Accept for the stars in the moonless night sky there was no light. The pale gray asphalt gave off enough of a glow that we could walk without stumbling. We were thankful for the dark, because we could walk the streets without drawing the attention of the soldiers. We made it to church that night without any trouble.
When we got to the dark house where we were to meet, our leader briefly turned his small flashlight on. He shined it in the dust at the side of the door. Even though most people would not have saw anything but random lines in the dirt, we clearly saw two lines that intersected to form a crude drawing of a fish. This was the sign that the meeting was happening and that it was safe to enter.
Without knocking the leader slowly opened the door, a small light illuminated our faces revealing out identities. A low voice said. “Follow me”. We walk down a short hall where a door opened to a room that had no windows. Crowded into the room were ten other people who had also come at great risk of their lives to worship The Lord.
In this small interior room we could speak without fear of being heard outside. The Pastor spoke up, “Welcome brothers, now that you are here we will start.” Then with a clear voice he began to sing, “We love you Lord, and we lift our voice to worship you O my King” and we all joined in to sing praises to God. We sang several songs and someone prayed.
Because Bibles had been outlawed no one had one, but the pastor passed out hand written copies of John Chapter 3. He then began to speak of how Nicodemas had come to Jesus in the night because it was also dangerous for him to worship Jesus. The pastor’s message was clear and comforting. I felt peace and courage as I listened.
But then the peace was vanquished by the sound of the front door being blasted open by gunshots. The boots of a dozen soldiers could be heard as they went from room to room. Then the door to the room we were in burst open. We were blinded by the bright lights that were attached to the soldier’s weapons.
I was paralyzed with fear. A voice from behind the lights demanded that we line up against the wall. One of the soldiers gathered up our copies of John and handed them to the leader. He looked at handwritten Words of Life and screamed, “Who wrote this crap”? The pastor stepped forward and began to say, “I did” but before he could say the words a bullet tore through His chest. His blood splattered over all of us.
Then the voice of the leader changed, where it had been harsh and loud now it was soothing and oily gentle. Pointing at the body of the pastor he said, “I know that you all really support your government and that you have simply been misled by this criminal”. He continued, “I am not an unreasonable person. Now that you have seen what happens to subversive criminals I know that you will want to renounce his teaching and declare this Jesus to be a fraud. If you wish to leave this room with your life then step forward and tell us that you know this Jesus is a foolish fairytale.
I have never been so scared in my life. My heart was beating at an insane rate. I did not want to die. I believe that Jesus is God; I had vowed to follow Him forever. I am ashamed of what I did next. I wish I had been brave, but I was not, I was a coward. I stepped forward. I could not hold my head up but I mumbled these words, “Jesus is a fake”.
Then one by one the rest of the Christians stepped up, and one by one they each said the words, “Jesus is a fake”. As we each denied Christ we were told to stand together on one side of the room. In a few minutes all but three had betrayed the Savior.
The three stood there, a teenage girl, a very old man and the pastor’s wife. They stood there weeping. The soldier pointed his weapon at them and said, “Renounce God or die”. The old man lifted his head and with clear and strong voice said, “Even so, though I die, I will never betray my Jesus.” As he said these words, the pastor wife and the young girl slipped their hands into his and lifted their eyes to the heavens. Their faces shown with a Holy Light and for a few seconds the room was silent. As if paralyzed by an invisible presence the soldiers were unable to speak.
Suddenly the lead soldier shook his head, as if he was shaking off the invisible presence. He pointed at us and roared “Leave”! We all scrambled to get out of that room through the front door. Once outside the house we stood looking at each other in shame.
Then we heard three voices begin to sing. The quavering voice of the old man, the grief stricken voice of the pastor’s wife and the high clear voice of the young lady began to sing, “Amazing Grace how sweet the sound”. There was an explosive sound of a gunshot. Silence! But then strong, and clear the pastor’s wife and the young girl sang out, “that saved a wretch like me” BOOM another gunshot shattered the night. There seemed to be no break in the song this time, the teenage girl continued to sing loudly and clearly, I once was lost but now I am found, was blind but now I See! A final shot rang out and the voices were silent.
I ran, along with the other Judases. The sound of the shooting faded but the song reverberated in my soul. I found a dark place to hide and prayed that Jesus would forgive a wretch like me.
Douglas & Deborah Huff
From Down Where the Pavement Ends