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  • Beth Lantinga

Praise and Prison

In the March 2003 visit with Ferenc and Julia Visky, it was apparent that he had deep love and respect for her. He described her courage when he received a long prison sentence along with many other Christian Endeavor activists. In this visit Visky also revealed a life-sustaining pattern of trust in God’s goodness no matter the circumstances.

“I remember that she was brave, braver than anyone else when the military court read my sentence several years later. We were standing there with some others, eight pastors and elders and members of the congregation. There was a young girl who had been given a sentence of eighteen years, and of course, there were mothers, wives and brothers crying, believing that no one could survive a Communist prison. The only one who did not cry was my wife. This small woman, my wife, asked, ‘Why are you crying?’ They answered, ‘Why are you not crying!’ And she responded very calmly, ‘Ten years, eighteen years? This is what the court says, but what does the Lord say?’ How many years did the Lord say?”

Visky’s prison time began rather painfully, but he found a reason to praise. “God can call to us in prison as well as in the theater or in church. It may be a bit harder in church, but not impossible. In prison there were many unpredictable moments. Soon after my arrest, one of those moments occurred, though I don’t want to say that I would depend on signs like this. It happened that I was suffering from an inflammation of the kidney when I was arrested and transported to prison by some men – let us call them God’s chauffeurs.

I apologize for the graphic description, but one suffering from this illness has an irritation that causes urination every five minutes, sometimes with no result but pain. When we learned that my name was on the list and that I would be arrested soon, our immediate concern was this. We had heard that in prison, one of the most painful hardships was that prisoners were allowed to use the toilet only once a day. Just think, ordinary poor criminals could use the toilet freely, but political prisoners were allowed only one trip a day. For me it would mean constantly wet and soaked clothing that would cause painful irritation.

So, in this condition, the secret police dropped me into an observation cell. A man was sitting in the cell, a man I later learned was an informer. This was the method by which new prisoners were thoroughly inspected. So, when the prison guard opened the door, I looked into this bare cell that held two concrete benches, and I started to smile, though it was really not the time for smiling. After the guard locked the door, my cellmate, a young university student, asked how it was that while others cried, broke down, or clenched their fists, I smiled. I answered him by simply pointing at the urinal hidden under one of the benches. At a moment like this, rational thinking collapses, and what remains is adoration."

A Tiny Interlude


“Yesterday afternoon, when we were placing ourselves in a horizontal position, I began searching for my glasses on the bedside table thinking that I had already taken them off. Julia asked me, ‘What are you looking for?’ I said, ‘My glasses.’ She said, ‘They are on your face, on your nose.’ How good to have a wife."


Mother Gherla

"The time finally came when after eight months in the observation cell in Varad, I was taken to the mother prison, to Gherla, called Szamosujvar in Hungarian. According to regulations, every prisoner over the age of twenty had to be shackled for transportation. I also received this honor. A guard led me out to the corridor where there was an anvil and a blacksmith, also a prisoner who knew his job well. He hammered the shackles tightly on my wrists. Then I sat down on the concrete floor, putting my two feet in front of me so that he could fix the iron cuffs on my ankles. The shackles were so heavy, they could have stopped an elephant. Nevertheless, my feet were chained together so that I could only shuffle, presumably to prevent even the possibility of escape.

Then the other prisoner helped me stand up, and in that moment, my God, in that impossible moment, I remembered the text in the sixth chapter of Paul’s letter to the Ephesians, “I am an ambassador of the Lord in chains.” And then I smiled – there were some tears too. The guard and the prisoner noticed that it was not fear but gladness that caused my tears. The guard asked why I was smiling. I told him that I was thinking of Paul as an ambassador, a political ambassador. It made him pause and think, and he began to act differently, not as a Securitate guard. It later turned out that he was a Hungarian called Laszlo. I don’t know what happened to him because we went our separate ways. These events sometimes happen.”

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 © Beth Lantinga 2020