Even though it may not seem like it, there are some beneficial aspects of suffering. Suffering may be a sign of God’s favor and trust in the Christian to whom the trial is permitted to come. One Christian in Russia said that it “seems that God has selected the church for a special assignment – suffering. Knowing this, of course does not mean that our sufferings are not agonizing. But it does provide healing and redemption in our sufferings.” 15
In camps under persecution, prisoners become deeply religious people. The discovery of spiritually compatible souls reinforces their own faith. Endless hours of conversation take place to tell of their own spiritual experiences, resulting in a strengthened bond with other Christians. One leader says that they learned that they can live without church structures but not without other Christians. 16
Suffering and triumph are closely related. During suffering, the congregations give themselves completely to Christ and see the victory in Christ. The churches know the worth of God’s Word and Christ, Who was raised from the dead and Who will return again. Even in prison God is inspiring radiant hope in their hearts that Christ is unconquerable and will return.
One significant result from suffering is the sharpening of spiritual perceptions and the clarifying of spiritual priorities. Another is the increased awareness of the power of prayer. Under suffering, the churches realize their feebleness and weaknesses. The constant analysis and appreciation of what Christ means to them – in order not to yield to temptation – brings the suffering believers closer to Christ than ever before. They really begin to know what Christ means to them. They begin to know, as never before, the love of God. 17
One works better and accomplishes more when there is opposition than when everything is easy. Those Eastern Christians have a tremendous possibility of witnessing. worshipping, and serving the Lord! The terrible part is that millions have to live and undergo this cruel Communist system.
In the West. as Christians we have never been forced to become aware of the cost of belief. How much have we really suffered for our faith? Those Christians in Russia have suffered: “and their words and witness have an intensity and hope which make most of what passes for Christianity in the West look pale and shallowly rooted.” 18 Through the Christians in the Iron Curtain, Western Christians can learn about suffering for the Bible. The persecuted churches have “. . . endured prolonged, unparalleled persecution, and this experience of sustained suffering can provide instruction to the church everywhere.” 19
When we suffer a little trouble or persecution, by looking at their example of steadfast faith we can also learn to be the same way. We can realize how little we suffer after all.
Many people will raise the argument that this persecution is not a big problem. It is larger than it seems because the Russian government covers up a lot of the persecution, so it is not known to the world. At conferences the Soviet Union tries everything possible to cut down the time to be spent discussing human rights.
Some people then will argue that evangelists like Billy Graham come back from Russia with all these reports of the freedom of religion and that it’s not as bad as some say. This is not true, for Billy Graham is a hoax and the U.S.S.R. through Graham was pretending to demonstrate religious tolerance. Rushing from one appointment to another, Graham saw only what the authorities wanted him to see. Not only this, but it seems like Graham said only what his hosts wanted him to say. Graham said that believers who refuse to register with the state are likely to have “difficulties”. The congregations of the churches Graham entered consisted of one third KGB agents. one third international participants in the disarmament conference, and one third older women.20
In one church when a woman draped a banner over the balcony that said, “We have more than 150 prisoners for the work of the gospel” and was subsequently hauled away, Graham just explained, “We detain people in the U.S. if we catch them doing things wrong.”21 Director Jerry Goodman of the National Conference of Soviet ‘Jewry called Graham’s remarks “. . . a disservice to Jews and Christians who are being persecuted in the Soviet Union. “22
Maybe the things he said were not so bad, but the problem lies with the things Graham didn’t say. Graham ignored the persecution subject because he didn’t want to embarrass his hosts. Another reason why he didn’t say anything about Soviet religious oppression is because then he wouldn’t have further possibilities to preach in the U.S.S.R. “There’s something wrong when in order to preach the gospel you turn your back on those who live the gospel.”23 Graham betrayed the religious people in Russia. “Graham should have spoken out firmly, clearly, and specifically against religious repression in the Soviet Union, and he should have done it publicly. 24 Graham was an “unwitting prophet of Soviet propaganda.” 25
Graham is not helping the people that are being persecuted and need help. Six people were seeking immigration to any land that would let them have religious freedom. They sought a visit from Billy Graham but he actually refused. Finally, Graham consented to go and pray with them but there were to be no reporters or photographers and there were to be curtains. After Graham left, one of the six was physically sick, (she had dared to hope that Graham would intercede for them).26 Many people who have tried to tell the story of how life is in the U.S.S.R. should and probably do feel the same way.
When these false evangelists, such as Graham, take trips behind the Iron Curtain, they do not raise their voices in objection to the suppression. By not raising their voices on behalf of the suffering millions, these leaders participate in and are guilty of suppression.
The first reaction of people when they hear about these suffering Christians is that they are glad they do not have to go through this. Then some people like to know how they can ease the situation. We must be aware that we can be used to help the many Christian prisoners and their families who need aid. Just a simple card sent to a prisoner or a family would provide the Soviet authorities with evidence of the publicity these prisoners have received and could help alleviate a prisoner’s situation. There are organizations which have been formed to send aid and Christian literature to these needy people. Two of these are The Society of St. Stephen and Jesus to the Communist World, Inc. Write to me for further information concerning these organizations.
Because there is a great lack of Bibles and Christian literature, one work of organizations is to distribute the needed materials throughout the U.S.S.R. Churches with 200-300 people do not possess one single Bible. Bibles are selling on the black market for more than $100. This shows that Russians are willing to invest their hard-earned money to obtain a copy of the Word of God, giving it priority over most material things. 27 Believers do get Bibles. The Christians in Russia do not ask for much, they just need the tools (Bibles. . .) to work with. We must not abandon these people and forget about them’. We must offer support to these Christians.
The believers are risking their lives by writing and signing their names to petitions sent to the government and world. This is the only way to be heard and they want help which is not available. These believers desperately need to be upheld by the believers in the West. The human rights stand taken by the U.S. and our government is rather profitable and important concerning the Christians in Russia. We should show everyone that we care and will not forget. This can be done by showing the Soviet officials the price of such behavior. The arrangements the Soviets make with the U.S. depends on the support in Congress from the U.S. people. This kind of persecution should end that possibility of support. 28 American support does help. Pastor Georgi Vins says from personal experience, “Whenever there was support action in the West I was treated better by wardens and prison administrators. When there was no support, conditions immediately became worse.”29 A few letters to our congressmen would make a great deal of difference.
The most simple and most important kind of help is prayer. We must share the griefs, and help the churches bear the heavy cross. Those Christians who remain steadfast amidst all the persecutions deserve our prayers. Offering our prayers is the least we can do for our fellow saints. As Richard Wurmbrand says, “One third of the world is entitled to one third of your prayers, of your concerns, of your gifts. . . . In prison I saw men with 50 lb. chains at their feet, praying for America. But in America you seldom hear in a church a prayer for those in chains in Communist prisons.” 30 Take heed to the words of Hebrews 13:3. “Remember them that are in bonds, as bound with them; and them which suffer adversity, as being yourselves also in the body.” Let us remember our fellow saints in all of our prayers and with our gifts.
15 ”A Salvation of Suffering: The Church in the Soviet Union,” Christianity Today, vol. 26, 1982, p. 20.
16 Ibid., p. 20.
17 Rev. Haralan Popov and Rev. L. J. Bass, Torture and Triumph in a Communist Prison (Glendale: Underground Evangelism, 1967). p. 46.
18 J. Garvey, “The Trial of V. Poresh, ” Commonweal, vol. 110, 1983, p. 137.
19 “A Salvation of Suffering: The Church in the Soviet Union, ” Christianity Today, vol. 26, 1982. p. 19.
20 William F. Buckley, dr., “The Irreverent Dr. Graham, ” National Review 34 (1982) :718.
21 “Questionable Mission to Moscow, ” Time, 1982, p. 60.
22 “The Russia that Billy Graham Saw,” U.S News and World Report, vol. 92, 1982, p. 6.
23 “Graham in the Soviet Union: He Takes it on the Chin from the Press. Is Religious Freedom Relative?,” Christianity Today, vol. 26, 1982, p. 49.
24 “How the Press Got it Wrong in Moscow, ‘ ‘ Christian Century, 1982 :718.
25 “Questionable Mission to Moscow,” Time, vol. 119, 1982, p. 60.
26 William F. Buckley, Jr., “The Irreverent Dr. Graham, ” National Review 34 (1982) :718.
27 Thomas W. Klewin, “Communism Just Can’t Win This Battle,” Good News Broadcaster, 1979, p. 19
28 Anthony Lewis, “Soviets Stepping Up Suppression of Judaism. ” The Grand Rapids Press.
29 Richard Shumaker, “Vins at Wheaton,” Eternity, 1979, p. 23.
30 Sabina Wurmbrand, The Pastor’s Wife (New York: The John Day Company, 1970) p. 212.
LIST OF WORKS CONSULTED
* “A Delicate Balance, ” Newsweek, CIV ent Dr. Graham, ” National Review, (September 24, 1984), 38. XXXIV (June 11, 1982), 718.
*”A ‘Peace Invasion’: Journey to the de Chalandeau, Alexander. The ChristUSSR,” Christian Century, CI (August ians in the U.S.S.R. Chicago: Harper 22, 1984). 765 ff. and Company.
*”A Salvation of Suffering: The Church Deyneka, Peter Jr., and Anita. A Song in the Soviet Union,” Christianity in Siberia. Elgin: David C, Cook Today, XXVI (July 16, 1982), 19ff. Publishing Co., 1977.
*”A Small View of the Soviet People and Garvey, J. “The Trial of V. Poresh, ” Their Religions. ” Soviet Life. (October, Commonweal, CX (March 11, 1983), 1979). 46ff. 136-138.
*Beeson, Trevor. “Russia Tightens the Squeeze on Religious Dissidents,” Century, XCVII (May 7, 1980), 510 ff.
*Bourdeaux, Michael, “Pilgrimage to Siberia,” Christianity Today, XXIII,” (September 7, 1979), 22ff.
