One Really Neat Story...

One Really Neat Story...

Mike Barko's latest blog post recounts his experiences with street evangelism and sharing the message of Christ. He shares a specific story spanning decades, beginning with his interaction with a young boy named James at his gym. Mike taught James scripture verses in exchange for gym access, and 25 years later, he reconnects with James, who still remembers the verses. This encounter leads Mike to reflect on the impact he had on James and another boy named Pierce, who found peace in the Gospel before their tragic deaths. Interestingly, Mike discovers that Anatoliy, his current partner in street evangelism, was also part of that same group from years ago. The post emphasizes the unexpected ways in which lives intersect and the enduring power of faith.


Mike Barko

1/12/202110 min read


God continues tomove downtown in a very special way. The response from people as I held the cross last Friday was also tremendously encouraging. Trucks were blaring their horns with people honking, waving, and smiling. There is truly a righteous remnant who loves their Lord.

As I typically do, I could share many amazing stories and pictures with you. However, this time I just want to focus on one particular story. If you are able to read it in its entirety, I believe that you will be very blessed.

I already shared the first part of this story in a previous newsletter. However, since some of you may not have had the opportunity to read that, I will start with that story since it so beautifully connects with what God did these past two weeks. Enjoy.


On November 12th, as I was sharing in front of the courthouse, I had occasion to meet a young man James with his mother Kris. James is now 31 years old. It turns out that I had first met him 25 years previous, at the tender age of 6, when he was just a little boy.

At that time I owned a gym and James lived within walking distance of the shopping center where the gym was located. James would come down occasionally with a group of young boys whose ages ranged from 5 - 12. To these young boys, the gym was like a 'jungle gym playground.'

To me, these young boys were a great opportunity to share the Gospel. At first, I focused on sharing the Gospel with all of them. Then, as they continued to come, I changed the price of admission to memorizing a scripture verse.

When James stood before me on November 12th, I immediately asked if he remembered any of the scripture verses. James smiled, pulled his mask down, and confidently proclaimed...

"Romans 3:23, 'For all have sinned and fallen short of the Glory of God.'...Romans 3:23"

What a rush of joy it was for me to hear this young man quoting scripture that I had taught him 25 years ago. "Train up a child in the way that he should go and when he is old he will not depart from it."

Do you know what was also amazing? When James began to quote the scripture, his voice changed to the same little boy voice that I remembered from 25 years ago. Wow. Thank you Jesus.

James went on to tell me how much my influence had meant to him as a little boy. He also told me there was another little boy that was a part of that group that he still saw now as an adult. That little boy now also recollected the great influence that it also had on him. Thank you God.

Well, on this day, November 12th, 2020, 25 years later, the good Lord allowed me to share the Gospel again with James and his mother Kris. Both wanted to place their trust in Christ alone. Here is a picture from that day roughly two months ago...


It was after this encounter, later on that evening, that I remembered something that had happened concerning two of the other boys who were a part of this 'jungle gym' group. These two boys were Kevin and Pierce.

Kevin and Pierce heard the Gospel from me as did all the other boys. Not too long after that, both boys returned to the gym. This time, however, Pierce was troubled.

Pierce explained that he recently had a dream, and in that dream he had died. I had already shared the Gospel with him, but because he had the dream, and was still troubled at the thought of death, I shared with him a second time. Pierce wanted to receive Christ as His Savior and we prayed accordingly.

Pierce then told me that he now had peace in his heart and was no longer troubled. I remember asking him several times at this point just to make sure, since I wanted to play it safe and assume that the dream was a warning from God.

I also needed to check with Kevin since he was right there as I was sharing with Pierce. Kevin assured me that he also had peace in his heart, remembering what I had shared with him the first time I preached the Gospel to him.

Well, it wasn't too long after that the dream proved prophetic. Kevin was walking on a frozen pond and the ice gave way. Pierce, who was on the land, ran onto the ice to rescue his friend. Pierce fell through the ice as well. Both boys stepped into eternity that day.


Now for the connecting story that happened these past two weeks...


