baptism

A girl named Inna

You’ve heard it said “a picture is worth a thousand words.” I like to think a good picture should not only be worth a thousand words, but should tell a story. Some pictures can go beyond that to tell multiple stories.

 I’m looking at a photograph I ‘ve carried with me for over a decade. In some ways, it is self-explanatory. This is obviously a baptism, probably in Russia. The man in the blue robe seems to be the pastor. The three younger people with him, the baptismal candidates. Just that makes a good picture. But there’s more.

 My attention was caught by the girl at the end of the line. With her head bowed, it’s difficult to see much about her, other than she is a young woman. Something about her caught my heart, and I made an inner commitment to pray for her. I prayed regularly that she had indeed found Christ. I prayed that she would grow in Christ. I prayed that God would bring a support group around her.

As time went on, I learned her name was Inna. She had been a addicted to drugs and alcohol, and was then in a rehab program at Transformation Christian Center. I was told she had met a young man at the center and they planned to be married. All of this information fueled my prayers as I held her before the Lord.

 A couple of years later I had the opportunity to visit this center in Russia. I was very excited about the possibility of actually meeting Inna. To me she was the both a real Christian sister as well as a living representation of the work being done through that ministry.

 At my first chance on site, I began wandering around the complex, looking for someone who might be Inna. After walking around fruitlessly for a time, I spied a small figure sitting on a step. Going by the only photograph I had, it would be difficult to identify her, but I would give it a try. Walking up to her, I pulled out half of my Russian language knowledge and said “Menya zavut David” -- my name is David. She responded “Menya zavut Inna.”

 It was her! Now what? I didn’t know any more Russian, and it was obvious she knew even less English. We smiled at each other, became mutually embarrassed, and I finally waved my hand, mumbled “da svedanya” or good-bye, and walked away.

 The next day I was standing with a bilingual missionary when I saw Inna walking past. Calling to her I asked Rick to translate for us. I began by telling her about the photograph. Yes, she smiled as she remembered the day she was baptized. “Inna,” I said. “Ever since I saw that photograph of your baptism, I’ve been praying for you.”

 Inna looked confused for a moment, then looked up at Rick and began to say, “why would anyone pray for someone that they did not know?”

 Before she had even finished that question, I saw something new come into her eyes – an answer to her own question. This was something she had never thought of before. As she looked to me, it was as if a bright light came on behind her eyes. For possibly the first time in her life, Inna realized she had a larger family beyond her new husband, beyond her fellow residents in rehab, even beyond the missionary community. In a new burst of understanding she realized she was part of a worldwide family – – God’s church, where people knew who she was, prayed for her, and loved her unconditionally.

 On that day Inna learned something new. So did I. I saw the power of a simple photograph and understood anew the power of prayer and encouragement within the family of God.

 Maybe the best thing about this story is that this is only part one. Stay tuned.