what the priest tells you. You need to learn about Islam and understand it.” I tell them, “There’s one thing that you don’t understand. If I went to church and the priest told me, ‘You know, Mikhail, Christ was born 2000 years ago—this is what scientists have said’, I would have probably become an atheist long ago. You don’t understand—there’s one thing that you can never make me change my mind about—it is my communication with God. And when I communicate with Him, it is not simply standing, saying prayers, following some formula, bowing or something like that… No. What I have is a true communication with God. I talk to God when I drive and when I walk home. And this is not a monologue. I really feel the presence of God. And His response.” Thank God, my life, as they say today, is successful. I noticed a long time ago, that all my requests, if they were well-meant, were fulfilled by God. If you can call this a miracle, then I can say that I have witnessed miracles. God gives me what I ask, whether it is my studies or my work, He always supports me. It is a real communication. Some people have difficulty understanding it.

When I converted to Orthodoxy, there was no discussion or reading of the essential works. I went to the Law of God lesson, listened and suddenly realized that this was the God that I communicated with all my life. Intellectual understanding of Orthodoxy came to me quite recently, 3-4 years ago, when influenced by Father Daniel Sysoyev’s writings I started reading the dogmatic books and the works of the Holy Fathers. Initially, I accepted the faith simply as faith, it simply came into my heart. That was how I converted to Orthodoxy when I was 14… Later I never doubted my choice. I was afraid, though. “Oh, what will happen when everybody learns about it!” I had some childish fears which later disappeared with God’s help.

You know, all my life I was afraid of something. I used to say, “God, help me, teach me how not to be afraid!” And this helped me to stop being afraid. Another example: Many of my friends are trying to get married and worrying about finding their better halves. I tell them, “What seems to be the problem? Start praying!” Before I got married, every evening before going to bed I prayed, “God, help me find the spouse that will be good for me according to Your will.” And God sent me a wife so good that all my friends are envious. We never fight and we don’t have any arguments. So I’m telling everybody, you have to ask and God will answer your prayers. In my life the Gospel came true through the words of God: Ask, and it shall be given you (Matthew, 7:7). I guess it is different for everybody. To me God was revealed in this: Whatever I asked, be it health, family or something else, God heard it and helped.

Father George: Earlier you said that you could have had this conversation in Kabardian. I’m going to take you up on that. So that our viewers don’t doubt your words, can you say the Jesus prayer in Kabardian?

Mikhail: The Jesus prayer? I’ll try. Lord, Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner! Ziuyskeen Aush Khristos Thyem e Kyue gueshegy kyshuesh guenykh se kyezykyym! I’m a bit nervous, but it goes something like that.

Father George: Are the stories of other Orthodox Kabardians similar to yours?

Mikhail: I started looking for Orthodox Kabardians not so long ago. Surprisingly, I have already found quite a few of them. I found two Kabardians who are Orthodox priests. Both are priests in churches. They live in Krasnodarsky Krai. The paths of the others are different. For example, one girl, an Orthodox Kabardian from Nalchik, was sympathetic to Orthodoxy from her childhood. Her ancestors were probably Greek priests and she was raised in accordance with Orthodoxy, even though their family is Muslim. Others too got to make this choice in their childhood. There are also those who converted to Christianity when they were adults. So, it is different for everybody. The most interesting thing for me is that there are many Orthodox Kabardians. I don’t even have to say that most of the Kabardians living in Mozdok are Orthodox. It is absolutely normal there. If you were born a Kabardian, you can be either Muslim or Orthodox. The same goes for Ossetians, some of them are Orthodox and some are Muslims.

Our people simply forgot that a person can become Christian. People are vigorously opposed to it. But in fact it is absolutely normal. We have to make a choice in our lives. We can’t live as we are forced to live. We have to choose the path that is dear to our hearts and not be afraid of anything. When you convert to Orthodoxy, your life is divided into “before” and “after”. In this life we have to choose—are we with God or not? Do we want to receive the Heavenly Kingdom or not? As God told John the Theologian in Revelation, But the fearful, and unbelieving… shall have their part in the lake which burneth with fire and brimstone(Rev. 21:8). If we are always afraid or ashamed of something, there won’t be a place near God for us. I know such people. When you talk to Kabardians or Adyghes in private, many of them are sympathetic to Orthodoxy, but at the same time they are afraid. Some may be afraid of reprisals, although I don’t think that is very likely. Some are embarrassed to tell their relatives about it. But that is life, you will eventually have to make the choice. That’s for sure.

Father George: Yes. We only have one life and the choice we make determines our eternal fate. Thank you for the interview. I hope God will help you on your path!

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