Young Philippine Missionary Akim Zhigankov Died from Poisoning, Parents Say

(Spectrumbot) #1

Akim Zhigankov, a young massage therapist, kite surfer, and missionary to the Philippines died on Tuesday, February 17, of apparent poisoning, according to his parents. He was 23 years old.

As news of his death spread, messages of grief, disbelief and support for Akim's family members flooded social media.

Akim's parents, Oleg Zhigankov and Elena Zhigankova, both professors at the Adventist International Institute of Advanced Studies (AIIAS) in the Philippines, wrote a five-page message calling Akim's death a murder.

Dear Friends, the most dreadful and unthinkable thing happened, our beloved son Akim got murdered. He died on February 17, 2015, at 5:25 at the morning, just before the dawn. He died on my hands, he died after two weeks of dreary struggle with the poison he's been given. We want you to know what happened, and we want the world to know what happened.

The letter descibed Akim, the couple's firstborn, as "the love of our life," "a very special, different child," and "a dreamer." In some ways, he was also a typical child. "At some period of time, while in Canada and Russia, going through adolescence, Akim tried different things (such as smoking, beer, etc.), but those things didn't excite him and didn't stick to him. He just had to try them," the message said.

Akim's mother and father hoped that he would turn his love for theological thinking and his desire to serve people into a life of missionary work. In the end, he gave his life in the mission field, though certainly not in the way Oleg and Elena imagined or hoped.

Akim caught a vision for health work on the Philippine island of Tablas in the Romblon province. In July, 2014, work began on cleaning a site and constructing a road to the location designated for the Tablas Health Harbor (alternately known as Tablas Sanitarium), a health clinic to serve the people of Tablas.

In late 2014, he wrote a letter asking for support of the Health Harbor project. In the letter, Akim anticipated his future with the project:

I decided to volunteer at least 2-3 years helping this project. And although I'm a massage therapist, and not a builder, at this stage I take part in the construction of the first buildings that could accommodate other volunteers. I'll probably continue with this project for much longer.

Akim's death came as a heartbreaking shock to the AIIAS community who hoped for a miracle. "So many people prayed for him. So many people saw dreams and visions that Akim will recover. He didn't," his parents wrote. In a remembrance published in the Adventist Review, Akim's friend Aimee Grace Tapeceria wrote,

No one thought that death would be the result of our intense prayers since the news emerged just days earlier that Akim Zhigankov had fallen seriously ill. Akim . . . had been helping his family build a wellness center to share Jesus with people on Tablas Island in central Philippines when he came down with a fever and infection that baffled doctors.

Disbelief mixed with grief and loss. Akim's sister Sasha wrote on her Facebook page, "My heart is broken after losing my best childhood friend, my brother and my role model for life Akim Zhigankov."

On Saturday, a memorial service was held at the AIIAS auditorium. The AIIAS International Youth Chorale sang, and pastor/professor at AIIAS, Michael Campbell gave a homily in which he called on the gathered community to mourn as people of hope.

"This evening we are gathered to honor the memory of our friend, son, brother, student, teacher, and so many other things, Akim Zhigankov," Campbell began. "At times like these we are at a profound loss of words. No words can adequately describe the feelings that the Zhigankov family are feeling right now. Our hearts are broken. Together we bleed as a community."

Campbell used the letters of Akim's name to form an acrostic, describing the person Akim was:

A - Adventure Akim loved to explore. Whether it was on our Russia trip last summer, we could always count on Akim being a true pathfinder in helping us find our way. In fact, he often knew the way when others did not. I remember when some of our faculty got lost shopping in a grocery store. It was Akim who went back to look for them to help re-united them to the group. And some times Akim liked to do crazy things. One of my favorite pictures of Akim is the one where he is barefoot exploring through the mall.

