Denham Anthony Schokman, from Moscow in Russia, has a desire to Reach Out In Ministry, and enrolled at Christian Leaders Institute to help spread the Good News of Christianity to his country! Here is his story…
Reach Out In Ministry – Denham’s Story
I was born in 1977, in the small island nation of Sri Lanka, to Roman Catholic parents. I am the eldest in the family followed by a younger sister. In a predominantly Buddhist society, I attended a prominent Roman Catholic school, so I had the privilege of studying the Bible at a very young age. The gospel of Luke was part of our curriculum, and it was customary for the school day to start and end in prayer. We were made to understand both at school and at home that our God was good to children who did good and punished those who did badly. For me, God was more like Santa Clause sitting on a throne with angels around him.
In 1983, at the tender age of 6, my impression about God changed significantly because of a situation that our family had to go through. My mother’s younger sister who happened to live with us was possessed by a demon. She would regularly go into uncontrollable fits and speak in a foul language. She was restrained with ropes to keep her from hurting herself. I remember how fearful we were, especially in the night. It was only me and my mother at home since my father was working overseas. My mother went to various people trying to deliver her sister from this bondage, including the parish priest, but to no avail.
One day my mother’s unmarried aunt visited us, she had been banished by her family for changing her Roman Catholic beliefs and following a new religion. She said she found the true living God and that all worship and honor belonged to Him. For the first time in my life, I overheard the message of the Gospel, and it was preached to my mother. She prayed with us, and I was much fascinated when I heard how she prayed. There were no memorized prayers, there were no prayers to saints, she spoke to God as if He were her friend. To my surprise, my demon possessed aunt screamed in agony, asking her to stop praying. The dominating demon spirit, which I had known, was now begging for mercy. It left her, and she was instantly delivered.
My mother accepted Jesus as her Savior that day. A few weeks later she got water baptized along with my dad. We started going to a new church where worship was much different, God prophesied through people, they prayed in strange tongues, and where there were no icons or candles, this was all new to me. My parents got involved in church work and grew in their faith. With these wonderful changes taking place in my family and all going so well, the enemy started to attack us. My father and mother had problems in their marriage; my father lost his job and I and my family drifted away from God. I so much wish now, if only my parents had had proper biblical training and mentoring, they would have been able to sail through the storm.
I finished school and started working as a sales executive while pursuing higher studies. I lived an immoral life, but deep inside of me, I believed in God and knew He truly existed. Occasionally I read the bible but felt too guilty and unworthy to pray to God. By this time, my father had left us and my mother was getting closer to the Lord, stronger than ever before. She started going to church and got saved, but I continued to live my life as I wanted to, in spite of her asking me to come to the Lord.
In this backdrop, in the year 2002, I had to visit a client for a sales presentation about 70km from my home. At that time, I was using a company motor bike. During my return from the meeting, it began to rain, and I had to find shelter to settle down until the rain stopped. To my astonishment, the only building that I could find at that moment was the church that my mother and father had gotten baptized in. I went in and stood under the portico of the church waiting for the rain to seize. I could hear people in the church singing hymns and praying. I had a strong urge to go into the church, but I told myself it was not for me. The urge became so strong that finally, I went in, in spite of being soaking wet. So after many years, I prayed, repenting for all that I had done. I asked God to forgive me and change me and to use me. He answered my prayer!
Many things have happened that day and now. The Lord has blessed me with all that I desired in just eight years. I became a CEO of a leading- multinational company, held several board positions in other firms, traveled the world, made connections with prominent people, planted a church, became an elder of a church at a time the church was being persecuted in Sri Lanka, and was baptized in the Holy Spirit. Just when all seemed perfect, the success got the better of me, and I slowly slide back into my old immoral lifestyle. Looking back, I now attribute my failures to the lack of maturity and not building my life on the word of the Lord. Instead, I thought my position in the church, in society and my spiritual gifts would be enough to fight my flesh and the enemy. I thought my walk with God was perfect, and complacency crept into my being. I was arrogant, I misused Gods blessings, and I failed terribly.
Escaping from all this I moved to Russia in 2012, I didn’t want the job, the money, the position or the riches. The Holy Spirit convicted me that I had to reorganize my life and priorities, bring discipline into my life, and it was obvious to me I couldn’t bring about this transformation on my own, and I needed to get back to God. I had lost faith in myself, and I wanted God to take control. In the last three years, I have been going through a season of seeking the Lord and His will for my life. It has been a wonderful experience and a time of revelation in my life. He has forgiven me and humbled me. Its my “wilderness time” which the Lord is using to prepare me to launch into the ministry. “Prep time” for me to remove all that is hindering God’s purpose from taking place in my life on this earth. I now have a family here in Russia; I do not have a job nor the luxuries I use to have, but I do know the Lord is restoring all that I lost. We go to a Protestant church in Moscow; we are a God-fearing, devotion-centered family, and the Lord is blessing everything we do. The joy and peace we have now surpasses any material riches we could have ever possessed.
I desire this CLI scholarship firstly as it is my spiritual goal that my family and I have a deeper understanding of God’s word and a more intimate walk with Him. Secondly, to reach out to the lost souls who are in need of the good news. I truly believe, my past life experiences, the failures, and the relocation to Russia is a divine plan to manifest God’s purpose and calling in my life. Russia and other ex-Soviet countries are in desperate need to hear the good news. This part of the world opened up for evangelism just over 20 years ago but many of the Orthodox Christians are content with confining their lives to a liturgical lifestyle only and have been completely blinded to the truth. I have a constant tugging in my spirit to reach out to as many souls as I can.