Tuesday, 6 January 2015

Nine Days in the Lion's Den


This is the story of our friend Daniel Anthony. Daniel gave us permission to share his story of being abducted in the East of Ukraine. He is now living in the safety of Ternopil, like us. We were greatly moved to learn how Daniel clung to his faith during his ordeal. God brought him peace, so fear of death could not reach him. Daniel's steadfast faith gave him courage to preach the love of Jesus to fellow prisoners and amazingly, the guards that beat him and imprisoned him. As Daniel shared the gospel and sung to one guard, the separatist had tears streaming down his face and Daniel was released soon after. He now continues his university studies in Ternopil and is deciding whether to become a doctor, or to serve God in missions, or another role. Here, in his own words, is Daniel's story...

It was on the 16th day in the month of July, 2014.  I woke up in the comfort of the fact that I was going to leave the city of Lugansk, Ukraine the following day. It was just another typical day in the war stricken city. I actually believe it was the sound of artillery that woke me up that morning.
       I, together with a friend, Duke, had bought train tickets the previous day in order to travel to a far away city, Lviv. The journey was to take approximately 48 hours by train, and so we had to make a lot of preparations. I got up from my bed took my bath, got breakfast, and time passed by.
       At 6pm I began to prepare meals for the journey as I had already packed my things in the traveling box. At 7pm I was done with frying and cooking and began pressing my clothes for the journey when I received a phone call from Duke ( the friend I was to travel with ). He asked if he could drop off some luggage in my apartment, and I agreed to that. He got to my apartment after 30 minutes thereabout, and I resumed my work.
       At just a few minutes to 8pm I heard a knock on the door. I looked through the peephole on the door, to know who it was, and saw a Nigerian boy (normally Nigerians do not open the doors for other races for security reasons). I hesitated for some seconds, and then opened the door to answer the ''visitor'', but to my greatest surprise, I was greeted with the nuzzle of a gun (apparently, the Nigerian boy was also picked up from his apartment and held at gun point, then told to knock on my door. If I had not answered he may have been shot).
      At the first glance at the weapon, I laid on the floor as they kept screaming ''your hands on your head'' in Russian. Many thoughts ran through my mind, as I felt the guilt of opening the door. The question of what they were here for and if they were going to kill us kept running through my mind. I had never been in such a situation before.
    The City where I resided and studied, Lugansk was a war zone. Government forces had surrounded the city, trying to retake it from the rebels. Nowhere was safe anymore as bomb shells landed anywhere. The streets were almost empty, and some homes had also taken hit from shells and bullets. The bombings were what scared everyone, but we never expected that we would be raided by the rebels.
    As I lay on the floor with my face to the ground, a boot on my back pinned me more to the ground.
I lost awareness of my surrounding for a moment with the atmosphere filled with a lot of tension. At that point in time, the phone in my pocket began ringing, which doubled my panic. I was so petrified with the thought of what they were going to do to me if they heard the sound. It was so loud, that i'm sure it was only God that kept them from hearing it.
      I was then taken to my room and laid on the bed together with my flat mate and Duke. I could perceive the smell of gun powder, but looking around, I saw no one was hurt ( the smell was present because Duke had been shot at, but was missed on purpose ). The gunmen were about ten to fifteen in number, all armed, and spitting racist remarks from their mouths. Our laptops, phones (except my phone which was still in my pocket), money and some shoes were taken by them, then we were taken out of the building.
     We were marched to a nearby van in the sight of passersby and put in the boot. We were five, including two guys from the other apartment I mentioned earlier. I sat down, just thinking and trying not to worry. I then led us in a prayer, and I asked the Lord, '' Father, where ever, they are taking us to, help us find favour in their sight''. After the prayer, the Spirit put a word in my heart, '' No one can take your life from you, unless the Lord permits it''. At that moment, I just had peace in my heart in the midst of the storm.
     We were then taken to a basement in a government building that the rebels had seized. We were seriously beaten that night. My hand was swollen so bad that I couldn't use it. They repeatedly used racist remarks like ''Monkeys'' which revealed the hate and disgust they had towards us. It was really scary, because we had committed no crime and had no idea of why we were there. I felt really bad coupled with the fact that I was to travel to another city, far away from this mess the following day.
    The nine days I spent with the rebels, to me is a powerful testimony, and not just because I got out alive, but because of all that took place from day one. We did serious labour work for them, fetching and hipping up sandbags to form barricades for them, fortifying their windows and doors with as much materials as were made available. We were given tea and two slices of hard bread twice a day, and still had to work. For the whole time we spent there, we weren't allowed to wash up. Once while we were working, a bomb exploded nearby which threw all the soldiers to the ground. We had to postpone the work till night. We were taken far to the Russian border to offload 6 trucks, each containing 40tonnes of products. We worked from 11am till 1am the following morning. It was really a difficult time I had there. A lot more happened than I write here.
     But in the midst of it all, I had hope and peace. God was with me, and I held on to that hope. If they were going to kill me, I knew it was the Lord’s will. Nothing else mattered then, not even school, or money. I once made a promise to God, I said, ''Lord, if you secure our release today, I promise to drop out of school and go preach your word''. There I learned that there are so many things we take for granted and fail to give thanks for. But when those things are either taken from us, or lost for good, it is then we realize the value of what we have, or had.  I had lost my freedom, and was practically reduced to a slave. There I saw what it means to be a slave to sin and have no say over your life. There the reality of what Jesus suffered for us was shown to me.
     God really was faithful to me in midst of it all. The rebels had knowledge that I could play the guitar and I was summoned on two occasions to play and sing. On one of those occasions, the listener burst in tears, and we were all so overwhelmed at the sight. God used that man once to defend us, when we were mocked on one occasion, and that same man gave us a hundred hyrivnia which equals two thousand naira for transport on our release. After the first day, it felt like there was an order that no one should hurt us, and no one ever touched us beyond that day. The rebels became so free with us, that they treated us way better and friendlier than they treated the other Ukrainian prisoners. I also had the opportunity of preaching to two prisoners about Christ. We really did find favour in the eyes of everyone there, and on the eight day, we had the opportunity to lay our case before the supreme commander, who had sympathy on us, and assured us that we were going to be released the following day, which the Lord made sure of.

