The Price of Freedom (review)

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The Price Of Freedom (A Story Of Courage And Faith, In The Face Of Danger.)The Price Of Freedom by Simon Ivascu

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Every young man between the ages of eighteen and twenty knew from early childhood that they would be required to go into the army to give one year of their lives in military service. … it was the young men with strong Christian beliefs who faced the worst danger in army life. Many gave up their faith in order to make it through their term of service.

Those who clung to their beliefs, like Simon’s brother Stefan, were regularly ridiculed, mistreated and beaten, sometimes fatally. Stefan had landed in the army hospital after one of his beatings. While still recovering from his injuries he had chosen to escape from Romania. He’d paid the dangerous price of freedom, risking prison and death, rather than return to his duties in the army” – The Price of Freedom, p. 16,17.

The Price of Freedom begins with 18-year-old Simon, Stefan’s younger brother, having recently received a conscription notice himself, running away from home in order to avoid the same fate as his brother. We follow him as he jogs, walks, hides, watches, waits, sneaks, crawls, even crosses a river on the underside of a bridge. In this way he makes his way through Romania, Hungary, and Austria, finally reuniting with Stefan in Italy five weeks after he sets out.

A short time later Simon’s younger acquaintance Wesley Pop also sneaks away to Italy to avoid conscription. The young men meet in Italy and renew their friendship.

But life in the free world is not at all what they expect. Because they are both in Italy illegally it’s nearly impossible for them to find work, landlords don’t want to rent to them, and the attitude of the Italian people is cold and suspicious. Eventually both receive notices that they must leave the country within 15 days or face jail and deportation. Desperate to leave but not back home, they consider all means of escape and end up in a shipping container. A story that is harsh to this point, now becomes deadly.

The events are told alternately from Simon’s and Wesley’s points of view. Co-writer Bev Ellen Clarke’s use of creative non-fiction techniques makes the book read like a gripping adventure. I found it both hard to put down and hard to read because its descriptive style had me right there in that dark, airless container on those bundles of ceramic tile with Simon and Wesley, facing lack of oxygen, heat, thirst, sea-sickness, and starvation while heading to who knows where?

However, the inclusion of wonderful coincidences and amazing answers to prayer transform this book from a story about the resilience, tenacity and courage of the human spirit (which it is) to more—a story about prayer, faith in God, and miracles.

Obviously the young men survived. Simon and his brother currently live in Kelowna B.C. and are part of the singing group Freedom Singers (I enjoyed their singing this summer at the Gospel Music Celebration in Red Deer, Alberta).

This true story did more for me than just than illustrate God’s care for His children and entertain. It also opened my eyes to the plight of refugees giving me worthwhile insights for these refugee-filled times. Highly recommended.

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Miracles: Coincidence or Divine Intervention? (review)

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Miracles: Coincidence or Divine Intervention?Miracles: Coincidence or Divine Intervention? by John Murray Cpd

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

After he had written a memoir about his childhood, John Murray’s wife asked him, “When are you going to write about your experiences in Eastern Europe?” Miracles: Coincidence or Divine Intervention? is that book.

In it Murray tells many fascinating stories from his twenty-year stint as the Executive Director of Euroevangelism Canada and supplements these anecdotes with Bible teaching.

The telling is organized in eight chapters, each titled with a question: “Does God Care?”, “Does God Answer Prayer?”, “Does God Heal?” etc. Within the chapters he relates incidents that happened to him and others that speak to the chapter’s question. He also explores what the Bible says, sharing rich insights developed over a lifetime of pastoral and missionary work. Each chapter ends with a “Guide for Group Study” section that includes a Bible reading and discussion questions.

I loved this book for its inspiring stories, like the one Murray tells in the chapter “Does God Protect?”:

Some Christians in Budapest had bought a derelict restaurant to renovate into a church. Due to low funds members of the congregation were doing most of the work. Every week the place was busy with volunteers.

Regularly on Friday mornings the church leadership had a prayer meeting to pray especially for the renovations. During one of these prayer meetings a deacon said he felt they should pray about the roof, though he didn’t know what to pray for specifically.

