As a young woman living in Central Asia*, Lucy* met a man, fell in love, and moved in with him. She had been raised by parents who were each from a different faith but did not connect faith to their daily life choices. So Lucy did not see any moral implications to living with a man to whom she was not married.
The man’s mother, on the other hand, was a strong Christian and she objected to the two people living together without being married.
“I didn’t understand at that time why," Lucy said. "We love each other! She was witnessing to us.”
In those days, Lucy smoked. For two years she tried to quit smoking but failed.
“Then I said, ‘God, if you are there, help me,’" she recalled. "And it was like a voice in my heart: He told me, ‘Don’t smoke, I will help you.’ I was thinking maybe today I will smoke and start from tomorrow. But He said, ‘No, stop now.’ For three days, when I wanted to start smoking, someone would call me on the phone or knock on the door or something would happen. And on the fourth day, I realized it would be a struggle for me on the fourth day. It was a struggle, but God helped me to quit smoking.
“One night my boyfriend and I visited his mom. He went to the balcony to smoke and I didn’t. His mom asked me why I didn’t, because I usually did. I realized I didn’t want to smoke. I told her, ‘God set me free.’ She cried and asked me if I wanted to accept Jesus. I said yes and she explained to me the prayer of repentance. I cried and prayed. She got a big grin on her face and laughed with joy.
“It really changed my life. The world around me seemed different, better. And God started opening my eyes that I was living in sin. Then I broke up with this man I lived with because I realized it was sin. But I’m still friends with his mom and she’s the godmother of my children.”
Tragedy in Moscow
After the breakup, Lucy moved to Moscow for a year because her sister and some friends lived there. One night the group decided to go to the theater. Someone bought tickets, but they forgot to buy one for Lucy so she stayed at home while the group went out.
That was the night, October 23, 2002, that 40 to 50 Chechnyan terrorists captured that same theater and took 850 people hostage for several days, including Lucy’s sister and friends.
Lucy had been attending a church in Moscow, so when she heard the terrible news, she called the leaders and asked them to pray. While praying, Lucy had a vision of people on their knees praying, and Jesus coming down to them. At the end of the night, special forces fought their way inside and pacified the attackers with a gas. But the gas also killed 130 of the hostages. However, Lucy’s friends and sister survived, although they became very sick. To this day, Lucy’s sister cannot have children.
Before the theater attack, Lucy had been telling her sister about Jesus. Her sister had not been interested. But during the attack, her sister and their friends begged God to spare their lives. After they escaped, her sister changed her life and became a believer.
Love and loss
After one year, Lucy returned to her home country in Central Asia where she found the local Nazarene group. She began meeting with them regularly and became part of the faith family.
Not long after she had returned, she fell in love with a man named Andrey*. He was not a believer, but he was good and kind and they were married.
They had seven wonderful years together, except for the fact that Andrey, who had been raised Orthodox, did not allow her to spend time with the Nazarene group because he believed it was a cult.
“I was part of this [group], but I didn’t tell my husband because he would forbid me to come,” she said. “I always told him, ‘I’m going for a walk with the kids.’"
Lucy's advice to young women is to marry men who love Jesus and follow Him in a similar way.
They had three sons together, which Lucy says are the three brightest events of her life.
In the first two pregnancies, God gave her the name that she should give to the child. But she couldn’t tell her husband Andrey that God had told her the child’s name. So she kept this to herself. In both instances, when people asked her husband what he wanted to name the child, he would spontaneously say the same name that God had whispered to Lucy.
For the third child, God did not give Lucy a name, but Andrey said he liked the name Simon. Lucy prayed about this, and when she learned that Simon is a Jewish name which means “One who walks under God,” she realized God had put this name in her husband’s heart.
One day, five years ago, Andrey was driving back from the country with two of their small sons and Andrey’s sister and her child. On the way, Andrey began to say he did not feel very well. Without warning, he collapsed over the steering wheel. Andrey’s sister managed to get control of the car and steered it into the ditch. Five-year-old Michael and three-year-old Simon sustained just scratches. But Andrey, a seemingly fit man, died almost instantly of a massive heart attack. He was just 39.
The Nazarene group became Lucy’s support as she grieved the shocking loss of her husband while trying to comfort her children.
“They prayed for me a lot,” she said. “They gave me hugs and it felt as if they took my pain away. For a year, it was a hard time and I didn’t know what to do with the kids. But God really took care of me and blessed me.”
She had the opportunity to attend the Eurasia Region Church of the Nazarene quadrennial conference in 2011, and there she felt the support of the whole church.
A living witness
Lucy works for a publishing company, but she has struggled to support her family as a single mother, also caring for her retired mother. She began praying that God would help her. She was surprised when God answered that she should start her own business. Obediently, she began thinking about what type of business to start and who could become her business partner. One day during prayer, she sensed God saying, “Take me as your partner.”
Lucy sold her husband’s car and with that money she registered her business under the name, El Elyon, which is Hebrew for God Almighty. Then she set up printing equipment in her home. In February she began taking clients. She prints smaller run books and other materials for her customers. She never forgets to give God a tithe of her profits.
Anyone who meets Lucy sees the joy of the Lord shining on her face. She is brimming with smiles and loves to laugh. When she worships, she holds her hands high and dances.
Like other Christians in her country, Lucy is restricted from publicly telling people about Jesus. But she has too much hope and joy to keep it to herself.
“We do not preach in the street, because it’s forbidden," she said. "People notice our life and they ask questions. Then we answer through personal relationships. We have God and they’re interested.
“So I see that God, He works with people in this country individually. For example, in my work, I prayed with one woman, an accountant, because she had a problem. I told her to accept Jesus and she did, but she’s afraid to come to [our group] because of the situation in this country. I believe I planted the seed and God will work in her life.”
*Location and names omitted for security reasons