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52 Godly Men : Men of Today Teaching the Men of Tomorrow » Uncategorized » A Pastor’s Dilemma

A Pastor’s Dilemma

With the threat of a surprise raid hanging heavy over their heads, Kruschev’s group kept noise down to a minimum. Their singing was beautiful, albeit barely distinguishable, and the presence of the Holy Spirit was noticeable in the small, windowless basement where they sat or stood in various positions of worship. After several such songs, Kruschev, or “Pastor Benjamin” as he was known to the members of his secret congregation, stood silently, letting the strengthening waves of the Spirit pour over him. Finally, he began his message. It was a simple sermon, if it could be called that. In reality, it was a talk; a private talk with each of the people in that room. He spoke about the need for bold witnesses for the Lord, and the reality that the Communists on every side of them in Russia could not do a thing to them if Almighty God did not allow it first. It was both stirring and soothing, peaceful yet powerful. It touched the believers like a balm to cover a wound, and reassured them of the rock on which they stood. At the end of the message, Benjamin prayed a prayer of blessing and protection over his brothers and sisters, and then they were dismissed from church. That is, the sermon part of church was over; the real ministry work would begin when they left the basement.

“Love your enemies, bless them that curse you.” These were the words of scripture that were imbedded in Benjamin Kruschev’s mind as surely as was the sight of the Communist officer crossing the street in front of him. The man certainly was his enemy, by his choice, if not by Benjamin’s, but a prayer of blessing and protection for him was much more difficult. Sighing, and searching his heart for an ounce of compassion for this man, Benjamin spoke a few heartfelt words to God asking for the man’s conversion and baptism. Instantly, more verses popped into his head: “The prayer of a righteous man avails much,” and “The king’s heart is in the hand of the Lord.” Still, his heart not one whit lighter, he continued on his journey home. The street was dimly lighted and lightly covered with snow; Benjamin’s house was not in the nicest part of town, owing to the moderate amount of money earned by him and his wife in their woodworking business. It was enough to cover the bills and buy them food, and, not having children, their expenses were relatively small. It was strange, he thought as he walked. Five years ago, when they were first married, he would have seen a childless life as a curse. Now, as the pastor of an underground church in a Communist nation, it was a blessing to be able to focus on his work and his wife, without the added cares of a young son or daughter. His thoughts returned to his message of that night, and the officer he had spotted. It was true, God could keep him safe if he chose, and he should be spreading the gospel to as many as possible, but to brazenly declare rebellion to the state religion and allegiance to the Lord of Hosts, well, that was a prison sentence at best!

Grey eyes tired and blond hair disheveled, the weary young man of about twenty-seven continued his walk. After ten more minutes of meditative trekking, Benjemin arrived at his humble home. It was a small, though tidy house that was prettier now than when he and his wife had first bought it several days before their union. Anita Kruschev, a slim, beautiful woman with raven hair and blue eyes, met him at the door. “How was the service?” she asked. He gave her the outline of the sermon, the numerous prayer needs of the people there that night, and the meager, but still welcome, offering he had taken up at the beginning. Then, he asked her the question that had been niggling at him all evening: “How courageous are the Lord’s followers supposed to be in this life?” Anita looked at him, not quite understanding. He explained how he had felt like God was telling him to preach the good news to this man, “But that would be crazy! He would arrest me on the spot! And even if he didn’t, it would do no good to tell him about Jesus.” His wife gazed at him fondly, eyes sparkling, and then said, “If God told you to share the gospel, then you share it, no matter who hears it. You know that he can protect you, and you also know that even if he doesn’t, our job as His servants is only to obey.”

Even though he knew what he had to do, Benjemin was still hesitant; and who wouldn’t be? The next day, while out on his customary walk, he told himself that he didn’t even know the man’s name or where he lived. To ask around would be begging for trouble to come. Of course, that had to be the very moment when he was passing the town’s police station. With a damp brow and a pounding heart, he walked in. The foyer was medium-sized, with several metal chairs along one wall and a desk at the back of the room. As the man behind the desk looked up, Benjemin was struck once again by God’s sense of humor and timing; it was the same man. “Can I help you?” The words were merely a formality; there was nothing but uncaring superciliousness on his face. Benjemin swallowed, or tried to, anyway. He had nothing to say, nothing that could make this man listen to him. Then he was reminded that the Holy Spirit would give him the words to say when his own mind could not. At that moment, Benjemin’s mouth opened and he began telling the officer things from the man’s life as the Holy Spirit brought them to his mind. In a matter of minutes, the man’s countenance had changed from uncaring to wondering and fearful. “How do you, a mere commoner, know these things about me? Tell me!” It was the invitation Benjemin had been waiting for. After learning that the other’s name was Alexandr Meylin, Benjemin told him that the knowledge of his life came from the Lord, God of heaven and earth, and that anyone could have His Spirit in them if they accepted his son as their savior and ruler. This was the crucial moment; if Meylin would arrest or kill him, it would be now. But instead, with glistening eyes, he spoke about how his heart had been aching of late, and nothing would fill the void in his chest. There, in the police station, the preacher prayed with the officer for Jesus to enter into his heart and renew him forever.

