What You’ve Been Searching For
A Message From A Cold Warrior in Hot Water
The name of the show is What You’ve Been Searching For, but sometimes it’s not what you’ve been searching for, but who’s doing the searching. Before we get started, make sure to like, comment, and subscribe. I’m Joel Fieri, stay tuned.
As I always tell you on this show, we do a lot of research here at Christian Podcast Central on what you’ve been searching for, what topics, what questions do you want discussed, but we also came across some information on who is watching. It turns out we have that coveted demographic, that 25 to 50-year-old audience that so many want to speak to. Well, since we have that audience, I consider that an opportunity, what would I have to say to people who are younger than me, who haven’t had my life experiences? Today I want to do something a little different. I want to play a clip that I did years ago, a little short video talking about the story of a young man who had a life-changing experience when he tried to smuggle Bibles and literature into Eastern Europe. I want to play it for you now and afterwards, I’ll tell you what my message is for you. Take a look.
I’m Joel Fieri, and welcome to a special video edition of the Big Picture Podcast. On today’s show, I want to tell you a story that hopefully you’ll find interesting. It’s the story of a young Christian man, who, way back in 1982, decided to go on an overseas summer missions project with his church. He had two choices, the Philippines or Eastern Europe. As a want to be cold warrior and with the rumblings of the Solidarity movement beginning in Poland at the time, Eastern Europe was his choice. With visions of freeing the communist world for Christ in his head, off he went with his pastor and a group of like-minded friends.
They joined up with a large ministry that at the time was sending thousands of Bibles and tracts, as well as young Christians, into many of the then Soviet-dominated Eastern European countries. Many of the tracts and Bibles were confiscated and some of the young people even went to jail, but the gospel was getting through and the intrepid young man wanted in on the action.
Well, he finally got his chance in mid-summer, traveling through what was then Yugoslavia with a plan to smuggle Bibles into Romania, which in many ways was the darkest and worst of all the communist countries. Well, after an adventurous three-day journey in a special van equipped with compartments full of outlawed Bibles and Christian literature, they finally arrived at the Romanian border. While waiting for their turn in line for inspection, our hero had an urgent need for a restroom. Now, I mention this only because it was while he was returning to the van, after taking care of this urgent need in the foulest restroom he’d ever seen, even by Eastern European standards, his heart sank in fear as he saw Romanian border agents, the dreaded security forces, beginning to dismantle the van and discover it’s illegal cargo.
Panicking, his first inclination was to run, but run where? He was in no man’s land between two communist countries. So with a lump in his throat and a prayer in his heart, realizing that he’d gotten himself into this mess, he walked fearfully back to the van. His traveling companions, a brother and sister who’d been in this situation before, were commonly standing by watching the security agents rip the van apart. Gradually, the young man’s fears began to ease as he noticed that the security agents, so feared by the oppressed people of Romania, seemed drunk. He actually had to assist one of them with a screwdriver to get a door panel open. The rest were acting pretty silly and even stumbling around.
It was then that the young cold warrior realized who it was we were up against, fallen men, lost men, men too drunk to use a screwdriver properly, men who were themselves trapped in a godless system and worldview, bereft of meaning and without hope, men who could imprison him and possibly harm his body, but men who were no match for an all-powerful God who was intent on freeing Eastern Europe from them and their evil system.
Now, as you might guess, they found all the Bibles and tracts, taking them inside the security building. The head security agent was pleased, no doubt this would be a feather in his cap professionally, and maybe financially as well. Outlawed Bibles were in big demand on the Romanian black market, after all. Well, after the haul was safely brought inside, the agent assigned a young army soldier with a rifle to guard the three smugglers on a bench outside while an English-speaking interrogator was being sought. The soldier was a mere teenager, 17 or 18 maybe. After watching all the security agents go inside, he immediately turned to the three young Christians he was guarding, lowered his rifle, pointed to himself and said, “Biblia, Biblia.” He wanted a Bible.
Now, maybe he wanted a piece of the black market action, but our once fearful young hero understood something completely different. With all the military and political might brought to bear against it, the faith of Eastern European Christians could not be defeated. The God of the universe does not succumb to communism or socialism. Try as they might to kill him, or even the idea of him, God was still God. There will always be a remnant of his people in this godless world. His side will always win and his kingdom will always prevail.
