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2. We Went Through Fire and Water

But You led us to a place of abundance. (Psalm 66:12)

“Hello. My name is Tanya.”

It was 1977. Larry and I were with our Polish language institute on a three-day cultural excursion to Krakow. This young woman’s abrupt introduction interrupted our early morning daze as we stood mindlessly in the lobby of our communist youth hostel. Others in our group mingled around, but she came directly to Larry and me. She wore an orange turtleneck sweater, though it was the middle of summer. Her short hair had a mind of its own; her worn jeans needed washing. Her only luggage was a well-traveled backpack.

“May I please join your tour group?” Her odd question, spoken in perfect English, made more sense when she explained further. “I am from the Soviet Union; my home is Leningrad. For the first time in my life, I have a passport to travel outside the borders of my country. I may never get this opportunity again. If I could travel with your group on your bus, I could see so much more than I can ever see traveling on my own.”

With approval from our leader-lecturer, Tanya from Leningrad boarded our bus. This providential work of God was rapidly redefining my definition of “divine appointment”. In a Polish youth hostel packed with travelers, He brought Tanya from the Soviet Union to us, two covert American missionaries. 

The opportunity to share the Gospel came soon, and Tanya listened with the hunger of the Ethiopian in Acts. I pray I never recover from her response when asked, “Would you like to invite Christ into your heart?”

“Yes, yes I would. But first, I need to tell you an unusual story from this past year.”

She continued. “I was walking home from university on a cold, November afternoon. My route took me past one of the Foreigners’ Hotels, and suddenly something fell on the ground in front of my feet. I looked up to see someone throwing books from a top floor window of the building, and one of these books landed there at my feet. I hastily grabbed it, tucked it in my heavy winter coat, and ran for my life. I knew if the police saw me, I would be arrested. Fortunately, I was able to make it safely home. With frozen fingers, I hurriedly unlocked the doors to our family flat. In the privacy of my own room, I removed the object form inside my coat. I was shocked to discover this Book was a Bible. I did not own a Bible, and I had never read a Bible.”

She kept going. “Since November, I have been reading it, and I am prepared. Without that Bible, I would never have been able to comprehend this conversation we are having. Now I understand; I want to respond to what you have shared with me. I want to invite Christ to come into my life.”

Heaven and earth stood still as two heads bowed, one head from Mississippi, and one head from Leningrad. Our heads bowed, and our hearts merged as Tanya invited Jesus into her heart to be her Lord and Savior. 

I have not seen or heard from her since. For her safety, we did not exchange addresses. I don’t even know her last name, but I know her eternal name is written in The Lamb’s Book of Life.  One day we will meet again at The Feet of the One whom Tanya from Leningrad came to call “her own".

This heaven-orchestrated appointment taught me:
Different country
Different culture
Different language
Different government
But…
Same Gospel. Same God.

If you dare, I invite you to read further. 
Months, even years, passed before I learned, what I believe with all my heart, could be the other part of this story. In the chill of the Cold War, one of our personal ministry donors and dear friend, Miss Scottie from Mississippi, was part of a delegation to the Soviet Union. Her highly guarded trip included Leningrad. Compelled by the Holy Spirit, she tossed her smuggled Bibles from the top floor of the Foreigners’ Hotel where she and her group were forced to reside. One by one, as she threw the Bibles from her window, she prayed for someone to pick them up. Yes, this is a true story.

One woman
     One Bible
          One student
               One missionary
                    One God
                         One Gospel