Faith Under Fire

Freedom is precious to those who don’t have it. 

Like everyone else, I was born with a hunger for truth and freedom. But I was born in Communist Romania, under the brutal totalitarian regime of Nicolae Ceausescu. Ceausescu’s Romania was a real prison—a land of lies. Anyone who would dare question a governmental directive could lose his employment, be imprisoned, physically tortured or put to death. Our entire world revolved around the dictator, Ceausescu, as he declared himself a god and his word was law.  Ceausescu and his regime required full submission. Being disobedient resulted in jail, death or “disappearance.” 

The guilt of one family member often resulted in punishment for the entire family. We lived in a constant state of anxiety and mistrust, where anyone could arbitrarily denounce a neighbor, classmate or family member for making “anti-government” statements at any time, for any reason. Growing up, all I knew was lies and fear. No place was safe. 

I watched my parents and relatives playing the part of “good citizens” outside the walls of our house, all while secretly whispering their contempt for the government inside. Early in life I learned the best way to avoid trouble was to remain silent, question nothing, and try to blend in.

Unfortunately, even as a child, I questioned everything. I wanted to understand everything. And the more fear battered those around me into silence, the more obsessed I became with discovering the truth.

The Forbidden Book

As a young attorney, I spent my time searching for truth. When I was 25, one of my clients invited me to his church and I heard the Gospel there. As I accepted Christ, I also accepted the divine appointment to defend Christians and churches under the cruel persecution of the Communist government. 

Because once I found that truth, remaining silent was no longer an option. Neither was blending in. As a Christian attorney, I was considered a dissident by the government, and an enemy of the state.  

If as a child I had no idea how the government knew the most secret information about a normal family, as an adult, I understood all too plainly. After all, most of my clients were victims of Securitate spies. Sadly, even the underground church had its spies.

Nevertheless, I knew without a shadow of a doubt that God appointed me to defend believers, and that my life was actually in God’s hands. So I refused to live in fear of what a dictator or his government could do to me.

But for this act of treason, between 1979 and when I finally left Romania in 1988, I was kidnapped several times and often kept under house arrest for a month or more. The surveillance continued every day. 

Every day. 

During my legal struggles as an attorney to stop Ceausescu and protect churches and Christians, many  of my cases were the subject of broadcasts on Radio Free Europe and Voice of America. U.S. diplomats, the secretary of state and a few congressmen frequently came to Romania to talk about my cases. Several of them became part of the U.S. State Department’s reports, and also were documented by the United Nations in its reports on human- and religious-rights violations under Ceausescu.

The Communist government wanted me dead and buried in an unmarked grave. Obviously, I am not; God had other plans.  

Still, the biggest test of my faith came when Ceausescu sent an assassin to my office to kill me.

Face-to-Face With a A KILLER

He came late, after everyone else had left my office. As he entered—a tall, massive man close to seven feet, with dark, menacing eyes and a hateful scowl—he pulled a gun from his coat and pointed it at me.

“You have ignored all of our warnings,” he said. “I am here to kill you.”

My mind raced as the gunman explained in a calm, almost businesslike tone, exactly how he would carry out my execution. 

I felt blood rush to my head. I swallowed a scream. I wanted to run. Terror banged against my chest like a courtroom gavel. My legs shook. I could hear my heart pounding. But silently, I prayed, “Come quickly to help me, my Lord and my Savior.” (Psalm 38:22) 

My chin trembled. I felt panic rising. Fight or flight? I feared for my life and for the lives of my children. 

My assassin had planned it so no one could come to my aid. Fear froze me to my chair. Nothing—not even interrogations or arrest—had rendered me this desperate and helpless. The assassin’s stone-faced determination and gleaming gun decreed that I’d finally met my end. 

Warnings from friends and family rang in my ears. They had foretold this would happen if I continued to defy the Ceaușescu government. I knew someday I’d pay the ultimate consequence for my actions—but I never considered it would be this day. 

I was alone with my killer. And yet, I was not. Jesus! I began silent, fervent prayers, recalling God’s promises. His Spirit breathed peace into my panicked heart. And then I knew my fear was only temporary—that God would protect me, give me strength and courage.

I sensed His spirit in my spirit: Share the Gospel. So I did.

What happened next was nothing short of a miracle

Emboldened, I thought about the man before me. A soul in need of Jesus. I looked into my killer’s eyes and asked, “Have you ever asked yourself ‘Why am I here?’ or ‘What is the meaning of life?’  I once asked myself those questions.” 

