Boris Nicholayevich Kornfeld, political prisoner of the former Soviet Union.
Incarcerated in the late 1940s at Ekibastuz, a forced labor camp, in Siberia.
Because of his medical training, the camp authorities put him to work in the hospital.
Dr. Kornfeld was Jewish, but a Christian prisoner attracted his attention. The man evinced a quietness of spirit, in spite of the horrors, deprivation, and hopelessness of their situation. Often the doctor would hear this fellow prisoner reciting the Lord’s Prayer.
One day, a guard was brought into the surgery. An artery had been cut during a knifing incident. As Dr. Kornfeld began to repair the artery, he thought, I could make the sutures in such a way that this horrid man would slowly bleed to death later. The authorities would ever know.
But no sooner did the idea cross his mind than Dr. Kornfeld’s stomach turned at the cruelty of his own thoughts. Words from the Lord’s Prayer came to his mind, and he spoke them silently in his heart: Forgive us our sins as we forgive those who sin against us.
Day by day, Dr. Kornfeld sensed change occurring in his spirit. He wanted to speak to the Christian prisoner about his experience in the surgery, to discuss what was happening within himself, but the fellow had been transferred to another gulag. The doctor told no one about his growing faith in Jesus.
As he was being transformed on the inside, Dr. Kornfeld’s character began to change. He started saying “No” to some of the sordid practices of the prison camp. Once he reported on an orderly who had stolen food from a dying patient. Such misdeeds were actually quite common. After all, why waste food on someone who was going to die anyway?
But telling the authorities what was going on put Dr. Kornfeld in danger. No one was going to appreciate his sense of fairness and kindness. Every prisoner lived for himself, doing whatever was necessary to survive.
One evening, Dr. Kornfeld examined a patient named Alex, who had undergone surgery for cancer. He felt compelled to describe to Alex his journey toward faith in Christ. The words came in a flood. For at least several hours, Kornfeld spoke to the young cancer patient.
The next morning, Dr. Kornfeld was dead. Someone had beaten him in the head with a mallet.
Alex thought long and hard about the doctor’s story and his life-changing faith. He, too, decided to become a Christian. Miraculously, Alex survived the gulag and wrote about his experiences there. The book was smuggled to the West and published.
More books followed, all revealing the cruel and disastrous results of the Soviet system under the leadership of Stalin. (At least sixty-five million Russian citizens were murdered in the gulags.)
That prisoner-become-author was Alexander Solzhenitsyn, who won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1970. The Gulag Archipelago and One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich were two of his most famous works. Many credit his writings as the beginning of the end of the Soviet Union.
But certainly Dr. Boris Kornfeld also deserves credit. His influence was an important catalyst. And what about the nameless Christian who introduced Dr. Kornfeld to Jesus?
He also was used by God in a chain of events to achieve great impact upon the world.
But no one knew, including himself. He very likely died in the gulags.
Oh, but consider his home-going to heaven. Think of Jesus, wrapping his arm around the shoulders of this saint, saying “Well done, my devoted one. Have I got a story for you! Come and let me share what you have been a part of!”
We must not allow fear or anonymity to dissuade or discourage. God may use any one of us to change the world, but he may very well wait to reveal our impact until he can tell us all about it — face to face!
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Heavenly Father, may I never miss an opportunity to be a part of your grand, over-arching plan. May the legacy of Dr. Kornfeld, Alexander Solzhenitsyn, and millions of nameless martyrs compel me to be courageous and passionate for you. I have nothing important to lose and everything worthwhile to gain.