Michael Taut stepped into Virginia Prodan’s office to kill her. He stepped out weeping.
Growing up a Romanian Communist Party enthusiast under the regime of Dictator Nicolae Ceausescu, Michael was recruited to police traineeship after high school. As a police officer, Michael says he was best at spying and placing false documents in people's homes and workplaces, then arresting and torturing them.
"While in my custody, they all either confessed or died," he says in the afterword of Virginia's memoir, Saving my Assassin.
Michael had been sent to Virginia's office to kill her. At first, he says, he thought about strangling her but decided it would be more fun to scare her by showing her his gun.
Virginia was taken aback by how large the man was. She remembers the sneer that formed on the corner of his mouth and the eyes that seemed to bore a hole straight through her as he slowly pulled out his gun.
"I watched Virginia's reaction ecstatically," Michael recalls. "She was scared; I could read it on her face."
Virginia had made herself a target of Ceausescu's regime by becoming a Christian in the staunchly Communist country.
But she decided it was worth the risk.
Virginia was born with a desire for truth and freedom despite growing up in a land of lies and imprisonment.
She looked for the truth in law, in the government, in the justice system... Eventually, she found it at church.
"I am the way, the truth, and the life," Jesus says in the Bible book of John chapter 14 verse 6. "No one comes to the Father except through me."
"I suddenly realized," Virginia tells Christianity Today, "that truth was something that came not from law books, but from God himself: the Creator of the universe – my Creator, the source of all life, peace, and happiness."
She had found the truth, and now she would dedicate her life to speaking it. "No matter what the cost," she says.
And the cost was great.
"I was put on the list of the secret police," she says, the Securitate that enforced Ceausescu's rules. "I was interrogated daily, I was followed by the secret police. They threatened that I would be killed or my children would be killed."
She maintains it was all worth it. "I consider the most important thing in life to be to stand up and fight for freedom. If you don't fight because you are scared you will lose something, you will lose everything you have including freedom."
Still, she almost did lose everything.
On the day Michael entered her office to kill her, Virginia remembers "My hands shook. Fight-or-flight instincts pinged in my brain. My chin trembled.
"I was alone with my killer. And yet, I was not. I began silent, fervent prayers, recalling God's promises. His Spirit breathed peace into my panicked heart. Then I sensed his message: Share the gospel."
"As Virginia calmly shared the gospel with me," says Michael, "I was the one who was frightened – frightened of the peace and the power that came from such a petite person.
"And before I knew what was happening, I was overwhelmed by the love embedded in every word Virginia said. I don't know how she did it, but she made me want her God to be my God. Then she prayed for me.
"After I left Virginia's office, I started crying and thanking God for loving me. I cried so hard I could barely see. I lost control of my car and woke up in hospital."
Years later Michael met up with Virginia for lunch. He had gone on to join the seminary and his son had become a pastor.
"My intention was to kill Virginia," Michael says, "but God's intention was to breathe life into me through her."
Virginia is now an author and speaker using every opportunity to continue to share the message that saved both her and Michael that day.
"[Michael], like me, has found the Truth," Virginia says. "And neither of us will be afraid to speak it ever again."•