Throughout history treasures of wisdom and knowledge to inspire and equip the Body of Christ have been received from God by Christians who were suffering in the fires of persecution. Through the Apostle John, while he was a prisoner on the isle of Patmos, God gave us the Book of Revelation. Through the Apostle Paul, while he was a prisoner of the Romans, God provided us with the inspired letters to the churches at Colossae, Ephesus and Philippi. Through John Bunyan, while he languished in the Bristol jail for the crime of preaching the Gospel, God gave us ‘The Pilgrim’s Progress’. Through Deitrich Bonhoffer, while he waited for execution by the Nazis, He gave us his ‘Letters from Prison’. Watchman Nee and Madame Guyone received many of their greatest ideas while imprisoned for their faith. Treasures are found by digging deep. For ten years now, since 1994, we at Pro Vita, our ministry in Brasov, Romania, have been digging deep into the experiences and ideas of twenty-five pastors, priests and laymen who, even while enduring for years grievous hardships in communist prisons, found, as David spoke of in Psalm 16:11, “the path of life...were filled with joy in His presence.”

"…to live this mystery,
he who had faith survived. "

Father Constantin Galeriu, till his death in 2003, one of Romania’s most beloved and respected priests, for years a professor of theology at the Orthodox seminary in Bucuresti, learned, while a prisoner at Gheorghe Gheorghiu Dej’s infamous ‘Canal of Death’, that “at The Canal you could test the strength and mystery of the faith, and the secret of personal communication and communion with God. And every person with a strong faith was able to survive and had the chance of tasting the Cross of Jesus...and in the end the joy of Jesus’ Cross and the hope and joy of the to live this mystery, all of a sudden he who had faith survived and lived!” This is a detailed and brilliant theological analysis of the strong faith, like Daniel’s, that took him to prison, but, also as in Daniel’s case, that allowed him to survive.

"We felt we could catch Jesus
and hold Him in our hands! "

Maria Demes, an orphan with no formal education, could not have begun to verbalize so succinctly the reasons for her survival with joy of a prison village, but her experience was the same as Father Galeriu’s. “What happened in the camp is too hard to talk about. You would have had to be there to understand how hard. But for me it was good to be there in the presence of the Lord. And just in His presence, only in His presence, can you survive such conditions. I know His presence was there. We felt we could catch Jesus and hold Him in our hands.”

Both Father Galeriu and Maria are describing a level of Christian maturity that no system or morality or religious habits or human effort could have produced and many Christians, when faced with the threat of prison and torture, discovered they were not capable of such spiritual strength. In fact, this describes the majority of Christians persecuted by pagan empires since Roman times. The majority compromised their principles. Even some heads of denominations in Romania collaborated with the communists. Two of the pastors we interviewed were betrayed by members of their own congregations. But we dare not judge. None of us knows, till we’re actually faced with the same terrible choices, how we’d respond. The ‘Father Galerius’ and ‘Marias’ in this book are the exceptions...but just as we search for the principles and practices that led to Paul becoming ‘more than a conqueror’, so that we may apply them in our lives, we have done the same with these modern day Pauls.

What you’re about to read is strong spiritual medicine and should be taken in small doses, probably not more than a chapter a day…less if you are a young Christian. Many of the events described are so emotionally devastating that your capacity to digest the invaluable lessons they teach can become overloaded if too many are ingested in one sitting. Ponder what you read; compare it to Scripture; discuss it with your pastor or priest or in small groups. Approached this way, ‘Treasures From The Fire’ can be life changing.

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