“The cost of happiness”. Gulchira Aminova

Jesus loves me!!!

My name is Gulchira Aminova. I was brought up in a Muslim home. My parents are Tatar (and therefore, Muslim), and so am I. My parents believed in Allah and often told me that he sees everything and would punish me if I misbehaved. I thought, Allah sat somewhere in heaven and all he did was to punish those who do wrong. In 1961 after Yuri Gagarin’s flight into the space I decided that only uneducated people could think about Allah / God. People never saw God. One time my mother told me: “Your time will come. You will find him.” And we never talked about it again.

When I was 2 years old, my mother remarried. My stepfather was very strict with me. When I was 14 I found out that he was not my real father. It was very stressful. Ever since then I was wishing I had a real father. In my imagination I pictured a loving strong and just father. Someone, who I could share my heart with and who would understand and support me. Someone who would come when I need him. I cried at night with a longing for a father who I did not have.

Life was going on, meanwhile. I got married and we had a son. We moved to another city. I was 23 years old when I met my real father. I was very disappointed. This man exchanged my mother and me for vodka and women. He was a self-loving male who respected no one and could not care less of what people thought. He was nothing nearly as good as my stepfather. He loved to show off to people and was a despot in his home. I realized how fortunate I was not to grow up with such a father.

By the time I was 35 years old I had all I ever wanted: an apartment, a car, a garage and a dacha. And a bunch of health problems. I am a hard worker and am hardly ever tired of work. But my illness was getting worse. I did not like to go to the doctor and usually I ended up in an ambulance after another attack. Whatever medicines my doctor prescribed, I only got worse. One time I asked my doctor: “How long do you think I will live? Tell me the truth.” She replied: “No more than 2 years.” I was shocked. My husband saw that something was wrong and he suggested that I quit my job. At that time my son was married, and my husband made good money. So we decided that I could take a year off. I quitted my job and started to make preparations to my own death: I took care of the important documents and got everything ready for my funeral. My husband and my parents knew nothing. I know that this news would kill my mother. I went to see my parents for the last time. By that time my stepfather had become the president of the Muslim committee and therefore was always busy, so I hardly got to see him. This was the beginning of the religious freedom in Russia. I asked my mother: “Is life all about death? Is it worth for someone to be born just to die some time later?” My Mother answered: “We are born, live and die to be raised from the dead. Then we will come to Allah’s judgment. We will face the Almighty to be judged according to our works. Those who had good works, who lived according to sharia will go to paradise and others will go to hell.” And I asked her: “And where will you go?” She replied: “I do not know. Allah will decide it.” But she added that if I read prayers, fast, give alms, keep Friday and do good works, and then God will notice it and may be I will go to paradise. So, I started to copy the Muslim prayers from my Mother’s journal. These Arabic prayers were written in the Tatar alphabet. I left my parents, knowing that something significant had happened in my life. I tried to read the prayers at home but I still had emptiness in my soul.

Both my husband and I have always been hard workers. We always worked 2-3 jobs. Eventually, I became very bored without a job. I became very irritable and my husband suffered from my bad temper. Finally he said: “I think, it’s time for you to get a job again.” I was offended and decided to take revenge. I was offered a position of a secretary which I always wanted to have. My husband always thought that a woman who works as a secretary is always a mistress of her boss. He called them “secretutes” (secretary+prostitute). My husband has always been a jealous man, and accepting this kind of job would be the best revenge possible. No, I did not want to be somebody’s mistress. I just wanted vengeance. I went to the interview and for the first time in my life asked God to help me get that job. And I got it! I enjoyed my work and my colleagues. But this was still not the most exciting thing.

Across from my desk at work there was a desk of the chief bookkeeper, Nina Nikolaievna. I often needed her help and we talked about various things. She often talked about religion and about God. Of course, I defended Islam, although I knew very little about it. One time Nina Nikolaievna told me that all people are sinners. And my answer was: “Not me!” She opened her Bible and asked me to read Rom 3:10, 23. I thought that other people (thieves, adulterers, alcoholics) were sinners. But the Bible said: “All have sinned.”

Our other talks all had the following pattern. I asked her questions about religion. I wanted to prove that Islam was the best religion, better than Christianity. Unfortunately, the Christians who I knew were not real Christians. Usually for great religious feasts my Orthodox neighbors went to an Orthodox church. But after that they drank, fought each other, and said bad words. Next morning as I saw them, they had bruised swollen faces.

But for every argument that I presented, Nina Nikolaievna would open her Bible and let me read the answers to my questions. And time after time, I had to agree with what I read. But I was mad at myself because I was losing. I was amazed that I could not have the last word, that I had no good arguments. Now I realize that I was arguing with God, not with her. I could not stand it any longer so I borrowed her Bible to read. I started to read it with the desire to prove it wrong. The more I read, the more questions I had. But the Bible had all the answers! Now I know how patient God was with me. My heart was longing for God, but my mind resisted Him. I worshipped the Almighty, but the Islamic dogmas about Jesus (that He is not God, only a prophet) were a huge obstacle for me. I prayed asking God to show me the truth. I could feel His presence and His love for me. Many things had changed in my life. God often gave me a choice and was watching me make my choice. Would I choose the truth and the light or would I continue to follow lies and the darkness? Every time I made a right choice, He gave more opportunities to me. If I made a wrong choice, I could hear Him no more.

