MISSIONARIES & The Gulag Imprisonment of Brigadier Josef Korbel

Commentary by Dr. Whitesel:  “I often ask my students to share inspiring stories of Christian women and men who have impacted the student. Such stories inspire me too, as we sometimes feel the North American cost of ridicule and derision is too much for us.  It is stories of missionaries, the leaders of missional movements, that give me strength, perseverance and excitement for the task ahead.

The following is the story of Brigadier Josef Korbel that a student once shared with me.   Here is how the student (Glenn Cady, an officer in the Salvation Army) described the story of a Salvation Army officer who was imprisoned by Czechoslovakian Communists.”

Glen wrote: “Brigadier Josef Korbel was an officer in Czechoslovakia when the communist regime took over. Refusing to forsake his call to preach the gospel and serve people, he found himself arrested and sent to a concentration camp. Yet even there he could not keep from sharing the gospel and ministering to cell mates and members of the work crew. It became so bad that they eventually put him in solitary confinement. He was in a dark room that had a small sliver of light for a few moments a day. Even in that room he would sing songs and quote scripture just in case someone could hear. Little did he know that he was not alone in that dark room. He had a cell mate who had not talked in years and was considered insane. But through the singing and scripture of Josef, he came to know the redeeming power of Christ. He wanted to know more, so Josef would teach him from single pages of scripture his wife would smuggle to him between the slices of meat in his sandwich.

“I met Brigadier Korbel as a college freshman. He had been released from prison and had come to the US as an evangelist. We shared around the table and I was struck by the things that excited him. It was the little things. The fondue pot where he could not stop fixing treats for all of us to eat. The freedom that we all took for granted. The fact that God did not forget him in his trials was always a topic of discussion. God provided for his wife, a nurse, to be conscripted into service in the very camp and cell block where he was being held. This was never viewed as coincidence. Josef taught us to savor the little things, thank God for everything and trust God even when we could only see a sliver of light for a few minutes a day.

“Josef Korbel’s story can be found in the book “In My Enemies Camp” 1976 Christian Resource Communications)  and the sequel “When the gates were opened.” (Self published 1980).”

Here is an interesting interview with him: