Our church, Street Cry, is starting a ministry in Tallinn, Estonia. Here is the testimony of a young lady, Irina, who came to faith through their prison ministry:
“I was born into a family of unbelievers and that is why I never heard about Jesus.
The only godly thing I remember from my childhood is my grandmother telling me that up there, there is someone who would judge and punish people for their sins.
Violence ruled our household. My father was an alcoholic and constantly beat up my mother and myself. I grew up as a fearful little beast fighting everything and everyone around me.
I quickly learned the principle that attack is the best defense which I actively practiced in school and in relationships. I was very aggressive.
When I turned 12 my Dad left me and Mom for another woman. In my heart I branded him a traitor and all my life hated him for the pain he inflicted on me and Mom.
But moreover – this hatred was directed towards any male figure that would appear in my life. I lacked social skills and was not capable of building a healthy relationship.
I was lost as could be – lived in the street, started sniffing glue and at the age of 16 was put in a facility for juvenile delinquents.
There I served my first 2 year prison term. It did not improve my character. On the contrary, when I came out at the age of 18, I was even more hardened, inclined to every kind of evil and hatefulness towards the people around me.
I tried getting married, but because I absolutely could not give or receive love, I took out my aggression on my husband. Any little trifle in his behavior kindled my indignation, and our marriage soon fell apart.
I was left with a small daughter but I could not take proper care of her either because she needed love which I could not find in my heart however hard I looked.
I continued down the dangerous path of drug addiction and crime, constantly blaming my problems on the circumstances and people around me and becoming more and more skilled in the ‘arts’ of lying, manipulating, conning, etc.
By the age of 26 I was a hopeless case – drug addict, witch and murderer. I had been in and out of prison many times but still I thought that I was right and the people around me were wrong and ‘owed me’…
At one point in my life though, as I was in prison again, I started having rather strange experiences. I would close my eyes and see something like a video of my past – all the instances of how I mistreated people and messed up their lives.
I tried to escape the conviction of the Holy Spirit and forget about those visions but I could not – they haunted me for days at a time.
It brought me to the deep understanding that I am not right and I cannot blame others for my transgressions and look for excuses for my unacceptable behavior in the circumstances I grew up in. I felt so sinful, so dirty, such a swine, I was so sick of my own self… Now I knew that I was the only one to blame for the crimes I committed and the downward spiral my life took.
My heart was torn between God and the devil, the fight going on for my soul… I am so thankful for the conviction of the Holy Spirit, as it is a wonderful and necessary thing to lead people to true repentance and understanding of God’s love, mercy and forgiveness.
Later I discovered that there is a chapel in our prison and believers regularly come in and conduct meetings that end with tea and sweets. Well, who in prison does not want to eat home made sweets? I decided to attend one of those meetings.
At first I took a seat in the back row and mostly mocked the preachers but slowly started listening to what was preached, met some of the believers personally and came to a painful realization that they are spiritually alive and full of love while I was dead and empty on the inside.
One evening as a pastor preached in the chapel and made an altar call. I responded.
I came forward and repented of my sins, asking Jesus to cleanse me and fill me with his love and life.
When I opened my eyes after that prayer I realized that the pastor was wearing a GREEN shirt and one of my friends was dressed in a RED jacket. Before that the world around me seemed to be shades of black and gray. I had not noticed colors in a long time!
I started hearing sounds of the singing birds, smelling smells and having feelings that I haven’t felt for so long… It was like Somebody unwrapped my head, senses and emotions as if they had been covered with a plastic bag. It was like taking out plugs from my ears and nose and pulling a veil from in front of my eyes!
In the days to follow it seemed like I flew, not walked from place to place moving around several inches above the ground! I could not care less what others thought of me! My prison cell was divided into 2 parts – in one the unbelievers sat slandering each other, and in my part of the cell I and other new believers prayed together. Thus our cell is nicknamed ‘the house of prayer’.
I am so fascinated by Jesus who loved me in spite of all my iniquities! He is teaching me now to love people and to hate sin.
I am learning to smile and open up to others. God also started changing my family – my Mom stopped doing witchcraft.
Building a personal relationship with Jesus I now consider the most important thing in my life. I know there is so much more that God has in store for me and I want it.”
This article is excerpted from the StreetCry Newsletter. More about the ministry is available at www.streetcry.blogspot.com. Please visit their site and support their work.