In May 1989 the Jesus film was shown in Izhevsk. Nina Nikolaievna invited me to go to see it. I could not help crying while I was watching the film. When it was over, my heart was filled with a longing for something I could not explain. Now I know that my spirit was striving to the Creator. Had they made an invitation to accept Jesus, I would run to them, but instead they invited me to go to church. That made my way to the Lord longer by 8 months. I told my husband about the film, but he yelled at me and forbade me to go to such meetings, let alone going to church. But I kept reading the Bible, I memorized the Lord’s prayer and prayed it.

One time as I was reading Matthew, I was struck with Jesus’ words in 5:22: “whoever says, ‘You fool,’ shall be guilty enough to go into the fiery hell.” I had said so many terrible words in my life, the word “fool” was a compliment compared to those words. And for that word alone we deserve hell!?! I did not have long to live, and I would go to hell. What should I do? In the evening I went to church. I was so much afraid that a car would hit me or something else would happen and I would die before I accepted Christ. That evening of December 1989 became my second birthday. When I went forward to accept Christ, I was filled with joy. But as soon as I knelt down, I began to cry. Someone came to me, put his hand on my shoulder, and began to pray. I do not remember what I was saying. I know that I asked God to forgive me. I had so much joy that I was almost flying home. Even though the weather was gloomy, I had spring in my heart. I was the happiest person in the world. People kept giving me strange looks and I thought something was wrong with my clothes. But when I saw my own reflection, I saw a smiling face. May be others thought that I was going crazy. But I was feeling like I had had a huge sack on my back which was pressing me down, but now it was no more! That’s why I could fly!

On the third day I realized that something strange had happened. I used to have arthritis, plus a backache, but they were gone! Some time later I found out that my other health issues were gone, too. And it’s been 13 years now that I was not taken to the hospital by an ambulance. I tell everyone that I buried my sicknesses on the place where I accepted Christ. Every day I am surprised with God’s great love to me and I will never stop being amazed at it.

But the closer I grew to God, the worse my relationship with my husband was. He started to drink and debouch. He emotionally drained me with his jealousy. God was the only one who kept me from separating from my husband. I knew that if I did that God would be grieved. But one time I was so exhausted that I decided to simply leave my husband. I knelt down and told God everything. My husband found that out. He came home drunk, yelled at me, took all the documents and left the house. I told him that I would leave him anyway and that I would continue to be a Christian. Then he said that he was willing to get some medical help against alcoholism and that he would let me attend the church. And he did it.

In the summer 1990 I decided to be baptized. And in the evening I told my husband about it. He started screaming again.

-You have to choose: either you get baptized and leave me or you don’t get baptized and we keep our marriage.

-Ok, I will leave. But if you are willing to live with me, you will always be in the second place, because God is in the first. And I will be baptized no matter what you think.

-Get out of here!

All I could do after that was to go to my room and pack my belongings. I was ready to go to bed and was wearing a nightgown. My husband walked into the room:

-If you’re leaving, you will not take a thing out of this house. And you will leave in your nightgown.

I started to walk towards the door. I did not care about what was going on. I did not want anything. I just wanted to find rest. And to sleep. I knew that I would be with God always, no matter what happens. And nothing else mattered. I made my choice.

My husband pushed me from the door and told me to go to sleep. Had we lived on the first floor, I would jump out of the window, but I lived on the fourth floor. I decided not to argue and went to bed. I could not figure out how I would leave the house in the morning to go to the baptismal service. All night I was awake, waiting for 5 a. m. when I would quietly leave the house. But when I got up at 5 a heard a voice:

-Where are you going?

-To the bathroom.

I realized that I had no chance. I prayed:

-Lord, I want to be baptized, but I can do nothing in this situation. Please, help me.

It was 5 in the morning. I was tired and I fell asleep. All of a sudden my husband woke me up:

-Aren’t you going to go?

It was 7. The service begins at 8. It would take me an hour and a half to get there.

-Too bad, I am late.

-Get up, my car is waiting. I will take you there.

Can you imagine what I felt? It took me a couple moments to get ready. I kept saying: “Praise God! Praise God! Praise God!” We came to the lake and my husband started to help Christians get everything ready for the baptismal. And I – I was simply thankful to the Lord! I knew He was with me. His love would never leave me and His faithfulness is great!

I found a Father, a real Father. The One, who I longed for as a child. Love and faithfulness and care. Grace and mercy. The Heavenly Father Himself was with me! Then I realized that He was always with me. He protected me and kept me safe in all my ways. He was patiently waiting for me. Human language is too weak to express the fullness of my gratitude to Him!

He changed my life, and things that I did not dare dream about are coming true. It is like living on another planet, the planet of God’s love. In September 1998 my husband, whose father and grandfather were mullahs (Muslim priests) accepted Christ and was baptized. Life has not become easier. In fact, it became harder. But the One who died for me, the One who forgave my sin, the One who justified me, is with me. He is giving me faith and endurance in all things. He gives me strength and wisdom; my health and well-being are in His hands. His name is Jesus! He is so close to all of us, His love is endless, He wants you to invite Him to live in your heart and to change your life. Do not miss this chance. God does not want you to die. He wants to give you eternal life. “For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son that whosoever believes in Him, shall not perish but have everlasting life” (John 3:16) Ask Him to forgive you. He will and will never remember it. His blood cleanses all sin. Invite Him into your heart, let Him change you and your life. “Whoever will call on the name of the Lord will be saved” (Rom 10:13). He will fulfill His promises that are written in the Bible. Read it, do what it says and have fellowship with believers. God be with you!