Now, as it turned out, there was no interrogation and the smugglers were sent back to Western Europe, their mission seemingly a failure, but it was a transformative event in the life of the young summer missionary who went to Europe craving adventure and a fight, but who came back knowing that the fight was already won and who was very happy to be on the winning side, God’s side. In case you haven’t guessed by now, that young want to be cold warrior who found himself in no man’s land between two worlds was me, your humble podcaster. It’s why I do this podcast, folks, because in the big picture, no matter how bad things look, we know the king and if we stay faithful and obedient to him, we’re on the winning side.
Quite a head of hair, right? It was epic, I know, but it’s gone. But that was me, a younger version of me, talking about a much younger version of me. As I said, the biggest lesson I took away at the time was that God is in control. I’m on the winning team, as I said, communism is no match for the God of the universe. But there also is another lesson that I forgot, or maybe even didn’t learn, until just recently. There’s something I didn’t tell you on this video, it’s something that happened on that trip. When we were working and meeting with these Eastern European Christians who were living out their faith under the communist oppressive boot of tyranny and torture and murder, we, as Westerners, thought we were coming to help them. They needed us, they needed our literature, they needed our help. After all, we were the free ones, we were the ones with hallowed biblical knowledge. We were free to exercise our faith, so we were obviously more mature in our faith, stronger in our faith, because we had all these freedoms.
But these Christians who, again, had been under the communist boot, looked at us and said, “No, we thank you for your help, but we don’t need you. As a matter of fact, you need us.” This is what they told us, more than one of them told us this. They said, “We’re praying for you in the West, for you Christians in the west, that you will undergo some of the persecution that we’re undergoing now.” Really, yes, they were. They said, “If you undergo the same type of persecution that we do, you will know the blessing of suffering for Christ. You will be a much stronger Christian who has a much better sense of what it means to follow Christ in the midst of trouble. You’ll be like Peter and John in Acts, who rejoiced at being counted worthy to suffer for the name of Christ.”
That’s what they were praying for us. And you know what? They were right. We had that attitude, we had that superior attitude, but we weren’t superior to them. We had much to learn from them because they knew what it was to really follow Christ and to really be Christians in a world that was atheistic, antagonistic, and brutal to them because of their faith.
Why do I bring this up? Because in today’s cultural and social and political moment that we find ourselves in, I think the prayers of those Christians from long ago, those persecuted Eastern European Christians who knew that what we needed in the West was persecution, we needed to be shaken out of our comfort zone. It took a while, but I think now God is answering those prayers, those millions of prayers that were prayed in love for us so that we would know the depth of knowing Christ that they knew.
For you young people, why am I telling you young people this? This is going to be part of your reality as Christians, as Americans, as Westerners. The same persecution, whether it’s the same level of persecution, I don’t know. It really doesn’t have to be. The reality of your life will be you will experience resistance and maybe even persecution for your faith, if you stay faithful.
Now, these were the faithful Christians. There were many Christians that weren’t faithful in Eastern Europe. Many churches and many Christians bowed the knee to communism, they submitted. They either facilitated, or at some points participated in, the persecution of their fellow brothers and sisters. That might be a reality in your life, it might be a Reval reality in my life. This might come sooner than we think. No one could have predicted what’s happening now. But leaders, people in power today, have the same philosophy that the Romanian and East German and Bulgarian and Soviet leaders had back in the day when I took this trip.
For you young people, you will have a choice somewhere in your life, your children will have a choice. Do you stay faithful? Do you count yourself worthy of being persecuted for the name of Christ? I wouldn’t have thought even two, three, four, five years ago that that would be a reality, but I think it is, I think it’s coming. My message for you today is if you find yourself in this kind of circumstance where you are meeting resistance and even persecution for your faith, try and remember that someone somewhere once told you that persecuted Christians were praying for this. This is an answer to prayer, this is so you will know the depth of following Christ in the midst of persecution. I hope I remember it.
Thanks for listening.