At the next underground meeting, there was a new member in the rows of battered metal folding chairs. Benjemin kept the fact that the man was a part of their hunters a secret, for obvious reasons. He simply stated that they had a new brother in the Lord, and they would baptize him at the end of the week. Meylin was indeed baptized, and during the following months dedicated himself to helping Krushchev win more souls, keeping the rest of his co-workers away from the building, and getting him more money to pay expenses. Benjemin was constantly talking to Anita about how Alexandr had gotten hold of the Christian lifestyle. However, things soon began going wrong. It started slowly, with several members being picked up for questioning in a several-day span. Now, this occasionally happened, and it wasn’t something to unduly concern anyone, but then Veronika Lesek, an elderly widow, was imprisoned when it was found she was attending secret church meetings. This began to worry the young pastor, and he made it a point to watch Meylin closely whenever he came in contact with him. Of course, the other man outwardly showed nothing but devotion to God and love to others, but one had to be careful when doing something illegal, especially something like running an underground church.

Truthfully, Benjemin had no idea what to do about the situation, but he kept praying, and soon, as usual, he was provided with the answer. There were several of the body talking after service one night, Alexandr Meylin being one of them. Entering into the conversation, Benjemin casually mentioned the fact that a pastor from another underground church close by was sick, and he needed prayer. As he had hoped, another man asked where the pastor lived, so he could pray for him in person. Krushchev gave the address, watching Meylin as he said it. The officer said nothing, but Benjemin imagined he saw a spark of interest in the other’s eyes. When he got home, he called the man, who was indeed slightly sick with pneumonia, and warned him of a possible incoming raid by the police. Sure enough, within two days, the man’s house was invaded by the authorities. Fortunately, because of the warning, the pastor escaped safely, but the event gave Benjemin all the proof he wanted. He grimly resolved to privately talk to Meylin the following morning.

As Meylin entered into Benjemin’s house, he looked at ease and innocent of any treachery. He was also a Communist, Benjemin reminded himself. “He has done things like this for years.” He began the conversation with a few pleasantries, and then finally broached the subject of the matter at hand. “There is a spy in our congregation,” he said with a grim look on his face. Meylin, instead of being shocked or acting innocent of the affair like he had thought, instead nodded slightly in agreement. “I have had the same thought as well. I first suspected when Karev and Vladimir were stopped down at the station, but the raid on that man’s house confirmed it.” Krushchev sighed; this would be harder than he thought. “I have reason to believe that you are the spy,” he almost whispered, so low and quiet was his voice. Meylin said nothing at first, but the stunned, hurt look on his face pierced Benjemin’s heart. “I know why you would think that; you would judge me prematurely because of my past mistakes and not because of my new life that I lead.” Benjemin said nothing. “If you think me guilty, then think me guilty. But as surely as the Lord lives, I am not the spy in our church.” “If not you, than who? The first major troubles began when you came into our congregation, and you were there when I gave the address for the house that was raided not two days later.” The officer shook his head. “There were several others there as well, and they heard you just as well as I did. You know how dedicated I have been to furthering the gospel, and how the Lord has honored my prayers and exhortations for others. His Spirit rests on me, and I would not lose that to my old life.” Benjemin was finally convinced: it was true, Alexandr wasn’t the only one who had heard him speak of the pastor, and his work for the church was laudable. However, if he wasn’t the traitor, that left an even bigger problem; an anonymous person spilling secrets to the officials about the church’s members and activities. Meylin raised a finger. “There is one other way to pinpoint the person we want. Somehow, someway, he knows who I really am, and is trying to get me away from the church, no matter the cost. That is something we can find out very easily.”

Since members of illegal, underground churches usually don’t voluntarily walk into police stations, it was easy to find out if anyone had been snooping around there. It turned out that there was a man from the church who had checked the officer file while nobody had been watching, and had found Meylin in there, just as he had thought. The description of this man matched Klaus Krov, one of Benjemin’s confidants and friends for years. He was also one of the men who had heard where the sick man lived. “Why would he do something like this?” wondered the pastor. Meylin shrugged. “Maybe he didn’t think a true church could live in harmony with a former enemy as a part of it. He never did anything to harm anyone, just to pinpoint a traitor. The rest of the people would make the connection soon enough, and I would be forced to leave or be killed.” “He just didn’t count on me believing the Communist over the evidence,” Benjemin said with a wry smile.

The next church meeting saw Krov absent, but apparently the traitor had one more trick up his sleeve before leaving forever. When Krushchev got home that night, the police were at his house waiting for him. “Are you Benjemin Krushchev?” Instead of his wife, that question was what greeted him at the door. “Yes officer, I am.” Benjemein replied. “You are under arrest. Come with us.” With Anita quietly sobbing in a corner, Benjemin did as they said. He was accused of furthering a religion not supported by the state, and thrown in prison. That night, while praying in his cell, Benjemin wondered how Jesus had allowed Judas to remain in his group, fully knowing what the man would become. That was when he heard a nearly inaudible cough outside his cell door. It was Meylin! “Keep silent and follow me,” he said as he noiselessly unlocked the door in the near-darkness. “I heard what happened, and came as soon as I was let off duty.” As he spoke, they passed other rooms and walked through corridors. Benjemin was reminded of what happened to Peter, and thanked God for keeping him safe. They made it safely out of the building, and Benjemin walked quickly home. His wife fell into his arms, sobbing and crying. Meylin took his cue, and tipping his cap, said goodbye and left.

Now, whenever Benjemin Krushchev walks to or from his underground church, wherever it happens to be meeting that night, he doesn’t walk alone. Meylin walks with him, and the two thank God for it: one for a friend in a high position that has the power to release prisoners, the other for one who showed him a way to finally be free of his own jail cell. Truly, “there is a friend that sticks closer than a brother.”

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3 Responses to "A Pastor’s Dilemma"

  1. Sarah says:

    David Thompson, I got goosebumps reading this! Excellent stuff, you are very talented.

  2. Jess says:

    you have such a talent for writing! Keep it up!

  3. Naomi says:

    Great work, David. Very proud of our grandson!

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