K - Kindness Akim had a heart of pure gold. He cared for other people. He was someone who was easy to get along with, and he just loved spending time with people. It didn’t matter if he was playing the guitar, singing with friends in the choir, or hopping on the jeepney to meet up with friends, he was someone who cared about others. One incident that I remember especially was when we were in Russia. One of our tour members lost their passport. While the rest of us continued seeing amazing sites in St. Petersburg, Akimw as the one who helped the person retrace their steps. And then later when some kind stranger turned in the passport, helped her find the embassy to get it back. When people were in trouble, Akim loved to lend a helping hand.

I - Intelligence I don’t have to tell you that Akim was very bright. Not only did he have a gift for instruments and a love for people, but he an amazing ability to learn. He had a phenomenal mind. One thing that stands out his love of languages. He had a gift to be able to quickly learn new languages with ease and accuracy. Any of you that speak Tagalog can readily testify of this fact.

M - Mission Last but not least, Akim not only loved Jesus, but desired to share God’s love with others. That was the whole reason why he was on the island of Tablas. I don’t know how many trips he made to that island, and I’ve heard stories of some of the adventures, but his whole reason why He went was to serve others. Akim was a man on a mission. And I believe that if he were here today he would challenge us to pick up the mantle where he left off. We are as a people a prophetic people. Akim loved to study Bible prophecy so he recognized the significance that we are living at the end of time waiting for the soon return of Jesus. And we have the GOSPEL COMMISSION from Jesus, and so we pick up in the footsteps of those like Akim to honor their memory, and most important of all, to bring glory to God.

While Akim's Tablas Health Harbor dream went unrealized in his short lifetime, his family and friends are determined to see the dream fulfilled. Writing to supporters in 2014, Akim said,

Together with some like-minded friends from Russia we've purchased about 3 hectares of land of the tropical sea harbor. It's got white sand seashore, a rainforest, and a mountain. Here we want to create a health center and sanitarium, based on the natural remedies approach and on the faith in God, an organic farm, and a disaster response center. We welcome volunteers and any donations, including tools, humanitarian items, etc. We hope the Tablas medical center, The Health Harbor (Гавань Здоровья) will be instrumental in saving and improving many people's lives.

His parents indicated that in the immediate aftermath of Akim's death, they wanted to leave the place as quickly as possible. But something made them reconsider.

On the following day we woke up with one desire: to pack our things and to go home, to go as far as possible from this terrible murderous place. Than we both prayed silently. And we both came to realize that nothing else would make the enemy so happy as to see us quitting on Akim's project. We came to realize that we can't allow it to be destroyed. We will continue it. We'll do what needs to be done. We'll do everything to make this project to happen.

Family friend Tatiana Romanova created a GoFundMe campaign to raise money for the Health Harbor, calling the fundraiser "Akim's Dream." Romanova wrote on the fundraiser page,

Today our hearts are breaking with unspeakable pain. Akim left behind the most loving and humble missionary parents, a sister and a little brother, as well as a slew of faithful friends. Today we would like to attempt to look past the gut-wrenching pain we are feeling. We would like to see Akim's dream fulfilled!"

As of publication, the campaign raised $6,335 of its $20k goal from sixty-three donors.

The circumstances of Akim's death remain somewhat unclear. We were not able to independently verify the cause of his death. Romanova wrote on the GoFundMe page that

A battery of tests carried out by the doctors in a small hospital where he was brought was unable to pinpoint the cause of his illness. After more than a week in the ICU, this bright and handsome godly young man died a terrible and excruciatingly painful death. He suffered a massive internal hemmorage and terrifying damage to most of his internal organs. Again, no particular poison, virus or bacterium was implicated.

In their five-page letter, Akim's parents wrote,

Four days before he died Akim had a vision of Jesus Christ Who came to him and had a long conversation with Akim. Akim never told me the details of this conversation: he was very weak at that time to talk, and also I think that there were some things that he was not supposed to, or at least unwilling to say. He only said that Jesus told him that he will not die of this disease, and that many people will get involved with him and will be blessed because of it.

