Jan White

Alexander Solzhenitsyn, a Nobel prize-winning author, lived to tell the world about the torture and death in Russian Gulags, prison camps in Siberia where the Communists exiled millions of people.

When he died in 2008 at age 89, I remembered a story told in Chuck Colson’s book, “Loving God,” about Boris Kornfeld, a fellow prisoner with Solzhenitsyn. A Jewish doctor, Kornfeld met a devout Christian in the prison camp who shared with him how Jesus came for the Jews first and gave His life for all. He often heard the Christian man reciting the Lord’s Prayer.

Gradually, Kornfeld began to grasp the Truth of the Gospel and became a Christian himself. The scarcity of doctors in these isolated camps meant the doctor lived in better conditions than most prisoners. His medical skills were needed for guards and prisoners alike.

His faith was tested one day in surgery while repairing the artery of a guard who had been knifed. Kornfeld was tempted to let his persecutor bleed to death by not tying off the artery properly. But he heard himself say aloud, “Forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us” (see Luke 11:2-4).

Kornfeld continued to pray the Lord’s Prayer as he went about his backbreaking, hopeless tasks as camp doctor. He tried to help the prisoners suffering from disease, cold, overwork, beatings and malnutrition. The doctor had been repeatedly asked to sign forms certifying prisoners were healthy enough for punishment. Eventually, he refused to sign the forms.

One day, while making rounds, he found an orderly (a fellow prisoner) eating bread that patients with pellagra desperately needed. Kornfeld had just come from the bedside of a dying man. Though stolen food wouldn’t change the outcome for most patients, he couldn’t forget the suffering he’d seen. He couldn’t let it go on. So the doctor reported the orderly to the camp commandant.

Boris Kornfeld knew his life was in danger for not signing documents that meant almost certain death for prisoners, and for reporting the orderly, who was sentenced to three days in the punishment block. Kornfeld shared his newfound faith with a young prisoner - whom he operated on for cancer of the intestines - talking to him throughout the afternoon and into the night.

As Colson writes, the patient pondered the doctor’s impassioned words.  As a result, he, too, became a Christian.  The patient survived that prison camp and went on to tell the world what he had learned there.” The next morning Dr. Kornfeld died after suffering eight blows to his head.

His young patient was Alexander Solzhenitsyn. Imagine the conversation in heaven when Alexander Solzhenitsyn and Dr. Boris Kornfeld were reunited. Solzhenitsyn once said, “…no matter how formidably Communism bristles with tanks and rockets, no matter what successes it attains in seizing the planet, it is doomed never to vanquish Christianity.”

Think about the immeasurable impact of one life. There’s a Russian proverb Solzhenitsyn would quote, “One word of Truth outweighs the whole world.” We, too, need to tell others the Truth, so they will know and be “set free” (John 8:32).

Jan White is a wife, mother, and freelance writer who lives in Andalusia. Her email address is jan@janwhitewriter.com.

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