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Tattoos no longer tell his life story

KLAIPEDA, Lithuania (BP)–Inked onto the middle knuckles of his left hand are the number of years he spent in Siberia’s highest-level prisons. The stars on his knees signify a commitment to never bow to, but instead stand in opposition of, the government. His left thigh is canvas for a knife, his past weapon of choice.

Additional tattoos cover the tall, solid build of this middle-aged Lithuanian whose life changed during his 13 years in prison.

“I didn’t have a lot to lose, and I live in [abundance] now,” said Emanuelis Kinas, pastor of New Hope Baptist Church and director of Nikopolis, a drug and alcohol rehabilitation center in Klaipeda, Lithuania. “I know that [joy] is Christ. I now have what is permanent.”

Emanuelis was in and out of jail from the age of 18 well into his adult life. During a prison stint that began in 1992, he accepted Christ through church ministries in a Siberian prison and a “God-send” rehabilitation center run by American missionaries.

After his release, Emanuelis evangelized while traveling through Siberia. In 1996 he felt God leading him to start a drug and alcohol rehab center in Klaipeda, Lithuania. Emanuelis met International Mission Board workers Milton and Lara Magalhaes and together they established Nikopolis — “city of victory” in Greek — with the assistance of a German church.

Today Emanuelis and his wife Aušra direct the Bible-based center in Eastern Europe that aids Lithuanians struggling for a substance-free life focused on Christ.

“We get them dry by keeping them from drugs and alcohol, and then feed them with the Word of God,” Milton said.

Emanuelis said he knows his is an amazing testimony of what God can do in a life, and he sees how his story helps people at Nikopolis and his church.

“[This] is now the purpose of my life,” Emanuelis said. “It’s a lot of joy … to see them receiving a second chance. It’s hard to describe. Joy is the closest thing I can come to.”

Gitanas Savanoris is one example of a changed life. Gitanas admitted himself to Nikopolis after hearing Emanuelis share his recovery testimony at a narcotics hospital. At Nikopolis, “as soon as I walked in, I felt peace,” he said.

“While at Nikopolis,” he said, “I understood that serving God is the reason for living and that when you serve God, you get joy.”
Natalie Kaspar is a writer with the International Mission Board based in Eastern Europe. Emanuelis and Aušra Kinas and Milton and Lara Magalhaes are looking for volunteers to help with outreach initiatives in Lithuania, such as Nikopolis, Vacation Bible Schools, youth camps, choirs, witnessing campaigns and evangelistic/theological training. The Magalhaeses can be reached in Lithuania via [email protected].

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  • Natalie Kaspar