The Russian leader of an international Christian group that worked with some of the children slain by Islamic terrorists in Beslan says he was overwhelmed by the grief “hanging in the air” of the North Ossetian town in the wake of the massacre.

Valentin Vasilizhenko, national director of Russian Ministries’ “Association for Spiritual Renewal,” described the atmosphere as he drove into Beslan from a nearby airport with other colleagues.

“I could sense the anguish, sorrow, and grief that was just hanging in the air. It was so thick. We just couldn’t drive,” he said. “We had to get out of our car and let funeral processions pass by. People were still carrying their loved ones to the cemetery that grew overnight as a result of 330 new graves.”

Vasilizhenko said that when he approached the school destroyed in the terror attack, he thought of his own five children back in Moscow.

“I could not help but close my eyes and imagine those innocent children who were held in the windows of the second and third floors of the school by the cruel hands of the evil, cowardly terrorists who forced them to scream, ‘Don’t shoot! Don’t shoot!'”

Vasilizhenko visited the homes of the two pastors – the Totiev brothers, Sergey and Taymuraz – who lost a total of six children in the school siege.

This is how he described his experience:

“When I visited the homes of the Totiev brothers, a well-known Christian family in Beslan, I did not know how to bring comfort to Sergey and his wife, Bela, who had six children before the siege and to their son, Azamat, who was the only child to survive out of three in the school.

“Taymuraz and his wife, Raya, are good friends who lost four out of five children. I could only put my arms around them, pray for them, cry with them, and ask God to comfort them. I remember the Taymuraz’s home before the siege. It was filled with children’s laughter and with happy children who always tried to help their parents and impress the guests.”

Vasilizhenko said that when Madina, the oldest child who survived, walked out of her bedroom, Taymuraz Totiev pointed to her and said, “This is all that is left of my big, happy family.”

Vasilizhenko said the lives of the Totievs and other Christians who lost their loved ones will never be the same. In the midst of their grief, he said they are like shining lights in the community who are trying to help others, praying for other families, and reaching out to even the non-Christian community helping them to recover from their grief, anguish, and sorrow.

The Totiev’s son Azam is in Moscow waiting for a visa to the U.S. to receive medical treatment for his severely injured eye.

The Baptist Union of Russia, through its connections in the U.S., made the opportunity possible.

Sergey Rakhuba, vice president of Russian Ministries, said: “We would encourage everyone to pray that the Totievs would get their travel documents as quickly as possible, and that God would encourage believers supporting the Baptist Union in Russia to help with Azam’s medical expenses, and that God would restore his sight.”

Rakhuba also spoke with Taymuraz and Raya Totiev by phone from their home in Beslan. They asked Sergey to pass on their heartfelt thank you to all believers around the world who were mobilized by Russian Ministries and other groups to help in this crisis.

They told Sergey, “Nobody can replace our children, but we feel stronger because the entire family of God is with us and is praying for us. It is a great witness when Christians can support each other in times of crisis.”

Russian Ministries, based in Wheaton, Ill., has a Terror Relief Fund. Information can be found at the group’s website or by telephone at 888-462-7639.

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