A True Story From Russia…
The young father and husband had been arrested for teaching the Bible to others …
He had recently been saved – a miracle in itself – and began to read a Bible that he had obtained – a second miracle in Communist Russia
He began to teach his wife and children the Scriptures – reading them together late at night and discussing them together … they received Jesus
In time neighbours joined them, and then more neighbours … until the house was full every night – people hungry to hear the Word of God … and they got saved
It’s like reading a story straight from the pages of the book of Acts
He was arrested – just a believer, not a pastor nor a leader – and moved a thousand kilometres away from his family and locked up in a prison because he was influencing people for the Kingdom
His cell was so tiny that when he got out of bed, it took but a single step either to get to the door of his cell, to reach the stained and cracked sink mounted on the opposite wall, our to use foul smelling open toilet in the “far” corner of the cell. Even worse, he was the only believer among fifteen hundred hardened criminals.
He said that his isolation from the body of Christ – his house church – was far more difficult than even the physical torture. And there was much of that. Still, his tormentors were unable to break him. Dmitri (not his real name) pointed to two reasons for his strength in the face of torture.
There were two spiritual habits that he had learned and that he took with him into prison. Without these two disciplines, Dmitri insisted, his faith would not have survived.
For seventeen years in prison, every morning at daybreak, Dmitri would stand at attention by his bed. As was his custom, he would face the east, raise his arms in praise to God, and then he would sing a HeartSong to Jesus
HeartSong … a song he had learned that was very meaningful to him and expressed his heart and his love for the Lord
The reaction of the other prisoners was predictable.
Dmitri recounted the laughter, the cursing, the jeers. The other prisoners banged metal cups against the iron bars in angry protest. They threw food and sometimes human waste to try to shut him up and extinguish the only true light shining in that dark place every morning at dawn.
There was another discipline too, another custom that Dmitri told me about. Whenever he found a scrap of paper in the prison, he would sneak it back to his cell. There he would pull out a stub of a pencil or a tiny piece of charcoal that he had saved, and he would write on that scrap of paper, as tiny as he could, all the Bible verses and scriptural stories or songs that he could remember. When the scrap was completely filled, he would walk to the corner of this little jail cell where there was a concrete pillar that constantly dripped water — except in the wintertime when the moisture became a solid coat of ice on the inside surface of his cell. Dmitri would take the paper fragment, reach as high as he possibly could, and stick it on the damp pillar as a praise offering to God.
Of course, whenever one of his jailers spotted the piece of paper on the pillar, he would come into his cell, take it down, read it, beat him severely, and threaten him with death. Still, Dmitri refused to stop his two disciplines.
Every day, he rose at dawn to sing his song. And every time he found a scrap of paper, he filled it with Scripture and praise.
This went on year after year after year. His guards tried to make him stop. The authorities did unspeakable things to his family. At one point, they even led him to believe that his wife had been murdered and that his children had been taken by the state.
They taunted him cruelly, “We have ruined your home. Your family is gone.”
Dmitri’s resolve finally broke. He told God that he could not take any more. He admitted to his guards, “You win! I will sign any confession that you want me to sign. I must get out of here to find where my children are.”
They told Dmitri, “We will prepare your confession tonight, and then you will sign it tomorrow. Then you will be free to go.” After all those years, the only thing that he had to do was sign his name on a document saying that he was not a believer in Jesus and that he was a paid agent of western government trying to destroy the USSR. Once he put his signature on that dotted line, he would be free to go.
Dmitri repeated his intention:”Bring it tomorrow and I will sign it.”
That very night he sat on his jail cell bed. He was in deep despair, grieving the fact that he had given up. At that same moment, a thousand kilometres away his family — Dmitri’s wife, his children who were growing up without him, and his brother — sensed through the Holy Spirit the despair of this man in prison. His loved ones gathered around the very place where I was now sitting as Dmitri told me his story. They knelt in a circle and began to pray out loud for him. Miraculously, the Holy Spirit of the Living God allowed Dmitri to hear the voices of his loved ones as they prayed.
The next morning, when the guards marched into his cell with the documents, Dmitri’s back was straight. His shoulders were squared and there was strength on his face and in his eyes. He looked at his captors and declared, “I am not signing anything!”
The guards were incredulous. They had thought that he was beaten and destroyed. “What happened?” They demanded to know.
Dmitri smiled and told them, “In the night, God let me hear the voices of my wife and my children and my brother praying for me. You lied to me! I now know that my wife is alive and physically well. I know that my sons are with her. I also know that they are all still in Christ. So I am not be signing anything!”
His persecutors continued to discourage and silence him. Dmitri remained faithful., He was overwhelmed one day by a special gift from God’s hand. In the prison yard, he found a whole sheet of paper. “And God,” Dmitri said, “had laid a pencil beside it!”
Dmitri went on, “I rushed back to my jail cell and I wrote every Scripture reference, every Bible verse, every story, and every song I could recall.”
“I knew that it was probably foolish,” Dmitri told me, “but I couldn’t help myself. I filled both sides of the paper with as much of the Bible as I could. I reached up and stuck the entire sheet on that wet concrete pillar. Then I stood up and looked at it: to me it seemed like the greatest offering I could give to Jesus from my prison cell. Of course, my jailor saw it. I was beaten and punished. I was threatened with execution.”
Dmitri was dragged from his cell. As he was dragged down the corridor in the center of the prison, the strangest thing happened. Before they reached the door leading to the courtyard — before stepping out into the place of execution — fifteen hundred hardened criminals raised their arms and began to sing the HeartSong that they had heard Dmitri sing to Jesus every morning for all those years.
Dmitri’s jailers instantly released their hold on his arms and stepped away from him in terror.
One of them demanded to know, “Who are you?” Dmitri straightened his back and stood as tall and as proud as he could.
He responded: “I am a son of the Living God, and Jesus is His Name!”
The guards returned him to his cell. Sometime later, Dmitri was released and he returned to his family.
Sounds so much like some of the stories we read in the Book of Acts. It seems that God is still doing what He did back then … we simply need to believe and obey.