Born and raised in a small Ukrainian mining town during the Soviet era, I grew up in an atmosphere of atheism. One day I came across a book titled Not by Bread Alone. Being an avid reader, I read it in a single sitting. The book offered a simple plan of salvation, followed by a prayer to receive Jesus as my personal Savior. The concepts of God, faith, and prayer were all foreign to my thinking, but something about the book captivated me. When I repeated the prayer, I had a feeling that was both marvelous and a bit scary, as though my soul was being elevated to the ceiling.
Several years later I left my hometown to study at the state university, and there I met some Christians who led me from A to Z into a life of faith and service to God and others.
The next time I visited my parents, I explained how Jesus had changed my life and that He could do the same for them. My mother received it gladly, but my father was skeptical. I promised to pray for him.
At the start of each workday, my father and the other coalminers descended the vertical shaft two by two. Part of their safety gear was a heavy belt that was anchored to the shaft’s wooden framework by a rope. My dad never used that belt, however, as it was bulky and uncomfortable. Instead he wore a lighter one that he trusted would serve the purpose just as well.
One day someone had taken his lightweight belt, so he was forced to use the heavier one. He and his partner went down the shaft and were soon busy mining, my father under their support pier and his partner on the top of it.
Suddenly my father’s foot slipped, he lost his balance, and fell into the black abyss. The safety rope caught him, but for several minutes he dangled under the pier. Shards of coal rained on him, cutting his head, face, and body.
Finally his partner, who hadn’t heard my father’s cries for help over the din of the machinery, stopped working to check on him, saw what had happened, and helped him up.
When my father recounted the incident to me later, he said that his whole life had passed before his eyes as he hung in the darkness. “I felt your prayers holding me tight,” he said, “and that was when I decided to receive Jesus as my Savior.”
My father’s favorite old belt? He thanks God that someone had taken it that day.
1. Peter 3:21 ESV / Baptism, which corresponds to this, now saves you, not as a removal of dirt from the body but as an appeal to God for a good conscience, through the resurrection of Jesus Christ,
Acts 22:16 ESV / And now why do you wait? Rise and be baptized and wash away your sins, calling on his name.’
Galatians 3:27 ESV / For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ.