A Man Called Hope
Changing Lives for Eternity in Central Asia
SGA Vice President of Ministry Operations
While visiting pastors and observing SGA-sponsored Bible training in Central Asia, I had an opportunity to meet a man who has serious physical challenges. Meeting him calls to mind the passage in Scripture about the Lord Jesus helping the disabled man at the pool of Bethesda (John 5). His name is Umed, which translated into English means hope. And his story is indeed one of hope and trust in the Lord.
Umed was born with a severe deformity that robbed him of the use of his legs and one arm. When he was born, Umed’s parents felt he was broken and cursed, and abandoned him at an orphanage. This orphanage was terrible and neglect was rampant. In the mid 1990s, a civil war had wracked his country, and Christians had come to visit the orphanage where Umed was living. He heard the Gospel and made an early profession of belief in Christ. But after the orphanage was closed, Umed was transferred to a retirement home for the elderly, yet Umed himself was only a teenager.
It was at this nursing home that Umed met a young lady that also had been “thrown away.” During this time, a Mullah came and pressured Umed to renounce following Christ and to follow Islam instead. He did, and practiced Islam for eight years. During this time, he married the young orphan girl whose name is Svetlana. Together, they lived at this home for people whom the world has mostly forgotten. But two years ago, a recovered drug addict who had become a Christian visited, and shared the Gospel with Umed and Svetlana. Umed began to cry and told of his shame in renouncing the Lord years earlier. He cried out to the Lord for forgiveness. A year later, Svetlana came to faith in Christ and they both came to church.
This past Sunday, with several other believers whose identity cannot be disclosed due to risk of retribution from their families, they were baptized. I had tears in my eyes as I watched. Because Umed could not walk, one of the pastors of the church came to his wheelchair, picked him up, and walked down into the baptistery holding him. As Umed rose from the water, he shouted with joy and was overwhelmed. His dear wife was waiting with huge smiles on her face, with their child nearby. As they all stood together during the service, there was Umed in his wheelchair with his dear wife standing behind him—two orphan children now and forever publicly declaring their victory in Jesus and now adopted by their heavenly Father. And their faces glowed! So much joy in lives filled with rejection, disability and hardship. All they have is Christ. And for Umed and Svetlana, and for us, this is more than enough!