Major Lavarinenko Aphanasjevich


By Dr. Harold J. Sala

Remember how the LORD your God led you all the way in the desert these forty years, to humble you and to test you in order to know what was in your heart, whether or not you would keep his commands.  Deuteronomy 8:2

If you doubt that truth is stranger than fiction, listen carefully to the exciting story of Lavrinenko Ivan Aphanasjevich, a one-time major in the Russian army, member of the Communist party and, of course, an unbeliever in the God of his parents.  Should you meet this man today, you would see a gentleman, now 80 years of age, with broad shoulders, a look of steadfast determination, and gracious demeanor, who often ministers in churches in the Kiev, Ukraine area.

Ivan’s pilgrimage began at the age of eighteen.  It was 1940, and Hitler had invaded Poland; and after France capitulated, the German army swept into the Balkans, ready to attack Russia.  That’s when Ivan was sent to the front in nearby Belarus.  In the months that followed, he fought the Germans on seven fronts.  Believing that he had been killed in action, the army reported his death to his family, who grieved the loss of their son.

Four years later, when his unit was near his home, Ivan went to his village and opened the door of his home.  “Hello,” he said to his mother and lapsed into silence.  Not recognizing her son whom she believed to be dead, his mother said,  “Maybe you want to stay at our home?”  And that’s when younger brother Alexander yelled, “O mother, Ivan has come!”  Talk about an emotional volcano!

Most of the men who fought with the Russian army never came home.  The reports of their deaths were real, and according to the rule of thumb, Ivan should have been killed.  Time and time again, his brush with death would be accompanied by his crying out to God, the one who was worshiped in the home in which he grew up.  On one occasion a mortar landed a few feet away but did not explode.  God had His hand on Ivan, yet God and moving up the ranks didn’t go well together–at least in the Russian army.

Eventually Ivan was promoted to the rank of major, and when the war was over, his unit was disbanded.  After 27 years of distinguished service, he was retired.

Having bought a short-wave radio, Ivan began searching for the BBC and the VOA, but he also stumbled across Christian voices on HCJB’s Russian programming along with TransWorld Radio’s transmissions out of Morocco and Monte Carlo.  He listened.  He was fascinated, and recorded the programs on a little tape recorder, writing down thoughts in a notebook.

When believers were baptized in his area, he went to observe, mostly out of curiosity, and when he was challenged to be baptized himself, with trembling heart he stepped into the cold waters of the Black Sea.  “The baptism is secret,” he was told, adding, “Do not tell anybody….  We will be punished [if you do].”  But the truth eventually came out.

Ivan was singled out and denounced in front of 700 military officers.  He was accused of treason and being an American spy.  He was dismissed from his job, beaten and nearly killed by the KGB.  “Just sign a paper saying, ‘I have been deceived,’ and all will be OK,” he was told.

One KGB officer especially seemed to hate him, and every year Ivan prayed for the man and sent him a Christmas card.  Every year there was no response.  Then the KGB officer died, and among the papers he left behind including the Christmas cards from Ivan was a handwritten note recording the secret conversion of the KGB officer who met his match in a man who could not be beaten into submission.

No wonder Ivan says, “The Lord teaches us how to love Him.  We are one family in God.  Thus, let us be firm in our trust in the Lord.”  Indeed.

Resource reading: 2 Timothy 1:1-12.

Dr. Harold J. Sala, well known speaker, author and Bible teacher, has served as founder and President of Guidelines International, Inc., since 1963. He is the featured speaker on the daily “Guidelines-A Five Minute Commentary on Living” which is broadcast on over 1000 radio stations around the world and translated in over 15 languages. Author of over 40 books published in various languages and hundreds of publications. Residing in Mission Viejo, California, Harold and his wife, Darlene, have three adult children and eight well-loved grandchildren.

Used with permission from Guidelines Philippines, Inc. To learn more about Guidelines and the ministry, please write to Box 4000, 1280 Makati City, Philippines or e-mail address You may also visit the Guidelines website at

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  • ivy agudo

    Hi po, pag pray nyo naman po yung mama ko na may sakit na stage3 melanoma in the cervix. Naniniwala po ako na powerful ang prayers and God can do healing and miracles. tnx po

    • Hi Ivy! Makakaasa ka ng aming panalangin para sa kagalingan ng iyong mother. I also agree with you that prayers are powerful. God is already healing your mother now in Jesus Name. Maari ka rin tumawag sa ating Prayer Center anumang oras sa 8107717 / 8107176. God bless.

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