Monk Madai (Maamdi), a Kurd
Although he lived only thirty-five years, Fr. Daniel did an enormous amount of missionary and catechetical work not only in the Russian Church, but even beyond it. I can cite personally, from my own experience, many examples of how whole families were baptized after hearing about Fr. Daniel, reading his books, and listening to his lectures. I hear of how people entered the life of the Church thanks to Fr. Daniel’s books and lectures. I myself know people who began doing missionary work with non-Orthodox peoples after getting to know the slain Fr. Daniel.
I would like to recall one story from my personal experience, which is very dear to me. In 2009, on October 19, in the Church of the Apostle Thomas, Bishop Seraphim had come to serve. There were many people, but after the services I nevertheless had a chance to talk with Fr. Daniel, although he was very tired. The conversation was as usual about missionary work among the Kurds. We talked over the methods of preaching. He ascribed great significance to the courageous bearing of God’s word, unadulterated and without hiding anything. He also emphasized the importance of apologetics, for every person should make his own choice. In order to do this, a person has to understand what he believes, because many Kurds do not know very much about their own faith. We decided to write together a large work on Yazidism in order to describe the real essence of this religion, which, unfortunately, is hidden and unknown to a significant percentage of Kurds.
Now I feel Fr. Daniel’s help more than when he was in the flesh. Those who are now helping the Kurdish mission are people who, for the most part, were converted thanks to Fr. Daniel. For example, we commissioned the painting of two large icons in the Kurdish tradition. This family of iconographers entered more fully into the Church thanks to Fr. Daniel, and a large part of the donations came from benefactors who were likewise inspired by him for missionary work.
Thanks to Fr. Daniel’s close spiritual friend I came a few years ago to Greece. Now I have been a monk for three months. I was able to begin my studies in the theological department of Athens University. But most importantly, I was found by one God-bearing elder who became my spiritual father, and who reveres Fr. Daniel as a martyr of our times.
Fr. Daniel promised to help me and I feel his help. Our common ideas live on, and I hope that through his prayers they will bring forth fruit in their time.
I am amazed that although no one specially “promotes” the veneration of Fr. Daniel, it has nevertheless spread very broadly even to countries far from Russia. His first icon was painted in Macedonia at the request of Bishop David of Stobi; in Serbia a missionary center was founded in Fr. Daniel’s name; in the U.S.A an icon has been painted and there is even an initiative to build a church dedicated to him. In Romania an Akathist has been written. In Georgia monks have translated almost all of his books. In Greece, in the monastery of the Annunciation of the Mother of God in Ormylia (one of the largest Orthodox monasteries in the world), founded by the great Athonite elder Emilianos (Vathidis), they prayer to Fr. Daniel as to a saint, and say, “It is time for you to pray not for Fr. Daniel but to him.”
Here in Greece, one hieromonk told me that he once read in the news about the martyric death of a Russian priest in his church, and he was touched by his life and labors. Later some pilgrims from Russia came to where he served. To his amazement, they gave him a small icon with the image of Fr. Daniel. He said, “I never doubted his sanctity in the least. I have always venerated him and prayed to him.” In the words of this hieromonk, once as he woke on an early Sunday morning, he prepared for the Liturgy, praying before the icon of Fr. Daniel, and a fragrance filled his cell… It is very important to say that no one is “preaching” about Fr. Daniel all over the world. The Lord Himself inspires people to venerate him. This is a great mystery before which we can only be in silent awe.
Mikhail, a Kabardinian
I was born in the city of Nalchik. In my early school years I studied in a special class in which they taught us the ABCs of Islam and the Arabic language. From early childhood I grew to be a pious boy and was interested in questions of existence, the origin of the world, and what awaits us after death.
When I was thirteen years old my family moved to Moscow. By God’s will I ended up in a special class in the capital, and also, where the Law of God was taught by my future spiritual father. Just the same, I did not pay much attention to this subject. But one time an event occurred that changed my whole life. In one of the lessons my classmate sat next to me and asked me where I came from. We talked, and the conversation turned to religion. He said that my views where not true, and began telling me about Christ. At first my reaction was abrupt and even aggressive, but the young missionary was not frightened and went on talking. I was impressed by his courage. I have to admit that I thought Christians were timid and did not think that someone would dare to come to me and preach. But this humble boy was astoundingly bold. At that moment he courageously began to prove the truth of Orthodoxy, to prove that Christ is the Savior. He himself admitted that he didn’t know why he felt such an urgent need to start talking to me about God. Neither before, nor after this did he ever approach anyone in the same way. Seeing that he had no intention of leaving me alone I accepted his invitation to go the “Law of God” class. I only needed two sessions to become an Orthodox Christian without looking back. A little while later I firmly resolved to be baptized. But in the church they asked me to wait until I reached the age of eighteen, so that there would be no problems with my parents. Thus, for four years I went to church, where they finally baptized me. My life changed. I had chronic illnesses from childhood, but after baptism they disappeared.
Much has happened since that time. At first there were problems with my family, arguments, misunderstandings, pressure, threats. My parents were afraid that after coming to the capital their son had fallen under someone’s influence or into the hands of a sect. But after a while they understood that everything was all right, that there were no negative effects from church life, and they calmed down. Now everyone is used to my choice.
Thus did my peaceful church life go on—until I met Fr. Daniel Sisoyev. No, I did not know him personally. I heard about him first from his debates with Muslims. He impressed me, and I began to study his works. Before my acquaintance with batiushka I had never thought about missionary work. I had intended to peacefully and quietly live out my life, accommodating within it both worldly and church life. But Fr. Daniel revealed to me what it means to be a real Christian. He revealed to me the full meaning of the Gospel words about how we cannot serve both God and mammon (Mt. 6:24).
