The next thing I remember was sitting in a hard wooden chair in a cold and dismal room. Everything happened so fast, it was this quiet time that allowed me to collect my thoughts and put the pieces together that brought me here.
I was in an interrogation room in Almaty, Kazakhstan.
In the corner was a man in a uniform as bland as the room we were in. He just stood there staring at me with a scowl on his face. Another man walked in and whispered in his ear without a glance in my direction and then left. He whispered not so that I could not hear him—because I don’t speak Russian, but whispered so as not to change the mood or atmosphere of the room.
They didn’t speak English and they were waiting for an interrogator who did, meantime they just stared at me like a dangerous criminal—but this time was a gift of God for me to collect my thoughts and courage.
A smile ever so slight began on my face, a realization that I was suffering for righteousness sake, suffering for Christ. The suffering hadn’t really begun yet, but the Lord had brought me to this point and I was sure He was going to accompany me thought it.
My crime—doing the Lord’s will. It is a crime in Kazakhstan to talk about the Word of God without a permit or do anything else God related without a state permit. I was in Almaty with my husband on a business trip. While he was off doing his business, I was off doing mine. I brought 10 booklets with me called “God and Reason” in Russian. My business, my mission was to place those booklets in the five days we were in the country. I didn’t plan to hand them to anyone personally, but to place them in places where they could be found by whomever the Lord directed. I call it stealth tracting. Apparently I was not as stealthy as I thought, because they knew it was me.
Recently I have been thinking on different scriptures which convicted me of my cowardice and inactivity. I had just spent 10 days in the Netherlands and passed out a dismal amount of tracts. The Lord gave me the opportunity to be there and I failed, I was determined to do better.
When my husband told me he had to go to Kazakhstan on business and asked if I wanted to go, I immediately said, “No way!” I had thought as one of the ex-Russian “stans” it was predominately Muslim and I was just not interested in visiting a country anything like Iran. But as I lie in bed that night, the Lord changed my mind and I began to get excited about the prospect. A chance of redemption for my previous failure in Amsterdam. I felt my trip had a purpose outside of the opportunity to take lots of pretty pictures.
I was admonished to “obey the laws of the land”, but do I obey man nor God? That was the same question Peter and John put to the Pharisees, and they chose God. God says to use our time wisely when we are with the unbelievers…this scripture recently came to my attention and was one that convicted me.
“Never give up praying. And when you pray, keep alert and be thankful. Be sure to pray that God will make a way for us to spread his message and explain the mystery about Christ, even though I am in jail for doing this. Please pray that I will make the message as clear as possible. When you are with unbelievers, always make good use of the time. Be pleasant and hold their interest when you speak the message. Choose your words carefully and be ready to give answers to anyone who asks questions.” (Col 4:2-6)
I cannot shake the message in these verses. It was Paul’s commission and really it is for everyone who calls the name of Christ.
Now, I am in prison, like Paul. Now, I pray that I make good use of the time, be pleasant and hold their interest when I speak the message as they are beating me. I added the last part, speaking from the experience I was going through.
I barely had time settle these verses in my mind when the man they were waiting for came in. I don’t know why they waited as he did more hitting than he did speaking, or rather yelling. I didn’t really feel the pain as he was hitting me, that would come later. I couldn’t understand what he was saying, but I remember a feeling come over me and it made me smile and I said “Thank you.”
He was a bit perplexed and straightened up and repeated back to me what I said, and asked why I said it.
As the blood ran down my face, I smiled again and hoarsely said, “Thank you,” again. “Thank you for allowing me to suffer for Christ” “Thank you for such a blessing.”
He was not expecting that response and was taken back a little.
“I thought I was a failure, but you gave me hope.”
A Joy to Your Mother
Another man who can come in with him, no so impressed by what I had to say, stepped up and thought to get indecently familiar with me, because he didn’t think I should be so happy about the proceedings.
My conversation shifted to meet this new situation and I told him that his mother must be really proud of the man he had become. He cringed and this allowed me to continue. “what would she think of you if she knew what things you did?
He was a little shamefaced, but still determined.
I said she will know everything you have done and will see it done, so there will be no denying it.
He was a little confused and asked for clarification.
We are told not to think ahead of time what we will say, but to allow God’s Holy Spirit to work. I certainly was in no condition to do any deep thinking and so had to leave all to God.
“Everything that is hidden will be found out, and every secret will be known. Whatever you say in the dark will be heard when it is day. Whatever you whisper in a closed room will be shouted from the housetops.”(Luk 12:2-3)
I said, “Your mother will know the deeds you have done and be ashamed of you. The whole world will know and see you do it in the future and you will be ashamed.”
“I know, I will roast for eternity in hell for being so evil.”
“Oh, no!”, I laughed. “You will not go to a burning hell, because there is no such place. You and everyone you love and hurt will come back in the resurrection and you will have to face them all.”
He had never heard this concept before (because no one is allowed to speak of the Bible without a permit and the only ones who can speak about God is the Russian Orthodox Church.)
He was a bit confused now and allowed me to continue.
“A day is coming when you will have to beg forgiveness to all your victims. Everyone will know what you have done, even your mother, wife and children.”
“And when will this be?”
“In the Kingdom”
“Are you familiar with the Lord’s Prayer: “Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven?”
“You sound like one of those Jehovah’s Witnesses.”
“I am not a Jehovah’s Witness.
“In the kingdom all will be made known. You will have to ask forgiveness from your victims and from God—because He is not mocked, you will reap what you sow.
“Man is just like a computer. Our thoughts and experiences can be downloaded onto a disc and put into another person’s mind. You will experience the pain and torment you have caused others through their eyes, only it will be you experiencing what you put them though. You will either repent or be wiped out of existence.”
Before he had a chance to say anything another voice came from the darkened corner of the room. I hadn’t noticed him there before, but he seems to have been there a while, taking in all that had gone on before.
“What about me? I don’t believe in your God.”
“He is not MY God!” I responded.
He didn’t seem to understand my statement, so I continued.
“He doesn’t take orders from me, He is not MY God. He is the only God and I am His.”
While he was thinking on that statement, it afforded me an opportunity to continue.
“You are the most miserable of all. You have no hope of anything after this life. You only have this life and you spend it making other’s lives a nightmare. You believe they have no afterlife as well, so the only life they have, you have taken from them. What a horrible waste of life on all accounts.”
The interrogation was over for the moment, I had given them all something to think about. I was in a nation that did not speak English, in a nation where I did not speak Russian, but the Lord found me three people who could understand me, and allowed me to be a witness.
Time to Reflect
I sat on a cot in the recesses of a cold concrete room. The blood drying on my face pulling it taut and the pain beginning to set in. The incident in the interrogation room seeming like an out of body experience it was so surreal.
As I sat against the cold wall in the dark, for the only light came from a small hole in the door where I could be watched, I felt a warmth come over me. I had read about this warmth from a fellow Christian prisoner who was imprisoned for her faith in Soviet Russia many years ago. She identified the warmth as a hug from God through the prayers of the brethren.
I had only been imprisoned for a few hours, how could the brethren be praying for me already? I took that precaution before I left the States. I asked for the brethren to pray for me. I sent a card out across my circles to those I am in regular contact with and told them what my plans were and that I needed prayers for strength, courage and direction. They came through, I could actually feel them. I have heard others say, they have felt the prayers of the brethren, but never really knew what that meant—perhaps because I was never in such a condition before. The prayers of the brethren felt wonderful and gave me courage and strength as I sat there. It also brought to mind the two parables in Matthew 25. First being the parable of the Sheep and the Goats. One of the traits of the goat class is that they did not visit their brethren in prison. I get it now. I was visited by my brethren, just now. It doesn’t have to be a physical visit, but one more important, prayer.
Then I began to think of the parable of the Wise and Foolish Virgins which comes first in that chapter. The Foolish ask for more oil. For years we have discussed what that oil might be—maybe I am wrong, but in my case it is the Spirit, It’s not doctrinal understanding—because when that parable begins to take place the time for study is over—it’s time for action. The dark night had already set in (and for the moment it had set in for me as well)—there is no more work, there is only standing. I think I had been studying and searching for the oil for many years without knowing what it was. I had studied the Reformers and brethren of the past who stood for their faith through such terrible circumstances, but they stood! What caused them to stand so firm?
I have asked that question for years and finally I came to the conclusion it was their extreme love and devotion to God. Was, I at that point? I never felt so. The Foolish in my so called epiphany on this subject are asking the Wise for whatever it is that makes them so strong—because they are so afraid. They were not asking for any prophetic understanding, but for strength of character. The Wise did not have time to give them the pep-talk and the hugs needed to encourage them—they were about to die for the Lord. Character cannot be built in an instant, it takes a lot of work.
My journey in this new direction only began a short time ago. I had a firm grasp on prophetic matters, but what I was sorely missing was the heart.
