“He who has the Son has life.”
The small unassuming professor of our Greek class paused in midtranslation of First John focusing on a nodding class mate of mine and coughed.
“Mr. Simms, is not most exciting thing you ever heard?”
The professor’s English still overwhelmed by his Russian heritage made him appear unlearned to those who didn’t know him. Nothing could have been farther from the truth.
My mind wandered back to the first time I heard Dr. Nick tell his story in our living room some years earlier. My father sat with a cup of coffee and I sipped on a Nehi Grape soda as Nickolai Alexandrenko transported us through his words to a time and place faraway. He noticed my wide eyes and spoke as though he and I were alone in the room.
“Was very different life from your papa’s my boy. I was being groomed to be a party man. I had been to University and was ready to lead in someway in the Communist Party but then the Great War started. Mother Russia was in danger of destruction by the Nazis and it was my duty to do what I could for the motherland.”
He continued with his story of being a Russian paratrooper. His first company of men was reduced from 200 to 7 in less than a month. He told of parachuting into enemy territory and being shot from the sky. Visions of The Rat Patrol and John Wayne movies flashed through my head as I imagined exciting and heroic exploits.
But then my romantic notions were dashed as he told of life in the German POW camp he ended up in for almost two years. Finally liberation day came and the war was over. His voice changed, somehow more somber and yet joyful at the same time.
“American jeep entered our camp early one morning. A soldier jumped out and shouted for all to hear, ‘Boys you are free now.’ But I wasn’t really free. Because I had refused to commit suicide I couldn’t return to Russia. Knew then, America was the place for me. But story not so rosy as you think. Three more years passed in refugee camp in Germany. Still no hope, no real life.”
Dr. Nick paused to sip his coffee and smiled. “Know what happened then?”
I shook my head.
“November 27, 1949 happened that’s what. I was trying to light a potbelly stove but was stuffed with too much papers. I pulled one German paper after another out and then stopped dead. In my hand, held little leaflet written in mother tongue. Only had two Scriptures, written in Russian. After Scriptures was question. “Do you knock to God in your sorrows?” Then was statement, ‘In Him is life!’ In all my 27 years I had never once read Bible or even considered if there was a God.”
Great tears welled up in Dr. Nick’s eyes. For a moment I could almost swear we had actually gone back to 1949. “I did something I had never done in my life,” he exclaimed. “I prayed. Said, ‘God, if you really are, you not want me to spend rest of life in darkness.’ I confessed sins and knew God was. Then did something else I had never done before. Not during famines and hunger of the 30’s; not when mamma and papa died; not when comrades shot down like birds in the air all around me; not even while being beaten in German POW camp.”
Once more he paused as though waiting for encouragement to continue.
“What did you do Dr. Nick?” I asked in a hushed tone.
He looked at me and patted my knee. “My boy, I cried. Had never before but did then. When I knew that God was and that he loved me. When I saw what he did to give me life what else could I do but weep for joy!”
… Now with class over, Jason Simms tapped me on the shoulder. “The old man sure gets worked up over nothing doesn’t he.”
I could have told Jason Dr. Nick’s story. How he came to America, received a PhD in Latin and Greek from Tulane University and taught young people for years to love and cherish the word of God and the life found in Christ. But I didn’t. I guess you have to discover what Dr. Nick did for yourself to get as worked up as he was.
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