by Noel Morris
Zhenya walked ahead of me carrying my bag and carefully picking his way along the muddy path in rural Russia. It was amazing to me that less than five years ago this man had attacked and robbed me. Now here he was assigned to protect me and see me safely back to where I was staying. I could only marvel at how God had brought us together again.
In 1994 in the Khabarovsk Railway Station, Zhenya and another man had teamed together to rob a foreigner - me. The police had caught Zhenya as he ran away, and I spent hours in the Police Station giving a statement. My young interpreter gave Zhenya his pocket New Testament and a small yellow tract I had.
About a year later, I saw Zhenya in court. He still had the yellow tract and the New Testament, but he was very argumentative. In the court I was able to say that I had forgiven him for what he did, and I asked the Judge to give him a lenient sentence. Prison would never change him, only Jesus could. Because of his previous record, Zhenya was given four years.
While in jail, Zhenya read and re-read that New Testament. There was nothing else to do except wake up, eat and sleep. Slowly the Word of God began to penetrate his spirit. Pastor Peter visited the prison to evangelize, and Zhenya gave his heart to Jesus. At first he tried to justify himself, but the conviction of the Holy Spirit finally broke him, so that he wrote to the Judge and acknowledged his guilt. Jesus set him free inside.
In 1996 Pastor Peter who is also a friend of mine, sent me a letter from Zhenya. 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 Zhenya, from whose evil deed you have suffered in 1994. Brother, at that time I did not realize my guilt." "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."
I asked a friend to send Zhenya a study Bible, a Bible Dictionary, a Concordance and other books. But for another two years I had no word from him.
When he was released, Zhenya came to Khabarovsk for about nine months. During this time he tried to share the Lord with his family. His wife was not interested in hearing about it. She would rather take drugs to make herself happy. Zhenya also spent time with his daughters - the four-year-old with his wife, and the six-year-old in a children's home. At least they were glad to have their dad back and hear about Jesus.
In June the Holy Spirit led Zhenya to a small town on the outskirts of Vladivostok. He arrived at the railway station with only a Post Office Box address written on a piece of paper from the wrapping on the last parcel of books he had received. How would he find his way?
He asked a lady selling flowers if she knew about a Bible School nearby. No, she didn't. He asked some other people and received the same answer. His excitement began to drain and be replaced with disappointment. As he made his way back to the station he asked another Flower Lady, and she said "Yes, maybe it is something connected with a Christian camp for children. There is an advertisement on the wall of the shop over there."
Zhenya read the paper, then peeling it from the wall, he used it to find his way to an dilapidated Army Camp where there were a lot of children playing.
"Is this the Bible School? Do you know Noel Morris?" he asked a worker.
"Yes, yes. This is the place, and Noel will come in September " he was told.
Zhenya's heart was full of thanks to the Lord. He had led him to the very place he had been searching for. Not just to sit and wait, though. He began to work, helping in the children's camps and conferences that were held at that location. Finally September came.
It was quite an emotional moment when we met. And even though we don't speak each other's language, there is a bond between us that is beyond words. A bond forged by forgiveness.
For the next ten months Zhenya will be a student in Faith in Action Bible School, learning the Word of God from the very man he attacked and robbed more than four years before.
Can either of us ever doubt
the power of the Word and the depth of the Grace of God?