The Power of a Story

Ronalds and Virginia

Ronalds and Virginia

I really like the Salvation Army custom of inviting people to ‘give their testimony’. Often this can be the most inspiring part of a meeting for me and  I am discovering that testimony is still an important part of worship on Sunday  here in Latvia.

I love the immediacy of the experiences which are shared. A lady was in hospital. The officers brought her a Bible to read, ‘I was so happy I had a Bible to read’, she says. ‘I had nowhere to live,’ said another, ‘the officers prayed for me and I have a room’. ‘I was going for a interview for a job and prayed on the way and I got the job’. ‘I was praying and wasn’t sure whether God could hear me, and he gave me a sign that he did hear’. ‘I prayed because I was unwell and God heard my prayer’. ‘Please pray for me and my son’. Nothing complicated, just faith that takes hold of the simple instruction, ‘Ask, and it will be given you;’  (Matthew  7:7 NIV) Obviously, behind many of these stories there’s another intriguing ‘back story’ which there would not be enough time to tell in the average-length Sunday worship service.

Time, however, is what I had plenty of last Sunday on the journey to and from Daugavpils, almost 8 hours of it with someone, Ronalds the interpreter, whom I’d never had a conversation with before.  He’s pictured here with the much-loved, and I suspect, very spoilt dog belonging to Marina and Janis at Daugavpils! Yes, we had plenty of time for stories, and Ronalds told me his story, his testimony of how he became a Christian.

Ronalds and his friend Aivis went to Technical school to learn furniture making.  This was in Soviet times. There was a boy, Toms, who seemed different from the rest. Word went around that he was a ‘Believer’, and it caused quite a stir that such a young person was a Christian when all his contemporaries were atheists. Ronalds and Aivis gradually got to know Toms, and sometimes, on ‘high days and holidays’ would go along to his church.  Eventually the boys went their separate ways and were conscripted into the military. Ronalds found himself in the Ural Mountains. He started to think about his own life and was dissatisfied and unhappy with himself. He compared himself with Toms, who seemed to have so much in his life that Ronalds didn’t have. About this time Ronalds received a newspaper from his mother in which was written the Lord’s Prayer. This was hugely significant to Ronalds, and he describes how he knelt down and prayed to Toms’ God. He didn’t know much about this God, but said that after the prayer he felt an overwhelming sense of peace and knew that something really significant had happened in his life and that God was with him.

Interestingly, Ronalds says that it was not at that point that he became a Christian.  On returning to Latvia he looked up Toms and was introduced to the Gospel and the way to salvation. He understood, then, his sin and his need to repent and experience God’s forgiveness through Jesus and, he said, at that point he became a Christian.

….so there I was, on an ordinary journey on a Sunday afternoon, listening to an extraordinary story of God breaking into the life of a young atheist – the power of a story….

There’s a postscript to this story.  Ronalds friend, Aivis, also became a Christian and eventually married a Salvation Army officer and is the man behind some of the photos you see on this blog!

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One Response to The Power of a Story

  1. Dr John says:

    As I have read through Major Christine’s adventures, one predominate thought keeps striking me and that is FOOD. Maybe its because it is mentioned so many times in the different situations. I am pretty sure that if i was in Christine’s place I would have a weight problem by now with the generousity of the Latvian and Russian Salvationist folks.

    However, I did not intend to write about food but rather to support the idea of people in our services taking part, especially through the giving of one’s testimony and telling others of what God has done through their lives and witness in their various situations and generally giving their personal thanks publicly to God for His everlasting love and His boundless mercy and grace shown to us in the person, life and redeeming work of Jeus our Lord and Saviourand and through His innumerable deliverencies and gracious thoughts to us which are more in number than the stars in the sky. I am all for people in the meetings being fully encouraged to pray publicly, read God’s word, lead in choruses and in word. What I am saying is that it would be terrible (in my view anyway) if our Army became a place where our people became a passive one and where everything in the service was done by the officer. Of course, I am not advocating take part just for the sake of it but that it be done in the Spirit and to the glory of God, not for our glory or to draw attention to us. I am convinced that nothing has any meaning, value or purpose, unless God is in it. I better stop now or I shall be in trouble with Major Christine

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