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Examiner
  • Frank Haight: Couple's lottery winnings are a heaven-sent change

  • Let me introduce you to Alexey and Enna Gulak, who with their 10-year-old son, Nikita, now call Blue Springs home – thanks to winning a lottery in their native Russia.

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  • Let me introduce you to Alexey and Enna Gulak, who with their 10-year-old son, Nikita, now call Blue Springs home – thanks to winning a lottery in their native Russia.
    I first met the Gulaks three Sundays ago at Plaza Heights Baptist Church where I was greeting worshipers. Sensing they were newcomers, I shook their hands, extended a warm, cheerful greeting and asked the obvious: “Are you first-time visitors?”
    With a broad smile, he replies, “Yes, we are,” his accent revealing he was a foreigner. I remained clueless to his nationality until he noted that before they married, Enna had visited Plaza in 1998 on a trip to America to visit Cliff Ramsey, who had led a Plaza mission team to Belgorod, Russia, the Gulaks’ hometown.
    Excited to learn more, I met them later that week at their home.
    Meeting Ramsey, the Gulaks say, is the beginning of their story of faith and trust in the Lord. While Ramsey ministered in Belgorod, Enna, who speaks fluent English, as does her husband, was his interpreter.
    “So they became good friends and (Cliff) invited my wife to visit (his family) in 1998,” says Alexey, adding that he and Enna invited Cliff to their wedding on Dec. 4, 1999, because “he was like an American father.”
    Sitting at the kitchen table, Alexey recalled attending an underground church in Communist Russia as a child with his grandmother, who often read Bible stories and sang songs to him from an old Baptist hymnal. Under Communism, he says, the Baptist church was the only registered and officially recognized church in Belgorod. All other churches – regardless of denomination – were unregistered and, therefore, illegal.
    “We were underground until Troika,” he recalls of the unregistered church. “Then when Soviet Union dissolved, there was freedom to worship in church of your choice or build a new church.”
    Enna, though, attended the Registered Baptist Church. And it was there – many years later – that she and Alexey finally met, fell in love and were married.
    “Love at first sight?” I asked Alexey. “No, not really,” he replies. But before he could say more, Enna interjected: “I saw him several times (in church), but I am not interested because he sits with his family and I sing in choir. I also taught Sunday school 12 years.”
    The newlyweds moved to Moscow, where Alexey earned a degree in civil engineering and worked awhile, he says, until “I get God’s call for me in ministry.” He saw the lack of theologically educated people in Russia, so he studied another five years in seminary and earned  a master’s in theology.
    In addition to pastoring a small Moscow Baptist church, he taught New Testament theology in seminary and worked on the International Baptist Mission Board in Moscow as an administrative assistant. Enna has two degrees: one in teaching history, the other in municipal administration.
    Page 2 of 3 - Feeling God’s call to do more spiritual things, “...We start to pray,” Enna says in a soft voice, thinking they might return to Belgorod. “We pray, ‘God, change our lives. Do something for us. We want to do more for God,’” perhaps in the U.S.A., she reasoned,  if they won the United States of America Permanent Resident Card lottery, also known as the Green Card lottery.
    At stake were 55,000 Green Cards, allowing holders to live 10 years in the States. And because 10 million Russians were vying for these coveted cards, the Gulaks knew their chance of winning was slim. So they asked God for some spiritual changes in their lives and entered the lottery under Enna’s name. Why not? They had nothing to lose.
    But lose they did. When the winning names were posted, Enna’s name was missing.
    Enna remembers that date well. She recalls returning home from the hospital with her ill son, now a fourth grader at William Bryant Elementary School. Upon receiving the bad news, she prayed:  “God, we need changes. But if it is not your plan, it’s OK. But change our lives.”
    And God did.
    A month later, Alexey received an email informing him the computer had erred and another drawing would be forthcoming. This time, the computer selected Enna’s name.
    Not sure they met the financial and educational requirements for a Green Card, Enna again prayed, asking God to prevent her family from going to the States if it wasn’t His will. After all, she reasoned, “We had a job, we had a ministry in Russia, and we don’t know the reason why we must go to the United States.”
    Says Alexey: “In asking God for changes in our lives, we see that God answered our prayers and He sent us the changes. So we had to obey His will. We decided we needed to go to United States. We sold everything and I resigned from my job at International Mission Board.
    Calling Blue Springs a wonderful place to live, Alexey, 32, and Enna, 37, have no regrets about starting a new life in America.
    Alexey believes it’s time to start a new life in Blue Springs and cut attachment strings to Russia.
    “We came here to live; it’s not a tourist trip. I hope it’s the beginning for a new life in the United States.”
    As for becoming U.S. citizens, Alexey says he doesn’t know; they just got here.
    “We love our country – Russia. ... But still we are hoping this country will become also a new home. I think it would be an honor for us to become citizens.”
    And lest I forget, Alexey, who came to the States without a job, has found one as an administrative assistant in Lenexa, Kan.
    Page 3 of 3 - Praise the Lord!
    Retired community news reporter Frank Haight Jr. writes th is column for The Examiner. You can leave a message for him at 816-350-6363.
     
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