Andrey's Journey to God
My name is Andrey Zaremba. I was born in the Ukraine in 1980. I was the 3rd child of five. Before I was born, my father was a mean alcoholic, but he became a Christian supernaturally.
As the story goes, he walked home one day drunk, walked into the kitchen and saw my mom’s open Bible. He looked at it, and said, “God, if You are real, come into my life, and let this be the last time I ever drink. ” The Holy Spirit came over him and changed him instantly. He never drank again, and became a man of God, preaching His word.
I guess I had a normal childhood. I finished 3rd grade in Ukraine and could read and write in both Russian and Ukrainian. Our parents loved us, and we were happy. When we moved to the US, it was a different story. I went in to fourth grade in the US, not knowing any English. Looking back I realize that life wasn’t bad here but it wasn’t what we thought it would be.
My parents started sheltering us from the world because of fear that the world would take us away from God. I started to get depressed and not like church, then felt guilty that I felt this way. Now I thought, “God knows my feelings and thoughts -- now He will surely kill me.
As I got older, things became worse. I kept getting in trouble and upsetting and hurting my parents. I started doing drugs, smoking, drinking, and doing crank at the age of 15-16, hanging out with the wrong crowd, skipping school, etc.
I really wanted to go to the military to be a pilot; I even signed up for the army. My parents were really against this and they forbid me to go into the military -- I was crushed, I didn’t really want to do anything else, or knew what else I wanted to do.
I felt depressed, and thought “God hates me and is punishing me, and doesn’t want to bless me or give me a happy life, and I’m probably going to die soon”. So, I just went to drugs as an escape. And since then, drugs have pretty much ruled my life.
I’ve tried everything: doctors, therapists, rehabilitation centers, but nothing could get rid of my depression. I had no will to live, but was too scared to kill myself and go to hell. Yet I still attempted to kill myself. I hated life. I started to hate God. The devil would torment me. So that put me in to a bigger depression, and I did more and more drugs, just to try and silence that voice in my head, and to get rid of the guilt.
I was in jail one time in Florida, and my mom asked a local pastor to visit me. He told my mom that I put half of his church’s youth on heroin, that he would not come see me. He also said that there was no salvation for me that they had given me over to Anathema.
Later, there was a pastor that I liked, and he tried to help me. I really looked up to him. He died of sclerosis of the liver and that really devastated me, I lost all hope in my future. I thought if this pastor slid back, then what hope is there for me. Why even try? Later, when I was in jail again, and it asked my faith preference, I would write “Atheist”.
After all this, I started to get in to spiritualism and all kinds of other weird stuff. My girlfriend was a Satanist, and I started to hang out around weird people. I started to get really paranoid because of all the drugs I was doing, and the people I was hanging around with. I reached out to my sister, who is a senior nurse at a hospital. She tried to get me help through all her connections, and doctors, and clinics, and detox facilities, as well as other drugs that supposedly weren’t as bad as narcotics. But nothing was helping me.
My biggest problem was I couldn’t quit because the withdrawals are really bad, followed by severe chemical imbalance, severe insomnia, and depression. This was an ongoing battle for me, one that I was sure I was losing. When I thought I was getting better, I’d relapse and go right back to drugs. I’d be clean for a month or so, but then I couldn’t handle the insomnia, and I’d relapse. This was a losing battle for me.
About 4 years ago, in 2015, I was shooting up in a car with my friend and I overdosed. When the ambulance showed up, I wasn’t breathing, so they resuscitated me, restarted my heart, and took me to the hospital. My heart was weak and was failing, so they hooked me up to a breathing machine because I wasn’t breathing on my own, and I slipped into a coma. Later, my mom told me that she was in the garden the same day, and she fell to her knees and started yelling, “Jesus, No! Please! Let Andrey live!.”
At the hospital, they called my sister and mom, and told them that I most likely would not make it because my heart was too weak; I wasn’t breathing on my own. They said that if by some miracle, that I did make it, that because there was only 3% oxygen in my brain when they found me, that I would be a vegetable for the rest of my life. My sister insisted that they keep me on life support, and got me the best care in the hospital.
