Revised from the book Little Lame Walter, by N. I Saloff-Astakhoff, published by Grace Press, Inc.
Part Two: The Young Soldier
See also: Part One
“To him who overcomes I will grant to sit with Me on My throne, as I also overcame and sat down with My Father on His throne.” (Revelations 3:21)
Walter was only thirteen, but he already knew what it was like to suffer and face hardship. He remembered the miserable years of being called “Cripple,” and how he had hated everyone. But that life was over now. Jesus had won his heart by love, and Walter was ready to be His brave soldier.
The other children soon noticed the change in the lame boy. Before the Communists had kicked Papa out of the orphanage, Walter had always been the head of all the mischief and trouble. Now his kind words and confident smile won the hearts of those who were tender to what was right. “Walter talks like Papa used to,” eight-year-old Annie told her little brother. “He isn’t cruel or rude like before, but speaks so kindly to us. Don’t you just love him now, Johnny?” Johnny was only six, but he nodded eagerly. Like all little children, he was happy to stick near someone who was kind and loving.
And so it was that Walter soon became leader to those children who loved the Lord Jesus, despite the attempts of the new Socialist directors to stamp out their faith in God. “Let’s go out to the old orchard,” he would say, when they were left alone to amuse themselves. “We will have a prayer meeting like Papa and the Aunties always did.” After singing several hymns together, Walter opened his New Testament. Once he had wanted to throw it away, but now he was so glad for this precious gift that Papa had given him.
As Annie and the other children listened, Walter began to read and explain the words to them. “It says here that we should not be worried, but always tell Jesus everything. ‘With thanksgiving’ (Philippians 4:6) means to be thankful, and sometimes that is not easy. But at least we can be thankful that we still have the New Testament to read, and the beautiful world that God made all around us.” Walter stopped his little sermon, and lifted his face to the trees above them. “It is really sad that people don’t believe in God,” he continued, “for then they can’t be thankful and happy. Let us remember to pray for the new managers, because they need to know Jesus, too. I was miserable just like them, until the day that Jesus forgave me and washed my heart clean.” Then they all knelt in prayer, remembering to thank the Lord for His love and asking for His help to be good and obedient.
As the weeks went by, these faithful followers of Jesus often met to encourage each other. On Sundays and holidays, when the others were busy with fun and games encouraged by the Socialist leaders, Walter and those who loved Jesus would slip away to their secret meeting place in the back of the orchard. The old cellar was the most hidden spot, and soon they had made benches from all the loose stones for their own little meeting house. Among the cracks in the wall Walter tucked his New Testament. After reading from the Bible and singing songs of praise, they would bring all their sorrows and needs to Jesus. “Let us remember this verse today,” Walter encouraged the others. “It says, ‘I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.’ (Philippians 4:13)”
They needed to fill their minds with God’s Words, for the directors of the orphanage were working hard to erase them from their thoughts.
“If any of you children see one of these books, bring them to me!” the manager said one morning, holding up a New Testament. “This is anti-socialist literature and anyone who dares to keep one will be punished!” As several of the children brought out the books from their rooms, she smiled approvingly. “That is the proper revolutionary spirit!”
Walter watched in dismay as all the pages were torn out and thrown in the waste basket. When he slipped outside, Annie was close behind him. “I’m taking my New Testament to hide in the cellar with yours,” she whispered. “I don’t want that lady to rip it up!” Soon the others followed them. Since they loved the Lord with all their hearts, they could not bear giving up His Words to them. Even if they might get punished for it.
It wasn’t just punishment that the children had to be ready for. There were other traps that didn’t look so dangerous. When a dance was announced for the following Sunday’s entertainment, Walter was thoughtful. Ever since he had given his heart to Jesus he had stopped attending the activities planned by the Socialists, for he knew that they did not please God. But the other children did not see the danger, and he realized that he must warn them.
