In some countries, being a Christian is considered a serious crime against the government. Over the years many people have been arrested, imprisoned, and even killed because they refused to give up their faith.
One night as Alex was at home having dinner with his family, he heard a loud banging on the door. Opening it, he saw several state police officers.
They grabbed him and dragged him off to their waiting van, where they shoved him inside. He had no time to take anything with him and no time to say goodbye to his family. They were left weeping and wondering if they’d ever see him again, for often these prisoners vanished forever.
Alex was driven to a prison outside of town. There he was forced into a crowded room where men waited to be questioned. In time he heard his name called.
“You, Alex,” the officer said, “you know there is no God! So why do you pretend to worship one? If you promise to stop doing so and give your allegiance to the state, you can go home.”
Alex squared his shoulders. “But, sir,” he said bravely, “there is a God, and I want to keep on worshiping Him.”
“You Christians are the worst enemies of the state. You can go into solitary confinement until you change your mind!” the officer shouted angrily. Immediately police came in and pushed Alex along a hallway and into a tiny cell.
The cell was without furniture except for one thin and dirty blanket. Alex had no companions’except fleas and bugs’and no books of any kind. He had no one to talk to, and he saw no one except the guard who brought him a tiny amount of food once a day.
Prisoners were kept in these conditions because their captors hoped the inmates would go insane, and some of them did. To avoid this, Alex started counting and recounting the number of nails in each wall, then the number of boards, to keep his mind occupied.
He was really upset that he had not had time to bring his Bible with him. Above all he wished that he’d memorized more of it. Of course, he had memorized some chapters and verses, such as the twenty-third and ninety-first psalms. He knew dozens of other odd verses, but now he wished that he’d memorized more whole chapters. What a wonderful comfort that would be, he thought.
One day Alex discovered a small crack in the wall between his cell and the next. He hardly dared to hope, but the thought was overpowering: If only I could make contact with another human being’perhaps even another Christian’what a blessing that would be!
Quietly, very quietly, he put his lips against the wall and tried to whisper through the crack. “Is there someone in there? Anyone there? Please answer me!” His heart pounded as he put his ear against the crack, waiting for a reply.
What joy he felt when another voice whispered back: “Yes, I’m in here. My name is Ivan. What’s yours?”
“My name is Alex. I’m here because I’m a Christian. Why are you in here?”
“Wonderful!” came back the whisper from Ivan. “I’m here for the very same reason. It’s great to be able to talk to you. I’ve been in here for weeks and haven’t been able to speak to anyone. Now we’ll be able to whisper to each other, but we must watch that the guards don’t hear or they’ll separate us.”
“What I miss most is my Bible,” Alex told Ivan. “I was dragged out without time to take anything. I’ve been going over and over the Bible verses that I’ve memorized, but I’ve been wishing that I had learned more of them. It would be such a comfort now.”
“Well, Alex, my friend, I have good news for you! I had time to snatch up a few pages from my New Testament before I was dragged off.” Ivan’s voice rose triumphantly until Alex reminded him of the need to be quiet. “I hid the pages in my shoe. The guards have never found them! These pages have been so comforting that I doubt I could have survived without them. I’ll be glad to lend you one page at a time for you to memorize. I’m sure we’ll be able to push them through this crack.” Even as he spoke, Ivan pushed one precious page through the slender opening.
Alex took the thin paper with trembling hands, then carefully put it away. “Thank you, thank you, friend Ivan.”
Alex spent his days memorizing verses, asking God to help him remember them.
In the evenings the two new friends whispered words of comfort and encouragement to each other.
It was quite some time before either of these men were released from the cruel prison, but their friendship, and those precious pages, gave them hope and encouragement, and helped them to survive the terrible ordeal.
Reprinted from the June 12, 1985, issue of Guide.
Illustrated by Marcus Mashburn