by Tonya Ball & Patti Emanuele
The massive church felt cold and damp inside, even in the heat of summer.
Natasha looked furtively over her shoulder and then scanned the pews. Seated in a corner of the sanctuary was her friend Natalia. Sitting next to Natalia was Adrian, and with him was another boy. They looked up at Natasha and smiled. So began a secret Bible study in an Orthodox church in Belarus.
It was not a good time to be a Christian. The political party in charge of her country had banned religious worship. Natasha and her family were Christians, and the love of God and their thirst for more knowledge of the Bible drove them to risk their lives daily.
“Why do you do this dangerous thing?” a close friend asked Natasha’s mother one day. They were sitting outside in the sunshine, watching their children play together. Natasha’s mother had been friends with this woman since childhood and literally trusted her with her life. She had just invited her friend to join them at a Bible study held in a believer’s basement.
“If you are my friend, why do you ask me to join you in this?” was the second question from her friend.
Natasha overheard her mother’s answer. “Because I love you, Jesus loves you, and I want you to know Him personally as I do,” she told her friend with a tear in her eye.
As time passed, Natasha grew older and stronger in her faith in Jesus Christ. Sharing His good news of salvation became a driving force in her life. Natasha had decided to completely turn her life over to Jesus and tell as many others as she could, no matter what the cost might be.
Natasha and her friends met regularly, finding sanctuary in the ancient church due to the kindness of an old priest.
“It is so rare to find a true believer in these darkened days,” Father Roan had remarked, touching Natasha’s shoulder. “You may use our church any time to study God’s Word, and I will pray for you as you seek His answers for your lives.”
Natasha nearly wept with joy at his generous offer. She had been praying for some time for a place to pray together with her friends and to bring others willing to risk their lives to find Jesus Christ.
Glad you could make it,” Adrian joked one day upon Natasha’s arrival at the church.
Natasha smiled broadly. “OK, OK. Now, let’s discuss this idea of a kids’ camp. I’m really excited about the possibilities.”
Natasha wanted to start a kids’ camp in her town so that other children would have an opportunity to learn about Jesus just as she had. The camp she’d gone to as a child had been sponsored in secret by a church in Belarus. Natasha wanted to further this outreach by having a worship program so that the kids who gave their hearts to Jesus at camp could continue worshipping and learning more about Him.
As plans developed, Natasha knew it was a risky business. If discovered by police, camp attendees could be taken away from their parents forever.
Finally all was ready, and many children arrived for a worship service at the home of a Christian family. The host family had several children of their own, so their house was filled with young people. There would be games and Bible study. Like the children the parents were taking a risk, but they wanted their children to know and love Jesus as they did.
Because of the danger, Natasha and her friends had organized a plan regarding where to go and hide if the authorities came to the door.
Now Natasha, her brothers, and the other children stood listening to a man tell about Jesus. Adults stood guard at the windows, watching for the police.
Then a police car drove up to the house. The officers got out of their car and walked up to the door. Natasha and the children ran to their hiding place, a passage behind a wall, and held their breath in silence and fear. They couldn’t make a sound or they would be caught.
A child coughed twice.
“Hush, Emory, hush,” an older child whispered to the boy.
Bang! bang! bang!
Natasha and the others could hear the loud knocking on the door.
“Let us in now—it is the police!” a man shouted. When the adults finally opened the door, the police saw only the family’s children sitting at their desks doing their schoolwork.
Natasha pressed her eye to a small hole in the wall and attempted to see what was happening in the house.
“Look around,” an imposing man in a uniform told his companions. The men scattered in all directions. Natasha heard them opening and closing bedroom and closet doors.
Natasha felt fear rush along her spine. A little girl standing next to her began to tremble violently. Natasha wrapped her arms around the small child, pressing her closely against her skirt, trying to comfort her.
“Have you found anyone?” the chief police officer asked the others. They shook their heads no, still clasping their guns to their chests. Their helmets gleamed in the light of the room.
“We have been informed that you are having an illegal meeting for children here, but I don’t see any children except for your own. Perhaps I was misinformed,” the officer told their mother. “I am sorry,” he added, red-faced. Quickly he strode out the door past a pile of shoes.
The children quietly emerged from their hiding places. Slowly they looked around, carefully checking each room for the police.
“They are gone,” Andre finally announced. Then he noticed the pile of shoes sitting by the front door. His heart skipped a beat as the reality of what had occurred sank in.
Somehow the police had not noticed the children’s shoes all piled by the front door. The children had thought about running to their hiding place, but not about hiding their shoes.
“Surely God closed the police officers’ eyes!” Natasha exclaimed as she, too, realized what had taken place.
The secret meetings continued and grew as new believers were added to the group. God’s work in Belarus could not be stopped!.
USED WITH PERMISSION BY GUIDE MAGAZINE