U-Turn: Vahur’s Story
Amy Nickerson | October 2014
In Estonia’s atheistic culture, Vahur Kobin grew up what he describes as a good Christian boy influenced by his mother and grandmother’s faith. When he rebelled and turned to partying, drugs, and alcohol in his teen years, God used English camp and church leadership opportunities to turn his life around. In 2011, Vahur committed himself to serving God in Estonia. He’s passionate about seeing strong, young leaders being raised up in his country and serves on Josiah Venture’s team in the university town of Tartu.
Q: What was your spiritual life like growing up?
A: I think I first encountered God in my life when I was eight or nine years old when I witnessed how my grandma and mom became believers. I was raised by a single mom. I don’t have any brothers or sisters. My grandma had lots of issues in life, but she was seeking God a lot. My great grandma was a believer.
Even though it was an atheistic culture, there was an urge to seek God for something greater that existed in my family. My grandma went to different churches, she started to pray, and finally found the right group of believers. Then she shared Christ with my mom who became a believer.
Around six months later, I prayed a prayer, and then we moved to a different town. We started to attend a church there, and I went to Sunday school. I had a strong childhood in a sense, spiritually, because I was active in church at a young age. I was a good boy.
Q: What happened as you got older?
A: When I was 12 or 13, I faded away from God. I started partying, drinking, and doing drugs, until the age of 17. I liked to party and mess around, but I also remember that I had a void in my life that I was trying to fill.
I knew about God because of my childhood. I knew about Jesus, and I knew that he loves me and wants the best for me, but it was really hard to accept that. I felt so sinful; I was selfish, I was hurting others. And I loved my life. I loved the pleasures the world gave. It was really hard for me to let go.
During those years, I had troubles with the police, I had been to court, I had been on different types of probations. When I look back now, I see that God was there for me even when I had turned away. He protected me from the worst things.
Q: How did God get your attention again?
A: When I was 17, in 2009, a friend who I used to smoke weed with and I started to talk about God together. He knew people from a church, and he invited me to go to a Josiah Venture English camp with him.
I don’t remember anything spiritually from there, because I was pretty closed. I didn’t care that much, and I felt arrogant because I knew the answers, I knew about God. But at the same time, I really enjoyed the other believers who were there because I saw that they were different. I knew that they had God and I didn’t. I was jealous and wanted to be like this also.
Q: Did things change after camp?
A: When the camp was over, nothing changed. I didn’t feel the urge to repent. It was just a great experience. I started to attend youth group afterward, but at the same time, I was still struggling with drinking and drugs.
My youth leader invited me to be on her her team to help plan camps. She knew where I was at, but she still saw potential in me. She gave me leadership opportunities, and I became a part of the youth team. Then there was going to be an English camp the next year also. She asked me if I wanted to be a small group leader at camp. I was thinking she’s nuts, you can’t do that! I would lead these people to hell, directly. But I think that was a good Spirit-led move by her, because I was really struggling. I felt I needed to make a decision to follow Christ or follow the world, because I liked both of them. I loved the idea of Christianity and Christ, but I didn’t want to give up what the world offers.
A couple weeks before the English camp I repented. There were different events happening, parties, birthdays, hangovers, that all led to my repentance. I gave my life to Christ in my bedroom and decided to be clean, quit all the bad habits and addictions in my life. Through God’s grace I’ve been clean since.
Q: What made you want to go into full-time ministry and get involved in JV?
A: Later, I was invited to a youth leader conference in Estonia put on by Josiah Venture. I felt super privileged. I went. There were like 130 people there. One of the challenges Mart shared on the stage was to become a summer intern. So, I became a summer intern in 2011 and during that summer I was looking for what my role in life might be.
My heart really broke for the people in Estonia. My heart broke for the broken families, guys like me. There are many other stories like mine and that broke my heart. I want to reach out to those people, and I want to see lots of strong families grow up. I want to do something to make a change in Estonia. I really do love my country and now I just love it more, the way Christ does. So, I decided I wanted to commit my life to Estonia.
I’ve been full-time with JV since. Now I’m leading projects, like conferences and retreats, and am on the leadership team on the operations side of JV Estonia. I’m glad I have the opportunity to be in that role. It’s a pretty unique thing in Estonia.
Q: What excites you most about your role in ministry?
A: I think the main reason why I am on the team in Estonia is because of the vision. I like the idea of doing something impossible. Preaching the Gospel to the whole generation of teenagers –that’s stupid; it’s not humanly possible! In the secular context that doesn’t make sense. It doesn’t seem like a job, but it is.
I like the idea that we’re doing something bigger with our lives. I like that as a team we push ourselves each day to live for something bigger than our needs -something that changes society. We want to live in the world, but not be of the world. We want to live in the darkness, but not be of the darkness. We want to be the light.
Since Estonia is a small country, each strong leader who is active in ministry, active in his or her church, has so much impact.
As Vahur continues to lead others to Christ in Estonia, please pray that God would provide for him and the rest of the team, meeting their needs and opening new doors to see many more young people turn toward God, leave their old ways behind, and step up in leadership.