Chapter 63 A New Wave of Difficulties
As another new year rolled around, we expected more arrests, because at this time of the year the police had less to do. However, January came and went without an incident.
During my semester break in the last week of February, we took a trip to the south for a little vacation. We returned home late Saturday evening to the news that Barbara’s father had died.
The next morning, a Sunday, on the back page of a national newspaper was a long and negative article about Christians in general and me in particular, with a color picture of me, one Burt, the police spy, had taken several years back—he had even previously given me a copy of it. And my name was spelled correctly, very unusual anywhere, but as Burt was meticulous, he had given it accurately.
It was clear that the police had given the information to the newspaper so they could arrest us. We also knew that when a person was arrested, he could be kept for fifteen days without being charged and with no contact with anyone: no lawyer, no phone calls, no rights.
The article said I was corrupting the youth and was trying to get people to become Christians by offering them free English lessons or money or a foreign wife.
Monday morning, I went to the university to talk with my boss about going to Germany for my father-in-law’s funeral. Then I went and bought plane tickets for us all to leave that afternoon.
Shortly after I got home the doorbell rang. I opened it to find a policeman with an invitation for me to go with him to the National Police Headquarters.
In the van waiting for me outside were two other policemen with submachine guns. When we got to the headquarters and they were processing me in, I asked one of them if he had that submachine gun just for me. He smiled, but didn’t answer.
They took me into a large office and began to ask questions about the information in the newspaper. I told what I knew to be true and made clear what was false. I also told them about my father-in-law’s death and our plans to go to Germany for the funeral, showing them my ticket.
“Looks to me like you’re running away because this news article exposed your illegal actions,” said one policeman.
“I could not have planned either the article or my father-in-law’s death,” I said. “I can prove his death with the obituary notice if you want. I have no reason to run away. My home and my work are here.”
That didn’t sway them, and they intentionally kept me just long enough so I missed the plane.
Barbara and I had agreed that if I didn’t come back that she would continue with our plans and fly to Germany that afternoon. As it got closer to the time for her to leave, Barbara called one of our teammates and asked him to take her to the airport. Bless him that he was willing to do so. Most of our teammates understandably didn’t want to come near us since we were politically “hot,” and could possibly be under surveillance. But Richard was willing to be supportive of Barbara, even at risk to himself. It was a stressful time for all of us, and the stress manifested itself in Josh coming down with a fever during the flight.
The next day I went to my travel agent, got my ticket changed and flew off to Germany. We were glad to be together for this important time, and made plans to share some of the gospel with those who would come for the burial.
The funeral was a typical German affair, everyone dressed in black and very somber. Most German Protestants have no assurance of salvation, and rightly so, for they rely on the sacraments of the church to save them.
After a short ceremony in the graveyard chapel, the coffin was carried to the grave and lowered in. Then all the relatives and close friends each tossed three small scoops of earth on the coffin.
Normally at this point everyone leaves, but after we threw our scoops on the coffin, I stepped up and began to speak while Barbara translated.
We talked about how one could be saved and know it, explaining how all the rituals that Protestants normally rely on for grace (baptism as a baby, confirmation, being married in the church and buried by the pastor) were totally inadequate.
We briefly but carefully outlined the gospel and called people to accept the eternal life that Jesus offered.
Years later, some neighbors who came to Christ in their late forties, cited this talk as one factor in their coming to faith.
After a week in Germany, we flew back to our adopted country and I resumed my teaching. My students knew of the article in the newspaper and asked me if I were a missionary. That word in their language is a very negative term, indicating someone with a political agenda to undermine the country, carried out through religion. I tried to dispel their wrong thinking, but don’t think it was very effective. We could tell that our lives were moving into a more and more challenging situation, but our eyes were on God.
Picture: 47 year old Barbara at her father’s funeral