"Do not fear any of those things
which you are about to suffer. Indeed, the devil is about to throw some
of you into prison, that you may be tested.... Be faithful until death,
and I will give you the crown of life." Revelation 2:10
“Lord, where are You? Don’t You see me
here in prison, locked in this cell? I need Your help! I am
innocent, Lord! Let me out!”
I literally shouted my supplication to
Heaven, forgetting that I was not permitted to speak out
loud. A hard knock on the door startled me, flinging me back
to reality. A Russian guard banged his key against the
metal-plated door to my cell and through the peephole I
could see his eye regarding me balefully.
Minutes passed before I could calm down. I
sat on the metal “tray” that, suspended from the wall,
served as my bunk.... A beam of the setting sun shone for a
moment through the little window set high in the wall and
illumined the marks on the wall which were my calendar.
Eight lines scratched there, eight days in this cell in
It was July 28 . For twenty-three
maddening days I had been held prisoner by the Russians,
unable to communicate with the outside world, with no
charges brought against me, no trial, and no
indication of what my jailers intended to do with me.... Loudly I had
protested that I was an American citizen and that my arrest
was illegal, only to be told by the impatient Russian
officer in charge that no doubt his superiors knew what they
In solitary confinement, a man has nothing to do but think.
There is no one with whom he can speak, nothing to read. My
cell was a small, tight-closed room, twelve feet long and
six wide. There was just enough space for me to take six
short paces back and forth for exercise. The window was so
high that I could tell only whether it was day or night...
This was the first day that we had had only warm water
instead of the usual soup, or coffee, and bread. When
the guards came around again at the time of the evening
meal, I could hear tin bowls rattling against the doors of
the cell block. Curses and cries of protest echoed through
“God will punish you for
this, you Red swine,” I heard an anguished voice cry out.
With mounting apprehension, I awaited my turn. My fears were
soon confirmed: again we received only warm water.
Weakly, I went back and sat
down on my bunk, looking at the spoon in my hand for which I
had no use. “Lord,” I cried out bitterly, “are You expecting
anyone to live on this?”
Then, suddenly, I went on my knees with humility and prayed,
“Lord, Lord, I am starving! Help me, or I will die!”
Quickly, I rose from my knees. It was not safe to be caught
kneeling in prayer. Already, as the sun went down, the
unfrosted electric-light bulb which lighted my cell all
night had been turned on so that the guards could watch me.
To be found praying would be excuse enough for a trip to the
dungeon and what is called in communist double-talk
I stretched out on my bunk. Closing my eyes, as if in sleep,
I tried to find words with which to pray:
“Our Father in
Heaven, I was unthankful for all You permitted me to enjoy
in the past. I trusted in the material things made by men’s
hands alone. Now I turn to You for help. You know that I am
hungry and in prison. I beg You to give me bread in the
morning and, during the coming day, to open the doors of
this prison so that I may again be free.”
Having offered this prayer, peace was restored me and I went
to sleep confident that in the morning I would have
bread—with freedom for dessert. In the morning when I awoke,
I tried to busy myself so that the half-hour wait for
breakfast would not seem so long. With my sleeve I dusted
off the corner of the table so that I could lay my bread
down while drinking my coffee.
The lock fell open on my door, and I held out my pan with my
left hand for the imitation coffee and my right hand for the
bread. In the second the door was open I gazed at my
father’s door, down the corridor on the other side, and
smiled so that he could see I was alive and healthy....
The door closed and my right hand was still empty; there was
no bread! Quickly I pushed open the peephole in the door and
watched as Dad opened his door. Surely he had been praying
for food, too. He did not even hold out his right hand for
the bread; he had seen that there was none.
Yet he had a grateful smile for the guard and a cheerful
glance across the corridor for me. How could he be
cheerful? I was puzzled and confused. And when at noon there
was only water, I was completely disillusioned. Surely God
has abandoned me, I thought; I have prayed earnestly to him
in my hour of need and He has denied me....
Of course, I realize now how foolish I was to think that the
first time I prayed, I should get an immediate answer. God
doesn’t work things out that way. I had prayed that my
will be done, not His. I prayed a selfish prayer,
thinking only of myself, and had been demanding,
rather than penitent....
That night, however, with my stomach growing numb after two
days of enforced fasting and with the rebellion in my spirit
fading as my body became weaker, I felt differently about
it. Remembering the mercy promised us by our Lord, Jesus
Christ, I turned to Him in prayer and asked Him to intercede
with God that we might have food.
the morning of the fourth day, my prayers were answered at
last and there was bread again. Closing my eyes, I gave
thanks to the Lord. Breaking the bread and slowly eating it,
I felt the weakness of my body replaced by a new surge of
hope. At noon and again in the evening we had a fairly thick
soup along with the bread
and that evening I slept soundly. I felt that my prayers had
been answered and I kept on praying that the food rations be
increased. I also continued to pray for release.
I should have observed that the Lord gave me food when I
needed it and not when I wanted it, and should have realized
then that He would lead my captors to give me freedom only
in due course when He saw fit. But I continued to pray
selfishly, and certainly with impatience.
On the morning of Thursday, August 2, came a crushing
disappointment. Again we were given only coffee for
breakfast, and at noon and night only warm water. And this
went on day after day until by the ninth day almost half
the prisoners had died. And still the starving process
But what happened to my father and me during this period... convinced me forever that there is a God who
reigns over this universe and who can answer the prayers of
those who believe in Him!
"He said to
grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in
weakness.' Therefore most gladly I will rather boast in my
infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me.
Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in
needs, in persecutions, in distresses, for Christ’s sake. For when I am weak, then I am strong." 2 Corinthians 12:9-10