Even now I gaze upon the volume with reverence. How many hands before mine touched these 153 precious pages?
We made our way down narrow concrete steps to the church’s basement room, and took our seats on wooden benches. Squeezed shoulder to shoulder amidst Russian church leaders, Larry and I gave our attention to the host. A brief program of introductions preceded our food being served.
Following the pleasantries, a cultural gift was presented to Larry. Then, it seemed the moment was right for ushering in steaming bowls of Siberian comfort food.
Slowly, our Siberian colleague made his way around the tables and headed in my direction with a gift just for me. Startled, I gave him my full attention as he placed into my hands what looked like a journal wrapped in nondescript white paper. The only color came from a blue satin bookmark. A moment of awkward silence hung in the air; at first, I did not know what I had been given.
Then, it dawned on me, and the moment of realization took my breath away. This was no ordinary journal.
What I held was a primitive volume of a book from the Cold War dark days of ruthless Communist control. The outer handmade jacket created a disguise, which concealed the true identity of the inner contents. Slowly, with awe, I opened the book and ran my fingers across the onion skin pages. This was a gem. With emotion in his voice, our host said, “We gave you a Russian translation of Josh McDowell’s book More Than a Carpenter.”
Speechless, I reflected on the reality. Some person (or persons) risked their life to translate and type, one word at a time, the manuscript I had just been given.
This clandestine translation of Josh’s book, which focuses on the Person of Jesus Christ, was a monument to the untold darkness and suffering for the church. Multiple carbon copies—hammered out by hand on an old fashioned mechanical typewriter—created a resource for Russian believers otherwise denied such Christian literature.
Questions of How…Who…What…When…crowded my thinking.
How many hands before mine touched these 153 precious pages? Who completed the translation from English to Russian? What brave soul typed the multiple carbon copies to be secretly distributed? What risks did entire households face for possessing such a typewriter and its resulting publication? What persecution awaited them if they were found to possess a copy? When was this last held by a stranger, a saint, I will one day meet in heaven? The answers to my questions would remain a mystery. However, there was no mystery of the fact that I held a gift which far exceeded its material value.
My world took such a book for granted. One only needed to walk into a Christian bookstore and make the purchase. But no such opportunity afforded my fellow believers throughout the dark decades of Lenin, Stalin, Khrushchev, and Brezhnev. Yet God raised up a brave, faith-filled courageous army of His warriors to do His work and provided necessary resources.
Still today, when my eyes gaze on My Siberian Gift, An Unexpected Treasure, (complete with its blue satin bookmark), my faith is inspired. I realize that my life intertwines with the lives of unknown pilgrims in the frozen fields of Siberia, and with the realization, my heart is strangely warmed. "O the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are His judgments, and His ways past finding out!" (Romans 11:33, KJV).
Living With Eternal Intentionality™
When has God surprised you with a gift which far exceeds its material value?