Among our small but growing community of Jesus-followers, Alina* was having a very difficult time. She’d been publicly accused of following Jesus, and greatly persecuted by the whole village and local officials.
Neighbours would come to her husband’s house, where they lived with his parents and his brothers’ families (it’s common here for extended families to live together), and shout insults at her. Fired from her job, the religious authorities told everyone to deny Alina employment. They even went to schools to say that if she or any of us gave the people ‘this book’ (i.e. the Bible), they were to report it right away.
Alina’s mother-in-law was outraged by the shame her son’s wife had brought on the family. She asked her son to divorce Alina immediately. It was a very difficult period for us all. We felt partially responsible for the challenges our sister was facing. We also felt great compassion for her. Our community prayed often for Alina and her in-laws.
But God has answered our prayers and opened the hearts of her husband’s family toward our community. Some divine and unexpected circumstances enabled us to become friends with them, even with the mother-in-law.
This year, our community held our first retreat in partnership with some churches visiting from overseas. We encouraged Alina to invite her in-laws. The night before the event, she called me, terrified of what they might think or do if they did attend.
I prayed with her and, in the end, Alina found the courage to invite them. Together, our hearts were overwhelmed with joy as we anticipated what God might accomplish in their hearts (and in ours!) during the retreat.
God blessed us with the most amazing time of his presence and glory: people came to Christ, we all grew in the knowledge of God, and some people got baptised!
This same mother-in-law, who had been so angry about the ‘disgrace’ of her daughter-in-law’s faith, now believes in Jesus too. She even asked us to baptise her right then and there!
After witnessing his wife’s baptism, Alina’s father-in-law also accepted Jesus as his Lord and Saviour. The whole community was in awe of God’s power and grace. We had just witnessed a miracle.
Unfortunately, this story doesn’t have the happiest ending… yet.
Since returning from the retreat, Alina’s in-laws have again become distant from our community. At the retreat, away from the pressure of relatives and neighbours, they were able to accept the truth about Jesus, but as soon as they got back home, they were surrounded by people who imposed fear and shame on them for betraying their old way of life.
We hope and believe God will continue his saving work in this family’s hearts and that the gospel seeds planted will bring the fruit of true repentance and transformation.
By Esther Magay* (*Names changed)
• For Esther and Team Tuz ((Tuz means salt in the local language) as they continue to make Jesus known in Central Asia.
• For Alina and her husband’s family that God would continue his saving work in their hearts.
• For this small but growing community of believers to courageously overcome opposition from neighbours, family members and the local authorities to boldly proclaim Jesus’ love in both word and deed.