His eyes held a fierceness to them – as if they’d seen enough to last a lifetime.
“There’s no hope for me,” he’d said. “The police are coming for me.”
He’d shown the scars on his finger, where he’d cut and given his blood in a ceremony to give his soul to the devil. He’d only been a boy but that choice was followed by other destructive ones which later as an adult left him homeless on the streets of Moravia.
When the Americans offered him a job as a dishwasher at their ministry center, he readily agreed. He lived in the abandoned mill next to the lake.
After dinner, when the dishes were all done, he’d come to the dining room almost eager to poke fun at the faith the foreigners professed to have. They were just as eager to convince him of their beliefs.
He seemed to find it entertaining and so he’d sit night after night arguing with them. He’d grown up in a small village in the foothills of Moravia. Up on the hill, you could see the outlines of what once a monastery. When communism took over the country, he’d explained, the government had taken it over and turned into a prison – the highest security prison in the land where all the hardest criminals were sent to.
He’d never imagined as a boy playing in the fields below the castle-like building that it would also be his home. The authorities had finally caught up with him. As soon as he received the operation on his leg and recovered, they would come for him and take him there.
“No, I’m must remain evil,” he’d said. “It’s the only way I will survive there.”
“But Franta, God can give you a new life and will take care of you there” she’d argued. One of the families had a little boy no more than four and his winsome ways made those around him smile.
“You can begin again, and be just like him. God has the power to do that in your life if only you’d let Him.”
But it was in vain. The more the foreigners tried to convince him, the more he pushed back. The day came when her time at the ministry center ended and she had to leave. He came to say goodbye – and standing there along with the other Czechs he’d shown his small wooden cross hanging from his neck. He’d accepted the gift as a symbol of their friendship.
It would be some time before she’d see him again. The police did come and took him to the place he’d feared.
When she came back to the Czech lands as a full-time worker, she went to see him with her new husband. He came out wearing blue prison uniform with a slight limp on the leg that was operated. But the harshness in his eyes was gone.
In its place was a gentleness and even a hint of joy as he hugged her. And he told her how when he was waiting for the verdict on his case, he’d read through The Case for Christ. He finally saw what everyone had been trying to tell him about Jesus, and he’d committed his life to God even as the police came for him.
And then he reached into his shirt and pulled out the small wooden cross she’d given him. A joy so overwhelming came over her that all she wanted to do was cry. But he wouldn’t let her.
The verdict had been 12 years but he was released after 8. He came back to the ministry center next to the lake and resumed his job but this time as a new creation. She went to see him now with three kids in tow, and they reminisced over what God had done in their lives. And again, he reached into his shirt and pulled out the small wooden cross.
Yes, at the cross – at the cross of Jesus there is life, new life – a life you’ve always longed for.
“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!” 2 Co. 5:17