The Testimony of Ivan Neprash — founder of Slavic Missionary Service
Born of religious parents, Ivan V. Neprash was taught in all the forms and ceremonies of the Russian Orthodox Church. Already at the age of fifteen, he felt that he could succeed in whatever he attempted to do. It was in his school days, when serious trouble arose, that he had occasion to take advantage of the advice of his mother, “If you are in difficulty, pray.” He had memorized three long prayers; one to the Virgin Mary, one to the Guardian Angel and the Lord's Prayer. Remembering his mother's counsel, he got upon his knees one night and repeated the Lord's Prayer thirty times. This did not help. Bitterness filled his heart. He thought, "I am a fool. I have prayed for daily bread of which I have plenty. This prayer has not changed anything. God has not heard.” That was his last prayer for many years.
During his adolescent years, all of his classmates were atheists. Atheistic literature was plentiful. This kind of reading, together with several experiences, made him an atheist at age eighteen. At twenty-one years old, Ivan spoke openly against God. The essence of his belief was that there is no God and no life after death. The real facts of life were summed up in matter, force and motion.
Then after three years of desolation and darkness, one desire possessed Ivan Neprash. He must find the “unknown” truth. He searched for it by reading books — piles of them, hundreds of them. Different systems were tried. Each of them looked fine in theory, but when put to the test, collapsed utterly. "What is truth? Where can I find it?"
He said to himself, “I'll travel to Europe. Perhaps I'll find some great man who might know the truth.” He traveled from place to place, from country to country, but found no one who could help him. Disappointed and hopeless, he returned to Russia cursing God! He continued to seek, but he sought in vain. Things were growing worse and worse. One day, having come to the end of all, he made up his mind to commit suicide. His revolver was prepared. In that awful moment, memories of childhood flashed before him, as well as his mother. What would mother do? Could she bear to lose her son in this terrible way? A mother's love won.