The message seemed to direct a measure of animus toward the medical facilities where Akim received treatment:

His ultimate dream was to build a sustainable model of the holistic Christian medical center were people would be healed through the natural remedies and the loving care. His idea was to establish a medical center where people would not think of the astronomical medical bills, but to get all their treatment for free, and only to leave a donation of gratitude for the healing received. Two hospitals tortured my son's flesh for two weeks, weakening him and eventually brought him to an agonizing end. And we are yet to pay those astronomical bills that are coming. It's such an evil irony that my son died in the cold embrace of the medical establishment he wished to reform.

We were unable to reach the medical facilities that treated Akim for comment. As details emerge, this story will be updated.

Jared Wright is managing editor of

This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at

(jeremy) #2

what a sensational, though heart-breaking story…as i see it, the two big mysteries are the nature of the poison that killed akim and why, and everything christ said to akim in akim’s vision…

(Jared Wright) #3

I will be working on gathering the details surrounding Akim’s passing as those details become available. At this time, the parents’ remarks and comments included in the article are as much as was available.

As far as what it was that Akim experienced just before his death, that, it seems, will not be ascertainable.

(Elaine Nelson) #4

The title: “Died From Poisoning” contains nothing other than the allusion made by the parents. Not even a reason for suspecting poison, so why was it named in the title without something more? “Apparent” poisoning should have been in the title as this is only a suspicion.

Where and when was an autopsy performed and by whom? I’ve experienced two children of close friends whose adult children died in foreign soil and it is a nightmare. The bodies are handled by the locals and a postmortem cannot be as carefully scrutinized as possible. Please keep us informed.

(Rheticus) #5

and yet, despite this, @vandieman is interesting in the contents of a vision.

The guy is incredibly ill, toxins are pouring into his blood stream, good chance he is spiking a fever, the vision is evidence only of a brain that is malfunctioning.

As for the hypothesis that it was a poison he had been given - it could have been that, it could have been lots of things, the world is not a safe place.

I understand the parent’s pain. I do not let their pained opinions provide evidence of anything other than their pain.

(jeremy) #6

well, if someone claims to have had a vision, i’d think all of us would be interested…visions are very rare…

(Kevin Paulson) #7

Absolutely horrid! I think of my own trip to the Philippines four years ago. May the death of this dear young man not be in vain~

(Mercy triumphs over judgment. James 2:13) #8

I wish we could have learned about this young man’s death & mourn it, separately from the controversial details & questions.

My condolences & prayers are w/ his family & friends.

(Rheticus) #9

Not in my experience - it is very common for people to claim to have seen and heard things unnaturally

(George Tichy) #10

Sure. I see cases like that quite often, people seeing and even hearing “things.” I bet Elmer @elmer_cupino sees even more cases (by far) than I do.

(jeremy) #11

that’s beside the point, which is that if someone is receiving visions from god, i’m sure many adventists would be interested…advindicate had a huge discussion on ernie knoll not too long ago, whom loren wrote about for spectrum some yrs back:

as i see it, if people are receiving false visions and dreams, it can only mean that the real thing - the latter rain - is impending…

(Elmer Cupino) #12

Being an Adventist myself, I was so interested I went to a profession that deals with visions, dreams, illusions and hallucinations. It is so common I even manage a 46-bed department within a hospital setting. Just yesterday, I had to go to court to petition an “orthodox prophet” to stay longer in the hospital until his symptoms subsided. He however also “petitioned” the court to “forgive” me of all my sins. I once took care of an African American who claimed to be the son of “an Adventist prophet by the name of Ellen G. White.” You could not even imagine the different “prophets” I have to deal with on a daily basis who are routinely escorted to our ED by the police for evaluations of their visions and dreams.

Incidentally, would you give me the standard by which you use to determine whether a vision is false or not? I’d like to forward that to my professional society, the APA, for consideration in formulating treatment guidelines.

