One day when I was reading, my insane cell mate suddenly left his customary place under the bed, crawled out and sat cross-legged under the window opposite me. It was very unusual behavior for him. But I knew it was best to pretend to pay no attention to him—although I always had to be alert.
“What are you reading?” a husky, rough voice broke the silence.
Frightened, I jumped up, looking incredibly at my cell mate in amazement.
Quickly overcoming my surprise, I said kindly, not to provoke his fury, “This is the Bible, the Word of God, and God is telling us about His love and how He sent His Son, Jesus Christ, to heal our soul and body.”
“Give it to me!” he demanded.
What else could I do? I didn’t want to make him wild. So, keeping my distance, I very carefully passed my precious Bible over to him.
“Now,” I wondered, what is he going to do with it?” I prayed in my heart, “Oh, Lord, don’t let him tear it up.” My cell mate opened the Bible and actually started to read.
A great relief filled my heart. “He can’t be completely insane, when he can read,” I thought.
I praised God for it because a great hope for this poor man arose in me, and I started to pray for him fervently.
All day long he read my Bible. The next day he continued. On the third day he started to read again, first thing in the morning. By then I was accustomed to his reading and really paid no attention to him— until I was suddenly disturbed by a strange noise he made. I lifted my head and looked at him. He was crying—with painful, convulsive sobs. The Bible lay beside him. The crouched body of this poor man was tossing in desperate sorrow and I didn’t know what to do. Compassion for the man overcame my fear. I knelt beside him and put my arms around his shoulders
“Don’t cry. God loves you and is able to help you,” I said gently.
“No, no, I am lost, nobody can help me! I am lost! They are going to hang me!” he mumbled desperately. I hugged him more closely while talking to him as kindly as I could. Slowly, in broken sentences and a hoarse voice full of emotion, he told me his story.
I’ll refer to him as Miroslav. He had worked as an office clerk. One day he took secret documents from the office and asked a friend to pass them on to a foreigner. His friend, a forester, was not willing to do so because he had a wife and several children and did not want to risk the well-being of his family. However, Miroslav threatened him and made him do it anyway.
Two days later, both of them, along with some others, were arrested. After a hard and cruel interrogation, Miroslav was told by his lawyer that he could expect the death penalty. Days of harsh treatment and torture followed. As a result, Miroslav became insane. The fact that he had a pregnant wife and a little son whom he dearly loved made the whole situation worse for him. Crouched and trembling, sobbing and mumbling, Miroslav concluded his sad story.
I knew there was not much hope for him. He had committed a crime for which the Communists had only one penalty: death on the gallows.
But God is our loving Father to whom we can bring all of our sorrows and fears. He is a mighty God who could also save the soul and body of this poor being beside me.
A new birth
With a prayerful spirit I started to tell Miroslav about the most glorious message ever to reach the ears of man—the message of Calvary. Then I prayed for light for Miroslav, asking God to touch him by the Holy Spirit and give hope, faith and peace to his heart.
“Miroslav,” I said to him, “you read the Bible and maybe you remember that Jesus said, ‘Him that cometh unto me, I shall not cast away.’ If you will only believe in Jesus, He will forgive you. He will give you peace. So cast all your problems and worries and burdens on Him. He will help you and protect you; He will be with you in life and death. Will you now ask the Lord Jesus to forgive your sins?”
He lifted his head, and with tears running down his face, whispered, “Do you believe that He will hear me, and even can save my life for my family’s sake?”
His eyes were fixed on my lips, anticipating my answer as if his life depended on it.
“Yes, if you will ask Him, He can do it,” I said. And I knew it was true.
With tears and heartbreaking sobs, Miroslav’s heavy heart opened to our merciful God. How he prayed! Never have I heard such a prayer! For a long, very long time Miroslav talked to God. When he finished, I knew a new child was born into the family of God!
Miroslav was slowly healed—both in heart and spirit of mind. What a happy time we had together after that. I told him about God’s faithfulness to the people of Israel and about the saving work of the Lord Jesus. I sang to him many of the Salvation Army’s songs, helping him again and again to chase away doubts and keep on trusting and believing.
Doubts and fears
Christmas was near. In my tiny cell I was preparing a little program for Christmas Day. How lovely it will be to sing Christmas carols and read the touching story of Christ’s birth and praise the Lord for sending His Son to this world. I prayed that this day would help Miroslav grow in faith and love for the Lord Jesus.
The day came at last. When I opened my eyes that morning, my heart cried out, “Oh, no! What—what is it? Oh, what? Where is—?”
From underneath the bed I saw Miroslav’s changed face. A lunatic grinned at me.
“Oh Lord, oh Lord! He is insane again!”
Confused, I paced the cell to and fro.
“Jesus, Jesus, what has happened to Miroslav?” cried my heart. “Lord, he was so well and happy last night, and now? What shall I do, Lord?”
Tears filled my eyes. I sat on the floor, covering my face with my hands. But I jumped up again. No! I am not going to be unhappy. There must be some reason for what has happened. Something must be wrong. What could it be? God is always doing a perfect work and if there is something wrong then it must be on man’s side, not God’s.