Miracles in the Midst of War

by Paula O’Keefe (published by Sovereign World Ltd)

A Review

If you are a believer and you want to be encouraged…READ THIS BOOK. It’ll strengthen your faith.

If you’re an atheist…I challenge you to READ THIS BOOK and tell me whether you’re still an atheist.

If you are wavering…READ THIS BOOK…for lots of reasons.

We heard Paula O’Keefe speak at a conference in South Wales ten years ago. Who on earth would choose to go to Chechnya in 1996 just after the Russians had bombed it to smithereens? Certainly, this was a lady who’d seen God work in ways that we’d consider utterly extraordinary. But was she utterly mad?

At the conference, I thought so. God has a few special people in his masterclass who do crazy stuff and tell you about miracles that leave you perched on the edge of your seat. But it’s a whole world removed from 21st century England.

Paula’s book bridges the gap. You discover how she was brought up in a disadvantaged home in Hampshire. How she accepted Jesus as a child, how her faith grew as she simply responded to the opportunities in front of her. How she laid her heart out to God in much the same way as Mary, Jesus’ mother. And how God led her, through a series of steps, to Russia and then to Chechnya.

It’s an utterly humbling read. Can you imagine living in a block of flats where most neighbouring properties have been abandoned, and windows are regularly blown in by explosions? You have to improvise to go to the loo, fetch your own water, and be a creative cook with meagre provisions. You’re threatened by young Chechnyan soldiers who fancy ‘entertainment’.

And then there’s the refugee camp where people consider themselves lucky to have a tiny room with very basic facilities. Where the tragedy of family members killed in the conflict blights almost every home. Later in the story, Paula helps provide for a much larger refugee population in a massive ‘tent city’.

And yet, amidst this hardship and darkness, the light shines brightly. Paula has given herself to these people, whose plight breaks her heart. She trusts God with her safety and security, despite almost daily narrow escapes. Gradually, Paula builds a community. In the absence of any effective healthcare, she sees remarkable healings. For example, she prays for a refugee boy who seems lifeless, who’s been diagnosed with cerebral palsy. The next day he’s up walking, running and – for the first time – talking.

Paula somehow organises summer camps for the refugees on the shores of the Caspian Sea. A group of drunken Chechnyan fighters with machine guns invade their worship time and command them to stop. Paula is utterly terrified and cries out to God. Then, like a wave, she’s filled with a peace, authority and the confidence to declare, “How dare you try to stop me worshipping my Jesus!” Apologetically, the fighters leave the room.

Many times, Paula has needed provision for her work, and it’s come in astonishing ways. She’s become increasingly concerned for Russian believers in Chechnya who need a safe place to live outside the country. But how can they do this when they’ve lost everything in the conflict? The leaders of her ‘sending’ church in England unexpectedly call her back home to discuss her work, and whilst there she is encouraged to write a newspaper article. A businessman who isn’t a believer takes an interest and raises £50,000 for her project!

Some of the Paula’s friends have found Jesus Christ in most unusual ways. Many have been born Moslems, in particular the lady who wakes up to find a man in white who says his name is Gabriel, at the foot of her bed! He tells her he has come to bring good news, saying, “Find some believers in Jesus”. Another story begins when Paula and lady friends arrive at a railway station. It feels intimidating to be surrounded by hundreds of playful soldiers with two hours to wait, so Paula’s friend Dasha decides to be bold and to share the gospel with a group of them. The soldiers listen, and one in particular asks to talk further until he accepts Jesus into his life. Later, the same young man uses his influence so they can board the train even though the lady conductor insists it is full up. She relents, letting them share her cabin!


So, did I find Paula’s book built my faith? Very much so – it’s inspiring to know I serve a God who works today just like in the book of Acts. But oh, how it’s challenged me! The door to miracles opens when you’re in a situation where you have your back to the wall. If, like me, you live a relatively comfortable, self-sufficient life, you won’t experience God like Paula.

Nevertheless, we can still be a part of God’s adventure. We can partner with Christians on the ‘front line’, supporting them through prayer, giving and through encouragement. And even amongst our affluence, God loves those times when we take risks. Praying for bodily healing, for miraculous provision, for others to come to faith…

“…and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfector of our faith.” From Hebrews 12 vs 1,2

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