Testament From Prison by Georgi Vins is one of those life-changing books and powerful pieces of literature that never got the recognition it deserves. This book is a collection of stories, personal letters, sermons, and poetry written by Russian Christians and martyrs which were smuggled out of the Soviet Union before 1975. Some of the people referred to in the book were still in prison at the time the book was printed. Much of the book focuses on the story of the Vins family, a Russian Christian family who remained faithful to Christ throughout decades of persecution.
The book begins with the story of Peter Vins, an American citizen who voluntarily chose to return to his motherland in the 1920′s in order to preach and suffer with his Russian brothers and sisters in Christ. He married and had a son, Georgi, who would also follow in his fatherís footsteps along the path of preaching and imprisonment. Peter Vins was shot in a Soviet labor camp in 1937. Portions of his sermons are preserved in this book. Also included is a short poem he wrote from prison to his son on his sonís fourth birthday. How many sons receive a gift like this from their fathers? (Please bear with this rather poor translation Ė the original Russian actually rhymes.)
Now you are forced
To suffer for the name of the Lord,
But I pray that you may willingly
Choose the thorny path of Christ.
When the golden days of
Have passed by, and, as a young man,
You turn your clear eyes
Into the lands of your dreams,
Then give up all your
strength of will,
All the dreams of your heart,
Your unpolluted life and destiny-
Everything to His service!
Georgi Vins fulfilled the wishes of his father and gave himself fully to the Lordís service as a minister of Godís Word. The book continues with a collection of Georgi Vinsí letters and poems written from prison. Here are some excerpts from these prison writings:
To My Daughter A quote
I often have a difficult time reading books about Russia because I can see, feel, hear, and smell everything that is described. This book is no exception. Words hardly do justice to the powerful emotions that are communicated in this book. Imagine, for example, the scene of a little boy crying his heart out in his own backyard after watching his father being arrested by the KGB. Or the emotions of a wife sitting down and writing a love letter to a husband she hasnít heard from for nine years. These are the realities of the lives of those who have decided to follow Christ regardless of the cost.
The last section of the book is a collection of the writings of other Russian martyrs and their families. The deeply personal nature of these letters and poems makes this book an incredible treasure. These Christians do not in any way try to hide the cost of following Christ. Yet each one concludes that the cost is worth it. As Georgi Vinsí daughter Natasha said to him on the day he was sentenced to prison, ďNo, Daddy, the church will not die, just as the love of Christ does not die. With Christ you are free in prison. And freedom without Him is prison.Ē
This small paperback book is out of print, but used copies can still be easily found here and there. I would¬ encourage anyone who reads this book not to merely regard it as a collection of interesting stories, but rather as a challenge to the Christians of today to pursue the true freedom of knowing and belonging to Christ.