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Watch 2022 online sermons » John Bradshaw » John Bradshaw - Conversation with Peter Kulakov

John Bradshaw - Conversation with Peter Kulakov


John Bradshaw - Conversation with Peter Kulakov
TOPICS: Conversations

His is a fascinating story. Born in a country that no longer exists, raised in a family that repeatedly had to run from the authorities on account of their faith, he's a pastor, an evangelist, a media evangelist, and much more. His name is Pastor Peter Kulakov and this is our Conversation.

Pastor Kulakov, thank you very much for joining me.

It's my honor.

I hardly know where to start with you. We could start today and that'd be great, we could go way back and that'd be good, so I think we're gonna start somewhere near the beginning, maybe even before the beginning. Tell me where you're from originally and we'll start digging in that direction.

I was born in the Soviet Union, which, as you mentioned, does not exist anymore. My father was secretly operating as a pastor in Kazakhstan. My mom and dad had five children at that time, and then my mom shared with my dad that she was expecting another child, the sixth one, and that was the time when my dad was pushed by the authorities to Uzbekistan. And, that's a big story. I don't know how much time you have, but...

Yeah, that's a huge story. Tell me what was going on at that time, that your dad working as a minister had to basically run ahead of the authorities to get from one place to another. We're talking about what was the Soviet Union. I think it's true for many of us in the West, we know about the Soviet Union, but we really don't know much. We just know facts, we don't know much, we don't anything from experience. So tell me what it was like. What your dad was going through, and what living conditions were like and what ministry was like then?

My dad's dad, my grandfather, whose name was also Peter, was a pastor, also secretly working as a pastor during the times of communism when churches could not meet publicly, openly. When you were not allowed to give Bible studies to anyone. When KGB would be watching your every step, knowing that you have some Christian literature in your hands. That was the time when my grandfather, living in central Russia, was arrested. Actually the second time. He already spent his first term, three years, in labor camps and in prison. So that comes the second time that he's arrested again. At that time my future father was about 19, 20 years of age. So his dad is being arrested, tried, and so, my dad shared with me as he wanted to see his dad maybe the last time before he would be taken to Siberia to one of those camps. So he's trying to get into the building where his dad is being tried and sentenced, and there are authorities, and military, and police not letting him in. But one of the guards was really nice to him, sort of like an angel maybe provided by God. So he takes my dad into the basement of that building and he says, "When they finish the trial, we'll be taking your dad into the basement of that building. So if you stand here in that hallway, you may see him before he's taken away". So my dad is standing there waiting and they sentenced his dad, my grandfather, to 10 years of prison and labor camps just because he was giving Bible studies to someone. And they're taking him downstairs into the basement and as he is passing by this hallway, my future father at that time looked into the eyes of his dad, and his dad noticed him. He turned to him and he said, "Be faithful to the Lord. Be prepared. They'll come after you very soon". And that's what actually happened. They did come after my future father when he was only 20 years of age. He was giving Bible studies to two students of a local college, just helping them understand what the Bible was all about. And so, the KGB officers came, and arrested him and his brother at the same time, the same day.

So your grandfather, he was arrested and sentenced to 10 years. He served those 10 years?

He served those 10 years.

What's that like for a family, being without a dad who was imprisoned, what we would say unjustly? And prisoned according to the laws of that land, but we would say this is devastating to be arrested and imprisoned for such a thing. For a family to go through that. What's that experience like?

They all had strong faith and that faith was carrying them through. They would lose their income. They had to survive with no food basically. And they had to live in that expectation that any moment someone may come and take them also. Still they would be strong in their faith, and that faith would give them the energy and the power, to look forward and to know they were God's children, they will be okay, no matter what happens. That's still, even today looking back, is an example to me, because we know persecutions may come and we'll look into the future. I don't want to live in fear.

Right.

If I'm the child of God, God will take care of me. It may be hard. It may be difficult. So, yes, my dad was a young man at that time. His brother was a young man. They were still doing whatever they could to preach the Gospel. They never were stopping. They were not living in fear. Their mom was suffering so much because, again, her husband was taken away. She did not have any means to support the family, so they were struggling.

So how did the family get by? There's no breadwinner, no provider?

But God was there for them and church members. Those sweet ladies, they would cook a little here, a little there, bring into their home and share whatever little that they had, they would share with my, that was like the early church. You know, they were there

Yeah.

To share whatever little they had.

Yeah. Oh, there's a point I wanna come back to, but I wanna ask this question first. So your dad and your uncle were sentenced. How long did they go away for?

So my dad was sentenced to five years and he was sent to serve that term in northern Kazakhstan, which is right under Siberia. His brother was also in one of the labor camps. And it was hard. Even before his sentencing, my dad had to be for six months in the basements of the KGB building, just waiting for the outcome. They would not allow him to sleep during the day, but, as soon as the time to sleep comes, he would be in that cell with like a bunch of other criminals. They would take him for interrogation. And they would interrogate him for hours and hours during the nighttime and then they let him go back into the cell for the last hour before the nighttime was over. And so he sleeps for that one hour, they wake him up again, they're not allowing him to sleep the whole day until 10:00 or 11:00 in the evening, and then they allow just one hour when the person just falls asleep, they take him again for interrogation. And they were trying to make him give up some names of church members, other pastors who were giving Bible studies, but he said he was so exhausted by the end of those six months that he didn't care if they would just shoot him. I mean, he was ready to die. He said, "I just wanted it to finish and to know my sentence and to go and to serve that term no matter what".

Your dad went on to become, what's the right way? A pillar, a rock, a giant in the work in the Soviet Union and then post-communism Russia. Talk to me a little bit about your dad, what he was like and his ministry?

Whenever I think about my dad is how much he loved God's Word. That was everything for him. He loved biblical languages, he loved Greek, he loved old Hebrew and German and English, because all that was helping him to get to the meaning of the biblical text. That's all that he cared, that was his priority. He wanted to read the Scripture. He was teaching us as children to read the Scripture and to memorize Scripture. And, he was collecting books that he would secretly acquire from here and there, and he would be hiding them in the outhouse that we had in the backyard between two floors, that he would keep those books there, bring them home when it was dark at night and read those books. He loved God's Word. So when he was taken to prison and to the labor camp, all he wanted to have some access to God's Word. But they would not allow him to have his Bible or even a page from the Bible. So if, there was any chance that he would have at least a few verses from the Bible, that would be if his mom would smuggle something in a package that would be sent. Once every six months he was allowed to receive a package from his family. So he wrote a letter to his mom, saying, "Next time when you send me something, send me bread". He said, "Just send me bread". He knew she would understand he meant spiritual bread.

Yes.

And so, finally he says he was called into the office and there was a box on the table and the officer was opening the box, just checking what's inside to be sure that there is no literature, nothing that was not allowed in the labor camp. And so my dad says he pulled out a bag with flour and he started poking inside trying to see if there was anything. And my dad said he was standing by the table, he knew there would be something inside, but he was just praying for a miracle. And that miracle happened. Because finally when the officer gave him that box, he took it into a private place where he was and opened that flour. At the very bottom of that bag he found a few pages from the Gospel of John folded neatly, nicely. He said he opened it. He didn't care about food that was sent, nothing mattered to him except for reading the Scripture that he loved so much. He said he memorized every word from those two or three chapters that his mom sent.

About what year was this?

That was, late '40s.

So let me ask you this. No one welcomes the idea of persecution. I don't think there's too many people who run towards it. This was a very difficult time as a, geographically a difficult place, the winters are biting and hard. It wasn't modern. There weren't modern conveniences. Your parents would never have lived in luxury homes or maybe even by our standards, comfortable homes.

Right.

Let me ask you this. When it comes to a person's faith, tell me about the role of persecution. What it does for people? Because what I wanna say is, what I'm trying to say, but I'm trying to find the right words, is it all bad? What I mean is this, I know it's unjust and inhumane, sure. What I'm saying is this, we've seen in various parts of the world how when the church operates under difficult circumstances, it seem to sometimes be heathy and vibrant. There have been cases when the governmental persecution dies away, that the church isn't quite so vibrant. What is it about, I'm gonna use that word persecution, that sometimes seems to grow a person's faith?

I've shared with you a few stories about my dad or my grandfather, but I had to go to a communist school where atheism was taught. And for me coming from a Christian family, that was a test of my faith every day. So our parents, mom and dad, before sending us to school, there were, homeschooling was not an option, and Christian schools didn't exist, it was a communist state. So they would gather us together and pray over us and send us to school. And, coming there to school, I had to stand for my faith every day, being seven years of age. Being in the first grade, I had to remember, "I'm a Christian. I'm different". And that was inspiring me, motivating me to study, to learn more for myself so that I would have the answers when the teachers would try to humiliate me, intimidate me in front of the whole school. And there were many of those situations when they put me in front of the whole school and questioned me about my faith, about my church, about my God, I had to have the answers. I had to be prepared. That's why I believe persecutions help us realize who we are. We learn to live in that resistance, and that resistance is sort of like a vaccination against the complacency. Like, "I don't care, you know. My mom and dad are Christians, I'm fine, I go to church, I'm fine". That does not exist. You speak for yourself. You are there, it doesn't matter what age you are, you have to have the answers, to give the answer why you go to church, what makes you a Christian, in front of those who would laugh at you, right? Straight into your face. Boys and girls. You want to be popular in school naturally, but you're there and they make fun of you. But that's where I was learning what prayer is all about. I was learning to trust that God will give me the right words. And I come home and I would study. Eight years of age, nine, I would come to my dad and say, "Why is that so"? Like, "How can I explain about the Creation of the world? And, about the Bible, is it all fiction"? And so, my dad would be very thorough and like helping me to find the sources. He would not just say, "Just because I say so". He was a man of study. He was very academic in his approach to theology. So he would use classical literature and he would read to us the books of Tolstoy and Dostoevsky, those who were accepted and recognized even in the communist environment. But he would find stories and statements of those authors. And he would say, "If they ask you, you quote from Dostoevsky and show to them that even he believed in God. Or, read to them from Tolstoy". And that was really helpful and I would be so excited that, "Yes, there are people of authority who believed in God". So persecution was helping all of us to grow in our faith, to study for ourselves, not to rely upon the faith of our moms or dads or grandparents, but to find our faith for ourselves and to know who we are and to have that vaccine, I'll repeat that word, you know, because we have to be resistant.

Yes. Yes.

And that was helping our churches to have courage in those days and times. Not to live in fear. Persecution was there, but people did not think about persecution. Church members cared about giving Bible studies. They cared about baptisms. Secret baptisms.

Yes.

Hiding from the authorities, but still to go and to see the church grow.

Let me ask you this, because I asked you about your grandfather and about your father, but there's somebody I don't wanna overlook and she must have been a remarkable person at that time, and, of course still today. Tell me about your mother, and your mother's role through all of this?

My mom was a person of faith, and she is, she's still living, so that's a blessing.

Amen.

She loved God's Word so much and her faith was very simple. Very sincere. She was not the person of going and preaching, but she had a full faith. I mean, she trusted God's Word so much that her life was an example to us. And she would always inspire us to pray. She believed in prayer. She would gather us together and pray. So, it was by her hard work, her faithfulness, and her example. She believed in church ministry, she was supporting our dad, who was a pas, she was ready to suffer. She was ready to lose him. But she was ready for that knowing God will provide, God will take care. So she was never losing faith or courage. And for me, that's still an example today.

Hmm.

I'm looking at her and, even now, she loves to read God's Word when, or, she loves watching. I mean, "It Is Written," in Russian. She would watch it on that little TV that is there and she would recognize faces. She's not doing that great physically, but her faith is still strong.

Must have been very difficult for a young woman to farewell a husband going off to a prison camp or a prison of some kind, hard labor?

John, if we have a few extra minutes in this program, I want to share with you how my mom and dad met, and that's a very interesting story in itself, showing faith and trust.

That's a good idea. Why don't we do that next? My guest is Pastor Peter Kulakov. Born in the Soviet Union. To this day a man of God, a pastor, an evangelist. In just a moment I'm gonna ask Peter Kulakov about his role in media evangelism. How he got into ministry? How media evangelism came to the Soviet Union? The story is miraculous and you'll be amazed. And of course, we need out that fascinating story about his parents met. We'll be back in just a moment. He is Pastor Peter Kulakov, I'm John Bradshaw. This is our Conversation.

Welcome back to Conversations. My guest is Pastor Peter Kulakov. Pastor, I wanna ask you in just a moment about how you end up in ministry? We'll talk about media evangelism because in Russia you were right on the frontlines there and instrumental in bringing "It Is Written" to Russia. But let's go back. You wanted to talk about how your parents met. I'm fascinated!

Right.

Wanted to hear about this.

So, as I mentioned earlier, my dad was sentenced to five years of labor camps and prison time because he was a pastor. He was giving Bible studies. So he served his five years in northern Kazakhstan. And then finally the time came for him to be released. He comes to the office of the prison ward to get his papers. But instead, there is a document on the table stating that now he's sentenced to eternal banishment, eternal exile, in one of the small villages and he's not allowed to go back to his home. He cannot go back to Russia. He had to stay permanently in one of the small villages in northern Kazakhstan. And so they just gave him a few little things that he had and sent him to that village there. No one even spoke Russian there. They were all local native Kazakh people over there, and it was there that by a miracle he met someone who was from Germany. Who lived there, spoke some German. My dad learned German while in prison because there were prisoners of war in prison at that time. So, he settled there, was very discouraged, like a human being. He was a young man, but he could not go back to his church. He couldn't go back to his ministry. He was locked permanent and forever in that remote area. And, I asked my dad later on, "So how did you feel at that time"? He said, "There were moments of frustration, like, 'Why Lord? Why is that happening to me? Why can't I go back?'" And those questions are very real.

Sure.

He was a human being!

Oh, yeah, no doubt.

And with emotions, like all of us. He was 27 at that time. So, he knew somehow that there was a nearby city where possibly there were some few Seventh-Day Adventists in that area. But he was not allowed to travel there. He couldn't. He had to stay there and if he would break that rule, then he would be sentenced to another 25 years of labor camp. So he had no choice. But there was someone in the hospital there, I mean, not the hospital, it was just a small clinic there, who felt like he needed some checkup. And, in a bigger place, and, they really felt he was a good man and so that medical person from the clinic wrote him a permission for medical reasons to travel to that nearby city and to spend a few hours just doing whatever he needed to do. It happened so that in that city, which was not a big city, but still there was just one, or maybe, I may be wrong, two or three families of Seventh-Day Adventists and in one of that families was a young lady, and her name was Anna. And, she was 19 at that time. She was very pretty. She was in school and there were many young men who wanted to date her and they would, true, want to have her as their girlfriend and, but she was raised as a Christian, as a Seventh-Day Adventist, and she always wanted her future friend, partner, husband to be a Christian, a Seventh-Day Adventist. And she was very sincere, very sincere in praying, and saying, "Lord, I need someone who shares my faith. I don't want anyone else". And, but she was she was very determined in that respect. She talked to her parents about it. That, "I don't anyone, but just someone who loves the Lord and has the same faith as I do". And she was so committed and faithful and trusting that one night as she was sleeping, she had a dream and in that dream she heard a voice saying, "Your husband will be Michael Kulakov". She never heard that name before. She never knew anyone by that name. She woke up, talked to her mom and dad, and they were like, "You're probably desperate to get married and that's why you're having those dreams". And time passed by and they forget, her parents, but she didn't. And so one afternoon they were at home and someone knocked on the door. And that was a young man who traveled from that village to that city, started asking people about Sabbath-keeping family in that city, and they directed him to that house. So he came, he knocked on the door. Had no idea what that family was all about and who the people were in that house. And he walks in and he introduced himself, and he said he was a prisoner of the Soviet Union government because of his faith. He was a Seventh-Day Adventist and he was looking for a family that shares his beliefs, and he said, "I'm Michael Kulakov". And so, you imagine that that young lady didn't run to him saying, "Finally, the Lord answered my prayer"! No, she kept it quiet, to herself. But she was just fascinated. She was so, like, she couldn't believe anything that was happening. And, so they spent a few hours together. They gave him food. They prayed together. Had a little Bible study. He had to leave. So he left, but he said, "I'll try to see if I would be able to come again in two weeks, again". So, he got a permission again from that medical person. Traveled again to that city in two weeks. They had another Bible study, just a few, maybe two, three hours together. And, he looked at that young lady and he said, "I'll be walking to the bus stop. Would you walk with me, please"? And she did walk with him. And as they were walking, he said, "I'll try to come again. But, when I come again, would you have your passport ready because I want us to get married," he said. And she looked at him and she said, "Okay. I'll be ready".

Just like that?

Just like that. And so, the third or the fourth time, I don't remember exactly, he came there, they went to the local city hall and they got married. And, that was about the time when Stalin died and so an amnesty was given to all the prisoners, who were persecuted for religious beliefs. And so my dad was released from that eternal exile and now being married to this young woman, they started ministry together. And they continued serving in Kazakhstan as a young pastor and his wife. And their whole life they lived together, if I remember correctly, 56 years.

Fantastic.

My mom is still living and she still loves her husband like he's still with her.

Yeah, wonderful.

So God leads us!

Yes, he does.

And he blesses us if we trust Him. He makes miracles today like it was in the Old Testament.

That's miraculous. As the father of a daughter I don't know if I'm excited or concerned about the story you told me.

But, wow! What an, what an amazing story. Now, somewhere along the line you entered the picture. You were raised knowing, knowing and experiencing what had happened to your grandfather and your dad. I'd like you to talk to me about your call to ministry. I imagine accepting that call was a pretty heavy thing? Let's talk about how you got started in ministry and why?

I had great respect for my family, my grandfather, who was a pastor, my dad, who was a pastor. And being young, I always wanted to be a pastor, and so I'm not saying there was no like the moment of God calling me, but I remember I was seven years old and I talked to my dad. I said, "I want to be a pastor. I want to be like you". So, in my heart, I mean, maybe like Samuel, he was young and he was called.

True.

So it's not necessarily when you're 20 or 25 that you get that call. But I believe that call came when I was seven and it was clear to me. I never questioned that. I always knew, "I want to preach God's Word no matter what". Of course, as I mentioned earlier, those moments and times of persecution at school and then in the military, I had to serve in the military, that was not an option for me in that time.

Right.

I believe it was the time when I was drafted to serve in the Soviet Union army, being taken away from the warmth of my Christian home, from the safety of, the spiritual safety, I mean. And then my church, and being far away in the company of all those other guys, who were good people, but they were of a different upbringing. They were all smoking and drinking and cursing. And I felt like a stranger among them, but I was allowed to have my small New Testament with me, and I was, I remember I was on the train taking me away to the Ural Mountains where I was assigned to serve, and sitting in that train car, which was full of smoke of the other guys smoking and drinking, just being drafted, they were still, we were all like freshmen at that moment. I was still sitting with my New Testament and reading to myself. I didn't feel I belonged to the group. But, what's amazing, I realized at that moment that God can be with us in weird places. So just imagining God being in that smoke and drinking and cursing. He was there.

Sure.

He was there for me and, as I was sitting and reading, I found peace. I found peace. God is here, God is with me, and He needs me. And that moment again, like never before, I realized, "Yes, it's great to have a father or a mother who are Christians, but now I feel the hunger for it personally. I need it myself. I need God in my life, in that strange, foreign environment of being taken away from my home". I was 18 at that time and I real, I noticed on that train, as one guy stopped by being a little drunk, he asked me what I was reading. And I showed him my New Testament and I said, "I'm reading the Bible". He turned to the other guys, said, "Hey, he's reading the Bible". I mean. And they got interested. And they, there was a circle around me and they asked me to read. And I started reading while on that train with those strangers around me. That was another affirmation for me. And, "I want to be a pastor. I want to preach the Gospel, not just to those clean guys in their nice suits and ties, but those real people that need God. They want to know and to hear about Him". Those two years of being away from my family and my church affirmed that I'm called, I need to serve the Lord.

Talk about what ministry was like. I mean existing in ministry in those days in Russia. You know, today, let's say in this country, they attend college, they get a degree, they might get sponsored to the seminary. They'll go and be employed by the church, and the pastors we work with, at least, don't get paid a million dollars, but receive a living wage. And there might be an allowance for this and for that. So, there aren't very many pastors where we are who live in poverty. What was it like then?

It was totally different. Because you could not officially work for the church. You had to have a government job, which was for many pastors being a photographer. That would allow them to travel, you know. Or sweeping streets, and that's what I was doing. I was actually sweeping streets, because that would give me, I had to do that early in the morning, so that would give me some extra time during the day to be involved in church ministry and to do God's work. So, yes, that's how I started. I was actually waxing floors in one of the restaurants and sweeping streets. And, I got married early. I was just 20, me and my wife, and we started our own life. Had to support ourselves. We lived in a God-forgotten place, I mean it was in the attic. No windows basically. Bedbugs everywhere running from the neighbors. We didn't have anything, but we knew the Lord, we knew one another, we felt God put us together. We were excited. We had our youth meetings. We would come together in that attic room and, with no running water, no hot water, no cold water, and we had a baby over there, with nothing. No diapers, no water, the outhouse outside in cold weather. We were excited still! I mean, we felt blessed that we know the Lord. We can still do His work. We didn't care about all the other things that seem are so important to us now. We were happy that we had those, we were not hungry. We would have some bread and other things to eat, but we never cared that much about the physical blessings that we enjoy so much now. But God was there and God was opening doors. I started more, in the local church and the literature work, and it was all like typing books. And I was doing a lot of translation.

Hmm.

Translating Sabbath School quarterlies, translating some literature for our pastors. So the church asked me officially, and, so that was the very beginning when I officially became working for the church, it was more doing translations, into Russian. And then having people who would type those books, and they were risking their lives.

Hmm, hmm, hmm, hmm. I'll ask you this, and I wanna come back to the books. You got involved in media evangelism. Let's fast forward down to getting involved in media, and your association with "It Is Written".

Uh, the media work was something that we could not even dream about. That was just in our prayers and in our thoughts because media was controlled by the government. And there were just two networks, and both belonged to the government. And cable networks of radio and television that would go into every house, and people had just two options, Channel 1 or Channel 2. Both atheism, communism controlled by the government. Imagining that we would be able to preach the Gospel on radio or television was just totally a crazy thought, you know, which would never come into anybody's head. But then, that was just the time of big changes in Russia. You know, Gorbachev came to power and, I was 24 at that time, or maybe even 23, don't remember exactly. But I remember as my dad talked to me and he said, "The church needs to start media work and we need to send you to Guam," he said.

Oh, yeah?

Because that's where AWR is and that's where we want you to start preparing sermons in Russian. And on that day I talked to my dad and said, "I don't want to go to Guam. I want to start it here. I want to start on our own Russian, Soviet Union land". I traveled to Moscow, went to the Ministry of Communication, met with the Secretary for Communication, and I said, "As a church, we want to start media work and we need a license. So, can you give us a license"? You know, that boldness that you have when you are 23, 24.

Sure.

That goes away when you're 57, you know. Unfortunately. But I mean, I was overwhelmed with what God can do because basically he gave me the paper to fill out the application. That was a time of big changes in the Soviet Union. And the old communist system was collapsing. The new one was coming to the surface. So I filled out the application. A few days after that he called me from, I mean, someone called me from his office and they said, "We approved your application, and you have license number five," they said, "you have license number five". So, that's after the Russia Channel 1, Russia Radio 2, and Russian television. So after all those Russian government networks, they issued Number Five license for the whole Russia and it was given to the media center that I was starting in Russia. And...

That's a miracle of, well, you can hardly your head around that.

Yeah. That was a miracle. I still see that as a miracle.

Oh, yeah. So, what did you do next? Now you have a license, now you've got to run a, as a matter of fact, we'll pause, because I, when we come back from the break I want you to tell me about that. You, you were bold enough to go to the Ministry of Broadcasting, whatever it might have been called, and they said, "Yes, here's a license,"

Yes.

After you went through certain procedures.

Now what do you do with that? There's an enormous country that has to be reached. It had to be reached and, Peter, now with a license in his hand, had to scratch his head and say, "So what do we do next"? I'm interested in finding out what he did next. And I know you are, too. I'll be back with Pastor Peter Kulakov in just a moment. I'm John Bradshaw, and this is our Conversation.

This is Conversations, and I'm back with Pastor Peter Kulakov. A moment ago, Peter, you said that you went to the authorities in Moscow, received a license to start broadcasting. You've got this massive country, this huge population, and a license. Somehow you had to put the two together. So what did you do?

At first I had to acknowledge that at that moment there were no other religious broadcasts in Russia. No other church, no other minister was doing any broadcasting. So here am I, a young man, praying for a miracle and there was a local cable network in the city of Tula, which was, again, controlled by the government, and, we did not have a studio. We did not have any equipment, nothing. So, I prayed and the Lord impressed me to go to the general manager of that network. I go to his office, ask the secretary to see the boss, the manager, and she asked me what for. And I said, "I want to offer a good Christian program". And, she looked at me like I fell from the moon and she went and talked to the general manager there. And he called me into the office, looked at me like, "Who are you"? You know? Like, he actual laughed at me. He said, "You know, we've never had any religious programming and it's not even allowed. It was never allowed". And I looked at him and I said, "You'll be the first one". I said, "Imagine, how your network will be the first one to have a relig," and he laughed again. He was a good guy. I mean, he was a Communist Party leader in that region. He had a communist ID in his pocket. And he pulled it out, he said, "Look, I'm a communist and you offer me a Christian program"? And I said, "But isn't that what our nation needs now more than anything"? And, again he laughed, you know? Like in a good way. He said, "Yeah, let's see what we can do". He called the programming director and he said, "Here is a young man offering us a Christian program. So can we find a place in our programming"? And the man, I mean, his boss is talking to him, he said, "Yeah, we can find the time for them". So he asked me, "What time would you want"? I was not prepared to answer any of these questions. I was just, honestly, I did not even expect that they would listen to me. I just wanted to try. So they're asking about the time and the day and I'm saying, "What if it's Friday? Right before the beginning of the Sabbath day". So I said, "What about like seven o'clock, 7:30 on Friday night"? They looked around, they say, "Yeah, we have prime news at 8:00, so we can give you 7:40, so those 20 minutes, will that be enough for"? I said, "That's plenty". Said, "Twenty minutes is great". So he says, "Okay, bring me your program". And that moment I realized I don't even have any equipment to record a program. So now I looked at him and I said, "You know what? I don't have a tape recorder. I don't have a microphone to record it". He almost fell off his chair. He said, "You offered me a program, you have nothing to record it with"? He calls the guy from the studio, like the studio manager, and he says, "Here's a young man, can you give him some studio time here and, let him record his weekly program"? And so they opened doors. God opened those doors.

Yes, He did.

And so, I went in and I recorded the first 20-minute program in the history of the communist Soviet Union, the first ever religious broadcast that was recorded, gave them the recording, gave them the program, and, they played it next Friday. I remember like it was yesterday. My wife and our kids were sitting in that small room by that radio that was a cable radio and we pushed the button and exactly at 7:40 we hear the trumpet sound and the first Seventh-Day Adventist, first ever Christian program in the Soviet Union started playing. A few months after that, I met him. He was a little discouraged, walking down from his office. I was on my way to record a new program, and he looked at me and he said, "Come with me. I need to talk to you". And he shared with that he had a bad day and that that day was like all going wrong and he was criticized by some of the Communist Party members. And he said, "Then I came back. I had a tape recorder here and I played your program, here, right in my office. I found hope," he said, "I found encouragement. Listen," he said, "tomorrow I go to Moscow. We have a meeting with all the other regional general managers of the other regional networks, and I want to offer your program to them". That's a communist speaking. He saying he's going and he will offer this program. We called it "The Voice of Hope" at that time. And I said, "That's incredible, of course". He says, "Bring me as many copies as you can". We are talking about reels, remember?

Yeah, oh, yeah.

The tape?

Sure.

