News Articles

Pastor’s ‘arrest’ gives church insight into facing persecution

LEBANON, Ore. (BP)–Pastor Ted Haws was arrested for waving a Bible in his hand as he greeted the congregation at Trinity Baptist Church in Lebanon, Ore.
“I see that Bible! You’re under arrest,” shouted a camouflage-clad soldier as he stomped down the sanctuary’s center aisle.
Despite the pastor’s protestations that this was just a winter concert as indicated by the sign taped to the front of the pulpit and despite a few anguished “No!” exclamations from some Ukrainian visitors in the congregation, the soldier handcuffed the pastor and dragged him by the arm out of the sanctuary.
The staged dramatic moment came early in a special service in mid-January designed to show the Oregon congregation the conditions under which persecuted Christians around the world worship God.
Bibles and hymnals had been removed from the dark and cold sanctuary. A grim-faced soldier stood in the foyer, severely chastising with his eyes the people who dared to enter the sanctuary. Past the glare of the soldier, there was a sense of hushed peace in the sanctuary.
“You’re experiencing a little bit what some people have throughout the year,” said Haws, dressed in a blue ski jacket as he welcomed the congregation. In his hand was the very cheapest paperback version of a Here’s Hope New Testament. “If this were China, it might be 30 degrees in here, and yet the Lord’s house would be full.”
The arrest scene that followed strikingly brought home the fact that the religious liberty enjoyed in the United States can be extremely fragile. The response of the congregation was even more interesting. Music director Sam Thomas started singing “Alleluia” a cappella even as the pastor was being unceremoniously yanked down the aisle by the soldier. The congregation listlessly followed Thomas’ lead. Next: “I Love You, Lord.”
Pastor Haws unobtrusively returned to the pulpit area, this time clothed in his usual suit and tie, during the singing of “Glorify Thy Name,” and immediately the congregation’s voice swelled with enthusiasm. It was obvious they felt empowered by the pastor’s presence, even though his “arrest” had been staged.
Nikolay Samoylich, pastor of The Slavic Church in Lebanon, Ore., and his congregation sang the songs they would sing when the KGB hauled someone out of their church in Russia. He spoke of his layman father, who was imprisoned for 10 years because he helped deliver Bibles and songbooks printed on a contraband press. Samoylich spoke without bitterness.
“No matter what happen to us, we pray together. We sing together. We be strong together,” Samoylich said. “God put us under the press in Russia, in the Ukraine, and after that we are better, sweeter taste to the Lord, like oil from olives.”
Samoylich spoke again later.
“Pastor was hauled out of here in chains,” he said, referring to the staged scene. “We need to make other chains, chaining us to Scripture. Make a stand in the world and by this prove you are his disciple.”
Haws encouraged the congregation to memorize Scripture and pray for persecuted Christians around the world.