PAPA IS TAKEN
Papa is Taken (excerpt from 'A Small Price To Pay by Harvey Yoder)
This story is taken from http://www.crossroad.to/Excerpts/books/faith_under_fire/misha/small-price.htm The complete book can be purchased from www.lighthousetrails.com
"The Stalinist government wanted to get rid of all Christians. That is why they continued to arrest the men from our church. When the pastors were all in prison or killed, other men took their places..." (p. 28)
Papa Is Taken
“We are here for Ivan Khorev.”
Though I was still half asleep, I instantly knew what was happening. My parents had talked enough between themselves that I understood it was only a matter of time before the police would come for Papa.
I shivered from fright as much as from cold as I huddled under the blanket and watched the scene at the front door. “My husband is not at home,” I heard my mother say clearly to the voice out in the hail.
The door was shoved open from the hallway, and three men in uniform strode into the living room. They looked around our small flat, straining to see into the darkened rooms.
My mother had backed toward us, shielding us as much as she could from the men. I heard Maria whimper as she woke and saw the strange men in the room.
“Where is Ivan Khorev?” The question was loud and reached into every corner of the flat.
“He is at work,” Mama said. Her voice did not betray her emotions. She went to Maria and picked her up, wrapping the blanket tightly around her.
“Is it necessary to go to work to arrest him, or will he come home?” the officer asked in his strident voice.
Mama hesitated only a moment. “He will come home.” Her voice was firm and sure.
“Humph,” grunted the man. “We will see.” One of the soldiers had found the light switch, and suddenly we were blinded by the his
electric bulb hanging from the ceiling.
“Books!” said the officer leading the party. He sounded triumphant. Walking over to Papa’s library, he cocked his head sideways and began reading the titles. “Religious propaganda,” he snorted.
My eyes went to the black bag beside the door. The bag had been there for several months, waiting for this time. We all knew what was inside that bag. We all knew why the bag was packed. Almost every time we met with other believers, we heard news that another brother had been taken away by the KGB in the “Black Raven,” as the feared vehicle was called. The men always had packed bags, ready for their turn. Especially the pastors, like my father.
I had watched as Mama packed the bag. Packed and repacked. “Oh, I didn’t pack a spoon,” she would say, and go to the kitchen and put a spoon in the bag. A spoon. A tin cup. A tin soup plate. Some underwear and a shirt and trousers. A pair of resoled slippers was at the bottom.
Sometimes Mama made me stop going through the bag, fingering each item and staring long and hard at each thing, memorizing the pattern on the spoon, the scratches on the cup.
The other two soldiers stood beside the door. I sensed their eyes on me and looked away. Would they take away the packet of sugar Mama had slipped in just yesterday? Would they allow him to keep the bag? My mind shut down, refusing to think further. I looked at the soldiers. They looked tired. In the electric light, their faces looked pale. I wondered if they had families. Maybe they had boys like me or girls like my sisters.
I didn’t know what time it was, but I knew that it must be around the middle of the night. Sleep pressed heavily on my eyelids, yet a nervous tension kept us all awake. I reached for Vera’s hand under the blanket.
The officer sat down on a chair, holding one of Papa’s books in his hands. He began to read. Mama sat on the cot with us, holding Maria. We snuggled against her. I could hear her gentle breathing, and for some reason, I felt comforted. In spite of the presence of danger, I felt my head nod. I slept, but I kept waking up. Every time I woke I saw the men there in our home, and I would close my eyes tightly, trying to shut out the fear by shutting out the images.
That is how we spent the night. Waiting. Waiting for Papa to come home from work.
The soldiers put chairs beside the door and sat down. The officer continued to read the book.
* * *
There was a noise at the front door. The officer leapt to his feet. Instantly Mama was standing up, heading across the room. But the soldiers opened the door first and grabbed Papa by his coat, jerking him into the room. The officer faced him sternly. “Ivan Khorev, you are under arrest.” The soldiers released their grip.
I know God must have prepared my father for this time, because there was no panic, no alarm at all as he looked at the strange scene he had come home to after his long night at work. I am sure he had seen the Black Raven parked in front of our apartment building. Everyone in the city knew that when that vehicle was outside, someone was being arrested and taken to prison.
His eyes rested on Mama for a moment, then he looked at us children.
As the two soldiers moved toward him again, Papa held up his hand. “Wait! We will pray together before I leave with you.”
As was our custom, we all knelt on the floor. I could smell the cold air on Papa’s clothes as he knelt beside me. Mama prayed first. In a steady, sure voice, she asked God to be with Papa during the difficult time that was before him. Then Maria prayed. Her four-year-old voice was barely out of babyhood, yet she knew how to pray. I prayed. Nadia and Vera prayed. Last of all, Papa prayed.
“Lord, I love my wife and children very much. Home is very dear to me. But most of all in the world I love you! That is why I have chosen the narrow, and sometimes thorny, path. I put into your care all the needs of my family, since I am to be taken away. Bless me with the assurance that you are taking care of all their needs. Give me the peace, Lord, that you are taking full control of this situation. I know that you are always faithful to your promises. I trust in you.
"When my wanderings on this earth are over and I stand before your great white throne, praising you for your love, allow me, by faith, to meet my dear family there. May we all be there, praising you for your goodness! Please, God! Bless my family during this forced separation! I love you and give all praise to you!”
For a while, I could forget the officers. I heard the same, sure voice of my Papa saying the same things to the same God he served. But the “amen” came at last. We got up from our knees, then Papa took turns embracing and kissing us all.
“Remember, sonny, I will meet you at the fountain!” He kissed me lovingly on my cheek. Then he kissed Mama. I saw the officer had removed his hat and had tears in his eyes.
Papa turned and walked toward the door. Mama gave him the bag. They clasped hands. Then our dear Papa walked voluntarily out the door and out of his home. The men followed him outside. We all went to the door and watched them go down the steps.
I felt a hard lump in my throat. I could not swallow it. I felt weak all over.
We went to the window that overlooked the street below. Dawn streaked the sky and the streetlamps lit the sidewalk. When they reached the sidewalk, Papa looked up at us and waved. We all waved back. Then the soldiers pushed him into the I to be Black Raven...
“Children, let us kneel and pray again,” Mama said soberly as she guided us back into the main room of our flat. “We will ask God to be our loving Father, and continue to care for us. We must commit ourselves into the hands of our merciful God.”
We knelt and prayed.
I remembered the final words that Papa had told me. “We will meet at the fountain.” I knew what he meant, and I treasured those words....
Three days earlier, we had been together as a family. Papa had been very quiet and sober.
“Children, I want to tell you something. Soon I shall go on a long sure journey. The way may be long and difficult. I may not return from this journey. You know how when we are outside, we often tell each other, ‘Meet at the fountain’? Then, when we are finished with our errands or play, we all meet each other at the fountain. We all know where that is.
"This journey that I am about to take will have an end here on earth. But the real journey will end in heaven. I shall see Jesus there the on the great white throne!”
Then my father had said, with a longing in his voice that I have never forgotten, “There, dear children, dear Agrippina, we will all meet, Lord willing. As soon as you enter heaven, quickly come to the great white throne where Jesus is! I will be waiting for you there. Our family will gather at the throne that will be so easy to find, because our Lord Jesus Christ will be there. We will gather together as a family and never be separated again, and we will thank Jesus for His wonderful love to us!”
The fountain has always been a symbol of the great white throne for me. Today I still think of my Papa, waiting for me at the foot of the throne. What a legacy he left behind for his children!
* * *
After Papa’s arrest, the believers no longer gathered for services. I am sure the KGB officers felt they had successfully begun the great campaign to cleanse all Russia of believers.
But they did not reckon with people like my mother. It was not only the men who believed and lived their faith, but many of the women became towers of faith and strength during that time. My mother had doubted whether God would answer our prayers when we had prayed for soup and toys. Now, she turned in faith to God and trusted Him to provide for us.
“Come, children,” my mother said every Sunday. “We will have our time of worship.”
Mama held Maria. Vera, Nadia, and I sat on stools and watched Mama as she picked up her Bible. Putting her finger at the silk marker, she opened the Bible to Matthew 16:18. Clearing her throat, she began to read, slowly. “The gates of hell shall not prevail against it.”
We knew what would follow. “Children, this means the church. Jesus says that the church will be on this earth until He comes again. The ‘gates of hell’ means anyone who is trying to get rid of the Christians. But they will never succeed! Jesus has promised this. (pp.23-28)