At their next meeting Walter spoke about the planned entertainments. “These things are sin before the Lord Jesus,” he explained. “Jesus never danced, and He never went to movies or put on shows for people.” Walter looked around at the questioning eyes of the other children. He tried to speak clearly, to help them understand. “You see, Jesus would not want us to act or sing so that others will desire to do wrong. Papa did not do any of those things. He taught us to help each other and to love and obey the Lord Jesus Christ with our whole heart.”
“We won’t dance or sing the bad songs any more,” the children all agreed.
“Jesus says, ‘If they have persecuted me, they will also persecute you,’ (John 15:20)” Walter reminded them. “Are you willing to be punished for Jesus’ sake?”
“Yes, Walter,” several voices answered. “Jesus has suffered for us, so we will suffer for Him.”
And the children kept to their word. When Sunday came, they slipped away to their meeting place instead of joining in the dance party. The Communist managers noticed that they were absent, and the next evening they made a new announcement. “Next Sunday we will have a show, and all those who take part in the singing and dancing will receive candy.” Most of the children cheered loudly, but Walter’s little band looked at one another. They realized that their loyalty was being tested.
Saturday night the young servants of Jesus held a meeting.
“It would be wrong to go,” Annie said.
“Yes,” agreed the others, “for even if we get candy, Jesus would not be happy.”
So, true to their convictions, each child refused to take part in Sunday’s activities.
The staff of workers were quite annoyed. The director asked sharply, “Why don’t you want to join in the fun with everyone else? Who is influencing you?”
Walter answered for the rest, “Because it is sinful in the sight of the Lord Jesus Christ! He has taught us not to sin, and we want to obey Him.”
A red flush of anger filled the director’s face. “Well, if you refuse next Sunday, you will have to go without dinner for the next three days!”
With this threat, she left the poor children to look at one another helplessly. They hardly had enough to eat as it was, and most of the time felt hungry. To lose their meals would be a severe trial, indeed! At the first opportunity they gathered in their refuge, and wept and prayed. They told the Lord Jesus how they were being treated and had no one else to go to in their troubles. With strengthened hearts, the young soldiers promised once more that they would be willing to suffer rather than to join in any sinful activity.
The week passed. Sunday came. The director smiled as the children were gathered for the planned activities. “Let us now sing our Revolutionary songs,” she said, “and then we will begin the movie.” When Walter and the others that loved Jesus moved toward the door, she grew angry. “You filthy ignorant rats! You shall have no dinner and see how it feels to be unthankful to our government!” She paused to get her breath, then looked at Walter coldly. “And you, stupid cripple, will ring the dinner bell for the others.”
At one time those cruel words would have made Walter fighting mad. But today he didn’t really care. He knew that Jesus was pleased, even if the director wasn’t. With a growling stomach, he rang the dinner bell and watched the “good communist” children come running to get their meager supply of food. He tried to smile when he saw the rest of his little band standing to the side watching him. If this was being a soldier for Jesus, he would bear the hardship bravely. While the others were eating they found a quiet corner where they knelt down and prayed.
“Please help us not be too hungry,” Johnny asked.
“And forgive these cruel people, and save them, Dear Lord Jesus,” added Walter.
The war was really on now, and from day to day the opposition got worse. The Communistic managers of the orphanage worked hard to break apart the little band. They especially hated Walter, and the influence he had over the others. “I’ve been hearing about your secret meetings!” the director said harshly, grabbing him by the shoulder one morning. “How dare you read from the forbidden books!” She twisted his arm until he flinched in pain.
But he only said quietly, “It is the book of our Lord Jesus, and it teaches us how to obey God and do what is right.”
“Ha! How can you know what is right, stupid little cripple!” she said scornfully. Then she glared around at the others. Their sad eyes showed their great love and respect for the lame boy, and her face turned red with anger. “If I catch any of you meeting together, you will be beaten!”
Life for Walter and his little flock became increasingly miserable. Even in the halls and rooms of the orphanage they never felt safe. When Walter found some of the younger ones crying because they had been teased or kicked, or someone had snatched their things, he tried to comfort them. “The Lord Jesus knows how hard it is for us,” he said softly. “And He has promised to be with us always.”
