Women in Ministry: Caring for Body & Soul
Witnessing to Prisoners Through Letter Writing
Nadezhda V. Sheludyakova
I was born into a Christian family, but I did not accept Christ into my heart as my personal Savior until April 1985. I truly desired to make up for the time I lost when I lived only for myself. And God answered my prayer for labor in his fields. In August 1993, I was invited to answer letters from people who wrote with questions about spiritual matters. After a long period of enforced atheism, people knew almost nothing about God. Practically every letter was filled with the same questions: Who is God? Who is Christ? How can I see, understand, and feel Him? How do I become a Christian? How do I pray to God? Where can I get prayer books?
Political freedom in Russia was accompanied by the arrival of spiritual literature. God's Word penetrated to every corner of our massive country. The Good News reached even prisoners. Light appeared at the end of the tunnel for many of them when they learned that Christ shed his blood for even them. I received letters--some interesting, some "difficult"--from prisoners. Often I did not know how to answer. I would kneel down with a letter and ask for help from the One who had entrusted this work to me. The Lord miraculously put thoughts and words into my mind.
An Udmurt man once sent me a petition (along with a request to send it on to the President) in which he asked that the period of his incarceration be reexamined. After reading his letter, I suggested that he read the Bible story about Joseph and entrust himself into the Lord's hands. To my joy, he did this after having realistically assessed his own situation.
In some letters, no questions are asked, and nothing is requested. These letters are from those who have been sentenced to capital punishment. Four death-row convicts from the Tashkent region sent me a letter: "We have discovered the love of Christ, and have accepted his words into our hearts, and we have made a covenant with God! Our lives have come to an end, but we are not a bit embittered, for Christ has taken us into His embrace."
There are touching letters from elderly people who have received religious literature and to whom God has revealed Himself. In Christ they find consolation and hope during a time particularly difficult for the elderly.
I have written to many people and told them that God loves them so much that he uses every possible means--even prison--to save their immortal souls. And the majority of people agree with me. For example, I corresponded with one prisoner from Rybinsk. When he began to read the Bible, God was revealed to him as a loving Savior, and the convict accepted Him into his heart. The convict's mother visited her son in prison and through his witnessing she, too, came to God, and through her, her sister learned about the Lord. How happy was this man and his family!
It is clear in the letters that our people are searching for God, but it is also apparent that the devil is not sleeping. Many-faced, false teachings lead people astray. In order to oppose this, we must pray for the preaching of the Gospel--from the pulpit, on the streets, in letters, and in everyday conversation.
Nadezhda Vasilyevna Sheludyakova was born in 1938 in a Christian home in Bykhov, Mogilev region. She accepted Christ after the death of her husband in 1985 and now works for the Bible League, a Christian charitable organization.
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© 1998 Institute for East-West Christian Studies