He was the happiest man I think I have ever met.
It was in Russia. Siberia to be exact. In – of all places – a prison.
I still remember walking into that prison. As soon as we entered, we were greeted by a man with a huge smile. He was filled with warmth and enthusiasm but dressed in the clothes of a prisoner. He was to accompany our team to the prison auditorium where we were going to put on a program for the inmates who were allowed to come.
As we walked toward the auditorium, we could see above us men peering out tiny windows. Looking at us. Menacingly.
Most everything in that Russian prison felt dark, grim, and foreboding except for one thing.
This one. . .happy. . .man.
After our presentation, we learned more about him. He had committed serious crimes and was sentenced to be there for a long time. While there, someone told him about Jesus. They told him that God loved him and wanted to forgive him – of everything. His hardened heart was melted. Who would love him after all he had done? But God did! Jesus did!
He gave his life to God. He became a follower of Jesus.
And he changed.
His new life was marked by a deep happiness. Real. . .inward. . .joy.
This prisoner was so changed by his new life with God that the prison officials decided to release him much before the time of his sentence. What was his response? He refused his release! He told us that he belonged in that prison with those men who had not yet heard what he had heard – who had not yet experienced what he had experienced.
That was 15 years ago.
I don’t know if this man is still in that prison – joyfully sharing his faith with other prisoners who desperately need Jesus.
One thing I do know.
This Russian prisoner was the happiest man I have ever met.