“Would you like to know how I became an Adventist?” Marik asked with a big smile.
“Yes, of course I would,” I responded. He went into another room and came back with his computer. Then he opened a video file of himself some years ago when he was in prison.
I had just arrived in central Asia late that hot summer evening, and Elijah Williams had met me at the airport. It was too late for us to travel to his new home, so he had arranged for us to stay the night at a local friend’s home. We had just devoured a lovely meal and lingered over it in conversation. This wasn’t the first time I had met Marik and his family, so we had quite a lot to catch up on. He was sharing more than ever about himself, and he went into more detail about his previous life as a criminal.
He had been raised in a poor family and chose friends who drew him to the wrong side of the law. Theft, burglary and violence were his chosen path, for which he was eventually sent to prison. Three times he escaped, the last time from a high-security unit. He remained free for a year before he was caught again and returned to prison.
Then one day an Adventist pastor arrived at the prison and began to hold meetings and Bible studies with the inmates. In Marik’s video, I saw a group of about eight prisoners attending a Bible study. The more Marik listened to the word of God, the more convinced he became that God and Jesus were real and that they loved him very much. Over time, Marik’s heart changed, and he asked to be baptized. But there was no way he would be allowed to venture outside this secure unit, not even for a baptism. So the decision was made that he could get baptized in the prison.
On the day of his baptism, one of his inmate friends was able to borrow a video camera to record the event. The group moved from one building to another, through various corridors and bolted doorways, until they arrived at the designated place. There was no baptismal pool, just a large bathtub in the center of the shower room. The group gathered in a semi-circle and began to sing hymns. Soon Marik stepped into the bath and was baptized by the pastor, amid much rejoicing. Marik had to serve his full seven-year sentence before he would be released, but he was free in Jesus!
At some point during the latter end of his imprisonment, Marik met Sahin who later became his wife. She was shy and somewhat scared of Marik at first, she told me. After all, he was a seasoned criminal. But as time went by, she realized he had definitely changed. He was a new man. Nine years and two children later, Marik has a very happy family and continues to be a staunch Seventh-day Adventist. He is a real gentleman—kind, considerate, offering help where he can and actively seeking to share his faith with others. Let us pray that he will be instrumental in reaching many within his own community for Jesus.