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Joy Beyond Understanding: Common Ground in Suffering and Worship among Eastern European Christians During the Communist Era

 

The second difficult time for Caraman started during the year 1963, when the officer who interrogated him tried to convince Caraman to renounce his Christian faith but without success. He was judged on 7th January 1963 and was sentenced to four years in prison, even his family asked pardon for him because he was suffering from a duodenal ulcer disease. The leaders of the Communists placed in the same cell with Caraman their man to watch and spy on him, but even that man said about Caraman that “he counts the imprisonment as a great joy and as opportunity to become strong in faith, to check his trust in Jesus. He is not worried or bitter because he is in prison, because he says that outside there is not liberty.”[19] This characterization is important because it is not made by a friend, but by a member of the security who noticed the brave attitude of a real Christian who suffer for a good cause.

Caraman was released from prison sometime between 24-30 July 1964, when the government issued a decree of pardon for those who were imprisoned because of religious issues.

Caraman’s third imprisonment started during the year of 1971, because he did not stop his work of distributing Bibles, to teach for underground Christians and to baptize people. He was sentenced for six months being released from prison in February 1972.

The Department of Religion, was the political department of Communist party, had the responsibility to watch and to restrict the autonomy of the church and to control and to limit the influence the church in society. During the years of 70’s, the leaders of that Department proposed to Caraman to be the President of Pentecostal Union hoping that Caraman would be won to their side and so he would renounce the distribution of Bibles and Christian literature in clandestine, but without success.[20] He even refused to leave the country when he was invited to, because he was convinced that his mission was to distribute Bibles in a Communist country, to translate Christian literature for people and to lead underground Bible studies for small groups.

The fourth imprisonment was during the year of 1977, when Caraman was one of six Evangelical leaders who signed the document “The New Protestant Religion and Human Rights” which was broadcast on Radio Free Europe in Germany. The document expressed the oppression against the Christians in Romania, then Caraman was arrested again on the 3rd of April 1977, investigated by the Security for about six months, than released because of the protest of Western-European political leaders. During the year of 1989, the year when the Revolution burst forth in Romania, Caraman was investigated because he organized underground Bible studies for small groups.

Caraman says that he felt the greatest joy, or a joy beyond understanding when he risked his liberty and freedom distributing Bibles and Christian literature in a clandestine manner. When he encouraged a fellow Christian, Ioan Dinică to be involved in transporting a printing machine, he says that for such activity he will be happy to suffer three years in prison.[21] Caraman says: “I had a childlike joy when the opportunity arose to undertake a dangerous action. We have a saying: Now I feel that I live”. I knew that I am doing a work for the Creator, even though people condemned me.[22] Also, he said that the best days, the glorious and golden days were when he suffered for Christ, because he knew that God did not condemned him, in spite of the Communists that condemned him, because what he did it for God’s sake and glory. He says that received power to suffer because he knew that Christ was in his heart and nothing happens in his life without God’s permission.[23]

Caraman, as well as Wurmbrand and Steinhardt through their experiences have proved that there can be a joy beyond understanding even in suffering. Detention in a Communist prisons for them was like the fire that purifies and brings out the best in human hearts.

Yes, there can be a joy beyond understanding, a joy which come from the Holy Spirit who comforts and brings hope during the most difficult times in our lives.

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About the Author: Eugen Jugaru, Ph.D. (Lucain Blaga University, Sibiu, Romania), is Assistant Professor of Systematic Theology at the Pentecostal Theological Institute in Bucharest, Romania. He has pastored a Pentecostal church since 1993 and is the former President of Operation Mobilization Romania.

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