In the mid 1960’s in Communist Russia, a new believer, returning home from an underground prayer meeting, was picked up by the local police, having been informed on by a neighbor. The police interrogated him trying to learn the location of this meeting place, but when they couldn’t get the information they wanted, they drove him to an old abandoned refinery about ten kilometers away where there were dozens of large underground tanks that used to hold crude oil but were no longer used due to their deteriorating condition.
After arriving, they opened their trunk and pulled out a long rope. “Get out!” they said, pulling him out of the police car. They then proceeded to walk a good distance into the center of these big tanks, and having reaching about the middle, they stopped and said, “Here, tie this around yourself!” Reluctantly, he tied the heavy rope around himself. They then proceeded to open the hatch of one of the tanks.
Now these tanks were very big and to the bottom they were probably about 6 meters (20 feet) down, the top of each tank was flush with the ground. “Come on!” they said as they pulled him closer to the opening.
The man was afraid and said, “What are going to do?”
One officer responded with, “You like underground, we’re going to show you the true underground!”
They then proceeded to lower the man down into the tank. The believer began to weep and pray, “Lord, is this what you have for me, I’m scared Lord! Lord, please deliver me from this!” As they continued to lower him down, the man continued to weep, asking his tormentors to please not do this. The tank was deep, dark and smelled like oil. “Was there still oil in it, will I drown in it,” he asked himself as fear gripped him more and more.
“Lord, what are you doing?” There was no reply. “I’m your child Lord, I have a family, I’m afraid Lord, please deliver me from this terror!” There was no reply. Down and down they lowered him until finally he could feel his feet touch the bottom. The bottom felt at first like some kind of liquid but immediately after he felt the hard bottom and stood up. Relieved that he wasn’t going to drown, he stopped weeping for a second and looked up, only to see some light from the hole he was lowered through, and a voice echoing through the tank, “Untie the rope!”
“He didn’t want to”, he thought to himself, it was his only connection to freedom. “And what more could they do to me; they’re going to leave me for dead anyway,” he thought to himself. They tugged on the rope to see if he had untied it, and when he hadn’t, they decided to teach him a lesson. Pulling out their pistol, they immediately fired a shot down into the tank. Boom, the sound exploded throughout the tank as he jumped in fear falling to the ground.
“Ok, ok,” he screamed, as he quickly stood up untying the rope as fast as he could. “It’s done,” he said.
His captors then pulled the rope up and out of the tank. Hope seemed lost as he heard them say, Let’s see your God get you out of this!” Then they slammed the metal hatch closed. Darkness consumed him as he could hear the faint sound of a car starting its engine, and the sound of it driving away. He had heard another strange sound as well, just before the hatch closed, it was what seemed like thunder. “Was it going to storm; it had been dry for a while,” He thought to himself. “Maybe that is why there wasn’t much water in here.”
Again starting to weep, He prayed crying out to his Lord, “Lord, Why?” “It this how I’m going to die? Save me Lord, deliver me from this!” The tank was cold, and it didn’t help that he had fallen, for now his clothes were wet. He began to shiver a little. Just then, he heard it again, what he thought was the sound of thunder. I hope lightning doesn’t strike the tank, he thought. But either way, it looked like I’m going to die here. Maybe they will take me out after a while he thought for a fleeting second, and then said, No, I don’t suppose they will. He had heard how his fellow believers had suffered worse fates than his at the hand of these godless communists.
So after recomposing himself, he thought to look for a possible ladder somewhere on the sides of the tank, surely there would be a ladder, he thought. After stepping a few feet in the darkness, he felt the bottom of the tank crunch under his feet as if the bottom had rusted though in some spots. Carefully he continued to the side in the pitch blackness until he felt the cold metal wall. Reaching up as high as possible he felt for anything that might be a ladder, inching his way around.
Then, he heard it again, it was much more clear this time, and yes, it was definitely thunder. Was there a storm coming? And if yes, I need to get out of here soon, otherwise this tank will surly flood, He thought to himself.
Quickly and carefully he made his way around the tank looking for any sign of a ladder or a way of escape while continuing to hear the thunder growing ever closer and ever louder.
After about fifteen minutes of searching, having probably gone around the tank two times to make sure he didn’t miss anything, and not knowing for sure where he had started from, he gave up hope, and falling to his knees, he cried out once again, “Lord, I don’t want to die, take me out of here Lord, I know you can!” Just then thunder pounded through the tank as lightning must have struck one of the other tanks nearby! What is the Lord trying tell me, he reasoned through his increasing fear as tears began to stream down his face. Maybe there is sin in my life I have not repented of? Lord, forgive me, I know I have done wrong, cleanse me Lord. But as he prayed the thunder just increased, and then he heard rain slowly began pattering against the top of the tank.
His weeping began to be uncontrollable as the prospect of drowning in this awful place griped his soul. Lord, what about my family, he cried! Just then the rains began to pound the top of the tank, so much so that the sound was almost deafening as it echoed throughout the chamber.