On a Saturday morning not long after, when forty people were working on the building, a man working in the rafters caught his hammer on something made of metal. The movement dislodged the object, it fell, and banged hard onto the concrete floor below.

The object turned out to be an unexploded WWII bomb which, the army bomb squad later told them, was live. The army men couldn’t figure out why it hadn’t exploded on impact (pp. 101-103).

I also loved this book for its teaching, like this bit from the chapter: “Does God Intervene?”:

“Whether we are looking for healing, for guidance, for comfort, or any other aspect of God’s intervention in our lives, we are encouraged to look in the right place. we have been given the Word of God so that God can speak through it. We have been given the privileged channel of prayer by which we can share with Him our devotion, our worship, our thanksgiving, and our supplications. We have been given the ministry of God’s Spirit within our lives to guide us in all areas. The Spirit of God is also the one who plants the gift of faith within us, so that we might look expectantly for God to work. We ask, and then we wait. The waiting is the most difficult part” p. 142.

The amazing stories and wise insights in John Murray’s Miracles: Coincidence or Divine Intervention? will help grow your faith high and deep. I recommend it.

This book is part of my own collection.

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Bold – I ask, “Why not?”

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Today we’re talking about Donna‘s one-little-word, BOLD. My dictionary defines it as “1] having courage, fearless; 2]  showing or requiring courage, daring, a bold plan; 3] presuming unduly, brazen, forward.”

When I think of bold, too often that third definition comes to mind. I don’t want to have a pushy, brazen, putting-myself-forward boldness. But the boldness that is fearless and has the courage of its convictions—oh yes, bring it on!

Relating boldness to my spiritual journey, I am saddened by how opposite to bold I often am. I read in Acts about the disciples getting warned to stop preaching or they’ll be put in prison. They prayed after getting those warnings, not that the resistance would stop but for boldness, so they could keep on doing what they were doing (Acts 4:29). I ask myself, would I pray the same way?

I am reminded of all the people in the world who are now being persecuted and massacred for their faith. Just last weekend there was another slaughter of Christians in Lahore, Pakistan.

In North America, where being a Christian doesn’t hold those kinds of risks, boldness needs another face. I love how Peter describes the boldness that his persecuted readers were to show. It applies just as well to us in countries where Christianity is, shall we say, tolerated, but becoming increasingly politically incorrect:

“But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts and always be ready to give a defense to everyone who asks you a reason for the hope that is in you, with meekness and fear, having a good conscience, that when they defame you as evildoers, those who revile your good conduct in Christ may be ashamed” – 1 Peter 3:15,16 (emphasis added).

Of course we can’t ignore the miracles that bolstered the New Testament believers’  faith and contributed not a little to their boldness. People were healed and raised from the dead at their hands. (No wonder they couldn’t keep quiet and crowds kept flocking to them!)  Though their refusal to keep silent in the face of persecution sometimes led to martyrdom,  the life of one persecutor, Saul, was miraculously turned around one afternoon and the result was the spread of Christianity throughout Europe and Asia.

I would like a boldness that includes the possibility of the miraculous.  A few years ago when I was reading in  the Quest Study Bible, I came across a statement that puzzled me. I quote it in the epigram to the poem I wrote then, and share below.

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Philip explains the scriptures to the Ethiopian – story in Acts 8:28-40

I ask “Why not?”

“Should Christians today imitate what Christians did in the Book of Acts? Not necessarily.” (Commentary on Acts 11:27-30, Quest Study Bible)

I ask, Why not?

We still have the sick, lame and oppressed.
We still have those who don’t understand
.   what they hear, what they read.
We still have rulers and laws that say, “Don’t preach!”
We still have kings who look on themselves as God.
We still have famines, natural disasters,
.   wars, and dispersing persecution.
We still have a religious establishment
.   which is more concerned with pleasing “Caesar”
.   than obeying God.
We still have the champions of the churchy status quo.
In other words, we still have the same foe.
And we still have the same
final words of Christ:
“But you will receive power
when the Holy Spirit comes on you.”*

© 2007 by Violet Nesdoly (All rights reserved)

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This post is linked to Spiritual Journey Thursday hosted by
Holly Mueller at  Reading, Teaching, Learning.

*Words of Jesus quoted from Acts 1:8.