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Home News Sharing Their Lives in Letters: Part 1
Sharing Their Lives in Letters: Part 1

Доля у конверті

By the great mercy of God I have one of the most exciting ministries - corresponding with women in Women's Prison 65, which is located in Naderzhinschina, in the Poltava region. There are many facets to prison ministry, but letters are where people really bare their souls. Every year I exchange more than 40 letters with women prisoners. I would like to share some of the stories of my pen friends with you.

First - there is Svetlana, who has AIDS and many other chronic diseases. She needed someone to talk to. Her circumstances were difficult and she was very lonely; she needed someone who would accept her for who she was. Like a child, she waited impatiently for every letter and happily wrote about her problems and Christian achievements. She had a serious fear of death. We prayed together that she would be freed from that fear and from her tobacco addiction. Svetlana took courses from the Emmaus Bible correspondence school. Often I hadn't yet responded to her previous letter when she was already starting another. The letters were very simple and personal: she would briefly describe her impressions of her day, or of a work situation. And all this in a nice, neat, childish hand. After her release our correspondence stopped, unfortunately, and I did not hear from her after that.

Another Svetlana wrote me letters that filled pages. I got the impression that she wanted to convince me that there is a God and He is truly wonderful. I realized that not many people around her would be able to understand the flow of Bible verses, long charismatic prayers and lots of thoughts on any and all spiritual topics ... I don't get letters from Svetlana any more, but we still talk on the phone. She lives in Kirovograd, got married, and leads a prayer group in the church, attends a small group and helps with the children's ministry. Not so long ago she was in Poltava, where she gave her testimony about her new, free life.

I also corresponded briefly with a woman named Olga. Unfortunately, it did not last long, because Olga thought she did not need God. She was probably just pretending to be a Christian in order to get the privileges: the Sunday exemption from hard work and the humanitarian aid. One day she sent me a letter that had another letter in it. I did not realize at first that the second letter was not meant for me and started to read it - it was addressed to her friend. Olga wanted me to buy an envelope and send it to a certain address. This letter was full of lies and dirt. It felt as if this letter had been written by a completely different person. I was so hurt as a sincere believer to be callously exploited in this way. It took some time to calm down and get control of my feelings. Then I was able to compose a reply and tell her the truth, but with love. Unfortunately, after that she didn't write any more.

I am still exchanging letters with Galya and Lily. They are both sincere women in my opinion. Both have been baptized. Galya is taking courses from Emmaus, studying the Bible and asking a lot of questions about things that interest her. She is always very involved in the prison chapel, where all the services are held. Galya hoped that the man she hopes to marry would be able to come to her baptism. But the circumstances were such that he couldn't come. Galya told how she was hurt that on the happiest day of her life, when she made the choice to turn her back on sin and dedicate her life to the Lord, that the man who was so close and important to her was not able to be there. But, she said, during the baptism there was a huge bright rainbow in the sky. At this point, she felt so close to God that tears of joy were streaming down her cheeks. It was then that she realized that no one in the world is closer, dearer, or more reliable than our Great God!

Lily underwent two cancer surgeries in Lviv, in a special prison hospital, and was then transferred to a prison in the city of Ordzhonikidze, in the Dnipropetrovsk region. 2013 is the twentieth wedding anniversary for her and her husband, but they were not together long - events separated them. Ivan accepted Christ in prison. After his release he went through rehab and prayed for Lily's salvation. He wrote her a letter and then vanished into thin air. For almost a year she heard nothing from him. Lily's mother couldn't handle the grief and started to drink. Her mother was crushed under many burdens: her gas and electricity were cut off, her daughter was in prison, her son-in-law went missing. Lily dreamed that Ivan would return - she dreamed of a new, happy life with God, in which she would at last have Ivan's children ... After her first operation, when only one breast was removed, Lily still kept this hope. Soon there was a second operation, and all hope of children was gone ... Lily fell into a deep depression, "Why me, why now? Where is God? What will I say to Ivan? Did I have to disappoint him like this? Where did he disappear to? Where is Mom and what is happening to her? ... The pain in her joints, fear of the future, loneliness, despair, helplessness ... Trying to comfort people in this state in a letter is very difficult. At this point the women's prayer group had been praying for her for a long time. God answered! He performed a miracle! While Lily was serving her sentence, her niece took her mother in. Ivan finally called his wife. Here's what Lily wrote about the conversation: "Ira, It was wonderful to hear his voice! As it turns out, he was living near the church, helping the other men build the church building. Now he has rented an apartment. He is praying and looking for a job to earn money and come to me. He said: "Lil'ka! Come back soon, I love you so much!" I literally sat down at the phone and said, "Hallelujah!"

Then I received the last letter from Lily: "Ira, my dear, what would I do without your prayers? They've told me I will get an early release on January 3. Thank God that He helped me survive it all. Recently Ivan came to see me - they let us be together for three days. God Bless all of you, I will not forsake the Lord for anything in the world! I am a child of God! Say hello to our sisters in Christ. Kisses, Lily."

Almost 3 months passed since the last letter from Lily. Then, recently, there was the long-awaited call: "Ira, do you remember me? It's me - Lily! I finally found your phone number. A woman at the church told me to look on the site of the church on the Internet. And there it was: Prison Ministry, Sergei Perepelitsa, telephone number. Hallelujah .. I want to tell you that I am still following God! ... ".

Once I asked the women in prison, "What is it about believers that most appeals to you?" They almost unanimously said, "Their acceptance without judgment and reproach."

I hope that reading about the lives of these women will not leave you untouched. Don't forget to pray for those who are in prison. Some of them genuinely want to change, and to give their lives to God, but they don't have enough faith. May God in His glory shine into the hearts of these prisoners! Amen!

Ірина Коваленко

Irina Kovalenko

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