It is so encouraging to see a person who has lived a long life finally reach out, repent and accept Jesus as Lord and Savior! Ivan in Serbia lived his whole life apart from God until very recently. He felt his life needed purpose, so he began attending a church.
Although Ivan became actively involved in that church, he still felt a lack of purpose, love and peace. Then, he met one of our church planters, Filip, and one of our local pastors, Pavle. As he spoke with them, he realized that the reason for his emptiness was because he had merely been practicing a religion rather than being involved in a relationship with the Savior.
Ivan joined Filip and Pavle’s evangelical congregation and attended devotedly; however, he found it difficult to set aside all of the rites and traditions he had become accustomed to in his former church. Filip continued to disciple Ivan, but Ivan really struggled with putting his full confidence in Jesus alone. Eventually, he decided to stop attending the church meetings.
One evening, Filip prayed for Ivan and asked God for His intervention. The following day, Ivan called Filip and told him of his decision to put his full trust in God! “Nothing will hold me back from obedience to Christ,” Ivan declared.
That same day, Ivan came to church and was baptized, publicly proclaiming what God had done in his life. He now shares how God opened his eyes to see what faith truly is: “Faith is not about us, nor what we can do, but about Christ and what He has done on the cross for us!”
Tonya*, now 56, was born in Ukraine to a family of believers. Her childhood revolved around church activities, but the older Tonya got, the less her faith in God mattered to her.
The moment Tonya was legally an adult, she left both home and her faith behind. Life was a constant party for her. “I didn’t deny myself anything,” she says. Even when she married and had kids, she wasn’t ready to give up her reckless ways.
It wasn’t until she divorced and remarried that Tonya’s thoughts finally began to return to the God of her youth. During her second marriage, Tonya began to manifest the symptoms of a serious illness. Her health deteriorated quickly.
Her doctors prescribed treatment options, but nothing eased Tonya’s pain or changed her situation. She began to wonder, for the first time in a very long time, what would happen to her next. It was time for Tonya to go back and see her parents.
At first, Tonya felt ashamed going back to her parents. But the days passed quickly, and before she left, her parents gave her a pamphlet about God. “The pamphlet interested me,” Tonya recalls. “For many years, I refused God. I forgot everything that I knew about God. I took the brochure and read it from beginning to end, over and over.”
The pamphlet opened a floodgate of emotions and questions. Until this point in her life, Tonya had felt self-sufficient and in no need of help from God. Her illness reminded her that nothing lasts forever; her life could not be a continuous party.
After studying the pamphlet, Tonya prayed and asked God to forgive her. She prayed for healing from her illness. After days without miraculous physical healing, Tonya picked up her Bible and began to read. While she read, God gave her a clear understanding that He had answered her prayers in the way He saw fit. Tonya’s heart was full as her spirit began to understand that though her body was still sick, her soul had been healed.
Tonya no longer worries about her health. Her heart is full of peace because she rests in her Savior’s love.
“Just then a woman who had been subject to bleeding for twelve years came up behind him and touched the edge of his cloak. She said to herself, ‘If I only touch his cloak, I will be healed.’ Jesus turned and saw her. ‘Take heart, daughter,’ he said, ‘your faith has healed you.’” Matthew 9:20-22 (NIV)
Much like this familiar story found in Matthew, the testimony of Robert* in Bulgaria reminds us that true faith in the Most High God yields thorough transformation and healing.
Robert suffered from a rare illness that distorted and paralyzed his mouth. Though doctors were actively seeking a cure for his condition, Robert was aware that his situation was likely permanent. He was warned that even if he did experience some recovery, the condition would have lasting effects on his ability to communicate, eat and breathe.
A new believer in Christ, Robert turned his eyes on the Lord. He was unable to attend church services held by our church planter, but he sent one of his shirts to the service for the congregation to collectively pray over for healing of his illness. That way, Robert would attend his next medical appointment clothed in Christ.
Wearing the shirt that had been faithfully prayed over, Robert astonished his team of physicians with his speedy and complete recovery. Today, it is impossible to tell that Robert once suffered from such a debilitating condition.
Robert gives all the credit to God. He is thankful not only for the miracle of healing he received, but also that the experience brought his family to God. The entire family is enthusiastic in their faith in Jesus Christ, the ultimate physician.
A long-forgotten village in Bulgaria was once a predominantly Christian area. Having experienced a revival period in the 1990s, the village was believed to be a healthy Christian community. Yet, when church planters visited, they were shocked to find a town of people following Islam.
In fact, the entire village considered themselves to be Muslim – except for one family. Matthew’s father had accepted Christ, and Matthew grew up in a home that hosted Bible studies and revolved around church activities. But with the passing of his father and the immigration of many of the town’s inhabitants, Christianity not only left Matthew’s home, it left his entire village.
As the lone man of God, Matthew was left bewildered. He began attending the local mosque in his quest to rediscover the God of his youth. Matthew was fortunate to find a woman who also believed in Jesus Christ. They were married, and the relationship proved to be the start of a process of exploration and internal change in Matthew.
Matthew found himself relating to the person of Jesus Christ more than to anything he was taught through the Islamic faith. He even began to cry out to Jesus during prayers at the mosque.
For many years Matthew and his wife secretly prayed to Jesus. Afraid to be the only Christians in a community of Muslims, they remained quiet about their beliefs and studied the Bible together.
Not long before the church planters arrived, Matthew had found the courage to publicly announce that he would no longer be attending the mosque. The church planter was able to connect with Matthew and his family.
Since that time, Matthew and his wife have been attending church-planting seminars and Bible studies. Thanks to Matthew’s steadfast faith and perseverance, his village may well be the site of a new Christian church, and Lord willing, the center of a new revival in the area.