A Costly Conversation
The young woman sat beneath a sprawling tree in the school’s courtyard, while the children she taught gathered around her like chicks clustered about a mother hen. They ate their lunch outside everyday in this way, enjoying the fresh air and birdsong. She opened the large cloth enfolding her lunch and began to nibble on a crusty piece of bread and garlic sausage. Catina turned to the small boy next to her and asked, “Luca, what did you bring to eat today?”
He held up a chunk of bread and smiled, revealing a crowded jumble of teeth. “Would you like a bite, Teacher?”
Catina laughed. “No thank you, Luca. I am not very hungry. Here, please help me,” she said, handing him her sausage. The Communist-dominated Romanian government of the 1940s left the common folk struggling to feed their large families. Luca’s hungry eyes lit up at the first bite.
“Luca, I have something else for you. Would you like to see it?” She reached into her skirt pocket and pulled out a small pamphlet.
“What is that, Teacher?”
“It is a little book, Luca. It tells the story of God’s love for us, how He has made a way for us to become His children and go to heaven to be with Him. Would you like me to read it to you?”
“Yes, please,” Luca said between huge bites of sausage.
And the young woman’s heart filled with joy as she told the child the age-old story of hope and redemption.
A man, a member of the secret police, hid in the shadows - observing, listening, and gathering evidence. He would not arrest the woman yet, though. He would delay for a few weeks, for a more perfect moment.
The long-awaited day finally arrived for Catina. She walked arm-in-arm with her father down the aisle of the ancient church and locked eyes with Petru, her groom. When they reached the altar, she stood on tiptoe to kiss her father. Petru held out his hand to her and together they climbed the steps to the dais.
The pastor smiled and opened his mouth to begin the ceremony. The doors to the church burst open and members of the secret police stormed down the aisle.
The officer in charge loudly pronounced, “Catina Istok, you are under arrest for participation in the Underground Church and for distribution of treasonous propaganda.” His eyes were cold steel as he spoke and stood rigidly before the congregation. A woman, Catina’s mother, began to cry as others mumbled and shifted uneasily in the pews.
Petru moved in front of his bride and yelled, “You have no evidence of this! This woman is innocent!”
But Catina put her hand on his arm and spoke softly, “It is alright, Petru. He is right. I have been sharing Jesus with the children at the school.”
Petru’s face crumpled in agony as Catina held out her arms to be handcuffed. The officer grabbed her wrists and roughly snapped the manacles in place. She turned her eyes to her beloved, kissed the chains that bound her wrists, and said, “I thank my heavenly Bridegroom for this jewel He has presented to me on my marriage day. I thank Him that I am worthy to suffer for Him.”
The officer dragged Catina down the aisle, her long white dress trailing behind. Her groom wept, and trembled at the knowledge of what surely awaited his bride.
Upon Catina’s arrival at the prison camp, they stripped her of the beautiful white gown and clothed her in drab prison garb. They led her into a small cell where several prison guards smiled at the prospect of ushering her into the horrifying initiation that most young girls and women experienced in Communist-controlled prisons. It was the beginning of her nightmare, and the first of many other unspeakable evils at the hands of her torturers.
Upon her release five years later, she greeted the groom who had faithfully waited for her. Petru embraced the broken, nearly destroyed woman he loved and tried to hide his shock. She looked thirty years older. He whispered and cried in her ear, “My love, what have they done to you?”
Catina pulled back and looked into his grief-stricken eyes.
“Petru, it is okay. I am alive. Do not hate those who have tortured me. All that I have endured – it is so small compared to the sufferings of my Christ. It was the least I could do.”
Author’s Note: A fictionalized account of a true story shared in Richard Wurmbrand’s book, Tortured for Christ.
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