The stench of human waste was nauseating although I didn’t have anything left to vomit. The screams and mournful cries from recent days had turned into whimpers and I wondered how many were still alive. I listened intently for the chains clinking against the floor. It was the only way to know if they were still moving and breathing.
There were twenty-five of us to begin with. We were all that was left of our secret church. We had been meeting at the Pastor’s house for several weeks until the government found out. We tried to be careful, but somebody must have snitched to save their own skin. The One World police broke into the house during our Sunday night worship service and there was no place to hide. I didn’t know how long we had been locked in this dungeon – it felt like a lifetime, although I knew it must only be a couple weeks or so.
As I lay there watching roaches scamper up the damp, gray walls I remembered my grandmother. She used to tell me that someday Christians would be persecuted for faith in Jesus. I am so glad she went to be with the Lord before it actually started. I couldn’t grasp the reality of persecution back then. I remembered thinking granny must surely be a little mad. That couldn’t happen in a country such as ours! But it was happening – all over the U.S. to everyone who refused the mark. Just like the Bible and granny said it would.
Hunger gnawed at my insides…the pain intensified. “Oh Lord Jesus, how long?” I prayed. I tried to sing but my mouth was too dry. I felt myself drifting off….Jesus was there smiling with open arms and I wanted so badly to go to Him but I couldn’t move. Every piece of my flesh was on fire from the daily beatings. The chains on my feet kept me locked to the cold, wet cement floor. And in and out of consciousness I drifted. But I knew He was near….it was almost over now. Just a little while longer, I told myself.
In and out I drifted. I saw visions of heaven. I felt the warmth of His blood washing over me. His blood consumed me. I felt Him lift me and take me to a river where He gently immersed my broken body. I came up clean and whole from the sparkling water and the cross was visible on a rocky hill…I saw His face – His piercing eyes looking tenderly into mine…..then nothing. The stench of the cell and groans from others prisoners and the clinking of the chains were all a reality once again. “Oh my dear God, please come back for me” I cried out deliriously.
“Samantha, can you hear me? Samantha!” I faintly heard my Dad calling in a weak voice to me from the next cell. “Hang on sweetheart, Jesus is coming soon. Just hang on Baby.”
“Mmmhmm, ok Daddy.” I whispered. The pain….it wouldn’t stop. It was unbearable…..it was torture. “Jesus, come back for me, please come back.” I drank the salty tears pouring down my face. Then I felt His hands tenderly cup my face. His eyes were inches from mine. Such compassion was in His eyes…such a love I had never seen before. It was a love that could actually be seen…so clearly. “My Holy God, how I adore You.”
Then – snap! The chains broke open and I felt nothing at all – light as a feather. I was aware my soul had left my body. I looked down at the broken shell lying on the floor and almost didn’t recognize it. It was not me – just a tortured shell that I had finally shed. I was free! Two angels were there to take me home to my precious Lord. Halleluiah! My chains are gone!
“My chains are gone
I've been set free
My God, my Savior has ransomed me
And like a flood His mercy reigns
Unending love, Amazing grace
The earth shall soon dissolve like snow
The sun forbear to shine
But God, Who called me here below
Will be forever mine
Will be forever mine
You are forever mine!”
Song by Chris Tomlin
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