After receiving this telephone call, Maxim and his family made the very difficult decision to remain as exiles in Turkey rather than to return home. Maxim and his son are opposed to the present war Russia is waging. This decision has been painful to his soul because he had labored for years in starting a Reformed church in St. Petersburg.
On October 18, 2022, Pastor Maxim Fokin was in Turkey, along with his family, for a month-long medical convalescence when he received a telephone call from the military enlistment office in St. Petersburg. He and his son, Daniel, were told that they must report to the enlistment office within 24 hours. Maxim is 52 and his son is 28. Maxim had served in the military as a machine gunner as a young man and so his skills were needed in this ongoing so-called “special military operation” Russia has been waging against Ukraine.
Russia has now declared a full mobilization and is grabbing able bodied people wherever they can find them. Maxim told me about some Russian pastors who were meeting at a hotel in Moscow when the police surrounded the building, barricaded the entrances and exits, seized the pastors, and forced them to enlist in this war. A couple of pastors were able to escape through the back alley before it was closed off and they reported this matter to Maxim.
Maxim, his wife (Larissa), their son (Daniel) and his wife’s mother (Ludmilla) took only warm weather clothing with them for their trip. All of their other possessions are still in their apartment in St. Petersburg.
After receiving this telephone call, Maxim and his family made the very difficult decision to remain as exiles in Turkey rather than to return home. Maxim and his son are opposed to the present war Russia is waging. This decision has been painful to his soul because he had labored for years in starting a Reformed church in St. Petersburg. He is still able to preach to his church via zoom meetings, but he has decided to start a new work among the many Russians who have fled to Turkey as a result of these actions by Vladimir Putin. In God’s providence, Maxim has connected with a group of Russian speaking people in Izmir, Turkey who were looking for a pastor for a church they were planting. This might be an answer to his prayers.
I have known Maxim for fourteen years. Though he speaks only a little English and I speak only a little Russian, we have become very close friends over the years. For over a decade, it was my privilege to lead, perhaps, the largest annual pastors’ conference in Russia. There were 150 pastors who would attend. Some of them came from Latvia, Ukraine, Uzbekistan, and Israel, as well as all parts of Russia. Over the years, we were able to have such speakers for the conference as: Joel Beeke, Geoffrey Thomas, Anthony N. S. (Tony) Lane, Terry Johnson, myself, and others.
Those were great days that are now seemingly gone forever. None of this would have been possible without the diligent, tireless efforts of Maxim. He handled all the logistical arrangements for the conference, while I raised the financial support and secured the speakers for the conference. Anyone who ever spoke at the conference or attended it is aware of how much effort Maxim put forward into making it a success.
Maxim and his family are now planning to minister in Turkey with no sense of ever being able to return to Mother Russia. He has been told by the Russian government that if he ever comes back that he will be dealt with as a foreign agent—either imprisoned or executed. He is now trying to start over among fellow refugees who are also poor.
During this Christmas season, I would like to appeal to readers to support Maxim and his family. Donations can be mailed to: Church Planting International, PO Box 836, Gainesville, GA 30503. Donations be given online at: www.cpimission.org. Church Planting International will send every dollar that is donated to Maxim to their account in Turkey and the fees for the wire transaction will be paid from the general fund of the organization. Your gift of any size will be greatly appreciated.
Dewey Roberts is Pastor of Cornerstone Presbyterian Church in Destin, Fla.