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Imprisoned in a foreign country, a new mom learns she’s not alone


A young pregnant refugee finds herself imprisoned and seemingly alone in the Middle East. But she’s not alone. God is with her and sends help through TMS Global CCW Hannah Palmer.* Here, Palmer shares the story of the young woman, Oksana.*

There is a woman from Ukraine named Oksana. She was pregnant and ended up in Amsterdam because of everything happening in Ukraine. While in Amsterdam, somebody she knew in the Middle East called her and told her she should come to this country.

“I’ll take care of your stay and everything else for you,” he told her. “Just carry a package for me.”

Oksana took the package, and got arrested at the airport because the package contained drugs. So she was in prison, HIV positive, and pregnant in a country where she didn’t speak the language.

She ended up in a public governmental hospital to give birth. A local prison ministry leader who I’m close with called me and asked me to visit Oksana in the hospital. I grabbed baby formula and a meal and a bottle of water. I said, “All right, that sounds easy to do. I can leave the stuff and go.”

When I got to the hospital, nobody would tell me where Oksana was. It was during a Muslim holiday so there was barely any staff. There were barely any nurses, and no air conditioning. Just open beds.

In the labor section there were women on beds in pain, and nobody was paying attention to them. I was carrying the formula and other things asking any person I could see, even the women on the beds, “Do you know where the Ukrainian woman is?”

They said, “Why are you here? Who are you?” I replied, “I'm just from the church, just bringing stuff.”

After a half an hour of going up and down the stairs and sweating, finally, one doctor saw me from down the hallway and came up to me. Oftentimes the Lord draws people to us. She said, “What do you want?” I told her and she led me to a room. There was Oksana handcuffed to the bed with her baby, by herself in isolation.

I had no idea when it was that anybody had even seen her last.

I don't speak Ukrainian. So I called a friend of mine who's a Ukrainian worker in my country, and they talked on the phone. Oksana was crying and sharing her story. We get a lot of stories about people like her, people tricked into carrying drugs and ending up in prison. But for some reason, with Oksana, I really believed her. She said, “I feel so stupid that I would accept a package without looking into it.” It felt like such an unfair situation to be in with the baby.

Then a hospital staff woman came in. When you're in these kinds of situations, you're just in constant prayer, like, “Lord, tell me what to do. Tell me what to say, and also make me aware of the spiritual forces around that are wanting to discourage this from happening.”

For me the hospital staff woman felt like the voice of the enemy in the room because she was looking at me with eyes filled with hatred and asking me why I was there.

She said, “You’re not allowed to give this lady a phone. She's a prisoner. What are you doing? You're going to get arrested.”

Half an hour later, about seven large guards opened the door and said, “Who are you?”

I told them I was with the church. They said, “Tell her to get dressed. We're going back to prison now.” Oksana was happy because at least she got to go back to prison where there's community, and she wouldn’t be isolated in a room by herself in a hospital that doesn't have any staff.

The following week we visited her in prison. I brought my Ukrainian friend. Oksana asked for a Bible. She’s just ready. It's usually at rock bottom that people say, “I need Jesus now.” So it's a great time to talk with them about Him. Now Oksana reads Psalms at night when she can’t sleep.

We know from past experience when women give birth to babies in prison here, Middle Eastern women in prison will take them and raise them up in Muslim teaching. They receive a lot of support from Muslim organizations outside prison to raise the child up in Muslim teaching.

I really felt like we needed to make sure that wasn’t going to happen with Oksana’s baby.

Praise God, somebody from church asked to support Oksana and bring diapers and formula and also make sure that workers are going there and teaching Oksana and the baby the ways of Jesus.

According to law here, the baby will stay in prison with Oksana for two and a half years before a family member should come and take that baby.

I think if I were hearing this story, I would think it was traumatic and intense. But in the difficult moments, I find that God provides the grace I need. Along with obeying Him comes His sustenance, carrying me and protecting me.

Hannah Palmer says she feels deep joy and satisfaction when she must completely lean on God rather than her own strength. Palmer reminds us that the Word is alive within us, working in us. From hospital beds to prison cells and everywhere else, when God calls us somewhere, He’s already there.

*Pseudonyms are used for security reasons.