“This is our book, too!”

A Russian Bible brings new life to a prisoner in Central Asia.

Life in a Central Asian prison is hard. Drug abuse had brought Payam* into prison, where he was now serving time. Food and medicine were scarce, corruption rife and labour gruelling. Payam was in charge of cleaning, and since there were no tools, not even a broom, he had to gather up the dirt with his own hands.

Was this to be the story of his life?

It all changed when a few local Christians visited the prison. Even though he came from a Muslim family, Payam did not consider himself to be religious, and rather “a nobody in the eyes of God.” But he was drawn to what these people had to say. At least it was a perspective beyond the prison bars!

The visitors gave him a Bible in Russian, which he read eagerly. Convinced it was the truth, he brought it with him to the prison mosque. “Look,” he told the leaders there, “this is the truth.” However, his discovery was not welcome. “You are a traitor,” they told him. “This book is for Russians, not for Muslims. Look, it is even written in the Russian language!”

House church in Payam’s back yard. Credit: EAMedia A538. (Used with permission.)

Payam started to wonder whether the Bible also existed in his own language. He was delighted to find out that it did! Payam got hold of a Bible in his language and went back to the prison mosque. He read from it to the leaders, both in Russian and in his language. “It says the same things in our language as in Russian,” he exclaimed. “This is not a book just for Russians; this is our book, too. This is not about a Russian God; He is our God as well!”

Payam started sharing his discovery with others in the prison. At that time, he was working as the prison welder, which gave him access to the cells of other prisoners – even inside death row, where his message was received eagerly. As he continued sharing, people started asking him questions about his faith. “Some of these people were from the secret police,” Payam remembers. “But I was not afraid of them. I shared with them, too – they needed Christ more than anybody!”

Today, Payam’s prison days are long past, and he still shares about Christ. He leads a tiny house church which meets under a tree in his back yard. Looking back at what God has done in his life, he says with a smile: “I am happy to be a Christian”.

*name changed

Written by Silke Sauer

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