JOURNEY TO JERUSALEM
A tale by Johny Noer
THE DANUBE - BRIDGE
When the travel-worn Citroen Palace stormed along the dirt track in Bulgaria spraying out dust and rocks like a vacuum cleaner in reverse and with Gisèle hunched behind the steering wheel trying to escape a pack of hunting police cars, I learned the first lesson: This journey to Jerusalem is like an action thriller. When Rumanian president Ceausescu a few weeks later was gunned down with his wife during what looked like a brutal civil war, I learned the second lesson: Our journey is more than a rough ride: It’s associated with a series of prophetic events. In the end it may even turn into an exploration of the best hidden secret of the universe – the mystery about which the apostle exclaims: "It’s hidden in God!" (Eph.3)
The items the Jerusalem-journey evokes are, personally, politically and prophetically universal. You can’t tell a story about Jerusalem without thinking about Middle East conflicts of blood, Hamas-warlords, the smuggling of US-dollars, weapons and suicide bombers. You can’t tell a story about the Holy City without referring to the coming of the Messiah; it’s the kind of tale that involves a number of important subjects. To open up to some of these issues it’s not enough to tell about the painful things that I’ve seen, the love I have for Jerusalem and the Jewish People and the bitterness of the cup we’re going to drink; some authentic text has to be included: a holy book or a sacred letter; an epistle which may blow the story wide open.
I have that book and I have got that letter. I have that ‘old epistle’, which makes the message historical but its history recent. This letter confronted the problems of conflict-Jerusalem long before the Gentile nations were part of it and will be focussed on them long after the last shot is heard.
But for the moment, I have to hide the letter; to conceal the book and just tell what happened…
On that rainy day on May 1989 Soviet communism in Rumania once more showed its true character to a handful of people, whose only aim was to bring the Gospel of good news to an oppressed and desperate nation. Through decades the Rumanian leaders had with ferocity and barbarism unmatched in recent history persecuted a defenceless minority of Christian believers, whose only offence was, that it was seeking to escape the terrors of an iron hand.
Men and women, who deviated from ‘the true anti-religious line’, were ruthlessly imprisoned and hunted from town to town. Even poor and pious workers and farmers, on whom communism is supposed to build, were rounded up like animals and brought to labour camps. People who dared to question the domination of the establishment were annihilated.
After what happened on the slippery Danube bridge that May-day, I – for my part – need no longer to have even the slightest doubt as to what the intentions of a totalitarian system are: A big lie was laid bare before me! I now know what is waiting around the corner for Europe. On that bridge (and during the events before and after) the anti-God system of that part of world history demonstrated its future program. It s simple. First infiltrate a target nation; then get control of the law and the police force; then initiate terror by removing all intellectual labour and religious leadership, and finally bring troublesome people behind bars. The least sign of independence and personal belief must be destroyed! And this final step – I believe – was what we in a small and tiny context experienced on the Danube Bridge: Bucharest knew about the mysterious scrolls of Varna. The secret police had heard about the 5000 men putting their names on a manifest of revolt. They were aware of the seeds of ‘the Bulgarian revolution’ seeking to mature in other soil. Within weeks a profound struggled for freedom could emerge. A significant movement was already detected – and had to be crushed. But the yearning for freedom, which motivated the 5000 in Varna to take a stand against evil, could operate elsewhere within the orbits of the Soviet Empire.
I will not easily forget that day in May on the Danube-bridge between Bulgaria and Romania. Normally it would be impossible to cross the bridge without endless written permissions and security checks – but our convoy was immediately brought towards the white line. It was determined by somebody, somewhere, that we should leave Romania as soon as possible…
Now the officer, by rank and name, Colonel Khorobrov, was standing in the rain with his hands in the pockets of his great coat. He was gazing upon the Pilgrim Convoy, which moved on to the bridge. His eyes lit up with anger, his forehead gleaming with patriotism, he stamped his feet impatiently on the cement road. He was the officer, who had led us in the night before. He was the one that opened the border barrier to the Danish ‘circus’, which had openly betrayed him by saying that ‘they were going to give performances with lions, tigers and elephants.’ Yes, he himself had seen at least one of the animals, and now the local military radio, which (as everybody knows), is the only true source of infallibly correct information on all subjects, had spoken out: This convoy was not a circus; it was a bunch of Western opium-religious-bandits, who had caused serious trouble in Bulgaria. They had stirred up 5000 followers in Varna and brought with them a dangerous flame of spiritual and ideological deception.
