“When the Tbilisi church sent me here, I didn’t even have a Bible. They said, ‘You learn how to preach well, and go and get people,’ I would walk and ask God, ‘God, why don’t you give me one Christian so I won’t be alone?’” recalls Pastor Roman in the basement of his church in Zestaponi. “I went for five or six months without anybody. After six months he gave me three people--a crippled person, one who had one eye, and the third person was so old, but there was my army. Then something happened, suddenly many people started to come, we would fill up the room and people were sitting outside to listen. God showed his power.”
Pastor Roman sits at the end of the table telling the story of his church, which has now grown to 255 people. While he spoke though, his face was telling his story--the story of a man who has been through a lot for his faith. “Before we started this church here, we had to change locations 20-30 times, sometimes we would go and preach and they would kick us out in a week,” he remembers.
Like many Georgians his face is well worn, yet holds eyes with a youthful joy.
He was bullied by the KGB, lost his wife to cancer, and has faced a continual uphill battle spreading the gospel in Georgia, but he carries an indestructible joy that makes all of that seem somehow small.
In the basement room where Pastor Roman sits telling stories to his guests, women emerge in and out of a kitchen door, hurriedly filling the guests’ stomachs, their plates, and the entire table in front of them, which, by the end, has more food on it than when the dinner began.
Pastor Roman moves upstairs to the sanctuary to tell the story of where the church is headed. Standing in front of an artist’s rendering for a new church they plan to build, his passion is evident. The structure, mostly glass and gleaming white stands in contrast to the older smaller church he stands in, and in contrast to most of other buildings nearby. The building will be strategically located in a central area and will stand as a beacon of hope for the city. “If I only had $150,000, I know as a church we could chip in the rest and make it work, we will provide the labor,” he explains. “I want people to stand with me in faith. I know it’s the will of God. I want to get this done. When we build this, I know in a year it’s going to be packed.”
Woven into everything he says is his passion to evangelize. He speaks of his love for his wife, who lost her battle with cancer, and how he now understands Paul when Paul said that it can be better to be single, because now Pastor Roman can now solely focus on reaching the lost. “My life now is completely dedicated to the kingdom of God. I don’t want anything. This is my winter and spring jacket, winter like this, spring like this,” he jokes, pulling his sleeves up for spring and down for winter. “This is my heart’s passion and desire.”
Pastor Roman carefully watches his steps as he walks in the empty field where the church will eventually sit. As he has always done, his focus is on the future, excited about where God is leading. The field is non-descript, mostly empty, it now gives life to grass, weeds, and trees, but will soon give life, eternal life, to the lost.