International Pop Star Finds Peace with God: Mischa’s Story
Mar 20, 2015 1949
I was the lead singer in a pop group that was famous throughout the former Soviet Union.
My musical story began when I was seven years old, when I started winning many singing competitions. I was a star from when I was at school, and I felt good about that. Teachers gave me good marks in other subjects because of my star-status. So I got used to being treated as a star from a very early age.
After school, I naturally went on to Music College. I didn’t put much effort into my studies there, since I was already a star in my own mind. Everyone praised me anyway.
Then my musical friends needed a soloist for a band that played at weddings. It was an easy job because I had a good ear and didn’t need to practice much.
I joined the band, but it was a disastrous step for me, because at weddings there is lots and lots of alcohol. And even worse, I discovered that I could drink a lot and not get drunk. I felt so cool. So I would drink at the weddings and take some bottles home with me.
It was at that time that I met my first wife. She knew that I was already an alcoholic, but she adored me. She loved me although I drank much and often. However, when we were married this became a real problem for our family life.
Our band became very famous internationally as a pop group called “Freestyle” in the late 90’s and early 2000’s. We travelled throughout the countries of the former Soviet Union, giving concerts everywhere. However the truth is that we were all alcoholics in the band, and we would make ourselves totally drunk before concerts, and then we would just lip-synch, and nobody knew. By then my family relationship had begun to totally disintegrate. By now my wife didn’t like to see me the way I had become because of the alcohol. I was in a really bad shape.
It was in 2002, in the midst of these problems, that I first met the Lord. I had a good friend whom I hadn’t seen for ages. He had been in jail. When I met him, he was radically changed – a better person than who he had been before. When he saw me, he asked me, “What’s wrong with you, Mischa?” When I didn’t answer, he said to me, “I’ll drop by on Sunday and take you to church.”
When I arrived at church there were lots of people there. They were singing, waving flags, and shouting, “Jesus is Lord, Hallelujah!” It was a Pentecostal Protestant Church. All the noise wasn’t necessarily helpful to me, because I had a bad hangover at the time.
However, the pastor made a call for repentance, and I responded. I went to the front, and the pastor led us in a prayer of repentance. I understood very little of what was doing on, but I knew that I was a sinner and that I needed to repent.. That was the beginning of my relationship with the Lord.
I began going to church with my wife and my son. I liked everything very much. The people were honest, open, and happy people– very unlike the people with whom I had associated before. Bit by bit they learnt that I was a musician. First they needed a drummer, so I started playing the drums for them. Then they learnt that I could sing, so I started singing while I played the drums.
I was baptised by immersion and I participated fully in the church, going to all the meetings, including leaders’ meetings, home churches, and prayer meetings. I started developing a personal relationship with Christ. My life changed radically and everything began going well in my personal life and in my family relationships. I felt more confident in every aspect of my life. I was enjoying the journey I was on very much.
By now I was in full-time ministry in the church as the Worship Leader. I had quit smoking, but the truth was that I hadn’t fully overcome my alcohol problem. I drank occasionally, and when I did drink I felt ashamed.
Eventually the friends I looked up to at church started telling me that I needed to grow more spiritually. I didn’t understand them. I was reading the gospels, and I was praying, and I felt that God was revealing Himself to me, but what my friends told me stressed and worried me.
Looking back I can see that what they were telling me was right. I was treated very well at church. Life was easy. I played music, and everybody clapped. I had come to a point where I didn’t want to grow in Christ. I didn’t want to surrender everything to Christ. I drank once in a while. I was discouraged at times, but they needed me as a musician, and I hid behind my music and enjoyed this life. I was a church person, but at the same time I still had much pride in my heart that I hadn’t surrendered to God. The same pride that I had had in my music in the world I now felt in my music at church. And as a result of what my friends were telling me, and the pride in my heart, I lapsed into a drinking bout.
This made me feel more ashamed, and I began having illicit relationships at church, and I committed adultery with a member of the church. Nobody knew but God knew, and I felt bad about it.
The shame of this drove me to drink again, and it went from bad to worse. By now I had yielded to my pride completely, so that I went to church not as an obedient servant but as a proud man. I became critical of others, noticing all their faults, although deep in my heart I knew I was a hypocrite.
Eventually, I couldn’t keep going like this and it all came to a head within me. I got fed up and I said, “No, this is not for me! I am leaving you! You can do without me!” And so I left the church with my family and went fully into the world.
Then, in addition to the alcohol, drugs also came into my life. The worse thing is that I also involved my wife, and we both became addicts. My wife died as a result of the drug abuse.
I was distraught and I didn’t want to live. I just wanted to die. The courts also deprived me of my parental rights. I thought that I would also die soon from the drug abuse, and I thought that that would be for the best.
At that time I began being regularly hospitalized, and being in and out of drug rehab centres, but they were not helpful. Then I found out about the 12-step programme, which is a Christ-centred programme. I joined one of these groups., and I understood that all by myself I could do nothing. I found a sponsor who told me that I needed God before I could get better. In my pride, I said to him, “I have God.” He said to me that I needed to work on my relationship with Him.
I was at my lowest point, and so I finally confessed my pride to God and surrendered everything to Him, and I said to God, “I will do whatever you tell me.” And that’s what I did.
A few months later I met my Svetlana, who is now my wife who loves me and whom I love very much. I thought that I didn’t deserve a family or a normal life ever again, and then, because my current wife also had children, I suddenly had a big family. We were married, and then two years later my first son (from my first marriage) came back to me. I saw all of these things as affirmations of God’s love for me, and I began finding a solid foundation for my life again. That God gave me a new family and brought my son back to me was truly a miracle.
I was invited to attend the meetings being presented by Dr Eliezer Gonzalez and Dr Philip Rodionoff and I am enjoying them enormously. I am learning many new things here. I did read the gospel in the past, and I thought I knew a lot – perhaps that was my pride. But what I am learning here about the gospel is simply wonderful. Now it is finally all making sense. My wife and I simply love the meetings. Every evening after the meetings we go home and discuss everything we hear here. Now I am so happy.
I miss Christian community; it has been a long time since I took part in communion with God’s people, and I think this is important. I would like to do this soon. It is as if God has been guiding us gently step by step to this point and to these meetings, and I know that we will join this Christian community.
I have understood that without God no one can be happy., and I am glad that He is in my life. Every day I come to Jesus in my prayers. I feel like He is next to me. I talk to Him like a friend. I know he hears me, and I know he loves me, and in His love He helps me to live a better life.
Because Christ has given me salvation, I have to respond. I need to help others, and so I help other addicts. I am a leader in an Alcoholics Anonymous group, and a drug rehab group, and I help others overcome their addictions.
As a musician, I can understand that God has brought true harmony into my life. And all I can do is to be humble and give glory to Him.
– Story recorded and transcribed (from a translation) by Eliezer Gonzalez. “Mischa” is the Russian diminutive for “Michael”