My name is Anatoliy Odnoralov. I was born to a big family; my parents had thirteen children. It was a close-knit family, where we learned to see life difficulties and to support each other, especially when my father was killed in 1982. I'm married; my wife's name is Natasha, and we have and raise four children - one daughter and three sons. We lived in the North Caucasus, the Karachayev-Cherkess Autonomous Republic the last seven years before leaving for the U.S. We have lived and worked in the state of Colorado since 1993.
Since my childhood, from about the third grade I had to learn the price of the faith of my father. My father and mother were believers, and the education they gave us was contrary to the social regime that prevailed at the time. I remember one teacher put me in front of the class and say solemnly, "Children, our people and our country are moving towards a bright future, but there is your classmate, a pious one, in our class that pulls back the whole of our society. It is harmful remnants of the past, which we have to fight and eradicate. And you have a good opportunity to try to do it now." I remember coming back home all spat over, with a broken nose and a blood-stained shirt. I was crying, asking the question: what do they beat me up for? Why do I get home earlier than usual and beaten up by the pioneers for several times in a row? Why do they always threaten to send us to “our” Israel or America? I do not understand why we are hated. But even then, somewhere deep in my heart I unconsciously knew that the price we were paying was worth enduring. In that period of time, of course, my father and mother were there for me and my faith. But the time was coming when I myself had to make a decision about my relationship with God.
As a sixteen year-old, I was thinking more and more about the meaning of life: why am I here, what should I do in life? If there is a God, does He know about me? Why do I not know Him personally? Why is He so distant from me? I was aware of my sinful condition. There was a whole war already raging in my mind. I tried hard to be a good person, but in fact I knew exactly who I was. Satan was gripping me through the lusts of the flesh in his arms. Within two years I made attempts to jump out from under his authority, but for some reason there was no joy or peace of mind. I remember, tired of the excessive internal struggle of the night, when everyone was asleep in the house, I heard a voice inside me, as it was kind of trying to help me to solve my problem, “Why are you suffering? Don’t you see that God does not hear you? You do not need anyone else in the land of the living. You do it quietly, and your family will know in the morning that you were a brave man ...” But in spite of these thoughts, I quietly knelt down and said, "Oh, my Savior, my Lord, help me now or never. Either now I give myself to You for ever and ever or there is no strength in me to suffer and fight any more. I will not get up from my knees until you answer me. Let my brothers and sisters get up to go to school in the morning, I will kneel and wait for a response from you. Let them laugh and not understand me. I'll be standing here, Lord! And then the heaven spoke, and the Lord Himself in the Holy Spirit came into my heart. There was silence, and the Divine world enveloped my being. And I said, "That's what I’ve been longing for so long with my tortured heart."
The time approached to go to military service in the armed forces of the Soviet Union. From the earliest days of my service I was put to the test. For two years in the "valiant ranks" God led me in ways that only strengthened me and steeled my faith. But for me there was a lot of uncertainty then. Full six months, almost every night after the curfew they woke me up, and at 3:00 in the morning, "brainwashed" me by attempting to re-educate and make me a worthy citizen of the USSR. During the interrogation at nights there were three attempts to take my life. There was bullying, harassment by all the soldiers, dirty and cheap tricks of the political system, which were used at the time...
But the surprising thing is that God so wonderfully acted and was so close to me! Being once again in the place of detention in a military prison, I was heavily asking the Lord for them not to rob me of the New Testament, which gave me strength, and for which they had been hunting for a long time. That same night in which I was imprisoned, a soldier was killed in a chamber. They brought us onto a platform, stripped us of our clothes and began to check all of our things. The Gospel lay in my right boot under the insole. I saw the things checked, boots shaken, and I knew that now everything would be taken away. Just for checking, I myself am taking my boot, overturning it – everything is falling out together with the insole. I am praying. They are coming up, taking my left boot, shaking it - the insole is falling out. They are shaking the right boot with the Gospel in i, - nothing comes out. They are leaving. I do not believe my eyes, take and overturn my boot myself - all falls out. Well, I think, it must be coincidence or happened by chance. But believe me, it happened for ten consecutive nights. They turned the boot over, and everything stayed in place. I overturn it, and everything falls out together with the Gospel. Oh, my God! -I cried, you're here next to me, you are with me! And ... there were many other moments like that during my military service.
The climax came after six months. The detachment commander invited me to another meeting and said: "Tomorrow your case will be considered. You either renounce your God in front of the whole detachment and go home on vacation, or if not, you will be sent to a disciplinary battalion (a correction prison at the military unit) for four years. So think and decide.” I remember praying all night long. That night, there were very clearly visible manifestations of the flesh and spirit. "What’s your problem with saying a few words of renunciation? In reality you will continue believing in your heart anyway .... For doing that you will go home and see your family. Why would you want to go to jail? You're going to die there, and you're so young. What will you suffer for? For what ideas? ..."The other voice was quiet and calm, "Of course, you have the right to do so, choose the easy way. But in doing this you will lose me. I love you, I will be with you ..." In the morning a thousand people were out there, and they asked me to come forward. Of course, the decision was ready in my heart. I had decided to stay with the Lord to the end. I had already died with Him for myself.
