by Noel Morris
On February 24th 1994 I arrived by train at Khabarovsk in the early hours of the morning. I decided, against my better judgment, to stay until morning in the station waiting room. Finding a few vacant seats, I stretched out with my baggage as a pillow to catch a few hours sleep.
At 5 am I suddenly awoke, and looking down, saw that my other smaller hand bag which I had attached by its strap to my "pillow" was no longer attached. It was just sitting there, with the strap cut by a razor blade, waiting for the thief to make another circuit of the room and pick it up. I knew it was the Holy Spirit who had woken me, and that it was time to leave this place.
I needed to use the toilet, and, because a lady sat at the entrance to receive the payment, I thought it would be quite safe. I was wrong. Two men followed me into the toilet and tried to wrestle my bags from me. One man struck me in the face, and the other grabbed my larger bag and they both ran away.
I staggered to my feet, crying out for help. A policeman nearby caught the man who had punched me, but the other man disappeared. We all went to the adjacent police station where my wounds were treated and, when my interpreter came, statements were taken. We were able to give the prisoner a small pamphlet about salvation and a New Testament.
Over a year later I was called to the court in Khabarovsk to testify at this man's trial. Justice moves very slow in Russia. At the trial I was able to publicly tell my attacker that through Jesus Christ I had forgiven him. I even had a chance to ask the judge to give him a lenient sentence, but I heard later that because of his previous record it was to be four years in prison.
Now, more than two years after the incident I have received a letter from this man. It began: "Dear brother in the Lord Jesus Christ...." The man who had once considered me his victim was now writing to me as a brother. "Brother Morris, the man who writes to you is Evgenni, from whose evil deed you have suffered in 1994. Brother, at that time I did not realize my guilt."
Tears came to my eyes as I listened to a taped translation of his letter. Evgenni had been sent to the prison in Sovietskaya Gavan on the East Coast of Russia. He continued to read the little New Testament we had given him, and had met some Christians from the local church who had helped him to find salvation.
"When I went to the prison I received Jesus Christ, and I know that I was redeemed with a dear price, by the blood of Jesus Christ. I received repentance and fell in love with the Lord our God."
At first, although he read his New Testament, Evgenni felt that four years was too severe and wrote appealing for a reduction in his sentence. "I had the New Testament, but I did not understand. I saw but couldn't see, I heard but couldn't hear. But now I thank the Lord in my prayers for the gift of eternal life."... "He changed my life, and he refined me and changed my attitudes and my mentality. I have no desire at all to go back to my former life."
Now in his second year as a believer, Evgenni continues to grow in the Lord. His letter was full of Bible verses, showing that he has spent many hours reading and studying it. He shares about Jesus with those around him in the prison and with his relatives when they visit him. His faith is becoming stronger and the Lord is showing him many things about himself.
"Please tell me that you forgive me again. I have written to the court and acknowledged my guilt." These words touched my heart, and the Spirit revealed to me that my forgiveness of Evgenni was an important key to releasing him to receive salvation. That he confessed his guilt confirmed the genuineness of his conversion.
When we parted in the courthouse at the trial, I had asked Evgenni if there was anything I could do to help him. At that time in proud defiance he had declined. Now in humility he asks for a study Bible, a Bible Dictionary and a Concordance. These, and a request to contact his family will be met through my friends the believers in Russia.
"I am praying for you. I remain the least of the servants of God, Evgenni."
I treasure those prayers of a forgiven prisoner.