My Insane Cell Mate
I learned later what had happened in this cell only three days before I arrived. My insane cell mate had gotten a spell of fury and had attacked the guard, scratching his face badly. Other guards came and subdued and bound the prisoner. He was left bound for three days without food, water or any care.
Shortly before I was put into the cell he had been unbound. That was the reason the guards pushed me into the cell so quickly and why they watched through the peephole afterwards. They thought he would kill me! But the Lord was also watching me. He heard my prayers and tamed the bad temper of this insane man that night.
When I awoke the next morning, my first look was at the bed. The blanket was hanging down and the bed was empty. With a feeling of relief I jumped up. I went over to the bed to tidy it up, when suddenly the creature’s hand flashed out from under the bed and gripped my foot with a terrible scream. I jumped with fright! It was enough to jerk my foot loose from his grasp.
My insane cell mate spent most of the daytime under the bed. The guards pushed food trays to him there. I could hear the animal-like sounds of his eating.
For the first several days I guardedly watched his every movement, but later on I got used to him.
In time, a deep compassion filled my heart for him. Who was he? The features of his face still carried a trace of intelligence. Surely he used to be a very good-looking man. What changed him so much? He must have gone through much suffering and ill treatment to become what he was now.
I discovered that his feet were sore with a mucous disease. This caused a very unpleasant odor.
One day, after he had fallen asleep, outstretched under the bed, I crept slowly over to him and tried to wash his feet with a wet cloth. “What will he do if he awakes?” I pondered.
But nothing happened. I had the impression he felt relieved by the washing. Often after that I had the chance to repeat this simple act of help and kindness. I prayed for this wretched being, day by day.
How I longed for a Bible to read. I never knew I could miss reading the Word of God so much.
Then one day something happened that had a far reaching consequence I got a package in the mail from my wife. I don’t know how it got through. Somehow Erna had simply gotten permission to send a small package of food. It was a rare exception, because through all those years we were seldom allowed to get mail—let alone packages.
I opened the package with shaky hands. The charm and love of my home breathed on me so powerfully that I shed tears over the few things which the dear hands of my darling wife had so lovingly prepared.
I found a note with a few words written by hand of a child: “Dear Daddy, these nuts I shelled for you…this apple is from your Alenka.”
Neither nuts nor an apple were in the package. When it had been censored these good things had disappeared. There was still something left for me—a sandwich! Those were days of starvation and I wondered what I would find there between the two slices of bread. A slice of yellow cheese? Or a piece of bacon? Or maybe...? No, that could not be—where would my wife find a piece of ham? Slowly I took the wrapping off the sandwich. I lifted off the top slice of bread. And there—I could not believe my eyes! There, in the sandwich, was concealed a little black book—the New Testament!
With trembling hands I took the Testament out and pressed it to my heart—and then to my lips.
“Oh, Lord, how good Thou art!” I whispered again and again. The Word of God for which I was longing so much was now in my hands, smuggled into my cell between two slices of bread.
“Praise the Lord!”
In the days that followed, I had a beautiful light shining in my heart. I had the Word of God—the Bible, which is so strictly forbidden in Communist prisons. I read and read my Testament daily and with new joy. Oh, how my soul had been starving for the Word of God!
Whenever I heard the rattling of a key in the cell door, I quickly hid my Bible under my shirt or in my sleeve. Once, I had only seconds to hide it, so I simply sat on it! How I worried that I would have to stand up. But the guard just looked in the cell and closed the door again. How grateful I was to the Lord for this protection. But God still had much more in store for me.
One day as I read my Testament I was so captivated by the message that I failed to hear the rattling of the key in the cell door. Suddenly, there was the guard standing before me. There was nothing I could do. I looked at him, speechless.
“My Bible is lost,” I thought.
“What are you reading?” demanded the guard.
“It’s the Word of God, the Bible,” I answered meekly. Then, almost pleading, I said, “I got it from my wife.”
Glancing at my Bible, he said, “So, that’s what it is.” And he turned and left.
I slipped down onto my knees. “What would I have told the guard if he had asked how I got the book? What could I have done, if he had taken it from me? Oh, how good Thou art, oh my Lord!”
From that day on, I read my precious Bible without fear. What a comfort it was to me.