Sylvia* lives in Kyrgyzstan, Central Asia. She grew up there in a village with her family. When she was 18 years old she was forced to marry a man who was addicted to strong drink. Soon she had her first child – a boy.
The marriage was very unhappy and soon Sylvia got divorced. She married another man who, for many years, was not good to her. He did not want her son to live with them. The boy had to go to live with Sylvia's parents. In her new marriage, she had another son and three daughters and she worked as an art teacher.
But Sylvia had a very big shame. After two of her children were born, she was raped by a man in her village. Because of this, her mother-in-law and the villagers treated her very badly. Sylvia spoke to the police and the man was sent to prison. Sadly, this did not take away the shame that she felt, nor the
abuse she was suffering from the villagers.
One day a photographer came to the village. He was there to take pictures, but he also began to tell people about Jesus. He gave Sylvia a paper to read. There she read about how people can be free from sexual hurt. She realised that what it said was true. When the photographer came back to the village, she
had many questions to ask him. He visited her many times and other Christians talked to her as well. They explained to her that we cannot be free from our shame even if we try very hard.
We cannot run away from it or make it go by trying to be good. It is only Jesus Christ who can take our shame away from us. He came into the world to die and set us free from the terrible feeling of shame. Sylvia believed all that they told her. She asked Jesus to give her a new start in life, to take away the
shame she felt after she had been raped. Jesus also forgave her for all the wrong things she had done in her life.
At last she felt clean. She wanted to follow Jesus for the rest of her life.
Sylvia began to go to Christian meetings even though her husband tried to stop her. There were other problems too. Her mother, mother-in-law and the villagers did not like what she now believed and were very unkind to her. She even lost her job. Her husband was very ashamed of her and began to drink strong drink to try to hide his own feelings of shame. He reminded her about the shame that came on their family because of the rape. Now that she was
following Jesus, this was a second shame for them. He sent her away from their home, so she went to live with some neighbours. All this made her feel very sad.
Then one day she was asked to go into a prison to teach hand-crafts to the women prisoners. She decided to do it – she had no other work since she had lost her job. The first time she went into the prison she was very afraid of the women. When she got home she cried and could not sleep. She asked God, "Why must I do something so hard?"
God told her that her tears came because she was feeling the pain of the women prisoners who were hurting inside. He wanted her to work with them.
Every day Sylvia went to the prison. She came to love the women and was happy to help them, even after they were set free from prison. God did help her as he had promised. She learned that following Jesus was the best way to live, even though life was hard for her.
*Sylvia is not her real name