Ruzala [roo-ZAH-lah] sat on the hard pew listening to the pastor’s stirring sermon. She struggled to keep her mind from the exam she was missing at school. She refused to break the Sabbath in order to take the exam, even if it meant not graduating with her class. Once again she placed the exam and her future into God’s hands to work out. She didn’t know that her decision to worship God that Sabbath might have saved her life.
Ruzala lives in the country of Azerbaijan [ah-zehr-bai-JAHN]. Few in her homeland are Christians. Her father was a Christian, but he was unhappy with the church he attended and was searching for a church that taught according to the Bible.
Ruzala was 13; she remembered seeing people coming out of a church near her grandmother’s home when she’d visit her. Ruzala told her father about the church and urged him to visit it.
Father asked some neighbors about the church near Grandmother’s house. He learned that it was a Seventh-day Adventist church. The neighbors called the Adventists “the believers.” Father decided to visit the church to see what it taught. He was delighted to find a people that teach according to the Bible. Two weeks later Father invited the rest of the family to go to church with him. Ruzala and her sister went with him, but Mother hesitated for many months before she joined the rest of the family.
Ruzala was baptized with her sister and father. When she entered high school, she found it difficult to defend her faith. Because there are so few Adventists in Azerbaijan, few people knew what they believed. Some teachers harassed Ruzala and her sister for refusing to attend classes on Sabbath. Ruzala’s sister was expelled from the school for missing classes and exams, and Ruzala expected the same would happen to her. She wasn’t expelled, but her teachers gave her lower grades because she refused to attend classes or take exams on Sabbaths.
Ruzala prayed every day that God would help her pass her classes without breaking the Sabbath. And God had blessed. But as graduation neared, her final exam schedule was posted. Ruzala saw that one class exam was scheduled for Sabbath. I won’t go, she told herself. And then she prayed, “Dear God,
help me to honor Your Sabbath and still graduate.”
On Sabbath, Ruzala worked hard to focus on the sermon. Then just as the pastor announced the closing song, an explosion ripped through the air, rattling the windows and shaking the people inside. A siren wailed in the distance.
Worship over, the congregation filed outside. Ruzala saw smoke that appeared to be coming from her school. Then she saw some classmates and hurried to ask them what had happened.
“There was an explosion at the school!” one girl said. “Someone said that the military teacher brought a hand grenade to school and left it in his classroom while students were taking their test. Someone started playing with the hand grenade, and apparently the safety pin came out. The grenade exploded and lots of kids got hurt! I think one boy even died!”
Ruzala’s heart pounded heavily as she realized that if she had gone to school that day, she would have been sitting in the classroom where the grenade exploded.
She hurried to the school to see for herself. A huge sob filled her body as she saw the hole in the building caused by the explosion. Injured students were still being treated and loaded into ambulances.
The Sabbath saved me, Ruzala thought. I’m alive because I refused to attend class today.
A teacher saw Ruzala and said, “You were lucky not to be here today,” the teacher said. “Your faith has saved you.”
“Yes,” Ruzala answered. “My faith—and my God—saved me.”
Several of Ruzala’s classmates gathered around her. Some of them had asked her questions about her religion before, but on that day they had seen how Ruzala’s God had protected her. They expressed their gratitude that Ruzala’s God was with her.
Although the students’ parents forbid them to attend a Christian church, Ruzala’s friends know that her faith is placed in a loving and caring God.
Part of this quarter’s Thirteenth Sabbath Offering will help the congregation in Baku, the capital city of Azerbaijan, renovate a building to provide a place to worship and a light to shine on people who don’t know the name of Jesus.