Excerpts from

I Found God in Soviet Russia

Chapter 4: Trial by Hunger

By John Noble - 1959

Map and background Information at Introduction

Table of Contents



   "Do not fear any of those things which you are about to suffer. Indeed, the devil is about to throw some of you into prison, that you may be tested.... Be faithful until death, and I will give you the crown of life." Revelation 2:10

“Lord, where are You? Don’t You see me here in prison, locked in this cell? I need Your help! I am innocent, Lord! Let me out!”

I literally shouted my supplication to Heaven, forgetting that I was not permitted to speak out loud. A hard knock on the door startled me, flinging me back to reality. A Russian guard banged his key against the metal-plated door to my cell and through the peephole I could see his eye regarding me balefully.

Minutes passed before I could calm down. I sat on the metal “tray” that, suspended from the wall, served as my bunk.... A beam of the setting sun shone for a moment through the little window set high in the wall and illumined the marks on the wall which were my calendar. Eight lines scratched there, eight days in this cell in solitary confinement.

It was July 28 [1945]. For twenty-three maddening days I had been held prisoner by the Russians, unable to communicate with the outside world, with no charges brought against me, no trial, and no indication of what my jailers intended to do with me.... Loudly I had protested that I was an American citizen and that my arrest was illegal, only to be told by the impatient Russian officer in charge that no doubt his superiors knew what they were doing....

In solitary confinement, a man has nothing to do but think. There is no one with whom he can speak, nothing to read. My cell was a small, tight-closed room, twelve feet long and six wide. There was just enough space for me to take six short paces back and forth for exercise. The window was so high that I could tell only whether it was day or night...

This was the first day that we had had only warm water instead of the usual soup, or coffee, and bread. When the guards came around again at the time of the evening meal, I could hear tin bowls rattling against the doors of the cell block. Curses and cries of protest echoed through the corridor.

“God will punish you for this, you Red swine,” I heard an anguished voice cry out. With mounting apprehension, I awaited my turn. My fears were soon confirmed: again we received only warm water.

Weakly, I went back and sat down on my bunk, looking at the spoon in my hand for which I had no use. “Lord,” I cried out bitterly, “are You expecting anyone to live on this?”

Then, suddenly, I went on my knees with humility and prayed, “Lord, Lord, I am starving! Help me, or I will die!”

Quickly, I rose from my knees. It was not safe to be caught kneeling in prayer. Already, as the sun went down, the unfrosted electric-light bulb which lighted my cell all night had been turned on so that the guards could watch me. To be found praying would be excuse enough for a trip to the dungeon and what is called in communist double-talk “re-education.”

I stretched out on my bunk. Closing my eyes, as if in sleep, I tried to find words with which to pray:

“Our Father in Heaven, I was unthankful for all You permitted me to enjoy in the past. I trusted in the material things made by men’s hands alone. Now I turn to You for help. You know that I am hungry and in prison. I beg You to give me bread in the morning and, during the coming day, to open the doors of this prison so that I may again be free.”

Having offered this prayer, peace was restored me and I went to sleep confident that in the morning I would have bread—with freedom for dessert. In the morning when I awoke, I tried to busy myself so that the half-hour wait for breakfast would not seem so long. With my sleeve I dusted off the corner of the table so that I could lay my bread down while drinking my coffee.

The lock fell open on my door, and I held out my pan with my left hand for the imitation coffee and my right hand for the bread. In the second the door was open I gazed at my father’s door, down the corridor on the other side, and smiled so that he could see I was alive and healthy....

The door closed and my right hand was still empty; there was no bread! Quickly I pushed open the peephole in the door and watched as Dad opened his door. Surely he had been praying for food, too. He did not even hold out his right hand for the bread; he had seen that there was none.

Yet he had a grateful smile for the guard and a cheerful glance across the corridor for me. How could he be cheerful? I was puzzled and confused. And when at noon there was only water, I was completely disillusioned. Surely God has abandoned me, I thought; I have prayed earnestly to him in my hour of need and He has denied me....

Of course, I realize now how foolish I was to think that the first time I prayed, I should get an immediate answer. God doesn’t work things out that way. I had prayed that my will be done, not His. I prayed a selfish prayer, thinking only of myself, and had been demanding, rather than penitent....

That night, however, with my stomach growing numb after two days of enforced fasting and with the rebellion in my spirit fading as my body became weaker, I felt differently about it. Remembering the mercy promised us by our Lord, Jesus Christ, I turned to Him in prayer and asked Him to intercede with God that we might have food. [Romans 8:34]

....on the morning of the fourth day, my prayers were answered at last and there was bread again. Closing my eyes, I gave thanks to the Lord. Breaking the bread and slowly eating it, I felt the weakness of my body replaced by a new surge of hope. At noon and again in the evening we had a fairly thick soup along with the bread and that evening I slept soundly. I felt that my prayers had been answered and I kept on praying that the food rations be increased. I also continued to pray for release.

I should have observed that the Lord gave me food when I needed it and not when I wanted it, and should have realized then that He would lead my captors to give me freedom only in due course when He saw fit. But I continued to pray selfishly, and certainly with impatience.

On the morning of Thursday, August 2, came a crushing disappointment. Again we were given only coffee for breakfast, and at noon and night only warm water. And this went on day after day until by the ninth day almost half the prisoners had died. And still the starving process went on.

But what happened to my father and me during this period... convinced me forever that there is a God who reigns over this universe and who can answer the prayers of those who believe in Him!

"He said to me, 'My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness.' Therefore most gladly I will rather boast in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in needs, in persecutions, in distresses, for Christ’s sake. For when I am weak, then I am strong." 2 Corinthians 12:9-10

See also Brainwashing and Education "Reform"  | Animal Farm by Orwell