And, at that time we already were able to get two tape recorders with, you can make copies only on real time.

Hmm.

So I'm thinking, I came home, it's already late. We don't have any offices. We don't have any studios. It's all in my bedroom. And so there's two kids, my wife, and I'm sitting next to those tape recorders and I'm making copies all night long, right in the place where we were making babies we are now making programs for the programs to go on the Soviet Union cable networks. By morning I had about 12, if I remember right, copies made, and I rushed to that office. He said he'll be leaving at around seven in the morning, the driver would be there. I come and his car is there, I hand him those big boxes of those 12 programs. He takes them, those with him. The next day I meet him and he tells me that he gave all those away and they all want this program on their networks. That's how God works. I mean, we read the Book of the Acts and we're saying, "This is where the miracle". Miracles are happening today if we are ready for those miracles.

Yeah, no question about it. That's inspiring. There's a lot more. There's a lot more I can ask you about, but I wanna jump over into another phase of your ministry. You emigrated to the United States where you live now, but you travel back, you have traveled back very frequently to conduct evangelistic meetings. So talk to me about the reception, what you've seen change over time, what it was like to do meetings in the former Soviet Union?

I do travel. Not now because of COVID restrictions, but before at least twice a year. But I have to say, to you especially, John, that, "It Is Written," was my inspiration from my early days of ministry. I had the privilege of seeing how George Vandeman was passionate about ministry. Like, Pastor Mark Finley was excited about doing evangelism in Russia and in Ukraine. How I was standing next to Pastor Mark Finley in the Kremlin Palace relating his message in the Russian language where those thousands and thousands of people were so desperate to get into that building. All that was an inspiration to me to dedicate my life to ministry and to do whatever I can to preach the Gospel. Even though I may be far away from my homeland, I still wanted to do that. And...

Yeah, those were remarkable days right after the fall of communism, when, "It Is Written," was in the Kremlin!

Yeah, "It Is Written" was very instrumental in bringing attention to the Adventist Church and to the message. Because when the message was broadcasted from the very heart of the Kremlin, where all the Communist Party, no other church used ever that platform for preaching the Gospel, but it was through the, "It Is Written," that the Seventh-Day Adventist Church could. I mean, it was publicized everywhere. National newspapers were writing about it. People were flooding that building. And then, again, "It Is Written" in the Kremlin, not Kremlin, but in the Olympic stadium was, had dozens of thousands of people attending nightly. That was a breakthrough in evangelism because of "It Is Written," and we are grateful to "It Is Written". As a Russian person I'm saying that. That was such a great impact on me personally.

We're thankful to God because you know how God put that all together, had the right people in the right places at the right time.

Yes.

And you continued with evangelism. So, talk about where you went or where you go and what that's been like over the years?

Right, at least twice a year I go either to Moldova, or Ukraine, or Russia or even Central Asia where I was born, like Kazakhstan, and would present a series of meetings, inviting people to come. Things are changing. It's getting harder now to invite people to come to the meetings. There's certain prejudice. There are certain political events that keep people away from coming. But I'm not giving up. I believe God called us to preach the Gospel and I see those dear souls searching for the Gospel. They are very sincere. I was on a flight from Atlanta to Moscow and then to Kazakhstan and I was exhausted. And I switched flights in Moscow and that was my last flight to Almaty where I had to start the meetings the next day. And I had about 4 1/2 hours on that flight. It was a redeye flight and I thought at least, finally, I can sleep for at least a couple of hours. And then someone sitting next to me, he's just nudging me and says, "Why are you gonna Almaty"? And of course he talked to me in Russian. And I said, "I'm a pastor. I go to preach there". He looked at me and he said, "My whole life I wanted to meet a pastor. I have so many questions to ask. I'm a professor from Moscow State University and can we talk? Can we talk"? And I said, "Okay, there goes my night's sleep".

No sleeping now.

No sleeping now. And the whole flight we never, we did not stop talking for a minute. He was, he was sharing his heart. He was sharing his concern. He went with me to the hotel where I was staying. As I was checking in at seven in the morning, eight in the morning, he was there. He said, "I want more, I have more questions. I want to know more". He came and he brought his colleague to the meetings as we were doing the meetings. So, another professor from the Academy of Science from Kazakhstan. And, then he had to leave, to back to Moscow. He did not, somehow it happened, didn't have my address or my name, but I'm talking about real people, you know? Real people who are searching for the Lord. I was preaching in Kiev in Ukraine doing satellite evangelistic meetings and someone called me. There were thousands of people calling for prayer requests and Bible studies, but that one call I remember. One of the pastors came to me, he said, "Someone called and left a message". Actually it was one of the pastors from the Moscow Church called and he said, "Someone is looking for you. Someone is looking for you. So here's the phone number". And I called that phone number and then that was that same professor.

