Saturday, February 2, 2019
To me, it is unreal today marks my 60th day in prison. I have already served five percent of my prison term unless I am released earlier than 36 months. That is probably very doubtful unless the warden here at Ashland or my unit team removes the “greatest severity” status attached to my alleged “crime,” of “kidnapping.”
I can see God working in the lives of some of the men here, and I see now the beginnings of others being attracted to what God has begun to do.
Yesterday afternoon, one of the most “feared” men in our unit came into my cell and told me, “You know what, there is something about you I really like. I had doubts about you when you first got here, but I really like you.” I’ve already shared the gospel with him. He’s one who believes he is a Christian because he was born into a Christian family.
Then, last evening, “E” came into my cell to discuss the book of Titus, which he’d just finished reading.
Then, after our prayer time, I told Chris that Kathie had spoken with his sister, who he desperately wants someone to tell her how to come to the Lord, and about the conversation they had. He was absolutely thrilled!
I just also finished reading The Hiding Place last night. Thank you to the mystery person who sent it to me. It was such a great encouragement to read it again, this time from a prison cell. Reading it from inside prison walls gives you a different perspective on many things. It was so very evident God’s hand was upon Corrie and her sister Betsie, as they moved from prison to prison to concentration camp.
Initially, Corrie felt very discouraged and defeated. But at one point a nurse smuggled her the four gospels. She then realized with a spine-prickly revelation, “Hadn’t Jesus been defeated as utterly and unarguably as our little group and our small plans had been?”’
Corrie and her sister Betsie ran an underground to smuggle Jews in their escape from the Nazis during Holland’s German occupation during World War II. They hid many in their own home in a secret hiding place. I will highlight a few of the things that struck me, particularly in my current circumstances. She and her sister were unabashed in the sharing of their faith even with their Nazi captors. At one point, the Nazi who began to interrogate Corrie in the prison where her daddy died asked her, “How can you believe in God now? What kind of God would have that old man die in here in Scheveningen?” Suddenly, Corrie thought of her daddy’s words when as a girl she asked questions when he’d felt she was too young to hear the answer: “Some knowledge is too heavy…you cannot bear it…your Father will carry it until you are able.”
When transferred to another prison, they encountered very difficult officials, forcing them to stand for long periods of time. “Betsie,” Corrie wailed, “how long will it take?” She answered, “Perhaps a long time, perhaps many years. But what better way could there be to spend our lives?” Corrie turned and stared at her, “Whatever are you talking about?”
“These young women, that girl back at the bunkers. Corrie, if people can be taught to hate, they can be taught to love! We must find the way, you and I, no matter how long it takes…” Betsie went on, almost forgetting in her excitement to keep her voice to a whisper, while Corrie slowly took in the fact she was talking about the guards.
When Corrie learned who it was that betrayed them to the Nazis, her bitterness kept her awake night after night. She confided in her sister, asking her, “Doesn’t it bother you?” Betsie answered, “Oh yes, Corrie! Terribly! I’ve felt for him ever since I knew – and I pray for him whenever his name comes to my mind. How dreadful he must be suffering!” That night Corrie felt convicted that both their betrayer and she would stand together before an all-seeing God, convicted of the same sin of murder. For Corrie had murdered him with her heart and with her tongue. She prayed for forgiveness at that moment, and blessings upon his family. And Corrie slept soundly that night.
The Bible became new to Corrie when they miraculously got one like it had just been written. She said, “I marveled sometimes that the ink was dry. I had believed the Bible always, but reading it now had nothing to do with belief.” It all became so real to her, like the sufferings that Jesus went through for her. So much of what Jesus went through she could relate to – even Christ’s nakedness upon the cross. Yet she realized in spite of all these things she was more than a conqueror!
When Betsie read, after being transferred to the death camp at Ravensbruck, Paul’s words in I Thessalonians, they began to look upon their circumstance in a new light. It says, “Comfort the frightened, help the weak, be patient with everyone. See that none of you repays evil for evil, but always seek to do good to one another and to all…Rejoice always, pray constantly, give thanks in all circumstance; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus…”
Soon they discovered their new barracks was infested with fleas, so they thanked God for the fleas. Quite a while later, they realized their freedom to read the Bible openly to so many women unhindered by the guards was due to the fact guards would never enter the building because of the fleas!
They also discovered once they began sharing the small bottle of vitamin drops that they’d smuggled in with other women, it refused to run out. It never ran out, till another person was able to smuggle in vitamins for them to use.
When they first arrived in these barracks, women were constantly cursing and fighting each other. After months of reading the Bible to them, it became a different sort of place, with “sorry,” “excuse me,” and “no harm done!” being the norm. Hundreds of women were impacted – perhaps thousands, with many finding Christ on their death beds. They realized, these two sisters, there are no “ifs” in God’s kingdom. His timing is perfect; His will is our hiding place. And there is no pit so deep that God’s love is not deeper still.
God gave Betsie visions for the future once the war was over, but Betsie died while in Ravensbruck. Yet each of those visions for the future came true for Corrie. God used her to miraculously open a home for those suffering the same trauma she had suffered, and travel the world to tell of her experiences. Eventually, as difficult as it was, Corrie forgave all her persecutors, even a Nazi guard from Ravensbruck who came up to her after speaking years later in a church in Germany. At first, she’d refused to shake hands with him, but as she did, she said, “The most incredible thing happened. From my shoulder along my arm and through my hand, a current seemed to pass from me to him, while into my heart sprang a love for this stranger that almost overwhelmed me.”
She continued, “And so I discovered that it is not on our forgiveness any more than on our goodness that the world's healing hinges, but on His. When He tells us to love our enemies, He gives along with the command, the love itself.” As Elizabeth Sherrill, co-author of The Hiding Place said, “Whatever in our life is hardest to bear, love can transform into beauty.”
We had an amazing Bible study today, looking at the things God showed me in Hebrews 3 and 4 yesterday. “E” and “C” were the only two today. I believe we all answered a lot of questions for “E” today, who is so very close to accepting Christ. “C” was able to share with him how he came to Christ here in prison and how his life immediately began to change. Keep praying for “E!”