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Spiritual Life

Russian pastor chooses greater joy when faced with persecution

Baptist leader Mikhail (Misha) Khorev was a lawbreaker. As a young Russian pastor in the Communist Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, he faced two options: spiritual compromise or persecution and prison. He chose the latter and continued his secret and illegal ministry to Christians eager to know God, even while incarcerated. Khorev followed Acts 5:29 well: “We ought to obey God rather than men.”

Khorev’s stay in Moscow’s Lefortovo Prison began May 20, 1966. For the crime of sharing God’s forbidden truths with Christian families, he faced a two-and-a-half-year sentence. God would use it for good.

His fellow prisoners had many questions for him. They wanted to know about God, His forgiveness and His saving love. Their dialogue exposed their hunger for hope in their hopeless world:

“What do you say, holy man?” one asked Khorev.

They all grew quiet, waiting for his answer.

“I think,” Khorev began, “the most important thing in life is to know God through Jesus Christ.”

“Why are you in here?”

Khorev explained that his arrest was probably because of his work preaching and teaching the gospel throughout Russia. They understood. When he mentioned that people in the “registered church” were responsible for his arrest, many nodded their heads. They were all too familiar with the government’s devious ways.

“Attention!” called the guard. “If I call your name, get ready for transport.”

Khorev rose to get his bag, prepared for the end of his sentence, when he heard his name.

“No,” the other prisoners protested. “Sit down. You have 15 more minutes. We need to talk some more.”

“I want you to pray for my wife, Natasha,” insisted one man.

A chorus of other requests rained on Khorev’s ears. As he knelt beside his chair, he tried to memorize all the prayer requests.

The time passed swiftly until the sound of the officer unlocking the door filled the room. Khorev shook hands with the men surrounding him.

One said, “I was sentenced to six months for my crime. Now I am glad that in these six months I have met you.”

Khorev never saw those men again, but he prayed that God would continue His work in their hearts.

Between lengthy prison terms, Khorev traveled through Russia to share the Gospel and bring encouragement to Christians who dared to attend the secret forest meetings. The fact that Joseph Stalin’s Ministry of Religious Affairs had banned any biblical teaching in the presence of children didn’t stop families from bringing them. God’s comforting words meant more to them than the world’s transient safety.

The plight of the Russian people under Communist tyranny may seem totally contrary to our “land of the free,” yet we seem to be headed in a similar direction. Are we prepared to stand firm in our faith as our leaders purge Christian beliefs and values from schools, colleges, business and government?

“Be strong and of good courage; do not be afraid, nor be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go” (Joshua 1:9).

Los Altos Hills resident Berit Kjos is a researcher and author in the study of education systems and global changes.

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