On March 12, the police again came to our house while I was at school and left a message for me to come to their headquarters.
When I got home from teaching, we gathered up any papers the police might consider incriminating and put them into a brief case. I told Barbara to take it and go to someone else’s house just in case the police came to search ours. Then I went to the police headquarters.
I was surprised to see my coworker Jean there, too. The police took down our identity information and then led us out to a van and drove to my house. I was not concerned about this since we’d already made our preparations.
However, when we arrived and went in, I was shocked and then angry to find that Barbara was still there! She remained calm, however, and after letting us in, while the police were looking through the apartment, she picked up the brief case and walked out. No one stopped or questioned her! I was relieved. A three-star God sighting.
After going to Jean’s house for the same routine, we returned to the police headquarters where they put us in a large cell. Again we were surprised: there was Orin!
For most of us who were rounded up that day, this was the first time to be arrested and the first time to be put in a cell. There was a lot of uncertainty, and therefore fear. Since we all knew that beatings and torture were a standard part of police interrogation, this threat was hanging over each of us.
The policeman who placed us in the cell pointed to a man standing in the middle of the room. “Do not talk with him; he is to stand there for twenty-four hours so he will come to himself and tell us what he knows!”
That may not seem like much of a torture, but think about what it means to have to stand in one place for twenty-four hours: no sleep, no food, no water, no chance to go to the bathroom, no rest for your tired legs and feet. That is a very effective “white” torture, breaking down one’s resistance.
I thought to myself, “Is that just a command, or are you really telling us what will happen to us if we don’t give you the information you expect to get from us?”
As the evening wore on, the police brought in more believers, including Elvina and my former student, Sam. The women were kept on the police side of the cell bars and were given chairs to sit on.
Our cell was sparsely furnished: just one park bench. If they kept us for the night, we would obviously have to sleep on the cement floor.
Sam and I had an appointment for a discipleship lesson that evening, so we sat on the park bench and did our study right there. We were not allowed any personal possessions like a Bible in jail, but this didn’t hamper us at all. Sam’s assignment had been to memorize half a chapter in the NT and we just did our lesson on that chapter.
During this time, a policeman came and took Orin away. When he was back an hour later, he was white as a sheet and shaking. The policeman who brought him in warned us sternly not to talk to him. Later he was able to tell us that he had been beaten, mostly in his chest area, and was in pain.
What a shame that such a gentle, kind, gracious person should be subjected to that kind of treatment. The physical damage done in that brief time would stay with him for the next three years.
Around 10 pm I decided to lay down and get what sleep I could. I had never slept directly on a cement floor before, and I was not surprised at how uncomfortable it was. This was accentuated by not having any pillow.
I also discovered that lying on my side was the most uncomfortable position, because the seam of my blue jeans cut into my leg.
After a while the Lord gave me the idea to take off my shoes, put them together and use them for a pillow. Then, lying on my back and putting my arm over my eyes to shut out the bright lights, I was finally able to fall asleep.
Sometime in the night I was awakened by a policeman nudging me with his foot.
“Come with me,” he said gruffly. I climbed stiffly to my feet, put on my shoes and followed him out of the cell door. We went down the hall to a large room. Glancing at the clock on the wall I saw that it was 3 am.
“Sit down there,” ordered the policeman. I took a seat and looked around. There were four men, one of them seated before a typewriter.
Soon a fifth man came in, a man I knew. I had met him in a pastry shop in the squatter housing section of town. He had come over and wanted to practice his English with me.
“Hello,” he said, shaking my hand, “I am here to translate for you.” He was, of course, an undercover policeman. The locals like to joke that every third person is in the employ of the police as an informer. That may not be far from the truth!
First they took my personal information, including my father and mother’s names—an important means of identification here.
Then they began grilling me with one question after another. My translator had a hard time keeping up, as his English was not that strong, so I just started answering in the local language.
They tried to trick me into admitting my “guilt” of using enticements to get people to become Christians. I explained how ridiculous that was; who would trust someone who was willing to change his faith for money or other gain? They hadn’t thought of that.
One policeman demanded, “Give us the names of your students at the university.”
“Sure,” I said, “Henry, John, Jane…”
“No, no, we want their last names, too.”
“I will not give you those. My students have done nothing wrong. They had no say in getting me as a teacher. If I identify them, then you will call them in and it will be on their records for life. No, I will not give you their names.” I folded my arms in a defiant gesture. The police looked at each other and shrugged.
“Ok, tell us what your assignment is in the Believers in Jesus group.”
This question highlighted a mistake that all of us had made in our relations with the police. Since the word “Christian” had negative connotations in this society, conjuring up for most people the image of a drunken, unclean, dishonest, immoral infidel, we wanted a different identity. So the believers had started calling themselves “Believers in Jesus.”
This worked well for everyday relationships, as people would ask us what that meant and we could then fill it with meaning. But with the authorities it was another matter. This society is what I call a “pigeon-hole society,” meaning they have certain accepted categories everyone must fit in. If they can’t put you into one of these, then you are suspect.
“Believers in Jesus” did not fit into any of the existing categories of Catholic, Orthodox or Protestant, so the police put us into the “terrorist” slot. Later we always used “Protestant” with authorities, but the damage was done.
I had read in the newspaper about this conspiracy idea concerning the “Believers in Jesus” group. Later we found that Harry had inadvertently helped develop this by telling the police that each of us had an assignment, like being in charge of video production or indoctrination or literature. The Lord gave me wisdom in answering this particular question so I didn’t incriminate any of us.
All this time the man at the typewriter had been banging away, recording everything that was said. After about two hours of questioning, the lead interrogator turned to him. “Ok, I think we have enough information; give it to him to sign.”
The typist pulled the papers out of his typewriter, three copies with carbon paper, and handed them to me. “Sign here,” he said.
“I can’t sign until I’ve read it.”
“Ok,” he sighed, “read it.”
It had a lot of technical words in it but I got the gist; it did not incriminate me of anything illegal, so I signed it.
I was led back to the cell, glad that I hadn’t been beaten and was ready for some more sleep because I was drained both emotionally and physically.
Picture: one of my students with me