It was the New Testament scriptures that started taking on a new light for me, especially when I started looking at Bible Versions that were more modern. We had a discussion at study one day on what the Apostle Paul said:
1Co 15:19 If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men most miserable.
We began to discuss that if there was nothing more than the current life, are we most miserable? We all said we were not, and wouldn’t regret being a Christian if there was no future reward. I thought on that. Why did Paul say he would be of ALL men MOST miserable? Why? Because he was not sitting behind the safety of his computer studying the Word of God, or debating with non-Christians or brethren alike from the comfort of his own home. No! He was out in the trenches actually doing something. He was facing people daily and telling them about Jesus and the Hope. He wasn’t leaving stealth tracts and hoping someone would find them. He was getting spit on for Jesus, he was getting beaten and stoned for spreading the Gospel—and he was OK with that and I was afraid to hand someone a tract because they might not want it. Of course, I wouldn’t be most miserable if there was no hope of a resurrection—because I wasn’t doing anything!
The Apostle Paul asked the brethren to pray for him and his witnessing. He was an expert at it, but he allowed the brethren to enter into his life—He didn’t feel he could do everything by himself, but needed the brethren.
“Never give up praying. And when you pray, keep alert and be thankful. Be sure to pray that God will make a way for us to spread His message and to explain the mystery about Christ…Please pray that I make the message as clear as possible. When you are with unbelievers, always make good use of the time. Be pleasant and hold their interest when you speak the message. Choose your words carefully and be ready to give answers to anyone who asks questions.” Col. 4:2-6
“Let the message about Christ completely fill your lives, while you use all your wisdom to teach and instruct each other. With thankful hearts, sing psalms, hymns and spiritual songs to God. Whatever you say or do should be done in the name of the Lord Jesus, as you give thanks to God the Father because of him.” Col. 3:16,17
Every moment of the day, Paul devoted himself to spreading God’s Word, the living for Christ. He wasn’t balanced—he was unleashed. He is our example of what a Christian should be. When I held myself up to him, all I could see is how lazy and afraid I was.
I sought to change myself. Baby steps, one thing at a time. I started by taking a more active interest in my brethren. Praying for them, remembering them, daily, weekly. I then would ask the Lord for scriptures to share—this Colossians scripture being one of them. I would write these scriptures over and over and praying that the Lord would get them into my head and heart.
I noticed my fears dissipating when I made a resolve to do something. It started with General Convention. I wasn’t afraid of the convention, I was afraid of two people who I had issue with some moral teaching they were putting forth. I told the Lord, I was afraid, but that I knew He was stronger than me and He would be my strength.
This scripture helped me to come to Lord a few times and when I did the fear went away.
“Never worry about anything. Instead in every situation let your petitions be made known to God through prayers and requests, with thanksgiving. Then God’s peace, which goes far beyond anything we can imagine, will guard your hearts and minds in union with Christ Jesus.” Phil 4:6,7
It happened at General Convention and then again when asked to go to the convention in Germany. I was in Amsterdam with Brendan, where he was working. Going to the convention meant, I was going alone, in a strange country, in a strange airport—I could get lost and miss my plane—Oh the horrors! I wanted to go. I told the Lord I was afraid, and then I made plans to go and He took the fear from me. I knew I was going to make it just fine and never feared about it again—and it did go just fine and I had a wonderful time.
Fear is a terrible thing, it prevents us from living. We see or hear of people who can’t even leave their own houses because of fears. To a certain extent we all suffer the same malady. Fear prevents us from doing something. Fear prevents me from openly sharing the Gospel with people—that is a fear I am working on. I have been more determined to actually hand someone a tract, rather than just leave it somewhere.
I did it a few times in Amsterdam, but I still came home with more tracts than I should have. Our class had a booth at the local Harvest Festival in downtown Boaz. I have no problems handing out tracts and talking there. I have done it many times, so what is the difference? The difference is they are coming to you, knowing that you are there to talk about God. I am not meeting them in the street or store or whatnot. That fear is one I am struggling to overcome. That fear is what made me so determined to prove myself in Almaty. While I could not discuss things with people on the street because of the language barrier, I was determined to be less afraid.
When you are in such extreme situations your mind races through your life and reflects—did I do this right or that, and then there are the what ifs. I have an over active mind in the first place, so many of these things already passed through there before I even left. It was part of my prayerful consideration of what I would be doing on this trip. I counted the cost before I left. I knew the risks, and I packed my bags.