Staring deeply into his eyes, I could almost see a change taking place. This trained killer must have carried out dozens of assignments like the one that brought him to my office today, but when confronted by the power of God’s Word, his heart melted. God’s Word was saving us both! 

He put his gun back into the holster. His eyes softened. God’s Word was reaching him. I could see a change. My confidence rose and my heart thumped even faster. 

“The truth is that we have all been corrupted and gone away from God,” I told him. He nodded. “We all are sinners, and our sin has determined our future. Hebrews 9:27 says, ‘People are destined to die once, and after that to face judgment.’ ” 

His mouth fell slightly open, and his hands relaxed, so I continued to share the good news.

“For God so loved the world that He gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life.” 

He listened, touched his head and appeared even smaller and more peaceful. 

“I do need Christ.” he whispered. 

I prayed with him as he accepted Christ. Next he promised, “I will come to your church as a secret brother in Christ. I will worship your powerful God.” 

And with that, my killer walked away—saved, a brother in Christ. This was God’s battle and I was His tool! I rejoiced.

KEEPING FAITH

Afterward, I continued to defend Christians and churches. I am not a hero, though I have defended many. I am an ordinary person. The only secret of my victorious journey was my decision to trust God, Who appointed me to the job, to help me to accomplish it—fighting for freedom and winning against the Communist government in Romania. 

I arrived in the U.S. on Nov. 14, 1988. Ceausescu was still in power. He was killed on Christmas Day in 1989 in a coup.  I was happy Ceausescu was not the leader of Romania anymore; I was unhappy that he didn’t get a fair trial. Because everyone—even our enemies—is entitled to a fair trial. But I am happy Romania is a free country now, and people can worship God.  

God has never disappointed me. He will never disappoint you, either. Despite living in the midst of uncertainty, surveillance and threats by the Romanian Communist government, I learned precious lessons: 

Fear and faith are both contagious..

Fear destroys. Faith makes us strong and courageous.

Fear paralyzes. Faith inspires us to fight for what is right.

Fear enslaves. Faith sets us free.

I have learned so much through my experiences.

Freedom is precious to those who don’t
have it. 

If the truth lives within me, lies cannot overpower me. 

If my soul is free, no power on earth can enslave me. 

If God gives me the victory, defeat is impossible. 

After all, Ceausescu is dead! And I am alive! For every Goliath, there is a David.

I hope these lessons translate from my life into yours, no matter where you live on this planet. God assigns, provides, protects and gives victory to those whom He calls. If this had not been true in my life, I would not be alive today to write this message. 

You were created to thrive and to do great things through God’s power, no matter your circumstances. God has done His work through me to accomplish amazing things. God wants to do the same through all of us. What has God appointed you to do? Put everything else aside and do it. He will give us strength and guidance for the work ahead of us. Through us, God wants to rebuild our godly America. 

Because “there is no wisdom, no insight, no plan that can succeed against the Lord.” (Proverbs 21:30) I am living proof of that.

I hope my life experience under Communist persecution in Romania remains only mine. But make no mistake— it could be ours here in America.

Our founding fathers built a free America for us, which is God’s gift to mankind.

America’s stand for freedom protected my life as a dissident in Communist Romania. American people brought Christ and freedom to people all over the world. It’s time for us to bring Christ and freedom back to America.

Today as we see America weakening from within through political correctness, fear of man and disregard for God, it is our responsibility and privilege to fight; to return our America to God and to its constitutional roots.  

America is bankrupt without God.

Our faith and freedom are gifts from God; they are first born in our hearts, then they run deeply into our blood and our daily actions; changing us, changing our country and the world. 

Each one of us is here in America today on purpose and with a purpose: To be what we were created and called to be in Christ—free people--and to change the culture we live in. 

There is no freedom without God. Not even in America. God in us is the hope of America. 

So, remember: “Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the LORD your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you.” (Deuteronomy 31:6)

 

For More Information: 

Virginia Prodan is an international human rights attorney and part of the Alliance Defending Freedom. She currently lives in Dallas, Texas. Her book, Saving My Assassin (Tyndale House Publishers, 2016), is available through virginiaprodanbooks.com
or Amazon.com at http://amzn.to/2e7th8L

Originally published in the December 2016 issue of Citizen magazine.
© 2016 Focus on the Family. All rights reserved.