Mikhail Manzurin prayed for Ukraine during church services and eventually fled to the United States.
In September 2022, five days after Russian president Vladimir Putin announced the mobilization of 300,000 military reservists to continue his country’s invasion of Ukraine, Mikhail Manzurin took a bus from Russia into Kazakhstan and did not return.
The 25-year-old was scrolling through Russian social media on his phone when he saw a post from his former pastor: People fleeing Russia to avoid the draft are like “rats fleeing a sinking ship,” the pastor wrote. “They’re cowards.”
Manzurin commented on the post: “You should know you’re talking about me. I just left Russia as well.”
That pastor had been “like a father” to Manzurin and his wife, Nailia, 27. He had discipled her since she first converted to Christianity and had pastored the Manzurins for years before appointing Mikhail as the leader of their church in Moscow so he could plant a church in another city.
A few months later, in December, when Putin signed a bill making it illegal to promote, “praise,” or identify with the LGBT community, that pastor—and many other Russian evangelicals—cheered. Russia, the Manzurins’ pastor wrote on social media, was doing much better than the “dying United States,” a country that was “spreading darkness and sin.”
Mikhail commented back: “Can we really say that about an entire nation? And if you say the United States and Europe are spreading darkness and sin, what is Russia spreading right now? Truth and light?”
Soon after that comment, the pastor blocked him from all his social media accounts.
It was one of many precious relationships the Manzurins lost due to their conflicting opinion about the Ukraine war. …