*Buckley, Jr.. William F. “The Irreverent Dr. Graham, National Review XXXIV (June 11, 1982), 718
*de Chalandeau, Alexander. The Christians in the U.S.S.R. Chicago: Harper and Company.
*Deyneka, Peter Jr., and Anita. A Song in Siberia. Elgin: David C, Cook Publishing Co., 1977
*Garvey, J. “The Trial of V. Poresh”, Commonweal, CX (March 11, 1983) 136-138
*”Graham in the Soviet Union: HeTakes It on the Chin From the Press. Is Religious Freedom Relative?,” Christianity Today. XXIV (June 18. 1982), 717 ff
*”Graham Will Preach in Moscow,” Christianity Today, XXIV (April 9, 1983), 44
*Harris, Rosemary; and Howard-Johnston, Xenia, ed. Christian Appeals from Russia. London : Hodder and Stoughton, 1969.
*”How the Press Got it Wrong in Moscow, ” Christian Century, XCIX (June 23, 1982), 717 ff. *Klewin, Thomas W. “Communism Just Can’t Win This Battle,” Good News Broadcaster. (May, 1979), 19-20.
*Koziol, Jack and Vera. Report on a trip through the U.S.S.R. (August 30-September 30, 1983). *Lewis, Anthony, “Soviets Stepping Up Suppression of Judaism, ” The Grand Rapids Press. *Nicoli, Pastor. Persecuted But Not Forsaken. Valley Forge: Judson Press, 1977.
*Noll, Mark A., translator. Christians Under the Hammer and Sickle. Grand Rapids: Zondervan Publishing House, 1972.
*Popov, Rev. Haralan; and Bass, Rev. L.J. Torture and Triumph in a Communist Prison. Glendale: Underground Evangelism. l967.
*”Questionable Mission to Moscow, ” Time, May 24, 1982, p. 60.
*”Religion in Russia,” America, July 21-28, 1984, p. 21.
*”Religion in the U.S.S.R.: How Much Freedom is Enough?” Christianity Today, October 8, 1982, p. 46 ff.
*”Religion’s Fight for Survival in Russia.” U.S. News and World Report, August 2, 1982. p. 37 ff.
*”Religious Oppression gets Airing at Helsinki Review Conference, ” Christianity Today, January 2, 1981, p. 61 ff.
*Shumaker, Richard. “Vins at Wheaton,” Eternity, August, 1979, p. 21-23. Solzhenitsyn, Aleksandr . ” Breznev Cannot Look a Priest Straight in the Eye.” Christianity Today. June 6, 1980, p. 13.
*Stevens, A. “Suffering in Russia” World Press Review, 29 (August, 1982) :61.
*Stobbe, Les. “A Conversation with Pastor Georgi Vins,” Christian Herald, July-August, 1980, p. 18 ff.
*”Surviving in Russia: Religious Believers Adapt to Adversity, ” World Press Review, 29 (August 2, 1982) :61.
*”The Anti-Religious Meeting, ‘ ‘ Christian Herald, November, 1981, p. 72 ff.
*”The Conversation of Billy Graham,” Progressive, August, 1982. p. 26 ff.
*”The Russia that Billy Graham Saw,” U.S. News and World Report, May 24, 1982, p. 6.
*”The Soviet Union Calls for more ‘ Atheistic Propaganda, ” Christianity Today, December 14, 1984, p. 68 ff.
*”The Soviet Union Has Failed to Stamp Out Christianity, ‘ ‘ Christianity Today, May 7, 1982, p. 38 ff.
*”The Word of God is Not Bound,” Eternity, August, 1979, pp. 19-20.
*Ugolnik. A. “The Godlessness Within: Stereotyping the Russians,” Christian Century, November 9. 1983, pp. 1011- 1014.
* “Unseparate Church and State,” Time, June 23, 1980, pp. 70-72.
*Vaghin, E. “Dostoevsky Behind Barbed Wire. ” National Review, (August 5, 1983) : 938.
*Vins, Georgi. Testament from Prison. Elgin: David C. Cook Publishing Co., 1976.
*Wurmbrand, Michael, “Lutheran World Federation Headed by a Communist.” The Voice of the Martyrs, November, 1984.
*Wurmbrand, Michael. “Punished for Heart Attack,” The Voice of the Martyrs, March, 1985. *Wurmbrand, Michael, “Religion Promotes Red China’s Economy,” The Voice of the Martyrs, January, 1985.
*Wurmbrand, Michael. “Soviets Prepare Genetic Weapon,” The Voice of the Martyrs, February, 1985.
*Wurmbrand, Richard. If that were Christ, Would you give him your Blanket? Waco: Word Books, 1970.
*Wurmbrand, Richard, The Soviet Saints. London: Hodder and Stoughton, 1968.
*Wurmbrand, Richard. Tortured for Christ. Glendale: Diane Books, 1967.
*Wurmbrand, Richard. Underground Saints. Old Tappan: Pyramid Publications, 1969. *Wurmbrand, Sabina. The Pastor’s Wife. New York: The John Day Company, 1970.