To everyone’s surprise, I woke up 4 days later. I was completely fine and the doctors were shocked that I could speak and everything was okay with me.
To think maybe now I’d learned my lesson, my whole family came to me and begged me to change my ways, but a few days later, I was back on heroin and crystal meth. My family was hopeless; I was hopeless. I think at that time, we just all gave up. Nobody in my family had any more faith in me changing. My older brother even told me, “The next time I will probably see you, is your funeral”.
A few months later, my mom met a lady in a pharmacy that just came from Kazakhstan. They started talking about something in Russian, and Mom invited her and her husband to meet with me. They told me that they knew somebody that had a sort of rehab in Israel. They said, “You will get to see Israel, the Holy Sites. You will get to walk where Jesus walked. Maybe, there in Israel, a miracle will happen.” I laughed about it, but I was high at the time, and somehow in my (high) mind, it made some sense and felt appealing. So, I said, “Sure, whatever, I’ll go to Israel.”
We called the contact person in Israel. He just told me to buy a ticket to Tel-Aviv and tell them when I’m coming over, and someone will pick me up at the airport. I took apart my earphones and put heroin in them. I also took a syringe of crystal meth with me, as well as a bunch of pills, including Xanax and other pills. I got really high before going to the airport. I also smoked crystal meth in the airport bathroom. I was really, really high; I was a mess.
It was hard for me for the first 2 or 3 weeks in Israel because I still had drugs and a bunch of pills. I was taking everything mixed together, and it was making me hallucinate. I was also sneaking out at night and smoking cigarettes, buying them from an Arab-owned convenience store with American dollars. They eventually reported myself to one of the leaders of the rehab home who went through my stuff and found cigarettes, my syringe, money, and other stuff that I wasn’t supposed to have, and sent me to their detox facility for a few days, and then to another rehab home.
When I started sobering up, I really became terrified because I knew that my withdrawal symptoms were going to start any day. I told God, “How can you help me if I have no faith in You? I was terrified knowing that without faith, and without changing, and without repenting I can’t please God and He can’t help me. So, what should I do, knowing that I can’t change and have zero faith?
I don’t remember how it happened, but God gave me 2 verses from the Bible to stand on:
1st Verse... Mathew 8:2-3 -- 2 A man with leprosy came and knelt before him and said, “Lord, if you are willing, you can make me clean.” 3 Jesus reached out his hand and touched the man. “I am willing,” he said. “Be clean!” Immediately he was cleansed of his leprosy.
When I came to Jesus, and said that I don’t want to change, I can’t change, If You want to, then please change me. And He said I want to, and He changed me!!! And, He is still changing me to this day!
2nd Verse… Mathew 8:5-10 -- 5 When Jesus had entered Capernaum, a centurion came to him, asking for help. 6 “Lord,” he said, “my servant lies at home paralyzed, suffering terribly.” 7 Jesus said to him, “Shall I come and heal him?” 8 The centurion replied, “Lord, I do not deserve to have you come under my roof. But just say the word, and my servant will be healed. 9 For I myself am a man under authority, with soldiers under me. I tell this one, ‘Go,’ and he goes; and that one, ‘Come,’ and he comes. I say to my servant, ‘Do this,’ and he does it.” 10 When Jesus heard this, He was amazed and said to those following him, “Truly I tell you; I have not found anyone in Israel with such great faith.
And He showed me through these verses, that nowhere in the Scriptures above, does it speak about faith. The centurion understood authority, He knew who Jesus was, and he understood the principles of authority. And Jesus took this as the greatest faith in all of Israel: Jesus was amazed.
So, through this, God told me to just listen to the people (He) placed in my life as authority figures: to my pastor, and leaders in the rehab, and He (God) would take that as faith, and we would start from there.
