JOURNEY TO JERUSALEM
A tale by Johny Noer
Somewhere far away in the Ukraine, in the vast territory of Soviet Russia I was standing with my family at a border post. The situation was critical, and if it had not been for that little bald-headed man with the spectacles, who spoke out his spiritual vision in the old monastery church in Langenzenn, West Germany, I don’t know what could have happened to us.
I have known Anton Jäger for some years. He was an elder in the ‘Uetzinger Missioncenter’ between Hannover, Bremen and Hamburg in West Germany. The place was burnt down by a young demon-possessed man, who in his madness and enmity towards that little church put fire to the buildings one early morning. By the faith of the pastor, August Haist and his beautiful wife Helga and other faithful couples of this small Pentecostal fellowship, new buildings soon arose from the ruins. Over the years the place has been an important centre for the work of the Holy Spirit in North Germany.
When the Pilgrim Convoy passed that region, we crowded the wagons and the tractors into the parking spot of the church and enjoyed some weeks of blessed and warm-hearted fellowship. It was in that period that we learned that Anton Jäger sometimes while in prayer saw like a spiritual film before his eyes, and that these ‘films’ were most authentic often picturing scenes or events, which had importance for the kingdom of God.
Some months later when we stood at the border post in the Ukraine with three political officers in front of us, and our situation grew worse from hour to hour, Anton Jäger saw such a ‘film’. When he had seen it, he rushed to the camp and told the families about it and got everybody to pray – and there is no doubt that this inspired prayer rescued us in our difficulties 2500 miles away.
We had not done anything wrong. Our old Mercedes bus was thoroughly searched. I don’t know for what. Perhaps bibles, but we had brought no other bibles with us than what we use for our daily scripture reading. We were told that we should bring the same number of bibles out of Russia as we had brought in.
Some of the young soldiers had found a big children’s bible. It was full of coloured pictures. I observed them for a long time discussing the powerful illustration of Moses bringing the children of Israel out of Egypt and through the Red Sea. It was evident that they were impressed by that story. I like their eyes and the beautiful Russian tongue.
One of the officers spoke English, and I was surprised to hear him speak the language so fluently. I asked him where he had learned such an immense vocabulary and such fine pronunciation, and he answered kindly that he had studied the English language at the university in a big Russian town.
"And that’s why I have no difficulty in understanding this song", he said sincerely, while he handed me a small piece of paper with a few verses of a prophetic song. "I found this poetry in your bible, Sir, and as far as I can see, it’s hostile to our Soviet Republic."
I looked at the song sheet. It was some verses about an old Jewish rabbi living somewhere in the huge Russian ‘empire’. Each verse of the song ends with the words of that old rabbi:
"Two thousand years, friends, we have been exiled, next year, next year, in Jerusalem."
"What do you mean by ‘hostile to the Soviet Republic?" I asked surprised.
"We have no exiled Jews here", the officer said. He was polite, but firm. The other officers had joined him. There was something honest and straight forward about these men. They were not trying to give me problems. They were only doing their job. And they were doing it well. They were trained for this work and were now doing their best to stop, what they would call ‘damaging influences’, entering the Soviet Union.
"But Jews are exiled all over the world", I tried to explain. "They are not only exiled in your country. They are exiled in my country. They are exiled in Europe and America. Yes, Jews live as exiles in America! God has dispersed them all over the world. Since their temple in Jerusalem was burnt by "the Roman General Titus in the year 70, Jews have been exiled."
"I am sorry, Sir", the English speaking Russian officer interrupted softly, "but this poetry is hostile to our Soviet Republic. We have no ‘exiled Jews’ in this land, where all men are free; may I ask you to sign this paper, please? He handed me a piece of paper with the headline ‘Act No.’ The paper was densely printed with some official regulations. I had the feeling that I should never sign such a paper and started again,
"Tell me please, how old is your Soviet state? How many years has it existed?"
