The young woman approached Keith and Grace early Sunday morning, before most people were due to arrive at their home for worship. She had something important to talk about.
As the three of them settled on the tiny bed in one of the kids’ rooms, Katie* shared that she was ready to follow Jesus. Keith and Grace were delighted but somewhat surprised and skeptical. After all, Katie was from a very conservative Muslim people group in this part of Russia. “We had people express interest before, and nothing had come of it,” Grace said. Keith asked Katie many questions, wanting to make sure that Katie was ready to make Jesus her Lord. “She was ready to commit,” said Grace.
As the months passed, Katie grew frustrated that she could have fellowship with other believers only by deceiving her parents. Eventually she sensed that things were coming to a tipping point, and she ran away from home, getting on a bus with nothing but the clothes on her back. She left behind her Bible and a letter for her father. “There were points later when she making some choices,” Keith said. “And I can remember one of our friends saying, ‘You know, she’s so courageous, it’s scary’. She just figured out what was right and then just did it, and let the chips fall where they may.” Keith and Grace, now living in another city, brought Katie into a training program for church-planting teams.
Two years later, Katie’s sisters asked her to contact their father, who had been worrying himself sick over her. When he announced that he wanted to come see her, Keith and Grace offered to host Katie’s father in their home. Grace was hard at work in the kitchen while Keith talked to Katie’s father. “I produced a breakfast to beat all breakfasts, and I started working on a dinner to beat all dinners. And Keith was the one who had the privilege of talking a man who was upset that we would help his daughter leave home,” Grace said. “I wanted to swap jobs,” Keith said, joking. But as Keith talked to Katie’s father, he was able to explain his faith in Jesus, and how Katie now believed she must obey God’s will in her life. Katie’s father was still disappointed with Katie’s choices, but some kind of barrier was broken that day between father and daughter. “He was ready to talk to his daughter again,” Grace said.
Katie renewed her relationship with family, and eventually visited the family home. One day, Katie’s mother asked her why she had felt she needed to run away from home. “Her mother said, ‘We’re adults here, and we’re modern people, and if you had just said that you wanted to become a Christian, that would have been okay’,” Grace said. Little did Katie’s mother know what was going to happen next: two of Katie’s sisters told her that they, too, had trusted in Jesus!
Katie’s faith and obedience were an encouragement to the church in an under-reached part of south Russia. She married, and with her husband went on to serve on a church-planting team in yet another Muslim part of Russia. “There’s no privilege like seeing her accept Jesus Christ and act like a disciple,” Keith said. “Her story is the story of God doing the impossible.”
-Written by Lisa H. Renninger
*not her real name