Spreading God's Love
From A Small Price to Pay (Part 7)
"...love one another. By this all will know that you are My disciples..."
2: God provides
4. Obey God?
5. In Prison
As the trial progressed, it seemed to be all about someone else. Was it because so many believers had gone through this before? Or was it the migraine headache threatening to split my skull that gave me this strange sense of unreality?
I had pled with the judge to postpone my trial and let me answer the charges on another day when I felt better, but he denied my request. “No, we have only today. Tomorrow we will hold court for someone else.”
I looked once more at the section where my wife and the believers from our church were gathered. I tried to smile at them, but I may have grimaced more than smiled because of my headache. My time had come. I was indicted on four counts:
holding meetings where children had been present,
singing too loudly
organizing an orchestra, and
not registering meetings with the state.
My head throbbed as the judge pronounced judgment. Through a wave of nausea, the words filtered into my ears, “. . . sentenced
for two and a half years in prison...“
“May God make you strong!” I heard my wife’s voice call out. A bouquet of flowers came sailing across the space that separated me from the visitor’s galley.
Two police officers hustled me out of the courtroom and stood guard over me for about ten minutes in a small corridor. We were waiting on the Black Raven, that dreaded van. When it arrived, the officers sprang into action. “March!” they shouted. I was shoved out the door.
The Black Raven was standing at the end of the walk, the back door open. On each side of the walk, more policemen stood on guard. But my friends were out there too, shouting encouragement.
“Be strong in the Lord!”
“We are praying for you, Brother.”
“Remember the words of Jesus! ‘I will never leave you, nor forsake you!’”
They threw flowers, lofting them over the heads of the guards to land on the walk in front of me. In frustration, the guards began yelling and shouting at the group of believers. “Stop! You are not allowed to do this. Disperse!”
I suppose they were afraid a riot would break out, but all the believers were doing was trying to encourage me for the coming trials. Tears dimmed my eyes as I walked toward the Raven, hands tied behind my back, trying not to step on any of those precious flowers.
With a final shove, the police pushed me into the ominous black van. Just before the door closed, a cleverly thrown bouquet came sailing into the van. The six prisoners already in the van scrambled to pick up the flowers....
* * *
I imagine it was about fifteen minutes later that the vehicle stopped. The guards opened the door and pushed in a young woman. She was locked in a separate cage closer to the front of the van. This was fodder for the condemned men in the back with me. Bursting into raucous laughter, they threw lewd suggestions toward her. Far from being intimidated or afraid, she answered in kind.
Though I had known to expect this kind of coarseness among inmates, it was still an assault on my ears. The guards riding with us didn’t try to stop the vulgar remarks. All I could do was try to shut out the filth.
Suddenly a shout of laughter penetrated my stupor. “Yes! Give the lady the flowers!”...
They collected all the flowers and asked the guard to pass them to the woman. Grinning, he complied.
“Where did you get these flowers?” the young woman asked, amazed. “Since when do prisoners get flowers?”
“Don’t know!” the others shrugged. “Someone threw them into our van at the last stop.”
She looked at each one of us. One by one she questioned, “Were these flowers for you?” When she asked me, I nodded my head....
“Who gave them to you? Why?”
“My friends,” I said simply. “Because they love me.”
Silence greeted my answer. “It is unusual for a prisoner to be given flowers,” she repeated at last. “Why are you a prisoner?”
“I was arrested for being a believer. I serve the living God and live my life for Him.”
A babble of surprised voices greeted my declaration. The other prisoners fired questions at me.
“Wait!” shouted the woman above the din. “I was in a cell in Moscow with a lady named Aida Skrypnikova. She was a Christian, too. Do you know her?” Her question reached me through the clamor.
“Yes, I know her!” I ignored the clamor around me. Eagerly, I questioned the woman. “How is Aida? Is she well?”
“Yes, she is doing well,” the woman nodded, serious now. “She told me much about your faith. I never saw anyone in prison as happy and contented as she was. She was always praying. And she talked to anyone who would listen, always about Jesus.”
Joy surged up in me. I knew there were many who were suffering for the name of Christ. It was so encouraging to hear of one who was still faithful.
Turning to the other men, my new ally said, “It is not fair that I have this holy man’s flowers. You took them from him.” She turned to the guard. “Here, guard, you take the flowers and give them to this man who did nothing to deserve being arrested and sentenced to prison.”
The guard looked coldly at me. He said to her, suddenly rigid and stern, “I am not your servant to hand flowers back and forth at your will.”
She stared at him, her gaze hard. “You don’t know your situation. If you knew you are in the presence of someone who understands God better than anyone else you ever met, you would do just what I tell you. If you do not want to be struck by lightning, you give him these flowers!”
With a glance of fear in my direction, he opened her door a little, took the flowers, and gave them to me.
“Thank you,” I said gratefully. “It means much to me to have this gift from my friends. God bless you, young woman!”
Her final words to me remain engraved in my memory. “Please pray for me. I am a human being who needs the salvation that Sister Aida spoke about. I want to know that you will pray for me!”
I clung to the flowers when we reached our destination. I held them to my nose as the guards herded us out of the Black Raven and into the prison.
“Stop!” the officer on duty inside the prison yelled at me. “You cannot take flowers into your cell.”
I knew they would be taken from me sometime if I did not willingly abandon them. Walking over to a tall trash bin, I placed them
gently in the middle of the trash, offering them up as a silent testimony to the love my fellow believers had shown to me. There they stood, tattered and bruised, yet spreading their fragrance and beauty in the midst of their sordid, smelly surroundings.
The flowers had accomplished their purpose. They had cheered me with the love given along with them, and they had opened the door into another believer’s life behind bars. Somewhere in a Moscow prison cell, Aida Skrypnikova was letting the light of Jesus shine through her life, forming a circle of hope and comfort for all who cared to come near.
"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)
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