God and Prison
Twenty-year-old Romanian inmate longs to tell her story.
Editor’s note: Adventist Mission is not identifying Elena by her full name for the sake of her privacy.
I’m a 20-year-old introvert in Romania, and I love to read personal testimonies.
When I first met a Seventh-day Adventist pastor, he asked me, “What kind of books do you like to read?”
I told him the title of the last book that I had read, a personal testimony written by a Christian author.
A week later, the pastor brought me several books filled with personal testimonies to read.
One day, I’d like to write my personal testimony.
If I wrote my personal testimony, I’d start with the happy moments in my childhood. I’d describe how I relentlessly teased my great-grandparents, causing them to become upset with me. I was only 4 or 5 years old, and it was great fun to tease them.
If I wrote my personal testimony, I would talk about my first day of school. It was a happy day. My great-grandmother took me to school and later helped me with my homework at home.
My great-grandparents loved me a lot. I lived with them until I went to prison.
If I wrote my personal testimony, I’d tell about the happy moments in prison. I’d describe the good people whom I’ve met, like the Adventist pastor who visits once a week to teach me and other young offenders about life and God. The pastor comes with three Adventist university students, and they show us educational PowerPoint presentations. I dropped out of school after the eighth grade, so everything that they show is new and interesting to me. After each PowerPoint presentation, they tell us a story from the Bible. We also pray and talk.
If I wrote my personal testimony, I’d tell about the worst time in my life. It was the nine-month period from my arrest at the age of 17 to my arrival in prison to serve a 12-year sentence. I was so alone. No one from my family visited me, and no one hired a lawyer to represent me.
My great-grandmother died several months before I was arrested, and my great-grandfather was old and ill. During those long months in pretrial detention, I never heard a kind word.
But everything changed once I arrived in prison. Some of the prison guards are nice, especially the woman who has been assigned to help me rebuild my life. I also like the Adventist prison ministries program. Through the weekly program, I have met wonderful people and grown close to them. I thought I could never be close to anyone.
The Adventists speak kind words, and they are teaching me to be useful and to trust God. That is important to me. I have been in prison for three years and seven months, and I will be eligible for parole in two years. My behavior is very important to qualify for parole. I need to show that I can be independent and useful to society.
If I wrote my personal testimony, I would admit that I have experienced a lifetime of sorrow in just 20 years. It is hard for me to talk about it. My family had financial difficulties. They weren’t there for me when they should have been. Many violent things happened in my life. Things happened to me that I couldn’t control. Maybe this is the reason that I am not very open about my life. Maybe this is why I’m an introvert.
If my great-grandmother hadn’t died, I wouldn’t have gone to prison. But things got really bad after she passed away, and I killed someone.
After my release from prison, I would like to have my own family. I want to do something useful in life. But for now, I’m a 20-year-old introvert who loves to read personal testimonies. One day, I’d like to write my personal testimony.
Part of a 2016 Thirteenth Sabbath Offering went to help a church outreach program for young people in Romania. Thank you for your Thirteenth Sabbath Offering.