ASHGABAT, Turkmenistan (BP)–Josh Russell* needed a signature but the man behind the counter wasn’t budging without a bribe.
The Southern Baptist worker had tried for nearly six months to register a business that would serve as the heart of his ministry in Turkmenistan. He was two signatures away from success, but government corruption had deadlocked his application.
“He’s not going to process it,” Russell’s business partner, Murat*, told him. “You are going to have to pay him in order to get this done.”
Reluctantly, Russell agreed and sent Murat back to find out how much it would cost. In that moment of quiet defeat, Russell said the Lord spoke to his heart.
“Josh, he’s going to come back and tell you how much, and it’s going to be a really small amount -– you have it in your pocket,” Russell remembers thinking. “But how will I receive the glory due My name if you corrupt the foundation from the start?”
Russell knew God was talking about Murat and how he would be influenced.
When Murat returned, Russell apologized and explained he wouldn’t pay the bribe, no matter how small.
“God is bigger than that guy down the hall,” he told Murat. “It’s His problem to register the business, not mine. So I’m going to wait on Him.” Murat was crushed. “He knew we were done.”
Two weeks passed with no word from the government. Then on Thanksgiving Day, he received an unexpected phone call. Murat was on the line with miraculous news -– the business’s registration was approved. But it was what Murat said next that Russell will never forget.
“I would have never believed it,” Murat said. “You serve a mighty God. I have got to know more about Him.”
“What stunned Murat about the power of God was that when the Lord intervened in real life, He did something that clearly had to be of Himself,” Russell says.
But the story doesn’t end there. Because of God’s intervention and Russell’s witness, Murat went on to accept Jesus as his Savior. He’s now a leader in the Turkmen church and has even answered God’s call to carry the Gospel outside Turkmenistan’s borders.
“We were looking to start work among the Turkmen in a neighboring country,” Russell says, and Murat volunteered. “Today, we actually have a small group of believers among [this group of] Turkmen as a result of the work he began.”
*Names changed for security reasons. Don Graham is a writer with the Southern
Baptist International Mission Board.