Friday, April 20, 2012
Hall of Faith-er # 2 "Um... Not Any More..."
I had another blog planned for today but things changed...:)
Yesterday I took my memory verses and my camera outside and sat in the swing, working on Hebrews 11 and trying to capture our resident mamma bird feeding her babies in our carport, where she has chosen to nest her young. I'm not good with a camera and when I finally captured the mom feeding the little bird-niks, as my husband calls them, I was so excited that after she flew away, I forgot to turn off the camera. So that little clip ends with the camera angling from the nest to the fence and then to the ground where you can see part of my memory verse cards, my slacks and my shoes. (Could be worse... I've accidentally taken pictures of the inside of my purse before...Not kidding.)
I posted the video clip on FB of the little birds getting their yummy worm but, truth be told I was slightly embarrassed by the fact that the clip ended with a lopsided view of a verse from Hebrews 11 about Rahab the harlot... I thought, "Clearly, I need to get a life... Sitting in a swing, meditating on Scripture and filming birds... Does this not shout RETIREMENT or what???" Honestly, I thought I could have at least been reading an exciting new novel or something. Maybe filming the occasional drug bust in the neighborhood... Something, anything, with a little more pizzaz to it!!!
Then last night I finally got around to listening to a radio interview that my husband heard and recommended to me, um, back in February. It is the testimony of Dr. Margaret Nikol and as I listened to it, I searched the internet trying to find her written testimony (because she has a bit of an accent) and then I ended up adding notes to the written testimony as I listened to the radio program, trying to get her whole story down as best I could.
By the time the radio program was finished, I knew she and her whole family belonged in the Hall of Faith. I was floored by the things she said. She was born in Bulgaria and lived under communism until she was about 37 years old. But that's not even where her story begins...
Before she was ever conceived, her parents decided to move to Bulgaria to preach the Gospel and continued to do so under a rigid, atheistic government. And I guess that's a pretty strong heritage - people who, like Moses' parents, were not afraid of the government's edict and like Moses himself, pressed on as seeing Him who is unseen. (Hebrews 11:23-27)
After they settled in Bulgaria, her mom started praying for a child. For seven years, she prayed. Not just for a child but for one who was musically gifted. Margaret was the answer to that prayer; as a child, she developed a passion for music, especially the piano and the violin.
Being a child, however, she couldn't help but wonder why her mom had not prayed for a beautiful kid!! :) When she finally asked her mom, this was the answer she got: "Beauty comes from the heart and as long as Jesus lives in your heart, you will be beautiful!" What a sweet answer!
It wasn't until Margaret was older, however, that she finally figured out why her mom had prayed for a musical child:) Under the communists, a church could have only one pastor so her father had to preach, lead the singing, and work with the youth - he had to do it all. And he couldn't carry a note in a bucket. She said his singing was absolutely awful! So one day she asked her mom if her dad's terrible singing had anything to do with her praying earnestly for a musically gifted child. Her mom said, "Yes! Jesus has to listen to that every Sunday! We needed someone who could lead singing.." I love that!
After Margaret was born, her mother began to pray for a son who would grow up to be a pastor. Honestly, I can't believe her mom had the courage to do this. Me, I've always prayed my son would be protected from harm. To pray for a preacher son in Bulgaria back then, however, was to pray for a son who would be tortured and possibly killed for his faith.
Her mom and dad knew this from first hand experience as they had both spent time in prison and knew what torture meant. In fact, Margaret's dad ended every church service with this prayer, "Lord, help us to be faithful to you, even if it means death this week." Yet her mother prayed earnestly for a son to carry on the faith and God granted that wish. She had a second child, he did grow up to preach, and like both his parents, he would eventually be martyred for his faith, the last Christian to be executed in Bulgaria before the Iron Curtain fell in fact.
As children, Margaret and her brother had to memorize three Bible verses a day. The parents gave them their verses in the morning and they were expected to recite them in the evening. This turned out to be crucial because one week, the communists came through their town and confiscated all Bibles. The next Sunday, her father stood in the pulpit and said, "This is a sad day for us because all our Bibles are gone. But we will press on because we still have the Holy Spirit."
At that point, an older lady stood up and said she had managed to save her Bible. When the communists came to their home, they were threatening this woman's husband and while this was going on, she hid, not herself, but her Bible. Somehow she and the Bible were spared and that Sunday she pulled out the only copy of the Scriptures in the entire church. Then she tore out the pages one by one so that everyone could have at least one page. Margaret got a page in Genesis and she held onto it for the next thirty years or so, reading over and over again God's promise to Abraham, believing that He who had worked so effectively in Abraham's life would also work in hers.
As an adult, Margaret became a classical violinist but she also incurred the wrath of the authorities because she didn't hide her belief in God. She was arrested and tortured but because of her significant talent they let her go. However, they promised her that if she didn't renounce Jesus soon, they would break all her fingers and end her musical career forever.
After she left Bulgaria, she ended up in California. One day, a neighbor told Margaret that she'd like to give her a gift. Margaret asked if it would be possible for her to have a Bible and the woman replied, "Of course! This is America!" She took Margaret to a Christian book store and when Margaret saw all the Bibles there, her knees almost gave way from the shock of it. She was pretty much in tears; after having had only one page for all of her adult life, she could finally have the whole book!
She wanted so badly to get a Bible to her brother, who was still in Bulgaria but it wasn't possible, she couldn't find a way to do it. So she prayed that even though she wasn't much and only knew music, that someday God would enable her to take Bibles to her country.
After the iron curtain fell, there were still many people who couldn't get a copy of the Bible and so she started an international ministry which distributes Bibles to Eastern Europe.
Towards the end of her testimony, she said that she has suffered many heartaches. Both her parents were killed when she was a teenager. Then her brother was killed many years later. And then she lost her husband to cancer. But the biggest heartbreak she has ever experienced was when she took a load of Bibles into Bulgaria, about a thousand of them. And the people stood in line for a long time to get a copy. And then, when the last Bible was handed out, the person next in line burst into tears, sobbing and asking if they didn't have just one more, saying that she had prayed and prayed for years for a Bible.
Then Margaret added that for 30 years she has lived in the United States and over those years, she has heard many wonderful prayers at Thanksgiving. But she has never heard an American thanking God for the Bible in public prayer.
After I heard Dr. Nikol's testimony, I thought long and hard about how I had been slightly embarrassed at accidentally videotaping my memory verses this morning, wondering what people might think of my tame life...
This is where I got my information about Dr. Nikol:
A radio program called Grace Cafe did an hour long interview with her around Thanksgiving.
I found a written account of her testimony at Manna Express Online.
And she has a website where you can order her testimony and her recordings of her concerts: www.intl-impact.org