Excerpts from The Gospel in Bonds Part 3
In the Soviet Gulags: Imprisoned for His Faith
May God use this wonderful book to equip you for the times ahead.
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"The blood of the martyrs is the seed of the Church."
Tertullian, 1st century AD
"...if ye suffer for righteousness' sake, happy are ye; and be not afraid of their terror, neither be troubled; but sanctify the Lord in your hearts; and be ready always to give an answer to every man that asketh you a reason for the hope that is in you..." 1 Peter 3:14-15
Through the centuries, suffering has been an undeniable part of Christian life around the world. As God's Word reminds us again and again, spiritual warfare is a reality whether we believe it or not. Remember the struggles the early disciples faced as they traveled to distant places to share God's Word and minister to unbelievers. While countless new converts were filled with the joy of God's presence, the hostile masses had little tolerance for the "new religion." Cruel torture and death were a common reality in that ancient world which despised Biblical Christianity.
Today, as America is fast turning its back to God and His Word, we need to prepare our own hearts and minds to stand uncompromisingly loyal to our Shepherd and King. Remember, while God watches over His people, the enemy is not idle. Throughout history, Satan has been stirring up war and hatred around the world, and his primary target has been the faithful Christians who follow our Lord.
Georgi Vins grew up in the midst of that spiritual battle. While his father, Peter Vins, faced death for sharing his faith in a harsh Siberian work camp, our Lord was preparing Georgi for a similar ministry. His tests and trials may seem unique to Communist Russia with its cruel prison camps, but they teach us many lessons we need to learn in order to truly serve our King, spread His World, and draw new believers into His Kingdom.
Georgi's aging mother was determined to see her imprisoned son once again. Trusting God, she traveled through much of Siberia and finally reached the work camp where she said her final goodbye. But she continued to write him letters like the one below:
"My warmest kisses! How is your health? ... Your road is hard. I know, bitter moments of loneliness come, when it seems you are on the point of falling beneath the weight of the cross. Do not despair but rather be assured at such times that the sun is shining behind the storm-clouds....
"May God preserve you! Amid all adversities may He protect your soul from evil and guard your life in compete well-being. I pray for this constantly, with tears in my eyes. Let us entrust ourselves to Him, the Guardian of our souls. Let us set our hope on Him. Our breath and our life are in His hands." Your Mother.(1)
Spreading God's Word through Victor's Gospel (From chapter 4)
Early Sunday morning all prisoners were ordered to take our personal belonging to the square in the center to the camp.... We laid our meager possessions on the ground in front of the soldiers. As we stood at attention, the 21 soldiers sifted through the piles and frisked each prisoner.... Some were strip-searched by the officers or KGB workers....
I was one of those searched by KGB officers. They went through all of my papers, my bedding, and footwear. Each seam of clothing was carefully felt as though they were looking for something specific.
Just as my search was completed, an officer in the opposite corner cried out, "A Gospel! A Gospel!" triumphantly waving the tiny book above his head. It was Victor's.
A camp official ran to Victor. "This is forbidden! Where did you get it? Who gave it to you?"
Victor just stood with his hands hanging limp at his sides. His face was pale. The other officers gathered excitedly around the Gospel.
One of them pointed at me. 'That Baptist just got here and already he's spreading religious propaganda!'
Another officer approached me holding the Gospel. "Is this yours?"
"So how did it get here? Who brought it in?"
I kept silent.
"Why don't you speak?" he asked irritably.
"What crime is it to have a Gospel?" I asked. 'It's God's Word. It's a book of grace and offers salvation to all people."
The officers again examined the Gospel, reading verses aloud. Just then the camp's highest-ranking KGB officer came.
"What's going on?" he asked. Someone handed him the Gospel. Slowly he turned the pages. He looked first at Victor, then at me, then back at Victor.
"So, whose Gospel is this, and how did it get into camp?"
No one spoke or even moved as the prisoners stood at attention....
It's mine," Victor said at last. "My aunt gave it to me when she came to visit last year."
The officers didn't believe him. But the search was now over and the prisoner returned to their barracks. A group of officers stayed behind, huddled around the little gospel, reading verses aloud.
Don't worry," Victor whispered as we walked back to our barracks. "I'll get another Gospel. I'll even get one for you!"
I pointed to the officers still looking at the little book. "They need to know about Christ, too. It's probably the first time in their lives they've ever held a Gospel."
Word about the Gospel quickly spread through the camp. Everyone though it was mine. Many prisoners asked me what was written in it. Most of them had never even seen a Bible....
The most frequent questions I was asked were "Who is Jesus Christ? What does the Gospel say about life after death?" Before long, a small group of prisoners wanted me to teach them more about the Gospel.
"Oh, if we only had a Gospel of our own!" they mourned. "What you're saying is really interesting, but it would be so much better if we could read it ourselves!"
I prayed that God would prepare a way to bring His Word into our camp. I had no idea that greater difficulties lay ahead for me, especially after they found Victor's Gospel. (pp. 30-32)
"In Thee, O Lord, do I put my trust;
let me never be put to confusion.
Deliver me in thy righteousness.
...incline thine ear unto me, and save me.
Be thou my strong habitation,
whereunto I may continually resort;
Thou hast given commandment to save me,
For Thou art my rock and my fortress."
The second verse of the following hymn brings reminders of the joy and wonder of living each day with our Lord!
All the way my Savior leads me
Cheers each winding path I tread,
Gives me grace for every trial,
Feeds me with the living bread.
Though my weary steps may falter,
And my soul athirst may be,
Gushing from the Rock before me;
Lo a spring of joy I see. (2)
1. Georgi Vins, Three Generations of Suffering (Hodder and Stoughton, London, Sydney, Toronto, 1975), 63-64.
2.Hymn: "All the way my Savior leads me," written by the beloved blind hymn writer, Fanny Crosby.
3. Georgi Vins, The Gospel in Bonds, (Lighthouse Trails Publishing, Eureka, Montana) 30-32.
Excerpts from The Gospel in Bonds - Part 1 and Part 2