Then his anguish turned to anger, but only for a moment, realizing, “How could I be angry at the very God who saved my soul, the One who raised me from the pit of sin and despair, from a life of hopelessness and drugs, the One who owns my very soul that was purchased with the blood of Calvary.” Have I even suffered like Job, like the Apostles, no; I have only been down here for not even an hour and I am crying like a baby. Lord strengthen me, and Lord let me not die not having brought glory to you, Lord use my life as a beacon of hope for others; but Lord if I die here, I will say as Esther said, “If I perish, I perish,” I will say as Job, “The Lord giveth, the Lord taketh away, blessed be the name of the Lord.” As I cried out to the Lord, a peace came over me, as if all would be well. I leaned against the cold wall and just waited, waited to see what if anything the Lord would do.
As I waited, the storm grew stronger and stronger, the rains pounded harder and harder, and as it did, I noticed that a lot of rain was falling in through the top of the tank around where the hatch was, as well as raising up through the rusted bottom. The ground must be drinking up the water at a rapid rate like a sponge due to the long dry period; and before I knew it, it was up to my ankles. Surprisingly the water was warmer than the water that was in the tank; at least I wouldn’t die from hypothermia.
As the rain continued and the lightning crashed all around, the water grew ever deeper, now up to my waist. Trying to maintain my feeling of peace and not think about the ever rising water, I began to sing, first amazing grace, and then every other song I knew; it helped, but by now, the water was up to my neck and my fears and doubts were returning.
After ten more minutes, I was on my tip-toes, realizing I would soon have to swim, and though, not a bad swimmer, I knew that at the steady but slow rate the water was rising, and the height of the tank, and wearing clothes, that I wouldn’t last very long.
Soon, I was floating. I had learned to lead my head back and move my hands in a circular motion to stay afloat, but again, by clothes were weighing me down. I swam over to the side thinking I could get some leverage by holding on to the sides, but the metal was rough and rusty and was cutting into my fingers. I was already getting tired. Next I tried to sink down to the bottom and then push back up, which helped a little, but the oil on the surface of the water kept getting into my mouth and eyes, so I had to stop, and anyway, it was getting to deep already.
So after treading water for another 15 min, and the water having reached about the half-way point, I began to panic as my muscles began to ache to the point of exhaustion. So I turned again to the Lord in hopes He would hear my cries this time; as I resigned to trust Him for whatever the outcome. “Lord,” I said, “Your will be done,” and just then I felt something heavy hit me in the back of my head. What could it be, I was again frightened, but as I turned myself around, and reached forward to feel for whatever it was, and as I did, it felt like a large branch, Wow, yes, it was; I eagerly grabbed onto it, hoping it would hold my weight, and it did. “Thank you Lord” I cried out, as again the tears started streaming down my cheeks. This branch must have been in here the whole time and I never noticed it because I only walked around the outer edge, unless of course, the Lord just miraculously put it hear, I laughed as I thought about that.
At least now I could rest for a while before the water would press me up against the top of the tank. Maybe it would stop raining and I would be ok, but no, it didn’t seem like that was possible for the rain seemed even louder now and the lightning was still thundering all around. So I waited, and waited remembering my life and my family and preparing myself to meet my end. I wasn’t real sure how much further there was until the top but I could make out occasional bursts of light coming from the hatch caused by the lightning, but now it had been a while since I had seen the last burst so I figured I was close to the top and maybe over to one side and could no longer see it. It was then that I realized that I could just reach up and feel to see if the top was close, it was, I reached up and there it was, the top. It was about a half an arm’s length over my head. As I float there, and as the water rose further and further, I prayed one last time, “Lord, not my will but thine be done.” Just then, the lightning began crashing all around violently, and as it does, I have a feeling of peace come over me again, and as I look forward I see it, Yes, that’s it, it’s the hatch! Why didn’t I think about this before, I didn’t notice a lock on the hatch when they put me in, and they figured there was no need for one, so I kicked my legs quickly as the water was almost engulfing my face, making my way to the hatch that was still brightly lite up with lightning as a beacon in the darkness from the Lord, and I reached out pulling myself closer until I was directly underneath, and with a great big push upward, I flung the hatch open and popped my head out and climbed to safety! Wow, I thought to myself, the Lord did answer all of my cries and has delivered me from death once again. I fell to the ground crying in unexplainable joy and worshipped God my Savior! He used the very thing that I was afraid of the most to deliver me from the hands of evil men. He did not deliver me from the storm but through it! How amazing is his provision!
As I stood to my feet, all of the sudden, the rain and the lightning stopped, and though wet, I was warm.
Well, I said to myself, this will make for an interesting story for the family, who, I’m sure are very, very worried about me by now. Now all I need to do is walk back home ten kilometers avoiding the police and I’ll be ok.
Having walked about a kilometer, I noticed some lights in the road ahead. The closer I got the more I realized that it was a vehicle; great I thought maybe someone will drive me home; but as I approached I was again gripped in fear but something told me it was ok. You see it was the very police car that I had arrived in. As things became clearer, I noticed that a large tree had, it seemed, been struck by lightning and had fallen directly on the front of the police car! Wow, I thought to myself, as the verse popped into my mind, “Vengeance is mine saith the Lord, I will repay!” I laughed a little and said, “Nice one Lord.” But even in God’s vengeance, I noticed His mercy, for both doors were open, and it looked as if neither men were hurt. I thought to myself while cracking a smile, “Well, I guess they will have an interesting story to tell as well!” I walked another few kilometers until finally someone stopped and drove me to my home where I spent the next hour telling my amazing story and about the wonderful grace of God!
From Doug Doan Missionary to Lithuania [email protected]