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.
God may allow us to experience hardships to renew our faith, purify our hearts, or even to bring a nonbeliever into His flock. That was the case for Melanie and her husband, a Muslim couple in Bulgaria.
Two years ago, Melanie’s husband was in an accident that resulted in the amputation of his leg. Their lives turned upside down. Melanie’s husband was unable to work. Their minimal savings disappeared quickly. The two were crushed emotionally as they struggled to keep their heads above water amid both financial and physical crisis.
They turned toward their Muslim faith seeking relief in the midst of their struggles, but became increasingly disappointed. Instead of finding peace, they continued to worry. Instead of feeling joy and rest, they lived in fear of the future. Instead of discovering purpose, they lost all hope.
One day, Melanie saw a poster inviting “all who are experiencing hardship” to come to a meeting at the local Christian church. Ten people attended the meeting with Melanie.
The pastor greeted them and asked, “Did you bring along your problems?” The crowd replied that problems were all they had to bring. The pastor responded by saying, “I brought along Someone who wants to take them from you. Will you give up your problems to Him?”
For Melanie, this meeting was the beginning of a new life with Jesus. Just as Psalm 55:22 says, Melanie discovered that she could cast all her anxieties on the Lord and He would sustain her. He would not let her fall.
As they continue to walk with their Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, Melanie and her husband have discovered a God who bestows peace and joy and gives their lives purpose. They have found the God who takes all their worries and fears and turns them into blessings.
Today, both Melanie and her husband attend church regularly and are involved in Bible study. Through the aid of friends at their church, both of them have found jobs. Though life is not perfect, they are moving forward one step at a time as they follow Jesus.