Ongoing Saga of Arrests
The next day was Sunday, the first day our little fellowship was allowed back into the German school. But ironically, half the church was back in jail again!
When Barbara and the boys arrived at the school, they sat outside, debating whether to go in or not; maybe the police were inside, waiting to arrest everyone who came in! Eventually one of our teammates arrived and together they went in to find the remaining believers who had not been arrested.
In the afternoon of the third day, the cell door was unlocked and two policemen brought in large cardboard boxes, like the ones refrigerators come in.
“Here, you can spread these out on the floor to sleep on,” one said gruffly. Later we learned that discussions with the American Consul had prompted this kindness. We were thankful, for even the quarter inch thickness of cardboard provided some warmth and a bit of cushioning on the concrete floor.
Later that day I was taken up to a large main office filled with many policemen working at desks and was told to sit in a chair and wait.
Suddenly all the policemen jumped up and stood stiffly at attention as a man dressed in a white shirt and tie walked in. He came over to where I was sitting and looked me up and down.
“Why don’t you go back to your own country and help people out there? You Americans have enough problems of your own!” he barked.
I answered carefully, realizing this man was a high official here. “It’s true we have problems. But there are plenty of people there to help. I want to stay here and do good!”
After a few more questions, with me persistently expressing my desire to stay, he turned away in disgust.
Later I found out that he was the Director Police for the whole province, a very powerful man. My law professor friend, Dr. T, had had this man as a student, and when he heard that I’d been arrested, had gone to see the Director to speak on my behalf.
After our interview the Director reported to Dr. T that I was a “bad man,” and had refused to cooperate by agreeing to leave the country!
On the sixth day of incarceration there was something astir, and rumors went around saying that we were to be released. In the afternoon the cell door opened and a policeman entered. “All you Christians come with us. But leave your things here,” he said, indicating our extra clothing. Hmm, that didn’t seem to indicate imminent release.
We filed out of the cell to find several other policemen with submachine guns waiting in the hallway. They escorted us up two flights and into a large room with TV cameras, bright lights and a lot of reporters, maybe fifty of them.
There was a large table covered with books that they had confiscated from some of us. They’d also placed a large knife in the midst of them to make us look like a dangerous group.
This was standard procedure for the arrests of terrorists, an attempt to shame them before the public. And after six days of sleeping on the floor in our clothes, we looked pretty scruffy, adding credence to the bad image.
A high level policeman in a suit stepped to the microphone and read out the charges against us. One of them was that all the books on the table were illegal. This was too much for me.
“That is not true,” I called out in a loud voice. Startled, everyone turned toward me. “All of these books have been approved by the prosecuting attorney for publications. And every time we have been arrested or accused of wrongdoing, we have been acquitted.”
“That’s right,” chimed in Julian, “According to the law we have done nothing wrong!”
The policemen all glared at us; if looks could have killed, we’d have all died on the spot! They were clearly angry, but couldn’t do anything to us in front of all those reporters.
One high-ranking officer near us said to his neighbor, “Couldn’t you have made these prisoners into men before bringing them up here?” That is code for beating people into submission.
When the press conference was over, they took us back to the cell. We were disappointed that they hadn’t released us, but Ivan had something to lift our spirits.
“Look what I took from the table of books,” he said, holding up a New Testament! We all laughed. Ivan was finally using his criminal bent for something good.
With the New Testament in hand, we had a good time sharing more scripture with Al. He read it with us in the cell, but couldn’t take it home; prisoners were searched when leaving jail as well as coming in and it would have been taken from him. In the end we hid it behind the radiator for the next set of prisoners to find and read.
That night they herded all of us, believers, communists, and other prisoners into the smaller front cell. As we sat around, crowded up against each other, the communists began to tell dirty jokes.
I jumped in and began telling clean ones. I’d developed quite a repertoire of them to use in my English classes, so this went on for quite a while.
We laughed so hard that policemen from the next floor up came down to yell that we weren’t allowed to laugh like that in jail!
When it was time to sleep, there so many of us that we had to lie down in rows like sardines. When anyone wanted to turn over, we all had to turn together.
That night brought the most marvelous concert of snores I’ve ever heard. It took quite a while for me to fall asleep as I chuckled over it.
The next morning the police brought news that we were going to be released, but then announced that they’d lost the key to the padlock on the door! After a couple of hours they came back with a bolt cutter and clipped the lock off.
After processing us out of the jail, the police took us to a hospital for examination, and then released us. We were ecstatic but also exhausted.
Our lawyer later informed us that the police would bring no further charges against us. They were getting the picture: the more they persecuted us, the wider and more clearly our legal freedoms to share our faith was defined. God at work turning the devil’s attacks into advances for His Kingdom.