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This week I finally took N. D. Wilsons advice and sought to capture the words and expressions of the stories that made me what I am. My grandpa opened his eyes one day in his early twenties to face a roaring wall of flames. As he lay on the on the gasoline soaked concrete under an overturned Soviet jeep, he exclaimed in prayerful desperation, “Is this really it?!” He says that right as he said it, he felt like he was enveloped in a ray of light, after which he was somehow able to worm his way out of under the Jeep. He managed to pull off his flaming cloths with his scorched hands, shriveled and peeled with burning skin. He awoke two weeks later in an army hospital, with 28% of his body burned and a room full of doubting doctors. His partner who was with him in the Jeep was dead minutes after he got to the hospital. Three and a half months later he was released from the hospital with a early medical discharge from the army.

What is more, the discharge is what excused him from being drafted into a specialized part of the Soviet Army focused on transmission of top secret information. If this would have happened, they would have forced him to choose between renouncing his christian faith or death. The Soviets were determined to “prove” that no sane person believes in Christianity. They did this by recruiting the best and brightest, training them, then forcing them to renounce their faith or face torture. If the breaks on the Jeep would not have given out that day, I would not be alive to write these words today, neither would any of the other 75 members of the extended Bulanov family. Some mechanic may have missed those breaks that morning. It ended one life. It saved another.

My grandpa continue to touch the lives of the whole family with his stories and his garden raised tomatoes which he sends us all every year.

“It is a glorious and terrifying thought. We touch many stories. We are touched by many stories…Lives and generations and history are there for the tipping. You have hands. You have words. You have something. Touch the scales. Touch the least of these.”


Wilson, N. D. (2013-05-14). Death by Living: Life Is Meant to Be Spent (p. 145). Thomas Nelson. Kindle Edition.