God’s Love Penetrates a Russian Prison Camp
Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? . . . Yet in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us. Romans 8:35-37.
God’s love reaches people in every circumstance of their lives. In disappointment, disaster, and even in death God’s love is there. In tears, tragedy, and terror God’s love is there. In sickness, suffering, and sorrow God’s love is there. In worry, want, and war God’s love is there.
God’s love penetrates prisons. In the Soviet Union God’s love showed up in some unusual places. When Christians were imprisoned for their faith, God’s love still triumphed.
In 1983 the Soviet Union charged 27-year-old Valentina with transporting Christian literature. The young believer with a charming smile and a strong faith found herself in a work camp in Siberia. The camp was known as the “Valley of Death” because of its high mortality rate. Its prisoners felt completely isolated from the rest of the world. It was a place designed to crush the human spirit.
But Valentina discovered that God was bigger than the gulag. She found a Christian sister, Natasha. In the middle of the night the two young women would sneak out of their barracks and meet under the open heavens. They had moments of beautiful fellowship.
The temperature was often 40 below zero, and their work boots couldn’t keep their feet from freezing. But their hearts were warm.
“We would sing and pray for a few minutes, go back to our separate barracks to warm up a little, then meet outside again,” Valentina remembers. “Sometimes we stood silently, just gazing together toward heaven. Nothing was dearer to us than heaven.”
During her five years of imprisonment Valentina didn’t feel abandoned by God. She felt Him come very close. Many times when someone sent her a letter with a quotation from Scripture, the verses seemed to answer a very specific question or need. It seemed as though God the Father was communicating directly with her.
When she was released in 1987, Valentina summed up her experience with these words from Romans 8:35-37: “Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? . . . Yet in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us.”
Valentina wasn’t just a survivor. She was more than a conqueror. She experienced God’s love in prison. It was bigger than the terrible isolation of the gulag. It was stronger than the hatred around her.
In the circumstances you face today God’s love is there. Accept this divine reality, and live in the assurance of His care today.
from On Solid Ground
Mark Finley | Review & Herald (2003)
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