Scripture says in Proverbs 21:1,
     The king's heart is in the hand of the LORD, as the rivers of water: he turneth it whithersoever he will.

      After our release, I was given my phone (which they saw in my pocket at the basement), which we used to contact families and friends, who were worried and praying endlessly for us.
       And another thing. The Lord had showed me in a dream while I was underground, that my belongings would be intact when I return, and that is EXACTLY how it was when I returned home. The door had been literally open for nine days, and my musical instruments, which I had recently bought, and most importantly my purse where I had kept my money and documents were intact with the money (I had stopped using wallets over a year back, and began using a purse. I have been mocked several times but still refused to change the purse). This was evidently the work of God. He always creates a way out of every trouble. Had my purse been stolen, we would have had no way out of the city, as banks and all ATMs in the city were not working. If they had stolen my phone, we also wouldn't have been able to contact anyone. We walked a long distance with our bags and baggages to the train station and were able to purchase train tickets, which we used to leave the city that night. The city was dead asleep, silent and scary, but God saw us safely out of there.
        After being united with my family in Nigeria, I got to know how much the church had sacrificed, and the great support for my family in regards to the great distress my situation had caused. Fasting and Prayers were held, and God heard and answered. I then got to really understand and appreciate the unity and love of the church.
        I say thank you to all that were there for me, even in my absence, and especially to the church, and a big thank you to Pastor Emma Zakari, for the prayers, love and support for my myself and my family.

        God is Faithful. Jesus is Lord

2 comments:

  1. The church and the Holy Spirit and a faithful follower making Gods kingdom come. Hallelujah he is risen.

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  2. Hallelujah. He is risen. Nothing can stand in the way of God and his faithful people.

    ReplyDelete