Let me tell you about a man who was in prison with me. Demitri was a pastor whose backbone had been beaten with a hammer. When a certain vertebrae was hit, he was paralyzed so that he could move only his neck.
You can imagine what a tragedy this was. If he had been in a home or hospital, he would have had a wife, mother, or nurse to take care of him. How would we take care of him? There was no running water to wash him, no linen to change him. He lay there in his human waste. He could not stretch out his hands to drink a cup of water. The others who could walk and work were taken to slave labor during the day. When they came back in the evening, he had to wait for them to help him drink a cup of water.
He lay like this in prison for a couple of years. It was hell on earth. Then in December 1989 Romania had a revolution and the dictator Ceausescu was overturned. Freedom came and Demitri was released from prison to be with his family and friends. No doctor could help him, but now he had loving hands to help him. He still could not move hand or foot.
One day someone knocked at his door. It was the Communist who had crippled him. He said, "Sir, don't believe that I have come to ask forgiveness from you. For what I have done, there is no forgiveness, not on earth or in heaven. You are not the only one I have tortured like this. You cannot forgive me; nobody can forgive me. Not even GOD. My crime is much too great. I have come only to tell you that I am sorry about what I have done. From you I go to hang myself. That is all." He turned to leave.
The paralyzed Brother Demitri said to him, "Sir, in all these years I have not been so sorry as I am now, that I cannot move my arms. I would like to stretch them out to you and embrace you. For years I have prayed for you every day. I love you with all of my heart. You are forgiven."
Demitri had learned love from Jesus who called Judas "friend," who prayed for those who crucified Him, and who accepted Saul of Tarsus, the persecutor, and made him an apostle.
Our faith in Jesus means imitating Him. Jesus, as often as He met a sinner, did not reproach him. He took that man's sin upon Himself and suffered on the cross for the sin. I could tell you many stories of others like Demitri.
At one point in prison, I felt very sick. I had tuberculosis, diabetes, heart problems, jaundice, and I don't know how many other kinds of sicknesses. I was near death. There was in that prison a cell reserved only for the dying.
From: V.O.M. Dec '98
I am the only one who has survived that cell. I was in that room for over three years and came out on my feet to tell the story. It is a story not only of suffering, but also of so much beauty. To my right side was a pastor by the name of Iscu. He had been so badly beaten and tortured that he lay dying. He was so quiet. He knew where he was going.
There may be times when you are sad or angry. Keep silent and wait for the moment when you can give a gem. Iscu gave gems when he spoke. He spoke about the beauties of heaven and the love of Jesus. His body was still on earth, at my right side, but mentally he was already "in heaven."
On my left side was the Communist who had tortured him to the brink of death. The government had arrested their own comrade and tortured him. Now he too was near death. During the night, he would awaken, "Please, pastor, say a prayer for me. I have committed such crimes, I cannot die."
What I witnessed next was a scene from heaven (you need not be in heaven to see heaven). The agonizing pastor called two other prisoners to help him and, leaning on them, he very slowly passed my bed and sat down on the bedside of his torturer. Iscu caressed his torturer on his head! I will never forget the scene.
This was the man who had so beaten Iscu that now he waited for death, and Iscu caressed him. He said, "I have forgiven you with all of my heart and I love you. If I who am only a sinner can love and forgive you, more so can Jesus who is the Son of GOD and who is love incarnate. Return to Him. He longs for you much more than you long for Him. He wishes to forgive you much more than you wish to be forgiven. You just repent." In that prison setting where there was no place for intimacy, I overheard this torturer confess all of his murders to the tortured one. Then they prayed together and embraced each other.
Slowly, slowly, the pastor was helped to his deathbed. They both died the same night. It was Christmas Eve, but not a Christmas Eve at which you celebrate One who was born 2,000 years ago, far away in Bethlehem. Jesus had been born that very evening in the heart of a criminal.
This is what Jesus can do for you. I hope that I do not speak in vain. When I have a gem, I speak. This is the gem I have for you today. Jesus loves you and waits to be born in your heart.
GOD bless you,