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Nikita Kirkachev, 22, says several teachers disliked him for choosing church over studies. (Andrew McChesney / Adventist Mission)

No Saturday Classes

A student who gets too many letters can be expelled.

To Sabbath School teachers: This story is for Sabbath, Nov. 11. Click here for photos to share while telling the mission story.

By Nikita Kirkachev, as told to Andrew McChesney

Ask a young man to present this first-person report.

My Seventh-day Adventist mother taught me about God when I was a young boy, but my father prevented me from going to church. He said I could do whatever I wanted after I turned 18. But until then, he said, I had to obey him.

After I turned 18, I moved away from home to study architecture at a university in the city of Rostov-on-Don in southern Russia. The first thing I did after unpacking was find the nearest Adventist church. Then I began to study the Bible carefully and to keep the Sabbath.

Sabbath Issues

Almost immediately I ran into problems with the university. Teachers began to send me letters. Every time I skipped a class on Saturday, I received a letter. I skipped all my Saturday classes, so I received many letters. A student who gets too many letters can be expelled.

My father was furious when he learned that I was attending church instead of classes. He berated me in a long phone conversation. He accused me of being involved in a religious sect. I realized that he had hoped that I would forget about God after I turned 18. I told my father that I loved him but I loved God even more and wanted to obey God.

My mother was happy that I was putting God first. She read Isaiah 41:10 to me, which says, “Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you, yes, I will help you, I will uphold you with My righteous right hand” (NKJV). My mother prayed for me, and I also prayed.

I asked the university dean for permission not to study on Saturdays. But the dean said he couldn’t make an exception for me. He said the other students would accuse him of playing favorites.

Without any other options, I decided to ask each teacher individually for permission to make up classes on other days. This approach worked for two years. Many exams also were given on Saturdays, and the teachers allowed me to take them on other days of the week.

My classmates didn’t understand me at first. But they began to support me and speak up for me in front of the teachers.

Several teachers, however, disliked me. They didn’t understand why I chose church over studies. I grew increasingly worried about being expelled. I knew that education was important for my father, and I didn’t want to disappoint him.

The Ultimatums

One day, the dean called me into his office and gave me the ultimatum that I had been dreading. He said, “If you skip one more class on Saturday, I will expel you.”

We prayed about the situation at church. Two pastors visited the dean to explain why I was skipping classes. God intervened. The dean said I could stay if I agreed to engage in extracurricular work for the university. He asked me to help organize several health exhibitions.

Things quieted down for a while. Then the dean left, and my problems started again.

The biggest trouble came when one teacher refused to give me a final exam. I hadn’t attended any of her classes all semester because they were on Sabbath. My classmates gave me the assignments and delivered the homework they had covered on Saturdays. When I explained to the teacher why I couldn’t take the final exam on Sabbath, she said, “Come to class on Saturday, or don’t come at all.”

I thought that this was the end of my education. The dean didn’t support me, and the teacher wouldn’t back down. She even scheduled a makeup final exam for a Saturday.

I cried out to God to intervene.

Change of Heart

Shortly after that prayer, the teacher passed me on the sidewalk. Then she stopped and turned to me. “Come to my office and show me your homework,” she said.

This was the teacher who had refused to work with me all semester. Now she suddenly was agreeing to look at my homework. God had changed her heart. I passed the class.

Through the Sabbath challenges, I have learned to obey God and to surrender to Him. I am grateful that He has given me confidence and hope for the future.

Soon I will graduate and enter the workforce. I’m not worried about the future for two reasons. God has been faithful in fulfilling His promise to uphold me with His righteous right hand. And my last exam before graduation is scheduled for a weekday!

Part of this quarter’s Thirteenth Sabbath Offering will help build a Seventh-day Adventist community center in Rostov-on-Don where students like me can meet and share Jesus with others. Thank you for supporting the gospel with your Sabbath School mission offering.

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