One of my favorite classes in collage was a three-hour class on Texas History and American Literature. The books we read for the American Literature part synced with what we studying in the Texas History part. This created a wonderful way of learning the facts of history and the emotions of history. Combining a well-written historical fiction with a well-taught history class gave all of us a well-rounded view of the time-period we studied. Names and dates on a page took on life. We didn’t just learn about the settlers who came west; we read books about a girl kidnapped by Mexican bandits. The world breathed. It leapt off the page.
This is still my favorite way to learn history. I pick a time-frame of interest and start looking for well-written non-fiction and historical fiction taking place in the same era.
Study WWII? Yes, but watch Band of Brothers and you suddenly feel along with knowing. It is so much better to feel and know, instead of just one or the other. Knowing without feeling is compassionless, and feeling without knowing is pointless. Both, together, create something worth experiencing.
This happened, on accident, or by providence alone, this Christmas. I got sick the day after Christmas for several weeks. While this wasn’t fun, it did give me time to catch up on some reading. I’m a wishlist maker. I have a detailed list, with links, which I email to my husband each year at Christmas. I put a wide variety of things on that list so that I can still enjoy being surprised. This year, my Husband bought me something not on my list. He bought it because he thought it would interest me. It did!
It was a little paperback book called The Persecutor by Sergei Kourdokov. It is the story of a young Russian Navy Officer who is conscripted by the local police and the KGB to persecute the church in communist Russia. Through the refusal of a beautiful young woman to stop attending church he becomes a Christian, defects to Canada, and is assassinated (unsubstantiated due to lack of evidence) by the KGB.
I read this book in one day . . . granted I was sick, but even if I’d been well, I still think I would have read it in a short space of time. It is well worth your time to read.
Not only is communist Russia of interest to me, not only does it give insight into the lives of orphans on the streets which is helpful to me because of the fairy tale I’m writing, but the story of the growth of Christianity during a time of persecution is encouraging to my faith. No matter how many times this young man and his friends went out to destroy the church more churches popped up. They just couldn’t understand it.
A few days after reading this book, I picked up Safely Home by Randy Alcorn. This is a fictional story about the persecution of Christians in China. See how beautifully these two books nestle together? One was autobiographical and very straight forward, the other was emotional and dramatic. Both focused on the same thing: Christian persecution under communism.
Now, I could talk all day long about the ills of communism, but that really isn’t what I want to focus on. What I want to focus on was the chance I had to learn about persecuted believers. I have seen it from the point of view of the persecutor and the point of view of the persecuted. It was beautiful. Watching the hand of God on His people is always amazing.
I was thankful to see how closely the truth and the fictional story matched up. If they hadn’t then I wouldn’t be writing this article, but they did. The fictional story told of how each time the police came to stamp out a church more churches sprang up. The fictional story told of guards coming to faith while they tortured Christians in prison. The non-fictional story told of many of the same things. I came away from these two books with a better understanding of how to pray for persecuted believers, a better sense of what they endure, and a greater love for the Lord.
Disclaimer: There are many doctrinal things in both these books that I wouldn’t agree with, just FYI. Believers in communist countries tend to have a more mystical view of the working of God’s providence. Some parts in Alcorn’s book seem scripted. Last, Alcorn has scenes in his book of heaven. I will admit that they brought me to tears. I didn’t agree with everything he said and obviously some of it was totally imagination and conjecture, but he did a good job of using his imagination to show a martyr coming home to heaven and for that I’m very thankful. Imagination can be a very good gift from God if used wisely. It can help us flesh out parts of scripture so they don’t become hollow and dry for us. I think Alcorn does that if you take his story with a grain of salt. I also appreciated his handling of suffering. The persecuted believers never shied away from it. They saw it as part of being a Christian.
I was stuck very strongly by one point in Alcorn’s book where the Chinese Christians were asked what their greatest need was. They said good teaching because heresy trolled the land. Many believers there have no understanding of the Bible because many of them don’t have a Bible or only bits and pieces. Also, many of the men get thrown in prison leaving families and churches without leaders and teachers. They need good teachers and good books and most of all good Bibles. Like I said, this book helped me understand what to pray for for these people.
So, providentially, I read a non-fiction and a fictional book about the persecuted Church which substantiated one another. They gave me facts and emotion helping me to spend some of my sick time in pray for brothers and sisters around the world. I would recommend both books to fellow believers. They also tie in nicely with the books about the Wurmbrands.