Same man.

Same man who was in Moscow and he shared with me a very sad story. He said that his son died in a car accident a few months before and he said he was so discouraged. He was so disappointed. And he was in the Metro, in Moscow, and at one of the stations, he noticed someone was selling books, religious books. He stopped by that little booth and he looked at the books. He looked at the lady selling those books, and he said, "I looked into her eyes and I asked her, 'Do you know Peter Kulakov?' And she said, 'Of course! He's preaching over the satellite in my church in Moscow.'"

Come on!

"'Right now!'"

No way.

He took the address, he went there, and he started attending those meetings over the satellite, and he said that was the only hope that he could find for his soul losing someone who was so dear to him. I don't know the rest of the story about this man, but he's just an illustration of how much people are searching, people of high ranks, high positions, people of, those teaching professors, engineers, simple people, elderly and young. They are searching for the answers.

Hmm.

Even in that state that is becoming more and more under the influence of the Russian Orthodox Church that takes them away from the Bible. They want Bible answers. And that's what I do. Going there, I want to meet them personally and share the Gospel of Jesus Christ coming soon.

I've got a couple of questions for you in the short time that we have left. It's gone by too quickly. Looking into the future, how do you see the future of the church in Russia?

I believe that our people will not give up. There are big challenges. Very serious challenges with religious freedom and the limitations that they have. But I see courage that they, they lived through the times. Their parents, their grandparents lived through the times of persecution. Many of them personally were persecuted. So what they see now, it's not stopping them. They're not discouraged. They're not living in fear. And I believe this is something that our worldwide church needs to learn from them. I believe our church will continue to grow and do the ministry in whatever form and format and whatever ways there may be available. They will not stop preaching the Gospel. And people are being baptized. And they will continue being baptized because God has a message for that nation.

I want you to encourage that person who didn't hear the voice of God saying, "This is who you're gonna marry," didn't have a government official miraculously hand over a piece of paper, didn't have that person on the street asking about the person in the book. Miracles happen. Sometimes they're great big things that we talk about on TV and other times they're, you know, your garden-variety miracles. Still miracles. God is still working. Let's talk to that person for about 90 seconds, that person who wants to share his or her faith, maybe isn't sure how to go about it, isn't even sure how to recognize opportunities. What do you say to that person to encourage that one to share Jesus where she or he can?

What I see happening, in Eastern Europe especially, they're getting more and more into secular mentality. But with that, they're losing courage. Alcohol is a big issue. Drugs is a big, big problem over there. And so we need hope. And we need to see the light. And this is what God's Word is all about and this is my emphasis, you know? If you're losing hope, if your husband is a drunk, if you feel you have no future in your family, God has an answer. And that's where I offer them the Bible, God's word. And for the Eastern Europeans, to read the Bible is a big thing. Here in the United States we have Bibles at home. So I lead them to God's Word. If they read God's Word, immerse themselves in God's Word, they find the truth, they find hope, they find courage, and the answers that they are searching for. When they find it for themselves, then they're excited. They cannot keep. Russians are very outgoing people. They may seem stern and cold, no! When they're at home they're very friendly with their neighbors. They would spend time eating sunflower seeds together outside. And that's a big thing, when they bond together. That's when they start sharing something. When they're excited about something nothing can stop them. So when they read God's Word for themselves, they get excited, they share it with someone else. And that's the main thing. To teach them to value, to love God's Word, and then they share it with the others.

Talk to me, last question for you, about what Jesus means to you. You've had a fascinating life, a rich heritage. Your family history is quite astonishing. But everybody's gotta come back to their relationship with Jesus. What does Jesus mean to you and how would you encourage somebody to know Jesus and experience the cross?

For me, Jesus was never, a theology. No. For me Jesus is an experience. And, I feel His presence in my life every moment and I see His blessings. Does it mean that I have no troubles? Does it mean that there are no challenges in my life? No! I do have challenges. We do have sickness in the family. We do get issues that we need to deal with. But I see the blessing of Christ being present in my life daily. So I would encourage everyone to experience Him on that level of, He's real. He's with me. He's in this store. He's with me at work. He's in my church office. He's in my marriage. And my children see that and when they see that, it's not the theology that makes them Christians, it is looking at their mom and dad and seeing what God can do and the presence of Christ can do in their marriage, in their relationship, in their happiness. They want that. They want that for themselves. Nothing can take them away from the Lord when they see Jesus being real in our daily life.

Sure. Yeah, He's real. He's been real in your life. He still is. He was at work and He's still at work and I believe He's coming back soon. Pastor Peter Kulakov, thank you for taking time. I've been really blessed.

It's been my honor. And thank you for inviting me.

And thank you for joining us. What a blessing this has been. He is Pastor Peter Kulakov, I'm John Bradshaw, and this has been our Conversation.
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