Friday, March 13, 2009

Jesus Gets Serious

"In fact, a time is coming when anyone who kills you will think he is offering a service to God... They will do such things because they have not known the Father or me." - Jesus (John 16:2-3)

Back in 1975, I took a trip into the Soviet Union with a busload of 37 Christians. Apart from the whole touristy thing, and the educational value of Eastern Bloc travel at the height of the Cold War, one of our goals was to take Bibles, encouragement, and much needed medical supplies to members of an Underground Church in the Ukraine.

My job for the entire tour had been packing and unpacking the decrepit truck we took along with all the camping equipment, food, suitcases and supplies we needed to support the busload of people during three months of camping throughout Europe and the Middle East.

Consequently it fell to me to assist the officials who inspected our vehicles when we crossed the border from Romania into the USSR. Already deep behind the Iron Curtain, we could feel the darkness thicken as we handed over our passports. The rude, bullying behavior of the guards only aggravated our sense of anxiety.

They even went so far as to cut open 20-pound bags of rice and empty large containers of freeze-dried foods; they made as much disruptive mess as possible :
  • We know you are Christian, yes?" a uniformed officer said to me from behind reflective sunglasses. "We guess you visit other Jesus people we do not know. Maybe you have letters, names, address. Very interesting for us...."
When it came to suitcases, they needed my help to unravel the mess. Carefully, I played an elaborate version of a "Shell Game", the three suitcases stuffed with medicine and Russian language Bibles caught in an endless loop of passing, dumping, searching and repacking. Mercifully, we made it through after close to four grueling hours.

Our tour guide, "Nikita," spoke cryptically yet candidly with us as we gathered around the camp-fire that night:
  • Here in Soviet Union we have no problems with secret police... What they do is NO secret! We have other joke: K.G.B. stand for 'Kind Good Boys." Remember this please, and be extra careful."
... (Story to be continued tomorrow, day eighteen.)

Love and blessings - DEREK

PRAYER: Help us to understand, Lord, the tremendous blessings of our freedom here in our home. Be with those in other nations who are struggling with persecution and oppression, even as we pray. Amen.

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