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Special to Tell of Journey of Faith in Russia

Admire, Al. "Special to Tell of Journey of Faith in Russia." Lutheran Layman, December 1994, 3.


Russian Christians were persecuted throughout the land in years past, but few as severely as the German.
Sitting on a train for two days, I had a lot of time to think about life, to think about faith. It was traveling to Vorkuta, near the Ural Mountains, to visit former prison camps where Stalin had banished the Volga Germans. I had just spent nearly a week traveling through the Volga Valley, interviewing Volga Germans Lutherans who had been sent to labor camps in the 1940s and 1950s. I was looking at possible locations to gather footage of prison camps. The stories I had heard during this trip were powerful. And now, as I watched the birch forest glide by my window in the fading light of a late summer day, my mind raced back to the people I had met and the stories they shared: of their trials and tribulations, and of their unbending faith in Christ which ultimately saw them through a terrible ordeal.

Our production team for Lutheran Hour Ministries traveled to Russia in mid-August to do location scouting and pre-production for a documentary tentatively titled "A Light in the Darkness." The film will focus on the plight of the Lutheran Volga Germans, their banishment to labor camps and "gulags," and the story of how their Christian faith acted as an anchor in their lives during years of hardship and turmoil.

I was lucky to meet with many Volga Germans who had survived years in the camps and lived to tell their stories. One woman told of begin forced - without shoes - to fish freezing waters every day, but not being allowed to keep any fish to feed her family. Others told of long days spent in coal mines, breathing the deadly black dust but having no way to protect themselves from this silent killer. Still others spoke of the long nights in the camps, nights of quiet talk and songs of a home vaguely remembered - all different stories, but each with one underlying theme: A clear belief that their faith in Christ, and the salvation that only comes through Him, is the saving factor in their lives!

Many would hide Bibles under their clothes in the camps, only to take them out and read the Word in their bunks late at night by the light of a single candle. Others spoke of secreting under the planks of their barracks a nativity scene, passed down from generation to generations, to be taken out one night a year on Christmas eve. Those people I spoke with believed, and they thanked God for their survival and the opportunity to share their story with me.

These were the thoughts that ricocheted through my mind as the train wound its way slowly northward. Here hundreds of thousands of Volga Germans were shipped in boxcars and made to work long hours in freezing coal mines. I thought of their strength, their courage, and of the faith that did not fail them - the same faith that I share. They are brothers and sisters I have been blessed by meeting, who have important stories to share.

And share them they will. If it is God's will, we will return to Saratov and Vorkuta. We will film these people, their stories, as well as the camps where they spent years in exile. We will see their cherished Bibles, hymnals and nativity scenes. And we will come to know more about the power of the promise of the Lord that "whoever believes in Him should not perish, but have eternal life." This is the story of the Volga Germans - a journey of faith!

Reprinted with permission of The Lutheran Layman.

Permission to use any images from the GRHC website may be requested by contacting Michael M. Miller
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Germans from Russia Heritage Collection
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