MOSCOW (BP)–Genady Krechin preaches with quiet earnestness to the 20 worshippers crowded into his cramped third-floor apartment.
His voice fills the room with God’s Word. His eyes flash with intensity and soften with warmth as he appeals to his listeners to follow Christ.
Why would a hard-charging businessman in his prime trade wealth, influence and ownership of several companies for this humble pulpit?
“I wanted to buy happiness, but true joy is only received as a gift from God,” says Krechin, 48, hugging his young children after the service.
Besides, now he has a greater calling than making money: God has led him to spread the Gospel among the 85,000 people of the Golovinski area in Moscow’s Northern Administrative District. Krechin started out as an ambitious, idealistic young man. He never completely lost his ideals, but the free-for-all capitalism that flooded Russia as communism collapsed in the early 1990s led him astray.
“As the Bible would say, I decided that I would serve mammon as the ruler of my life,” he recalls. “I would be rich.”
Thus began a rise to power -– and a descent into shady deals, bribes, tax dodges, relationships with Russian gangsters and corrupt politicians, even a flirtation with the occult.
At his worldly peak, Krechin owned several businesses that employed about 130 people. He drove nice cars, dined at fancy restaurants, associated with powerful people.
“At the time, it seemed worth the risk,” Krechin says. “We had stores [under communism], but there was nothing to buy. Suddenly you could buy anything you wanted -– if you had the money. But as the money became more and more, happiness and joy became less and less. I was drinking. I was partying. I was destroying myself. I was divided against myself. My spirit was struggling.”
Krechin’s conscience had never completely died, and it gave him no peace. He knew one day he would pay for his misdeeds. In 1999, he met a missionary and a Russian Baptist. Their words about God’s love and mercy moved him. When the Russian prayed for him, he sensed a peace he had never known come over him. One night, before he even fully understood what he was doing, he repented and gave his heart to the Lord.
“The next morning when I woke up, my heart was free,” he remembers. “I could hear the birds singing songs. I saw the blue heavens above, the skies. I saw the leaves in the trees. And I saw that God had solved the deepest problems of my life.”
When he told his relatives, they laughed at him. When he refused to pay any more bribes or sign dishonest contracts, his business associates were aghast.
Ultimately, he didn’t stay in business –- not because it was impossible to do business honestly, but because God called him to ministry. As he grew in maturity as a believer, with the loving help of the Christian woman who became his wife, he asked to join Southern Baptist missionary Brad Stamey’s “Co-laborers Team” reaching out to Moscow’s Northern District.
Today, Krechin knows true success.
“When I became a Christian, one of my questions was, ‘Why didn’t this happen 20 years earlier?'” he reflects. “But now I thank God for that, because I can understand the man who is suffering. The people caught up in the occult. The people trying to find fulfillment from business.
“God has a plan -– and I’m happy to be in the midst of it.”
Listen to Genady Krechin talk about his journey to Christ and see a video dramatization of his life at ime.imb.org. Resources also are available on the site for download as part of the 2007 Lottie Moon Christmas Offering emphasis on the former Soviet Union. This video will be part of the International Mission Board’s presentation at the Southern Baptist Convention’s June 12-13 annual meeting in San Antonio.