I remember being dragged to get prepared for going to a very remote place. Swearing, evil and cursing were following me behind my back.
As a matter of fact, after my becoming a believer, everything changed in my life, for which I am sincerely grateful to my Messiah.
On my arrival in the United States, at first everything was fun, interesting, and exciting. But gradually we began facing life challenges: settling down, language, culture, work, family… We found a church and began to attend it. But all of a sudden I saw myself in the inner discomfort. Good life conditions, shops full of food for every taste and color. But most of all I was disturbed by soft footrests for kneeling in the church sanctuary, comfortable benches, just cool to sleep on. I began to come to the service, but deep in my heart I heard the questions: what am I doing here, what to do, why have I come to this country - to eat the sausage or what?? These thoughts haunted me. I prayed and sought a way out. As the months passed, "clouds were gathering." I had to do something… I gathered all the religious literature, which I had brought with me, and, as I used to do in the Caucasus, I decided to go out onto the streets of Denver, put up a table, display the books and organize a library. At first, people were coming, asking about the price I was selling them for, but after looking at the books, they left quickly. Time was passing, but every Saturday I went out and set up the table with books at a certain time; however, there were no results. I prayed and sometimes reached desperation, "Lord, I want to do something for you! I love you and do not want to just live for myself."
Eight-nine months passed, and I was an only reader in my library. Then, once on a rainy day in the morning, I was standing, as usual, near my table, deep in thought… An old man with a crutch, slowly but surely, was coming toward me. He looked at me; I looked at him. He silently walked three times around my table. Then he came straight to me and said in a hissing voice, "You're stubborn, young man. I've been watching you for a long time from my home. Why do you come here every time and bring us these books that speak about the deceiver! It is not our God. It is the God of the Russians and Americans. I am a Jew and an old man. I will probably not live to see the Messiah, but my people are waiting, and they will see him! Get out of here ..." I stood there and looked at him, not realizing what was going on. And at that very moment, deep in my heart I heard the voice of the Spirit of God starting to tell me the following: "You're asking me to tell you what to do? So listen! Look in the eyes of the old man - they are empty, they are lonely, they have no hope. Speak to him and those like him about me. Speak, and do not stop. It is my people, rebellious, stubborn, but my chosen and beloved." The old man went on to say something too, but I did not hear him any more...
The next week I was in the right place with my books. Everything was as before: the sun was rising, the birds were singing, and yet something was very different. It was as if an invisible wall had been broken through. People began to approach, borrow books and sign up to the mobile library. I was happy. Within three months, I got about twenty readers, who then began to get together for the study of the Scriptures in their homes. And those were the people who became the first members of the new messianic community - "Hope of Israel."
For a decade, our Hope Intercultural Mission Messianic Center has been engaged in various types of service: annual children's summer camps are held for children from immigrant families and continuing to work with them and their parents after the camp. We have weekly women's ministry, including Bible study, support and assistance to women in different ways with their husbands and kids. Correspondence Bible School through the Internet has more than two hundred Russian-speaking students around the world. We do training of youth leaders to work with the younger generation. We conduct the study of the Holy Scriptures for beginners and everyone. Social assistance is offered to newcomers. The Center hosts very well established English classes. Every year we have about 80-100 students engaged on two days a week. With all this, I want to say that almost all ministries, conducted by us have a tendency to convergence on a personal level. After all, the Messiah, when he was on Earth, talked personally with people, knew their needs, their pain and distress. Matthew 9:35-38.
I believe that mass evangelism is passing away; it is not as effective as before. People are pretty informed in religious matters. It must be first and foremost a testimony of a changed life in the Messiah. After all, I believe there are two methods of witnessing: first, when I show that I know the Scriptures, I have experience in ministry, I will answer any questions asked. You sit down and listen up, and I'll teach you how to live. The second method is when all your life and behavior show that you are human, too, and, moreover, you are also here on Earth. You have the same problems as they do. You, too, lack knowledge of something and can make mistakes. You understand their pain, you know how to listen, and so on. But at the same time, you can invite them to go with you to where you yourself get nourished and gain strength, as if saying to them, 'Come with me, I know where there is bread that quenches our needs. It really works because it goes from heart to heart. As in water face reflects face, so a man's heart reveals the man. Prov.27:19
I would also like to say that the Biblical principle of evangelism remains important to this day. This is the principle of priority of the Epistle to the Romans 1:16, “For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes: first for the Jew, then for the Gentile”. This works very well in our ministry.