At a Standing Strong in the Storm training in 2012, Yusuf (pseudonym), from Central Asia, shared his testimony of the miraculous power of God to transform a criminal into a follower of Christ.
I was the worst person in the world. I was a criminal, and I was a thief. I used to steal from homes and I’d pick people’s pockets. I was wanted by the Soviet police. In 1988 the police arrested me for the first time. Since then I have been in prison three times; in 1995 I was sentenced to six years imprisonment.
The jail was overcrowded; there were more than 4,000 people. There was not enough bread for all of us and the whole place looked like a concentration camp. Several times I was put in solitary confinement as punishment for bad behavior. During one very cold winter they kept me in solitary confinement for 15 days. The guards had taken away my coat and there was no glass in the windows. It was freezing. I cursed everyone I knew, including God.
When I came out of the isolation cell, I found a sheet of paper with a prayer and a call to repentance. “Lord, forgive me my sins,” it read, “and I thank you for the blood of Jesus which was shed for me.” It touched me and I learned the prayer by heart. Then I went to sleep, but the Holy Spirit woke me up at 5 am. I got up and started walking and praying the prayer I had just learned.
After two or three days I found another page with a longer prayer. I still know it by heart and often pray the words. With that prayer I devoted my life to Jesus and asked Him to use me to preach His Word and serve in his Kingdom. I put my whole life in His hands. I repeated the same prayer for eight months.
While I was in prison my father and my mother died and for 1 years I had no visitors, but God helped me. I’d play chess and card games to keep myself entertained.
One day my enemies got into the prison and wanted to kill me, but God protected me from death. As I lay wounded with two holes in my lungs, the authorities decided to admit me to the hospital. After four months I was released, both from the hospital and from prison. My enemies, however, had not given up their fight. One day when I was in a car they fired at me. I was hit in the stomach but I survived. For five days I was in intensive care in the hospital.
After I was dismissed from the hospital I had no place to go, so I started to live as a criminal again. I got involved in drugs which was a very lucrative business. In those days 1 kg heroin cost $ 40,000. We wanted to make a deal with some drug dealers, but the deal went wrong and turned into a fight. The other gang wanted us to pay $40,000 as compensation for the heroin that was lost. They shot at us and one man in our team was hit, but I managed to escape.
I fled to the desert and became a shepherd. For two months I was by myself and again and again I prayed those two prayers I had learned by heart. God did His work in my heart and after that period of time I said to myself “Enough!” I returned to my hometown and met with other believers and a pastor who taught me more about God’s Kingdom.
Our country struggles with a high level of unemployment and for a believer it is extra difficult to find work. Open Doors assisted me by providing a micro loan to set up a small business, so I started a shop to sell spices.
Christians are constantly under pressure in our country, although it is not always visible. We receive threats from our families and the authorities. Fortunately our church is the only one in the area with official registration. We prayed for three years to get that registration! When we meet in homes, however, we must do it very secretly without anybody knowing it; otherwise we might have problems. But we are strong and firm in our faith.
Father, we lift our hands to You in praise for Yusuf’s precious life, redeemed by the blood of Christ. And we praise You for the Spirit molding and shaping his life into a godly testimony lived out in the community around him. Thank You for using Open Doors to help provide an income that he might not be tempted to return to a life of crime. Prosper him, Father, that he might have the resources to sustain his life and to help others as well. Protect him and other believers in his town from trouble as they gather to study the Bible and pray. Raise them up into a mighty voice of truth and praise that the name of Christ might be lifted high. In the name of Jesus who redeems us from our rebellion and calls us brothers. Amen.