From A Small Price to Pay (Part 2)
By Harvey Yoder
Part 1: Papa is Taken
Part 3: Misha's Choice
In this chapter, Misha is eleven years old. You may want to read the first seven chapters of his amazing testimony together as a family.
I really don’t remember just where we got food. For a while we used the coupons the Czech colonel had given us, but they eventually were no longer valid. So we begged and scrounged for food in any way we could. I remember being hungry most of the time. All of us were. But we did not often talk about it. We wandered around in a kind of stupor, trying to stay alive.
During all this time, Mama made sure our spiritual education did not suffer. She not only taught us the truth of God, she lived it. For several months, we lived in Kirghizia with an elderly woman we called Auntie Natasha. I do not remember how it happened that we got to stay with her, but I remember something that happened one night while we were there.
“Good night!” Auntie Natasha called to us as she went to her room.
“Good night, Auntie!” we all called out to her.
Mother turned to us. “Come, children, it is time for our prayers. But before we pray, do any of you have anything on your conscience? You must not come to God in prayer if you have done something wrong and not confessed it.” With kindness, Mama looked at each of us in turn. Every night, she urged us to search our consciences.
As an eleven-year-old boy, I had to be extra careful. There were so many temptations. Sometimes I was so tired of trying to be good and not grouch at my sisters or murmur about our sad lot in life. So I was reluctant that night to look deep into my heart and see if there was something there I needed to repent of .
“Have you been unkind to someone? Are you free from all sinful secrets?” Her words, gentle yet firm, penetrated deep into my
“You know, dear children, if you pray the Lord’s Prayer and you say, ‘Hallowed be thy name,’ you are calling God holy. Yet, if we do not want to be free from sin, we cannot come before a holy God. It would be better to skip that phrase than to acknowledge that God is holy while we are black and sinful and don’t want to change.”
Mama always made things so real for us. Sometimes she would talk about forgiveness and point out how necessary it was to forgive others, just as Jesus forgives us. This evening, she wanted us to see the holiness of God.
Unbidden, a scene came into my memory. I lowered my eyes.
“Our Father,” we all began, “which art in heaven.” Mama and the girls prayed the next phrase, “Hallowed be thy name.” I could not say the words. But as soon as we were past that place, I joined in again. “Thy kingdom come, thy will be done. . .“ We prayed all the way to the end.
I had a place to sleep in a small room off the hall. “Misha!” I heard my mother’s voice after I was in bed.
“Yes, Mama,” I answered.
“I want to talk to you,” she said softly.
I went out into the hail. I could see my mother in the dim light, waiting for me.
“Son, when we prayed, you did not pray, ‘Hallowed be thy name.’ Is something bothering you?”
I hung my head and nodded, miserable.
“Tell me about it,” she urged gently.
“I was in the root cellar today and I took two tomatoes from the pickling barrel and ate them.”
Mama was silent. Then she asked, “Did you have permission?”
I shook my head.
“Then,” she said kindly, “you must go tell Auntie Natasha what you did.”
I sighed deeply. All of my being recoiled from going to our kind benefactor and telling her what I had done. What if she would make us leave? Would she ask what else I had stolen? Would she believe me if I said the pickled tomatoes were the only things I had taken? My mind whirled in dizzying thoughts.
“Go now, my son,” Mama said firmly.
What Mama said was law. Slowly I went and knocked on Aunt Natasha’s door. She must have been surprised to hear me. She opened the door. “What do you want?”
“Today I took two pickled tomatoes from the root cellar. I am sorry, for I did not have permission.”
She was silent. Had she understood my mumbled words?
“Go back to bed. Tell your mother to come in.” Her voice was not upset. I heaved a sigh of relief and left.
“She wants to talk to you,” I told Mama, who had been waiting in the hall.
As she passed me, Mother patted my head. She went into Aunt Natasha’s room and shut the door. I went back to bed.
From that time on, Aunt Natasha urged us to eat food from the root cellar in addition to the food we already had. She called us her family and did what she could for us.
Mama kept our consciences tender even during these hard times. She was careful never to neglect teaching us what was right and wrong.
“Aunt Natasha told me that she had never known that there were children who would apologize for taking food,” Mama told us later. “I told her it was because we know about God and His holiness that we live this way. We talked for a long time about God and the Bible.”
In this way, we survived our exile from Leningrad. Though there were very difficult times, sometimes our situation did improve. Once we thought we had actually found a place to stay for a long time. Mother got a job in a sugar factory, and we even had a room of our own during that time. But that summer, locusts ate the crop and the refinery shut down. The bread ration cards were still issued, but none of the bread stores honored them.
We heard rumors of jobs in other areas, and once we even went to Poltava oblast in Ukraine because we were told there were jobs there. But we did not stay. Too many other people had already traveled there, and Mama could not find work.
We existed. There were times we walked barefoot in the snow and looked starvation in the face. We wandered for miles, ever hunting for food and shelter. Somehow we survived. In 1946, we returned to Leningrad.
Those times were not easy. But looking back, I cherish the memories of the times I saw the faith of my mother at work. If her faith in God ever grew dim, I do not know of it. She was always the same, thanking God for His “very great love for us” and always making sure that she taught us all she knew about God. Her life and her words have been a very great example to my sisters and me all through our lives. For this, I thank God.
"For our light affliction, which is but for a moment [in light of eternity], is working for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory, while we do not look at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen. For the things which are seen are temporary, but the things which are not seen are eternal."
2 Corinthians 4:16-18
In a world that is fast rejecting God's Word or twisting His Truth, we need to prepare for unthinkable challenges to our faith and families. This book will help us stand firm in Christ and gratefully "pay the small price" of suffering with Him! Like a beacon of light ahead of us waits an eternity of joy with Him!
I suggest you order at least ten of these books and share with your friends and relatives, so that they, too, may be encouraged and equipped for the times ahead. (That's what I did) The book is available through Lighthousetrails.com