Our History and Our Future: What scary things will happen in 2021?
This is a history lesson.
I am writing this on January 1, and everyone I know is worried about this new year 2021. What is going to happen? Should we worry?
I might have an answer, and I found this answer in my closet yesterday.
Our history is our future. We haven’t changed.
Recently, I was reading something, and I saw two words that reminded me of something: “Nikolsk Ussurisk.” That led me to a search of my closet, and I found those words again. This is the story, from the beginning, including the parts where I guess what probably happened.
I have a tiny French New Testament, published by the American Bible Society, in 1910, and probably printed in the U.S. It’s in excellent condition, and probably no one ever read it, including me. A few words are penned inside: “French” to tell English speakers that it’s a French Bible, and some faint handwriting “Franz [something] Nikolsk Ussurisk [something] 7/VII 1920. That’s July 7, 1920.
Research is easy, with the Internet, and I learned some things: World War 1 was from 1914 to 1918. Imperial Russia fought against the Austro-Hungarian Empire until the Communists seized control in Russia, and killed the Tsar Nicholas on July 17, 1918. During the war, Imperial Russia transported prisoners of war across Asia, on the Trans-Siberian railway, and put them in prison camps near Nikolsk Ussurisk. That’s a small city in the far east, near the Pacific Ocean, and close to China, Korea, and Japan, and just north of the port city of Vladivostok.
Franz was probably a prisoner of war from Austria, and in July of 1920, he was still in Nikolsk Ussurisk. “Nikolsk” refers to the Tsar Nicholas, who had been dead for about two years. The Communists won the Russian civil war in 1921, and the city name is now “Ussuriysk.” When Franz got an American Bible in French, he probably also boarded a ship and sailed back to Europe, from Asia and through the Suez Canal. Franz was a German speaker who probably took a French Bible because educated Europeans always learned French. Franz was probably an officer.
In 1933, an Austrian named Adolph Hitler came to power in Germany, and in 1938, he directed the annexation of Austria to Nazi Germany. World War 2 started in 1939, and ended in 1945. After that, until 1955, Soviet Russians and others occupied Vienna, Austria. That little Bible lived through a lot of history, probably on a shelf somewhere.
It had the advantage of being very small, and French. German is the language of Austria.
Years later, I spent a summer with a missionary group in Europe, and one of my adventures was bus driver. I had experience and a license as a school bus driver, back home. We drove from Belgium, near Brussels, through Germany on the Autobahns, to Vienna in Austria. That was a reckless idea, but there were no injuries.
We stayed in a large and old apartment in Vienna, for a few days, and I found the little Bible. I wanted to improve my high-school French, and I was allowed to take the Bible. No-one else wanted it. That Bible travelled with me, back to Brussels, and then we flew on a Moroccan airline, with one night in a hotel in Casablanca, and then on to New York. We rode in a van, to Toronto, and in the morning, I flew back to my home in Western Canada.
That Bible is also a world traveller. I have kept it with me for years, and probably no-one ever read it.
And here is another story: In the same closet, I found a Greek New Testament. I think I bought it in a second-hand store because I took a course in New Testament Greek and I wanted to remember the language. I didn’t remember, and that Bible is also unread, and in good condition.
The writing in this one identifies Marilyn Gurel, and January 1956. There is also a quotation from Ulrich Zwingli, a Swiss religious reformer who wanted to learn Greek so he could understand what God was saying.
And one more: In my collection, I also found a “Christian Worker’s New Testament” published in 1959. This one is battered and taped, with much underlining. Someone read this Bible. I don’t know how I got it, but I don’t know how to dispose of a Bible, so I still have it.
The battered Bible that someone actually read also has a quotation from the owner: “Someday God will speak for the last time. (Are you ready?)”
Those are spooky words.
It’s easy to see the truth; God speaks and we don’t listen. We can see the truth in old Bibles that are still in good condition. The last message is from someone who listened, and wore out a Bible.
In the actual words of the Bible, God told us “My Spirit shall not strive with man forever, for he is indeed flesh” (Genesis 6:3). God speaks, and we don’t listen, and then God has a final message. My history lesson, from my closet, is that God’s voice can travel through history, and around the world; but we are responsible to listen.
I think we all know that our creator tried to tell us something in the year 2020.
So, what scary things will happen in 2021? The father who loves us will speak to us. Things get scary when He gives up.
In the new year 2021, I hope we all listen, and find the best things from God, for us and our families and our friends.
In all those Bibles and all those languages, we have this message:
How often I have longed to gather your children together as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were unwilling! Look, your house is left to you desolate. And I tell you that you will not see Me again until you say, ‘Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord. (Luke 13: 34 and 35)