‘I hadn’t seen a Bible or heard the gospel, but God worked a miracle in my heart’
Hadija’s story | The astounding grace of Jesus in Southern Russia
“I grew up in a high mountain village, in Caucasus, Southern Russia. It was a Muslim area. In my heart, I was a devout Muslim, although I didn’t wear head covering. I would fast and pray and listen to Islamic preaching. They said if you don’t follow Islamic teaching, you will go to hell.
I remember thinking I didn’t want to go to hell. I wanted the path leading to heaven. I asked old ladies to teach me and I wrote down Arabic prayers. But it never took away the fear of hell. I would try to comfort myself with reasons why I might go to heaven, but I wasn’t peaceful or free. Islamic teaching doesn’t assure heaven.
After school, I went to university and studied linguistics. There was a mix of people. I met a girl from Ukraine who was a Christian. She would be walking around listening to worship songs in Russian on a little tape. I really liked them. But the words of the songs mentioned Jesus, which didn’t feel right. I said, “Can you give me some of those nice songs, without the name Jesus?”
She did and I really enjoyed them. But I felt bad inside because I was listening to songs about Jesus. I prayed to Allah and said sorry. One day, as I was praying, the presence came. The whole room was filled with his presence, and my insides too. I couldn’t see anyone but I knew someone was there. It shook me. I said, “Who is there?”
Then a voice said, “Jesus” in Russian. There is no way I would make up that word. It wasn’t even my language. So I prayed an Arabic prayer to get rid of the demons. But as I prayed the prayer, I knew that it wouldn’t work on him, on Jesus. Even as I said the prayer, I also knew in my heart that I didn’t want Jesus to go. I kept praying on my rug, and the presence was there, as strong as before.
That night, I couldn’t sleep. I sat up on the bed and said, “I need my peace back. Allah, if you are the real one, please stop this. Jesus, if you are the real one, do something.” Then I fell asleep, straight away.
I woke up at 6am, at Islamic prayer time, but I didn’t want to pray to Allah. I knew I wanted to talk to a Christian, so I went to a small house church. I spoke to a man and his wife about what had happened. Years later, they told me I actually spoke to them from the Bible. I told them about Jesus dying on the cross for me, and that I wanted to repent and believe. I don’t remember saying that. I didn’t even know that then! I hadn’t seen a Bible or heard the gospel. God worked a miracle in my heart. It’s God who is amazing. From that moment on, I became a Christian. The couple gave me a Bible and I began to read it.
At the time, I was living with my sister. I hadn’t realised the consequences. I had found the truth! I told my sisters I’d found something amazing. One of them said, “You realise what that means if I tell our parents. People like you need to be killed.”
I started to read my Bible and pray, hiding in the toilet. I loved the toilet. It’s funny, because as a Muslim, the toilet is an unclean place, but as a Christian, it became my safe place. They couldn’t find me there. I finished uni, and my sister told my parents. They were so angry. They planned to put me on house arrest and arrange a Muslim marriage.
I kept asking God what to do. It was so intense. Then I read Matthew 19:29: “Everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or wife or children or fields for my sake will receive a hundred times as much and will inherit eternal life.”
I had a choice. It was a big step, but God was showing me the way. I wrote a letter to my family telling them the truth. I believed in Jesus. Then I asked the church members for help. They contacted people in Russia working at a theological college. I said to God, “If this is your plan, please show me.” That evening, a student knocked on my door. He shyly gave me some cash for the trip. It was enough for a ticket. It was amazing!
I went to Russia and I studied at the theological college! Many miracles have happened since then. But the main thing is God is doing it. He works the miracles. Even though I was stubbornly fixed in an ideology, Jesus rose above it. He spoke to me and delivered me. I wasn’t the sort of person who could compare the Bible and the Quran. I didn’t have the intelligence or the interest. But he broke through to my heart. Jesus does that. He snatched me out of it. I remember the day I suddenly realised that Jesus was Lord. He was God! He wasn’t just a prophet or a historical figure. I understood grace. It was miraculous and instantaneous! I was on my knees, sobbing, remembering how dark and hopeless I had felt before, but now knowing grace, and feeling it in my body. Jesus came. He died for me. He took my sin. The burden and fear of hell was gone. I still feel it! I can’t put it in words. But I have been given grace.”
Hadija’s story is part of Eternity’s Faith Stories series, compiled by Naomi Reed. Click here for more Faith Stories.