“But I don’t like it when they are so mean,” one replied, sniffing back his tears. “Sometimes I want to hit them, but I know Jesus would not like it.”
“No, we must pray for them instead. Let us ask Jesus to help us forgive them, as He forgave His enemies,” Walter encouraged. “They are being influenced by the evil managers to hurt us, and are given rewards. But Jesus said that we should rejoice when we are persecuted, because we will have a great reward in heaven. Won’t that be much better?”
One day a communist leader visited the orphanage to talk about their new Socialistic government. “This country is great because we do not listen to the old traditions and teachings about gods. Those things are false and must be banished from our minds!”
Boldly Walter stood up. “God is not false,” he said confidently. “He created this world and I believe in Him.”
The visiting man looked at the young boy and smiled a little. “How do you know God is real? What has this belief done to help you?” he questioned Walter.
“He sent His Son to die for me and change my heart,” the young soldier of Jesus replied. “I used to be bitter and angry, but now I have love for everyone. Jesus helps me to do what is right.”
“And how do you know what is right?” the communist leader said with a laugh.
“The Gospel of Jesus tells us,” Walter said simply.
“And who is ‘us’?” the man said, looking around the room. “Do many of you children believe such silly things?”
“I am a follower of Jesus,” Annie said bravely, and several of the others nodded in agreement.
“Stupid brats they are, too!” the orphanage director added, glaring at them. “We don’t need such nonsense in this place, and we are going to stamp it out!”
One Sunday noon, when the rest were busy playing games, the children slipped away one by one into the high weeds. Slowly they gathered in their beloved refuge at the back of the orchard, feeling quite sure no one had seen them.
“I’m so glad the nurses haven’t found these,” Annie said, as she helped pull out the New Testaments from their hiding places among the bricks. “It is so comforting to read Jesus’ words to us, after listening to all the horrible things the managers say.”
The others agreed, as they turned the pages to their favorite passages. After reading from God’s Word, they sang several Gospel hymns in a low voice.
“ ‘Let us not be weary in well doing: for in due season we shall reap, if we faint not,’ (Galatians 6:9)” Walter said softly, as they all knelt on the stone floor.
One by one they poured out their hearts to God. “Help us, dear Lord… we have no one to love us or care for us, but You!”
Suddenly there was a clatter of shoes and the cellar doorway was darkened. Before they could move, the kneeling children were surrounded by the Communistic workers from the orphanage. “Ha! You thought you could fool us, did you?” the harsh voice of the director called out, snatching the New Testament from Walter’s hand. Before the other books could be hidden, they were in the hands of the enemy. Walter opened his mouth to speak, but was slapped across the face. “No word from you, lying cripple!” the director said, quickly. “You say you are so good, and now you try to hide from us and disrespect the government!”
With kicks and rough words, the children were dragged from their refuge and beaten. Their last treasured books were ripped to shreds before their eyes. Then the determined workers filled the old cellar with bricks and stones. “Where is your God now?” the director asked, with a cruel laugh. “Look what has happened to your holy room and your prayer books! There is no reason left for you to hold on to your stupid beliefs!” She looked at them triumphantly, then stalked away.
Weary and sore, Walter leaned against a tree. The moans of his comrades filled his ears, and the pain in his heart seemed to overwhelm him for a moment. How could they bear living without the words of their dear Lord Jesus? If they didn’t study His Word, how would they know what was right and what was sinful? These cruel people had taken from them all that was good! The scornful words of the director seemed to echo in his ears: “Where is your God now?”
Walter lifted his eyes to the blue sky between the tree branches. The great loving God that made the world seemed very far away. Had they lost the fight, after all? Had Jesus left them to suffer alone? A ray of sunshine glinted down, lighting up the thin face of the weary young soldier. The lame boy shut his eyes, as tears rolled down his cheeks. Suddenly he knew that he was not left alone. “Thank You, Lord Jesus,” he whispered, as God’s promises filled his heart. “You do see us right now, and You do care! You have said that You will be with me always…. I will trust You.”
See also: Part Three