A few years ago, I attended an international conference of English teachers in Zvenigorod, near Moscow, Russia. I felt apprehensive about conversing in English with native-speaking professors. Although I had been an English teacher for years, this was my first international conference, and I feared that my English-speaking skills would not be adequate.
Toward the end of the conference, I attended a roundtable about Russian current events. Having thus far avoided speaking much English, I sat discreetly in a corner crowded room and listened to the discussion.
At one point, a gray-haired American professor stood up and asked, “What religious changes have occurred in Russia?”
Silence followed. Nobody wanted to answer because the sharing of religious feelings was still an unusual thing in our country. For me, however, the silence was difficult to bear because I had a response. I was feeling a prompting to speak out.
Despite my fears, I stood up and told the group in English that I had come from a religious family. Several of my father’s ancestors had been priests, and some of them had perished in Stalin’s camps.
Nevertheless, God and prayer had been part of my life for as long as I could remember, though I didn’t attend church except while on business trips to Moscow, where no one would recognize me. Starting in 1991, however, I no longer had to hide my Christian beliefs. Although I never forgot that my forebears had lost their lives for believing in God, I felt Russia’s new religious freedom was wonderful.
After I spoke, teachers from many different countries shared positive feelings with me about my response. The professor who had asked the question was from Brigham Young University, and we began a warm friendship. He taught me about the Latter-day Saints, the Book of Mormon, and the restored gospel.
Later, students from BYU came to my hometown of Voronezh to teach English. I invited them to my home for Russian cooking classes, and they invited me to their Sunday gathering. The meeting deeply impressed me with its simplicity, light, and spirit of mutual love, and I became a regular attender.
As I prayed and read the scriptures, I learned about repentance, baptism, and the gift of the Holy Ghost. I was baptized in Moscow by a BYU student on 15 December 1992, and in January 1993 the missionaries opened up Voronezh to missionary work. In February my son was baptized, and a year later my son baptized my husband. Because a gray-haired professor planted seeds of testimony, my family’s life is now full of purpose, joy, and the spreading of the gospel in Russia.