Mila’s* family was different. While the overwhelming majority of people in her community in Central Asia were Muslim, she grew up in a household where faith wasn’t practiced at all. Her father, who’d become an orphan at age 9, was against any kind of religion.
But, Mila says, “I always wanted to have a relationship with God.” As a girl, she’d ask who made the trees and the flowers, and her dad’s responses didn’t satisfy her.
LOOKING IN THE WRONG PLACES
By age 12 Mila decided she wanted to become a Muslim so she could have the relationship that she sought. For six months, a mentor guided her in memorising the required prayers and learning how to practice the religion. But she shares, “I realised it wasn’t giving me the type of connection I wanted with God. It makes you feel like you’re being a good person, but there was no depth in any of it.”
“I was very disappointed,” Mila reveals. “The only religion I knew of was Islam. I tried it and it didn’t work.” Convinced there was no God and that she couldn’t have a relationship with Him, she stopped practicing altogether.
Around that time, the Soviet Union fell apart. For two years, Mila’s family faced extreme poverty and hardship. Mila recalls, “It was almost like the end of the world.”
At 15, Mila move in with her sister, Sara, in the capital four hours away. When she enrolled in college, she started enjoying life, reasoning that if there was no God, then no one could judge her. “I did anything I wanted to. It was fun in the moment.”
THE BOOK THAT TALKS ABOUT GOD
The following year, Mila met Christar workers Frank and Rose. Mila and Sara were invited to an event at the couple’s home. Mila attended as she wanted to start learning English.
Rose offered Mila a small book. She began to understand what she was reading, and suddenly started learning not only English but the stories in the Bible as well. And, as she was able to comprehend the stories, she realised, “This book is talking about a God I’ve never heard of.”
Mila and Sara also started attending a Bible study at her Frank and Rose’s home. After about seven months, they invited the sisters to church, and Mila started attending the Sunday morning services. “I completely fell in love with it the first time I went there,” she shares. “There was something so authentic about it. I didn’t know what it was, but there was something so special—something so serene and incredible, and I loved it.”
One morning not long after, Mila found herself trapped in the bathroom of her apartment after Sara accidently locked her in before heading out for the day. Anxiety crept up as Mila realised she’d likely be confined to the bathroom until her sister returned. Spying the medicine cabinet her landlord, a doctor, kept in the room, she opened it and spotted a tiny bottle of poison. A deadly idea entered her mind: “I would take it and just be done with this life I was so fed up with,” Mila recalls. “I still didn’t have the kind of connection with God I was looking for. I’d done all I thought I could have done.”
Mila began considering how much of the poison to take and sat on the floor, trying to get comfortable in the steam-filled room. But then, all the things Frank had been telling her flooded into her mind: that his God could be her God, that she could have the relationship with God that she was looking for through Jesus, and that she could tell God about her problems and He would help her.
THE WARMTH OF JESUS
She got on her knees and determined that if God indeed helped her, she’d follow Him. As she began to pray, “the whole room was filled with the cosiest atmosphere I ever felt. I just melted onto the floor.” Through her tears, Mila asked God to forgive her for not believing and told Him that she wanted to have a relationship with Him. “It was completely out of this world. It’s something I will never forget.” When she finally got off the floor, Mila sensed a lightness in her soul like she’d never experienced before. “I felt like a feather, like the whole weight of the world was lifted off of me. Everything was so different. I felt like a brand-new person.”
After several more attempts, Mila finally got the bathroom door open. By then it was late afternoon, and as she stepped onto the balcony of the ninth-floor apartment, she was struck by the beauty she saw. “I’d never seen the sky and the mountains so beautiful. It was there the whole time, but I’d never seen it that way.”
By God’s grace, Mila was the first in her family to place her faith in Christ. Later her mother and father became believers as well.
Recently, Mila has become part of Christar’s Persian Outreach Project and is helping to provide financial resources to churches in her homeland, and in this way encouraging and strengthening their work.
(*Name changed for security reasons.)
Original article has been shortened.