I had just walked into the locker room at Valley Fitness and was preparing to workout. I honestly don't remember where he came from. I just know that I was now face to face with a young man I had known for a while, Anatoliy.

Again, it was uncanny, he was really 'in my face' just about a foot away and I don't remember where he came from. I guess the Lord puts things right in front of us so we can't miss them. Thank you Jesus.

Anatoliy, already saved, began asking me spiritual questions, one after another after another. At some point I suggested that we workout together and continue our fellowship. Anatoliy was working the same muscle group so we enjoyed a nice workout together with great fellowship.

The next day he texted me...

'I want to do some street evangelizing with you.'

The day following, Wednesday morning, I picked up Anatoliy at his house and we spent all that day sharing the Gospel. Anatoliy was in training mode, so he primarily watched as I shared the Gospel. Nine people made professions of faith this particular day.

I picked up Anatoliy again on Thursday and we spent half the day sharing the Gospel downtown. I do want to share just one story from Thursday as it involves my new friend and partner Anatoliy.

When we arrived at the courthouse, one of the security guards came out and notified us that the courts were all closed since it was New Years Eve. I decided to stay, believing that the Lord was going to do something anyways.

Since no one was really walking past us, I had my eye on two guys in a work truck parked across the street. At some point I asked Anatoliy to pray for me and I headed across the street.

Approaching people is more difficult than being still and having people approach you. Nevertheless, we must go where God leads. I offered a bracelet to the two men in the truck.

Both declined. Then I recalled that I had seen them the day before and I spoke up...

'Didn't I offer you guys a bracelet twice yesterday?'

Both acknowledged that I had done so.

'You're not going to tell me no a third time, are you?' (Big smile)

This response proved fortuitous as we all chuckled. Somehow the door swung wide open, and they gave me permission to share with them. I then pointed out the guy back across the street (Anatoliy), and how he was out here watching and learning how to share the Gospel. I asked if they would be kind enough to be 'guinea pigs', and allow my friend to share with them. They agreed!

Anatoliy came across the street and shared the Gospel with Spencer and Israel. It was raw and simple, but he did just fine. I was able to help him the few times that he needed it. At the end, the invitation was given and these two young men wanted to place their faith in Christ alone.


God blessed us with three other encounters which were just as special this day. After sharing the Gospel, Anatoliy and I had a nice workout and then I went back to his house to drop him off.

Mom (Valentina) came out and invited me in for soup. Since I really enjoy 'suffering for the Lord', I submitted to her request. That soup was the best soup I have ever had in my entire life...hands down...unbelievable.

The only thing that topped the soup was what happened next.

Mom began sharing some of her life story with me. While she lived in Kazakhstan 25 years ago, her husband, Anatoliy's father Yuri, had died back in the early months of 1994. I believe Anatoliy was five years old at the time.

Yuri had been a Christian for 12 - 13 years before his death. However, Valentina recounted that it was only the last 2-3 years that he had truly been 'on fire'.

Yuri began preaching the Gospel on the streets. He preached the Gospel while he was at work. He preached in the schools and he preached to the neighborhood children. Valentina told me that many of these people, primarily children, would come over to their house for church and bible study lessons.

God blessed Yuri and Valentina with four children before Yuri was diagnosed with cancer. The thought of leaving his wife behind with four children became a great constant burden for him.

One day Yuri went out to the woods to pray. During prayer, the Lord lifted this great burden from his son and gave him great peace until the day of his death.

Another time the Lord showed Yuri what his new Heavenly body looked like. Valentina said it was so magnificent that he could not put it into words.

Another time the Lord graced his boy Yuri with a foretaste of Heaven. Again, Valentina said that the peace and joy which he had experienced 'in the Spirit' were beyond description. He did not want to come back down to earth.

At Yuri's funeral, coworkers asked Valentina...

"Who is going to tell us about God now?"

Anatoliy's dad Yuri was no doubt a very godly man who had left a great spiritual heritage to his wife and four children. I was so honored to listen as his widow shared his story and his son translated it to me.