"70 years, since the great October Revolution, Sir", the officer answered with a bright smile. His honest eyes were searching mine. He had nothing to hide, and he wondered if I had…
"Well, in this song it is written that the Jews have been exiled for 2000 years. How can you explain that? Can’t you see that this song is not especially turned against your country? Your nation has only existed for 70 years, but this people, which I believe is God’s people, has been dispersed amongst all the nations for 2000 years!"
The officer looked for a moment surprised. He did not say anything. I had the feeling that this man and his two colleagues had a high standard of morality. He would never lie. In a way he was only looking for truth – and somehow he was shaken by the facts now brought before him. On the other hand, he was representing an authority and could not easily give up the dignity which was attached to his position. This had nothing to do with personal pride. It was part of his responsibility to remain firm in his views.
"I am sorry, Sir", he said kindly, "I would like to believe you, but your explanation cannot be accepted, and you will have to sign this paper, please."
I took the song sheet from the table, but he took it politely out of my hand. For a moment we had both our hands on the piece of paper with the poetry on the Jewish rabbi. Our eyes met. It was a strange battle. Who was going to give in? Who was going to let these few lines on the exiled Jew go?
On the spot it looked like I would loose that battle, and that consequently I would never pass the border post. What I did not know however was the fact that the victory was not to be gained there in Ukraine. It was already won 2500 miles away!
It was at that time, that Anton Jäger told his vision to the families, who were gathered for prayer in the camp. "I am sure that our friends, Johny and Gisèle and the children are in trouble somewhere at a border post into Russia", he explained. "This morning very early God gave me a vision. I saw a piece of paper, and I saw two hands: one hand was holding at one side of the paper, and the other hand at the other side. It was as if these two hands were both striving to get that piece of paper into their possession. The one hand was in darkness and the other hand in light. Let us pray, brothers and sister that the hand in light is going to get that piece of paper!"
And so the families did. "We don’t know, what this is all about", they prayed, "but you see, Lord, that border post somewhere at the frontier to the Ukraine. You have shown our brother, Anton Jäger, that there is some fight going on concerning a piece of paper, and we ask You, oh Lord, to give that paper to the hand, which is in the light."
"May I have a word with you, Sir?"
It was the English-speaking Russian officer, who was again calling for my attention.
"With pleasure", I answered.
The young man with the smart uniform looked at me with his searching and questioning eyes. "Would you please tell me about your faith", he said.
For a moment I wondered, whether this was the political officer, who was doing his job and therefore now put this question, or whether it was this young ‘Ivan’ himself who asked something deep out of his own heart.
"You know", he explained. "I have been brought up in a home, where such things were never mentioned." He paused for a moment. Was he breathing heavily? Did I see right? Wasn’t a deep red colour shooting up in his face? Didn’t his perfect English become a little stuttering?
"I have never met a man, who has said the things, you do", he went on.
A thought flashed my mind. "Don’t forget that this man is trained to ask such question. He is not serious.
"I believe in Jesus Christ, the Son of the living God and the Messiah of the Jews", I answered. Now it was my eyes searching his to find out whether he had something to hide. I didn’t find anything. I saw only upright honesty in his regard. "And you can meet Him too", I went on. "He is alive. Jesus is resurrected from the dead. I know it. I have met Him…"
The officer did not say a word. Only God knows what went on in his heart.
"You don’t have to go into a special church to find Him", I ended. "You just have to pray!"
Slowly the young man in front of me turned around. His black boots clacked on the cemented ground of the border station, while he went away. Then he stood still for a moment, with his back towards me.
A warm wave of love went through my whole being. Did I see right? Wasn’t this man praying?
Then minutes later he returned. He had the small piece of paper with the poetry about the exiled Jew in his hand.
He handed me the paper.
"We apologize!" he said silently.
Then he turned towards some soldiers standing at the border line. He lifted his hand, and they saluted back. The gate went up, and our Mercedes bus went into the great, unknown Soviet Union.