Through his works I began to know in full measure the depths of Orthodoxy, and dogmatics. An amazing, great love arose in me for him and, and for what he dedicated his whole life. By Fr. Daniel’s prayers I received no small consolation and help, and I still receive it. Although we never knew each other while he was here, I have a complete feeling that he is my friend, my helper. The life and works of Fr. Daniel have had a great influence on me, and became a determining factor in my spiritual life. I always feel his help and presence, and I listen to his lectures nearly every day.
As for my own people, I will be very glad for the rebirth of Orthodoxy—after all, Kabardinians, and in fact the entire north Caucasus, was once Christian. Our goal is to return to our roots.
Nectary Mikhaelyan, an Armenian
A conversation started in which she asked me whether or not I believe in God. Although I never thought about this earlier, the question gladdened me. My soul shone with a bright feeling. I said that I believe, but have to admit that I do not know Who He is or how to turn to Him. Elena said that she also believes and goes to Church, where one kind father serves. This interested me, and I promised to go to church without fail, and to begin studying the Christian faith, because I want to be enlightened by Divine truth.
Elena became a sister in Christ to me. To this day I love and respect her as an example to emulate of hope in God’s will and mercy. I am thankful to the Lord that He granted me to have such an acquaintance. And I am very grateful also to Elena for leading me to Christ. After all, this is one of the greatest tasks in the modern world. The fruit of the righteous is a tree of life; and he that winneth souls is wise (Prov. 11:30).
Every time I remember these events my soul is filled with reverence and awe before the Creator of all the worlds for His great mercy in responding to my sorrow and languishing. He returned me to life in order to save me from sin, the curse and death. Inspired by Elena’s little stories about her faith, I began thirsting for God.
As soon as I returned home from the hospital I began to familiarize myself with the Holy Scriptures. On the internet I found the video, “The Gospel in the works of the great masters of iconography and painting.” Listening to the Gospel, read by a professional Armenian reader with soft, Orthodox spiritual music in the background, I delved into the text of the Holy Scriptures. At the end of the film my heart was filled with spiritual joy. Finally I knew Who that Infant depicted on the icons is! That is how Jesus Christ was unexpectedly revealed to me, how He came into my heart, my life. The presence of God was tangible to me.
After this joy that I experienced, I desired to delve deeper into the meaning of the words of Holy Scripture. As it is possible to find almost anything you need on the internet, and Christ’s words seek, and ye shall find (Lk. 11:9) were running around in my head, I began seeking. I found on the web Priest Daniel Sisoyev’s explanation of the Gospel. I did not know this person, but with curiosity I downloaded his audio recordings. After the first few minutes of his talk he seemed to me an vital and zealous man. He spoke clearly and quickly.
I have heard criticism against Fr. Daniel that he hurries, talks too fast, and people can’t keep up. But he was in a hurry to pour the source of living waters out upon people, to make all of us partakers of Divine truth, to lead us from the darkness of ignorance to the light of knowledge. For me, Fr. Daniel’s trait of “speaking quickly” was a great plus, because I myself was in a hurry to know everything.
It is always joyful for me to reminisce about a person who brought me closer to the light of the Gospel by expounding on God’s Word. Then, the veil of ignorance truly fell from my heart.
I asked God in my prayers to help me in my choice of faith. I often thought about which Church I should receive Baptism in. It was a choice between the Russian Orthodox Church and the Armenian Apostolic Church. I would have been tormented over this choice for a long time if it hadn’t been for help from on high. Looking over the books by Fr. Daniel, I turned my attention to a little book, Why aren’t you baptized yet? After reading it I hadn’t the slightest doubt about which place I was destined to be born of water and the Spirit, to receive salvation and be written in the Book of Life.
In December of 2009, five months after my first meeting with Christ, I came to the Church of the Transfiguration of the Lord in Stavropol. At the reading of the prayers during the Sacrament of Baptism, there were a few moments when I felt unwell. The priest even allowed me to sit down on the bench and drink some holy water. At that moment I recalled Fr. Daniel’s words when he talked about how an evil spirit nests in an unbaptized person’s heart, and tries to prevent him from coming to the Lord.
After Baptism I became a new man. I felt how my heart was transformed, and I was filled with an inexpressible joy. I was very happy that God had drawn me to Himself.
Through the Word of God Fr. Daniel lit a candle in my heart, and when the flame of faith began to burn, it lighted my path. Just one month after my first contact with Christianity I began to share the Word of God with people around me. I was impressed by Fr. Daniel’s sermons. But I especially liked his debates with Muslims. I still re-watch them with great interest.
I would like to carry that light of the Gospel, which I at one time saw through the priest-martyr Daniel Sisoyev, to my blood brothers. I dream about the Armenian Apostolic Church becoming a part of the one holy, catholic [universal] Church.
Unfortunately, there are historical/theological reasons that separate the Armenian Apostolic Church from unity with other Local Orthodox Churches. Because of this, we have not been in Eucharistic communion for 1500 years, which is a sad proof of our division. There needs to be a serious theological dialogue between representatives of the Orthodox Local Churches and the AAC.
I hope that someday the Armenian Apostolic Church, with St. Gregory the Enlightener at it head, would once again be in unity of faith, love, and piety with the fullness of the Local Orthodox Churches, that it would again become a living part of the One Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church.
By God’s mercy, the number of Orthodox Armenians has increased lately, thanks to the preaching of the Gospel. I can’t express how happy I am that real Orthodox Armenians are appearing. Our people thirst for the Word of God, and they can only be satisfied through the Holy Scripture and the Tradition of the Orthodox Church.