The red colonel stood as a rock on his bridge, sombre and sad at heart, because on a day subsequent to the radio message he had consented in letting these people pass the white line.
That meant that his chances were over! Wrecked by these ‘criminals’. His career was ruined; he was a falling star – and revenge gleamed in his eyes. He was personally going to bring that damned convoy over the line, back to Todor Zhikov’s burning anger…
Many will think that Khorobrov was wicked to grieve for the inevitable loss of personal power in such a way, wicked to covet the glorious command of the Danube bridge, yes, wicked even to think about it with such feelings of revenge as he was doing now – but with that I cannot completely agree. Was the lieutenant-colonel not just showing a variety of a common tendency of all human wishes? Was it wrong of him to express the true aspiration of a rising officer in the communist system?
A lawyer in Brussels does not sin – or does he – in seeking to be a judge in Strasburg? A young diplomat at the UN in New York entertains a fair ambition – doesn’t he – when he looks forward to be the head of a first-rate embassy in the Middle East? A poor novelist when he attempts to rival one of his contemporaries (who writes about the mysteries of the Vatican) commits no fault – or does he – though he may be entering dangerous ground?
The aspiration of the red colonel was to become the master of the Danube-bridge – and it was for no love of lucre that he had this noble desire. If he wished to play first fiddle at the white line, it was because he loved the bridge. He was the defender of the border-bar. One of the peers of the red realm; and he did desire, if the truth must out, to be called ‘my commander’ by his faithful border-guards. His hopes, however, were they innocent or sinful were not fated(?) to be realised. There was only was only one reason for this disaster: The Danish Pilgrim Convoy.
Colonel Khorbrov had spent much time in the morning with his friend, the young officer Adamson, who was in charge of bringing the convoy from the locomotive-factory three miles inside the country; he felt that his wisdom had not fallen on deaf ears. The young lieutenant was ready to listen to the infallible rules of the bridge. Even if the man’s mind were not intent on other things, he would surely see that the first threats of a huge change hung heavily over the nation – and no mercy should be shown to intruders from the West.
"The bridge has been delegated to us!" the colonel said, "At all cost the battle must be won. The Bulgarians won’t have them back. But the convoy must be returned – and this before sunset or else the battle is lost.
The young officer, Adamson, felt the solemn gravity of the task. He was a devoted man – and in his estimation the wagon with the huge cross was something like an insult! Yes, a sort of idolatry – and those foreigners were parasites that would certainly infect the good, solid, red trunk, which they tried to embrace; Adamson was ready to defend the bridge!
We are told that God tempers the wind to the shorn lambs. This didn’t happen at the bridge. The rain became a tempest. By degrees the weather became more and more violent; but the two officers ventured in front of the convoy towards the white line at the middle of the Danube Bridge, but they didn’t quite get that far; suddenly the police car stopped! I was watching the scene from my lorry.
Sitting behind the windscreen, where water was pouring down, I saw the rear-lights of the police car indicating that the batteries were flat; they gleamed red and faded out! I heard the motor coughing. Instead of a feeling of pity and sympathy, I couldn’t help smiling - a satisfactory smile. I even burst into laughter…
I am, I think, a God-fearing person, who does not believe in behaviour which manifests in rejoicing in at other peoples suffering. But that night on the Danube Bridge I leaned back and watched with growing satisfaction, how the red lights of the police car in front of me grew dead.
My behaviour towards these officers of the Red Rule had during the previous months been under strict control; in an obedient way I had submitted to their follies, yes, I had (that was my intention) developed a certain abstinence from enjoying any bad luck of these my communist fellowmen – but at that moment on the stormy border bridge I was more than pleased to see their problems.
One of them stepped out in the rain. I rubbed my hands and watched with mean joy how the wind tore off his smart officer cask and blew it into the river. Instead of lending a helping hand to the men at the bridge I flashed on the full beams, so that I more closely could enjoy their sufferings.
