God placed me in a large folk Muslim family in Central Asia. I was a happy child on a busy farm. The rule of the Soviet Union did not stop the happiness we shared as a family. My father worked for the government and my mom was a homemaker. My parents were not practicing Muslim traditions and they did not push Islam on us.
Starting in the fourth grade, we learned atheism. My sister was head of the Atheist Club. One day my history teacher told us there was no God, but it did not make any sense to me. I asked my mom if what the teacher said was true. She told me there is a God and not to listen my teacher. I actually knew little of the Muslim faith then because of the atheism being pushed on us.
I knew God, but not Jesus as my God. I prayed God would allow me to go to school and He did. Little did I know He was already working in my life, preparing me for His service. The independence of my country from the Soviet Union came in 1991. Suddenly missionaries were allowed and we were promised freedom of religion in the new constitution.
Jesus: morning, noon and night
In college, I lived with two Christian girls for two years. They always witnessed to me. My breakfast was Jesus, my lunch was Jesus and my dinner was Jesus. It was so aggravating. They witnessed to me about God’s love and salvation through His Son Jesus. They said there is only one way to God and that is through Jesus Christ. I had never heard about Jesus before. It was confusing because I believed there is only one God. I was impressed by how they got up early every morning to have a quiet time with the Lord. I thought I could never be one of them.
I received the privilege of being an exchnage student overseas. While I was still in my country, I had met some Christians from overseas. I was reintroduced to the same people and everyone continued to witness to me. I politely listened to them, wishing they would leave me alone. I thought no matter how hard they witnessed, I would never become a believer and never read the Bible. Being from a folk Islam background, I thought my parents should accept Christ first then — and only then — I would follow Him.
While abroad, I lived in a dormitory for six months where I had no contact with Christians. For the last three months of my exchange year, I stayed with a Christian family and attended church with them. If it were up to me I would have stayed at home, but out of respect to the family, I went to church whether I wanted to or not. I liked the worship music, but resisted listening to the preaching. I was afraid to learn more. I thought the more I learned about Christianity the closer I would come to it. My heart was not ready.
Satanic comments about my life
While I was visiting my parents I became ill. My mom decided to take me to a fortune teller/witch doctor for healing. (This is a common practice.) We were at the fortuneteller’s house waiting for a miracle. After she went through the motions of purifying herself by the washing of her hands and other rituals, she placed a white tablecloth on the floor and filled it with salt. Scattering the salt around, she began to call upon the spirits to come into our presence. (My cousin and the fortuneteller’s daughter were also present.)
When she started calling upon the evil spirits, she went into a trance-like state and began trembling and speaking to me. She fairly accurately told me what my future would be and about my past and present. She said my future held a great light — Jesus. That light would affect me greatly.
I asked her several questions including if she knew Jesus was also God. (I had learned much from my Christian friends.) She answered He was “the first wonderful prophet.” The moment she said Jesus was giving me light, I felt separated from my family and friends. I was too afraid to even tell my mom, who was waiting outside for us. I asked my cousin not to tell anyone. Later, I realized the power Satan had over that fortuneteller. He recognized Jesus as God.
A Voice in the dark
One night about eight months later, I could not sleep. A voice inside me kept saying, “Go outside, you’ll see Jesus.” I got up and went outside, but I could not see Him. I did this three times, but never saw Jesus. I came in, sat on the floor, and leaned on the wall trying not to disturb my four roommates who slept in the same room. The same voice inside asked me: “What are you afraid of? What keeps you from believing Me? Why is it taking you so long?”
After four years of being witnessed to, I knew it was the time for me to ask Jesus to come into my heart. Someone had given me a “Four Spiritual Laws” booklet. I read the booklet by the light that came in through the window, and I prayed the sample prayer and asked Jesus to come into my life. A great peace and joy came over me and I went to bed and fell right to sleep.
After I accepted Christ as my Savior, I still had doubts. The fortune teller had told me I should go to a holy place where 360 prophets were buried and pray to the prophets for healing. I remembered some of the things the Christian girls had taught me. I did not need to go to a “holy place.” I should pray directly to Jesus.
God had already placed me with some Christians from other countries in an apartment. I was shy about sharing my faith in Christ and did not want to tell others about my accepting Him. I was not able to tell my parents for about a year. I finally gained the courage to tell them by studying the Scripture and being with other believers. When I did them, my mom had no problem accepting my decision and my father only remarked that now we have different religions.
I began to align myself with other Christians. I went to an international worship service in a building the government has now torn down. My activity was noticed.
I was invited to go abroad to a friend’s wedding and I had to apply for an exit visa. After weeks of waiting I finally went to ask what was holding up my exit visa. I had no idea what was in store for me. Instead of asking about my trip, the officials interrogated me about my faith.
They asked me many difficult questions. I did not know what to do or say. I really wanted to go to my friend’s wedding in Germany and was tempted to deny my faith just to get a visa. But God brought this verse to mind: “If you deny Me before the authorities, I will deny you before my Father” (Matt. 10:33).
Bitterness gives way to understanding
When they refused my exit visa because of my faith and association with believers from other countries, I became bitter toward God, asking, “Why did You allow this to happen? You could have easily stopped this.” I could not read my Bible or pray until about a month later when God showed me this verse: “When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures” (James 4:3). I realized then I wanted that trip for my pleasure. I had not considered God’s will in my prayers.
About a year later, the believers I knew were called in and we were interrogated individually. This time I had no fear at all, instead I had an amazing peace that surpassed my understanding. God proved His faithfulness again by me a verse: “Consider Him who endured such opposition from sinful men, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart. In your struggle against sin, you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding your blood” (Heb. 12: 3-4).
All the questions my interrogator asked were centered on my contacts with other believers, our meetings and my faith. God gave me the boldness to witness to him about freedom, forgiveness, prayer and religion. Before I started answering his questions I made it clear I would tell him the truth, not because I was afraid of him, but because I was afraid of God.
My next interrogation came when I tried to go to speak at an overseas conference. One extremely rude government official (who is actually now in jail) refused my exit visa. He removed me from the airline boarding area, telling me that I needed additional papers. Finally, by God’s help, I met all of the demands of the officials and they let me leave my country.
Persecution in my country is of ongoing. They hate Christians. Some pastors have been jailed, Bibles and other Christian literature has been confiscated, church buildings torn down, services raided, people interrogated, believers forbidden to meet together and jobs taken away unless they deny their faith.
Please pray for my country, for the believers there to remain strong despite the persecution.
As Ii look back over the journey God has led me on, I have repeatedly seen His love through His Son. I know I can rest in this love and care and He will faithfully lead me in all things. There is nothing greater than remaining in His glory and in His presence forever — no matter what the circumstances are around me.
Thank you for reading a short version of my testimony (some highlights)!