Chaplain’s Corner: CXXXIII
“Telling Your Story”
Sometimes hope is born in the darkest places. During the totalitarian regime of Josef Stalin, it was illegal to speak even a word against the government of the Soviet Union. It still is it seems. Political dissidents, artists and “undesirables” were routinely seized and sent away to the gulags, which were forced labor camps. More than a million never returned.
One of them was a doctor named Boris Kornfeld. Sentenced to years of “re-education” in the brutal gulag system, Kornfeld kept to himself. He watched his back. He took no risks.
Then something happened that he never expected. He began to trust in God. His heart was flooded with hope.
He didn’t tell anyone why, but he began to serve others. He even used his surgical skills to save the life of one of the hated guards. That act of compassion, he knew would bring trouble. But when one of the vilest prisoners threatened him with death for helping the enemy, he realized he was no longer afraid. Later that day he performed life-saving stomach surgery on a young man with a sad face. He stayed up all night, sitting beside him as he hovered between life and death.
Suddenly he felt a break in the silence. He talked for hours to the young man about the joy of meeting this God of mercy and grace. He described how God’s love had driven the fear from his heart and how he had even felt buoyed by meaning in the midst of the gulags misery. The young patient, gripping the doctor’s hand listened intently as he drifted in and out of consciousness.
Sometime around dawn, Boris Kornfeld was murdered by the prisoner who had threatened him.
He had shared his spiritual convictions just once. But his audience of one, the sad faced prisoner lived on. His name was Alexander Solzhenitsyn. Seized by the words he had heard from his doctor, Solzhenitsyn ultimately abandoned his loyalty to Marxism. Kornfeld’s faith became his own. Anchored by his trust in God, he won the 1970 Nobel Prize for Literature and became one of the most heralded voices for freedom in the 20th century.
It’s tempting to think that telling your own story, or speaking a word of encouragement when you have the opportunity, can’t possibly make a dent in this messed up world.
Don’t you believe it.
Ron Naylor, Chaplain