At some point during our conversation at the dinner table, it was revealed that Valentina had moved to Mosby Heights subdivision here in Harrisonburg, Va sometime after Yuri's death.

This was the same subdivision where the young boys lived who used to come down to play at the gym.

So, I decided to share the story of Pierce and Kevin death's and the young boys who used to come down to the gym. Valentina knew them, remembered how they had died, and was encouraged by my story!

Then Anatoliy spoke up and completely blew me away...

Guess who was also one of those boys who came down to the gym?


Can somebody shout...JESUS!


God had raised up a Gospel preacher (Yuri) at the end of his life in the early 90's in Kazakhstan. His young boy (Anatoliy) would run into a Gospel preacher (Mike) at a gym in the United States a few years later, who would preach the Gospel to him.

Then, the Sovereign hand of Almighty God would re-unite those two (Mike and Anatoliy) some twenty years later. And those two would be on the streets preaching the Gospel, doing the same work that the father had done some thirty years earlier on a different continent!


Here is a picture of Valentina and Anatoliy outside the First Russian Baptist Church only 1 mile from my apartment...



This past week I was again able to pick up Anatoliy, and we were blessed to share the Gospel again downtown both Wednesday and Thursday. The Lord blessed, as we were able to share with 18 who wanted to place their faith in Christ alone.

I want to share just one encounter from those two days, which ties in marvelously with this story. It happened as Anatoliy and I were finishing our workout on Thursday evening at the gym.

Anatoliy was talking with a young man named Dennis, whom I recognized from a local church. After a long day, I really did not want to share the Gospel, but I did anyways. Anatoliy told me afterwards that he was really hoping that I would share with him.

Dennis was 80% sure that he would go to Heaven because 'he tried to do the right thing.' Who is the person mentioned in his answer? Himself. Who is he trusting in? Himself. We want to show him this through our Gospel presentation.

Did he measure up to God's standards? We took him through the commandments. and even though he had broken them, like many others, Dennis was hoping that 'his trying' would justify him.

If you got a speeding ticket, and told the judge that you 'tried' not to speed, would he let you go? No.

Trying doesn't justify us. Christ does. We admit that we have broken God's laws and that the penalty we deserve is Hell. We need to recognize there is nothingwecan do.

What will keep us from God's electric chair?

Dennis now told me, 'I will try to keep the commandments.'

Isn't it something? We keep reverting back to our self-effort in trying to justify ourselves.

Ever play in the mud as a child? (Yes) What did the mirror tell you? (Dirty) How did you get clean? (Wash) What was the function of the mirror? (Reveal your true condition)

God's commandments are a mirror. They don't clean us. They tell us that we are dirty so that we can get clean. (Romans 3:19,20)

What cleans us?


God in the person of His Son.

God the Father planned it. God the Son did it. God the Holy Spirit applies it.

To be clean, to be saved, is to trust only in God. We trust in what He did for us at the cross to justify us, not in anything that we are 'trying to do', such as 'obeying the commandments.'

God, I've broken all your laws, and I can't save myself. I deserve Hell, but I believe you paid my debt on the cross and you rose again to tell me my sin debt is 'paid in full'. I place my trust in you alone. Thanks for saving me, Amen.

We trust in Him as the Savior, not ourselves.

"Therefore being justified by faith, we have peace with God though our Lord Jesus Christ." (Romans 5:1)

Dennis saw that he had been trusting himself as savior and not in God. When did he want to trust in God alone?

'Right now.'

We prayed and Dennis said that God had saved him because he 'put his trust in Him.'

"Whoever believes (trusts) in Me has eternal life.'

When did Dennis have eternal life?...'Right now.'

How sure was he now?...'100%'

Why?...'I trust in God.'


We prayed and Dennis told God...

'Thanks for saving me.'

Has God saved you? Put your trust in Him alone.

Guess what?

Anatoliy then told me something.

Guess who used to come down to the gym 25 years ago with Anatoliy, when he was a little boy?



That's kinda fun to say, one more time...