October 2011 - Vol. 53
The heroic witness and martyrdom of Ivan "Vanya" Moiseyev
Ivan Moiseyev (1952-1972), known to friends and family as Vanya, was a brave soldier in the Soviet Army, but he was braver still in his witness to Jesus Christ. He was tortured for his faith and died as a Christian martyr in 1972 at the age of 20.
What fueled his faith and courage in witnessing for Christ? His parents had raised him and his six brothers and one sister in a Christian home. They were from Moldavia, which was part of the Soviet Union at that time, and they belonged to an underground Christian church, because religion was outlawed by the Communist government.
When Vanya completed school in 1968 at the age of 16, he decided to personally commit his life to Jesus Christ and to read the Bible daily. He joined the Evangelical Christian Baptist (ECB) Church in Slabodeyska and was baptized in 1970. After his baptism he had an intense desire to tell others about the good news of Jesus Christ and the gift of new life and forgiveness of sins which he won on the cross. He preached the Gospel with great enthusiasm and joy, both in his local church and to many young people of the town where he worked as a delivery driver.
In November 1970 he was drafted into the Soviet Army to perform two years of required military training and service. When Vanya began to speak openly of God in the army, his military supervisors began a systematic campaign of intimidation and torture to silence him.
In one of his letters to his parents Vanya wrote:
Even though I am a soldier, I work for the Lord, though there are difficulties and testings. Jesus Christ gave the order to proclaim his word in this city, in any meeting, in a military unit, to officers and soldiers. I have been in a division headquarters and in a special section. Though it was not easy, the Lord worked so that it turned out well there. I had an opportunity to proclaim his word to the most senior personnel. But I was reviled and thrown out of the meeting.On one occasion the sergeant in his barracks challenged him to prove that God exists. The test was that God would miraculously arrange a military home leave for a certain sergeant. Leaves were hard to get. After asking God if he should accept the challenge, Vanya agreed. All night, he sat up with the sergeant explaining the things that he would need to know when he became a Christian. The next day, an authority from another town called and ordered the leave. The sergeant became a Christian and so did other men.
Shortly after this incident, Vanya wrote again to his parents about his determination to speak about Christ to his commanders and fellow soldiers alike.
They [his officers] have forbidden me to preach Jesus, and I am going through tortures and testings, but I told them that I will not stop bearing the news of Jesus. And the Lord shamed them before the entire unit, when they were torturing me. A soldier stood up who had miraculously gone on leave and had told everyone, and he asked, “Whose power was this?” The authorities did not wish to let me go, but they were put to shame.On his last leave home, Vanya made a recording of the ordeals and cruelties used against him in the army. At times he was starved when his officers forbade him to eat for many days. He was awakened and interrogated night after night, and often struck.
Once, after a discussion about God, Vanya was made to stand in the street throughout the whole night wearing his summer uniform. The temperature at that time was thirteen degrees below zero (-25 celcius). He obeyed the order and stood in the street the whole night, remaining faithful to God. Miraculously, his eyesight was still functioning and he could see his officers and he could move his body despite the terrible cold. All throughout the ordeal, Vanya prayed for his persecutors. For the next twelve nights, Ivan continued to stand in the street outside his barracks. Miraculously, he did not freeze, nor did he beg for mercy. Ivan continued to speak about his faith to his comrades and officers.
Other miracles also confirmed his testimony. Once he was run over by a truck. He was told his life could only be saved by the amputation of an arm and part of a collapsed lung. Delirious with fever he earnestly prayed aloud. The next morning, he was completely healed.
Soldiers around him were converted, impressed by his ardent faith. His commanders continued to interrogate him, trying to get him to deny Jesus. They put him in refrigerated cells. They clothed him in a special rubber suit, into which they pumped air until his chest was so compressed he scarcely could breath.
In his interrogation, Vanya testified, “I have one higher allegiance, and that is to Jesus Christ. He has given me certain orders, and these I cannot disobey.”
At the age of 20, Ivan knew that the communists would kill him. On July 11, 1972, he wrote his parents, “You will not see me anymore.” He then described a vision of angels and heaven which God had sent to strengthen him for the last trial. A few days later, a coffin arrived at his parents' home, welded shut. Vanya's mother insisted it be opened. One of his brothers, who belonged to the Communist party, resisted, but the rest of the family prevailed. Vanya was barely recognizable. Witnesses, Christian and non-Christian alike, signed a statement which declared that his chest had been burned. His face and body were covered with lumps, bruises, and heel marks. His heart was punctured in six places.
In his last letter, dated July 15, 1972, Vanya wrote:
I desire that all of you, dear friends, young and old, remember this one verse. Revelation 2:10 “Be faithful unto death, and I will give you the crown of life.” Receive this, the last letter on this earth, from the least of the brethren.
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