We turned the curve in the road and stopped for the night in the drizzling rain. It was not a time to rest though, as we stumbled into the darkness of the night, down muddy unlit streets, through the tall wet grass with not much to go by but the pitch blackness ahead. As the odd car or truck would pass on the nearby road, we squatted in the ditch or stood erect behind one of the tall trees that lined the way. We were in Russia.
The realism of it all was not far away as we huddled for a minute holding tight the parcels of Bibles, concordances, and hymn books under our arms to protect them from the dampness.
It was nothing less than the hand of God that had helped us keep them from the eyes of the thorough customs officials. They are usually very careful about even letting one take in their personal Bible and contrary to their own regulations will even confiscate that. God has been good.
We now reached the house that was in darkness and in order to make sure it was the right one, I climbed up on the fence so as to bring my face within inches of the house number.
We had the right number and soon after arousing our brother, we were embraced with warm hugs and kisses of welcome. As joy flooded the face of our brother, there was nothing to show that this precious brother, washed in His blood, baptized in Jesus’ Name, filled with the Holy Ghost, and a father of four, had spent nine years of his young life in prison for his faith in Christ. This brought the life of the Christians in the book of Acts into a new dimension in my life.
We spent a wonderful time of fellowship together and the moments in which we watched the family gather around, opening the parcels which we had brought was very moving. Eyes filled with tears, they wanted to thank us and share with us some of their meager earnings. But on replying to them that it was a gift from God, brother Vlatimer turned his eyes toward heaven and thanked God.
Sometimes these saints meet, several hundred together at a time, in the woods, in homes, and in various places of secret to be able to worship. Bibles are few and many hymn books are written by hand.
One elderly sister once sat across from me and told me how he had prayed for years for a new Bible—hers was worn out completely and many pages were missing. I had only one left which I was using and how I wanted to give it to her, but restrained, because in the same service I knew of a young convert that had just started a walk of faith amidst the mountains of atheism in her country—she had no Bible. After service, we called her aside and slipped the Bible into her hands.
I think of others of our Jesus’ Name brothers and sisters that need help and encouragement, Bibles, and booklets to work with. A concordance is a treasured prize and many have given a month’s wage to get a Bible when the exceptional opportunity would present itself.
There is Brother Ivan who lives near the Black Sea, Brother Alexander in the north near Leningrad, Brother Ivan S. in the center of the country, who pastors many hundreds under extreme conditions and represents the needs of many thousands more.
Then there are brothers in the other Iron Curtain countries, Brother Richard near Warsaw, brothers in Romania and Czechoslovakia. I think especially about our Brother E. who had been under much pressure and finally last summer his church was surrounded by police during a service.
After many hours of questioning and searching each one there, all Bibles, hymn books, spiritual pictures, and even a typewriter, tape player, and cassettes were confiscated. Brother E. was led off to prison.
He was treated like a common criminal, made to wear handcuffs—even at his trial, which was very short. The lawyer representing him did nothing to defend him—nor was he himself allowed to say anything.
Word has been received that Brother E. has just been released a very short time ago. The road for him will not be an easy one nor will it be for the several other groups in the area that continue to meet in secret.
Although all are not faced with prison as some are, the system they live under keeps them (at all times in a “disguised” prison) in which they have very limited religious freedom. Remember what Jesus said in Matthew 25:36, “I was in prison, and ye came unto me.” It is our duty to go to them in prayers and in every way possible.
Several thousand Bibles, New Testaments, concordances, and pieces of literature have been received by these needy and hungry hearts. They are to give away to new believers and to the unsaved.
As several hundred of these have already reached their destination it is hard for us to imagine what it is for them to receive a booklet of this type printed in their own language. This literature is also being translated and printed into other languages. Yet, this is all very little compared to the need there is to be met.
These are brothers and sisters intimate to us! Let us work together with them so that in turn they may win their fellow countrymen to the Lord.