By TOMIE LUNSFORD
Telegram Staff Writer
As a child, Christina Matkina had no knowledge of Jesus or the Bible. She was 15 when she became a Christian.
'All it took was a single sermon,' Miss Matkina said. 'That happened in 1995, and it changed my life.'
In Russia on a mission trip, Russell Chupik of Rogers stopped to share the message of Christ at Miss Matkina's high school.
'He said, 'There is someone who will always talk to you, someone who will always listen and care,'' Miss Matkina said. 'I liked the idea of that. I was lonely growing up. My mother raised me and my sister by herself, so she was always working. She didn't have time to nurture the spiritual life.'
Her friends, also, were of no comfort.
'They could always tell me of their problems, and I would listen,' Miss Matkina said. 'But when I had a problem, nobody cared. Nobody wanted to listen.'
So she approached Chupik and asked him to tell her who 'that guy was.'
'He said, 'That's Jesus Christ. Invite him into your heart, and he will be there and he will be your savior because that's what the Bible promises,'' Miss Matkina said. 'I did.'
Since then, Miss Matkina said her life has been filled with an overwhelming sense of the Lord's presence. It has encouraged her to become a full-time missionary.
And on April 3, Miss Matkina had the opportunity to reunite with Chupik. 'I was glad to have the opportunity to visit with him,' Miss Matkina said. 'I was nervous but excited.'
Chupik said the visit was nice.
'That was the first time I had seen her since Russia,' Chupik said. 'She got to meet my family, and we talked a lot about everything, what she's doing now and updates on her ministry. I'm excited to see her continue her walk with Christ.'
Miss Matkina was in town with Chupik's colleague, Temple evangelist Tom Popelka of Tom Popelka Ministries. She serves as Popelka's Russian interpreter.
When the pair are at work, they speak almost simultaneously. Popelka says the word first, and Miss Matkina follows soon after with barely two seconds of lag time.
'It's like two heads talking,' Miss Matkina said, laughing as she and Popelka gave a demonstration of a typical sermon.
The Russian alphabet has 33 letters while the English alphabet has just 27.
'So the words in Russian are longer and have more syllables,' Miss Matkina said. 'You have to keep up your pace.'
Her work, though, is just as much about the translation of ideas.
'Christianity is not as big in Russia as it is in the United States,' Miss Matkina said. 'Nobody goes to Sunday school. Words like Jesus and Mary are not automatically known. You have to explain them.'
The differences in culture can make her job tough, but she enjoys it.
'She does a fabulous job,' Popelka said.
She got the translating job after a year's work Mission International.
'I was so eager to share the gospel with America because I was saved by the speaking of an American man,' Miss Matkina said. 'Mission International took me to 47 states. I learned English by immersion.'
That was 2000-01. After that, she started leading Bible studies for peers in her home state of Kurgan Oblast. Then she signed on with Teen Missions, an international non-profit group that gave her the opportunity to study Christianity and do mission projects.
Her tenure with Tom Popelka Ministries started about two years ago. She said her position gives her joy.
While in Texas, Miss Matkina plans to visit several area churches. On Easter Sunday, she'll be the guest speaker at the 10 a.m. service of Evangelical Brethren Church, 3111 N. Third St. in Temple.
'And for the next couple of weeks she'll be studying at Oak Hill Bible Church in Austin,' Popelka said. 'She's going to learn a Biblical Womanhood Bible study that she can take back to Russia and teach to other women.'
Thus far, Miss Matkina's family has been very accepting of her Christianity.
'Christ even came into their hearts,' she said. 'My sister was saved in 1999, and my mother was saved in 2003.'