Later I should have repented from my grim ‘Danube-bridge laughter’ – but, to tell the truth, I was! I even believe that unconvinced! God was laughing; doesn’t the psalmist say: "The One enthroned in heaven laughs, the Lord scoffs at them. Then He rebukes them in His anger and terrifies them in His wrath, saying: I have installed my King on Zion, my Holy Hill!" (Psalm 2:4-6)… and this exactly is – I believe – what happened! As neither the Holy Spirit nor my daily readings found it necessary to enlighten me on this matter of repentance (in that respect I have been kept in the dark).
Perhaps the following event was meant to show that the Lord God Almighty was about to bring judgment on the Godless system of Ceausescu. I jumped out of my lorry and looked back. The bridge was gleaming wet, and the rotating yellow lights were mirrored in the shining asphalt. Then something happened, which might have been a last forewarning to the evil emperor of Bucharest: Soon he would be out-manoeuvred!
The young drivers of the long row of vehicles (suddenly and all at the same time) delivered a biblical sign of the ultimate triumph of the Kingdom of God: As one man they stepped out of their land rovers, farm-tractors and heavy trucks, took off their boots and shook off the dust of the tyrant’s territory. Did they in that moment lay an axe to the root of the red rule in Rumania? A few weeks later Ceausescu was dead!
Such are my thoughts as I am looking back on what happened on the Danube Bridge. But I don’t want to trouble anybody with such memories for nothing, I just wish to emphasize that the nations of Europe are about to experience the same fate; in this hour they have to do with the same little people, who possess more than average abilities, and who suddenly may carry out the same acts of judgment. If that happens, modern tyrants of Brussels will fall, and the destruction of a Godless society will be at hand. If the true believers of the continent start banging their boots to shake off the dust of an anti-God-constitution, some of its political and spiritual leaders may soon lie in their graves.
The giftings of these preachers of righteousness are of the highest order; they have power and know how to use them. Gifted as they are with more than a certain kind of pulpit eloquence; they have come (as the apostle says): ‘not with words only but with power!" I see them stepping out on the white line of a huge EU-bridge. Their actions could be recognized as anathema.
The cold on the Danube Bridge was horrendous. The rain pouring past me, (a few hours later as I stepped out to see, how we were delivered back to the Bulgarians) was so icy cold it was searing my skin. When I opened my mouth to call at the young men behind me, it drove a fierce pain into the roots of my teeth. Then in a split second we passed the white line.
The border guards from the other side were silhouetted against the light. Behind them was a fancy car. Looked like a dark-blue Mercedes. Quite a sporty beast. I wondered how they got hold of it? They seemed prepared for a confrontation!
The Bulgarian officer introduced himself to the Rumanians. He was an elderly man: grey haired, grey faced, grey uniformed. Even his voice was grey: a monotone so quiet it was difficult to hear what he said. I leaned forward to listen. It was something about ‘the scrolls’. "We won’t have them back!" he shouted. "They are religious opium; opium and nothing else, so it is! We won’t have them back!" He saluted and turned around.
"Hate them!" The Rumanian officer shivered with cold. "I truly hate them. Treacherous, pious, religious bastards! Now they have to go back over the bridge." "Wait a minute", his colleague said. "They haven’t been in Romania for 24 hours, and they were never more than three miles into the country. International conventions say that they have stayed within the border limits. The Bulgarians have to take them back!"
I only caught the words of the Rumanian officer. The one with the John Lennon-glasses, and my brain hardly seemed to take them in; "they’ll take us back to Ceausescu", I whispered. I took a deep breath to get hold of myself and walked blindly to my truck.
"Religious rats!" I heard the grey man’s grey voice behind me. He was still discussing ‘the case’ with the Rumanians. My mind flew back to the spacious, warm apartment in Copenhagen. Denmark with its big gardens and handsome trees and stunning views of the sea. Nice homes for large families. The provincial atmosphere of the capital. The cobber green roofs, the white churches, the kind relaxed way of life…
"I hate those religious bastards, I truly do" I heard the grey officer continuing behind me. "But if we have to take them back, we’ll do it. But we won’t make life easy for them!"