Thank you.

@GeorgeTichy @bevin_brett

(Frank Peacham) #13

elmer_cupion: If I might ask? With your years of professional experience with hallucinations, where in this spectrum do you place EGW? Does the genuine sometimes get mixed with human emotions affecting the message? Or is inspiration given like Balaam apart from the human will? Or we just trust the messenger is used by God?

(Joselito Coo) #14

AIIAS is about an hour-and-a half away from our Adventist Medical Center-Manila (AMCM, former Manila Sanitarium and Hospital). We’re told Akim became sick, with fever and an infection, in Tablas, Romblon, Philippines that made him decide to return home in AIIAS. When his condition did not improve, he was admitted to two hospitals in Cavite (?) not far from AIIAS. Akim’s suffering lasted two weeks in the two hospitals, his dad writes.

(Gerhard Dr Svrcek Seiler) #15

I can join Elmer Cupino. I headed for the specification as a psychiatrist (and neurologist) for getting closer to mankinds experiences and to phenomena so strange to us “normal” people. I never regret. For 15 years I was seen responsible for a department of the Vienna “Psychiatrisches Krankenhaus der Stadt Wien - Baumgartner Hoehe”, formally for eight years. I also - as registerted expert - had on appointment to evaluate a defendants responsibilkity in court. The Protestant Preachers Seminary for years asked me for Clinical Pastoral Training.

I myself had experienced hallucinations as a child, having high fever and surviving scarlet fever - with a number of my age already having died - by prayer and water cure, applied by my father.

To the very case : Why poisoned ? With fever ? What about an infection that was not to be recognized by the local physicians ? Discovering Lyme desease - just for instance - had helped us to evaluate numbers of mysterious neurologiocal / mental illnesses from the past.

We had to evaluate visions, dreams and hallucinations within the “classic” psychosers and meabolic disturbances - - and new intoxications as LSD…And of course there were some in the filed of dissociative disorders. And there were some we just could not place into one of our boxes.

Unless I had seen him and had an encounter with him I would not evaluate the visions of Akim…

To frankpeachamvt : : Here we can and must rely on the material we have. For me one manifestation - as described by Loughborrough with “glory - glory -glory” shouting, gentle movements of the limbs and widened pupils - and no memory of any contents - are temporal lobe fits, most probably following the head / brain injury as Ellen G. White herself describes in “My Misfortune”… And there are
the other visions - with a message. Interesting for me not like the usual dreams all of us have, but with a clear structure. Those please evaluate by Scripture.

(jeremy) #16

well, i tend to think the individuals you see, elmer, would have symptoms besides hallucinations which they think are dreams…what you are referring to is mental illness…what i’m referring to is the real thing - the way in which god communicated to all the patriarchs and old testament prophets, the apostles in the new testament, and most recently, to the end-time church through egw…this kind of thing is so rare, we probably have no way to qualify it until we actually see it again…obviously there’s something about genuine prophets that recommends them to sane, ordinary people…

(Gerhard Dr Svrcek Seiler) #17

Re to frankpeachamvt : I left out EGWs style to express her thoughts : "I was shown - - "Here I would suggest you make the reality check. Please show me the imbecillity, dwarfed forms, crippled limbs, misshaped heads and deformity of every description- - " A : Mr. --------- , his case was shown me in vision - - " all consequences of masturbation , quoted out of a facsimile reprint from "An Appeal to Mothers , the Great Cause - - " Battle Creek 1864.

(Elaine Nelson) #18

What professional qualifications do you have to determine what are “real” visions vs. pseudo or mental illness; drug induced; or actual effects of poison?

(George Tichy) #19

Soon you will be “shown” that someone is going to “shut the door” of this conversation because you are pointing out to too many “difficulties” about EGW… LOL

(George Tichy) #20

I heard that oysters and pork can actually poison your blood. Is it true??? :slight_smile: