Viktor Bragar

I was very active in the Protestant (Baptist) church of which I was a member. I preached every week, sometimes two or more times in the same week. I was an enthusiastic member of the young adults group, a choir member, missionary group organizer, and took it upon myself to design and create signs for street evangelism.  At every opportunity, I would attend conferences especially for mission workers.  I was also very involved in youth camps where I preached and taught.

 

Yet with all this, certain things caused me to begin to ask questions and yearn for something more.  For example, I attended the weekly Wednesday Bible Study at the church.  Each week we would read a chapter.  Each person would begin to share their opinion as to what the passage meant.  Soon there would be a great deal of disagreement and people would become passionate and argue for their interpretation against that of others.  The study usually ended due to interminable disagreement.

‚Äč

For a while this seemed fine to me until I started to wonder: “How can there be so many different opinions and disagreements on the same passage”?  People would argue and stick to their own interpretation and there would always be two or more parties standing on their own ideas.  This really got me thinking and desiring to know, “Well, who is right”?  

 

As I continued being asked to give sermons and lectures I began to question myself, “Am I teaching people the right thing”?  “How do I know it’s right?”  On one occasion, I had our young adult group answer some questions on what interested them and many answered “The history of the Baptist Church.”  I bought many books and considered many resources to find a source and lineage of the Baptist church and how it traced back to the apostles. To my dismay every source only led me back to the protestant reformation in the 1500’s.

 

Therefore, I started to search and pray about this. “What did the early Christians believe and teach?” I shared my questions and concerns to a dear friend of mine who directed me to the early Church Fathers and early Christian writings. This started me on a journey which caused a paradigm shift in my core.  What I found was humble and inspiring writings of Saints and martyrs which dated back to the first century.

 

The teachings and instructions given by them was like nothing else I ever read or heard. After diving into more reading and finding the thirst-quenching water which came forth from Christ through the holy men and women of the early centuries, “church” for me was never the same again. It seemed dull, empty, and no longer satisfied my soul and my desire to know God and what was true. It pained me to be in this place. 

 

My sermons changed from focusing on externals and the immorality of “others,” to focusing on the inner self, spiritual transformation and humility.  I was no longer energized by judging others by outward appearance, but seeing my own sins. My fellow church members, especially the leadership, were not very pleased.  

 

I remember a sermon in which I mentioned I had pride within me.  After the service, I was approached and was told to not say things like that because “we are not to reveal to people that we are corrupt because we must be holy!” For about a year I continued to read and just hope that somewhere there was a church that still practiced and taught what I was reading. This is when I found the Orthodox Church.  I began to see that it was the Church of history, that actually holds to the teachings of the Apostles to this day!

 

This was not something I had planned; it caused much turmoil with my family and former church members, but it is something that was revealed to me only by God’s mercy.  And I simply could not deny what I was experiencing!  It’s like finding a beautiful treasure that changes you and that you can never forget.

 

I first made the connection between the early Church and the Orthodox Church by reading the Ante-Nicene Fathers. In this series of books, it mentions, along with many other writings, the Nicene Creed (Vol. 7 p.524) and the early Christian Liturgies (Vol. 7 p.529). This showed the structure of the services and the statement of faith recited by the faithful all over the world when there was one Church. This was something new to me seeing as I was so used to services just practiced in any shape and form, and subject to change at any time.

 

I was also given a resource called the Philokalia, which is a compilation of spiritual writings of renowned holy Christians from the fourth to the fourteenth centuries.  As I searched for those specific Saints whose writings were in the Philokalia, most of the time I was directed to a website that referenced or spoke of the Orthodox Church. Constantly being directed to the Orthodox Church I decided to see if perhaps there was a local church nearby.  This is how I found the Three Hierarchs Orthodox Church in Wenatchee.

 

I contacted the priest of the parish and soon visited my first Orthodox Service. It was a Sunday service and I attended the Orthros service and the Divine Liturgy (Eucharist or Communion service). The moment the service started I felt as if I had just traveled back in time. The service wasn’t organized in a “how I feel today” fashion but was truly a service of worship to God. It actually looked and felt like the worship that God has allowed some to see in heaven (e.g. Isaiah ch. 6, Rev. 4-5).  The Hymns, the prayers, Icons, candles, incense and every small detail brought the service into a whole, a whole which was directed to worshiping God, the Holy Trinity.

 

The people who I had just met for the first time treated me with love as a brother and I felt part of a family. The teachings of the Church, which focus on self-examination and repentance, have all the tools necessary for the healing of our brokenness. I found the Orthodox Church to truly be a Hospital for the soul, in deed and not mere words.  It truly has the means which have been passed down through the centuries for bringing light to our darkness and leading one to encounter and know Jesus Christ more and more deeply and authentically.  It’s not just that it was “right;” it began to change me from the inside out.  It brought peace to my soul.

 

In my former church, when I had asked questions, I was told, “Just read the bible and God will reveal it to you.” But here there were answers which have been tested and proven by time, and that were also absolutely biblical in a living way.  What a blessing and relief to have truly holy men and women (the “Saints”) to whom we can look up to and encounter the kingdom of God which was alive in them.  We can imitate them and be led to acquire the same state (1 Cor. 4:6, 11:1; Heb. 13:7-8).

 

I no longer have to sift through the thousands of different interpretations and opinions, all I have to do is look to the Church Fathers and see what they taught, for what they taught has been consistent in the Church since the first century. The teachings of the Church continue to reveal to me my own brokenness and also reassure me that there is hope and healing for all. It’s not just another religion or Christian denomination, it’s The Faith passed down from the Apostles.

If you have any specific questions or would like to personally contact Viktor, please send him an email.

Secret

Best

Kept