I told God, “That is great! I can do that. One thing I ask for though, as a confirmation, is that I can sleep normal, and eat normal, and not be depressed.” To my amazement, I started sleeping and eating normally. I was waiting for my withdrawal symptoms to start any day, but to my amazement, they never came.
It was a long journey. It wasn’t easy, because God was changing a lot of things in my life. He changed me completely.
I went through rehab in Israel, Lithuania, and Germany. Then I went to the Bible School of Discipleship in Haifa, Israel, where in a family-like setting, I learned through relationships and friendships, the simplicity and the heart of the Gospel -- to love God and your neighbor, to care for people to help out, to volunteer, and to realize that it’s not about you; that you are part of a team, that there is purpose in life, that our God is a loving God, He hates sin, but loves people.
I also learned that He came to this earth to free people from the bondage of sin, depression, and lies that the devil tells people on a daily basis. Throughout this experience, God completely healed my body, my mind, and my soul. I really feel that I was born again; that I’m a new person.
He took away all my sicknesses, all my depression, my fear, my back pain, my hate, my insecurities; and gave me joy and peace. During this time, God also restored my relationship with my parents and my family. I went for my practicum to Switzerland, where I lived with different families, worked with children, did volunteer work, and was mentored on spiritual fatherhood.
After finishing the Bible School of Discipleship and practicum 8 months total, I went to Ukraine as a missionary, where I worked with children in orphanages, and also through different children’s outreaches and kids camps in different cities of Ukraine. I also served as a chaplain when we went to the front lines to give out humanitarian aid to families and children affected by the war. I also was privileged to give out Bibles and pray for the soldiers on the front lines. We also brought 50 kids from the war-torn area to a war-free camp. This was a life-changing experience for me.
During this time, I was the personal interpreter of our senior pastor, including answering e-mails writing letters, being part of meetings and personal Skype conversations. Through this, I found out about the all our hardships, and the great opportunities that this ministry has.
Our senior pastor and I spoke many times about how excited we were about what God is doing in Israel, and that salvation is coming back to the Jewish people, and the veil is being slowly lifted, especially throughout the Russian-speaking Jewish community.
Many people don’t know that the communist regime was really bad for some people, but for the Jews in the Soviet Union, it served a very interesting purpose. Many people don’t realize that the Jews that ended up in that part of the Soviet Union became atheists: they were only Jews by last name and by blood, but no word of God was mentioned in their families.
For example, my senior pastor’s parents were atheists, and he grew up an atheist in Russia. But when he immigrated to Israel in 1995, and heard the gospel for the very first time in Israel, he gladly accepted Jesus Christ as his Lord and Savior. Then his brother accepted Jesus, then 4 years later, his atheist parents came to Israel and accepted Jesus. My pastor and his brother baptized his parents in the Jordan River.
Through many conversations and by realizing that through Russian-speaking Jews we have this awesome window of opportunity to bring the gospel of Jesus Christ back to the Jewish people in Israel. The Russian-speaking Jews make up 20% of the overall population of Israel. They are the most open audience to the Gospel of Jesus Christ. God worked all these things to His Glory in this situation, even communism. Romans 8:28 says, “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love Him” .
We realized that we need to go to the States and tell people about this awesome opportunity that God is presenting to the Western Church to take part in the salvation of The Jewish people in Israel. There is the opportunity to raise ministry-partners and friends who will stand with us and help build God’s Kingdom and spread the Gospel in the Holy Land.
A few years back, this was an unattainable dream, but we realized one thing: that if it is God’s plan, and if it is God’s dream, then He will make it happen. He will bring the right people together, and the dream will become a reality. During this time of planning and travel, I met a beautiful girl in the same Bible school that I graduated from in Haifa. A year later, we got married at the Bible school in Israel.
Now, almost a year later, I’m in the great State of Texas trying to make this dream a reality.
We ask you to join us in this great last season of harvest which includes the Gentile Church and the Israeli Church coming together as one Bride of Christ. Thank you.