Celebrating 80 Years Pt.4: My Testimony
Celebrating 80 Years of Briercrest
Check back monthly to enjoy a six part series of devotional excerpts from Briercrest founding President Dr. Henry Hildebrand's book "Our Gracious God and Loving Heavenly Father: Book 4". If you would like a free copy of this book please contact our Alumni Engagement Coordinator: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Read: Psalm 66:1-20
“Come and listen, all you who fear God; let me tell you what he has done for me.” Psalm 66:16
Life is so rich in experiences. Some experiences are amusing and others are humiliating, but as a whole they are profitable, working together for good. We are products of the people whom God has used before us and progenitors of those who follow.
As Paul looked back, he saw how it pleased God to separate him from his mother’s womb so that he might preach the Gospel (Galatians 1:15-16). I, too, see clearly through my entire life and ministry what God has done. I see the guiding and enabling hand of God in all things.
I was born in southern Russia, some 135 km north of Odessa, in the village of Steinfeld-Kamenapol, the youngest of thirteen children. My parents were typical Mennonite landowners, hard working and thrifty. The Communists considered them Kulaks, privileged people.
I was born in a devout Christian home, where daily Bible readings and weekly church services were a regular part of life. At five, I was bundled up and sent to school. I loved school. I loved my teachers and my fellow students. It was a peaceful, ideal young life, secure in a godly home. “He who fears the LORD has a secure fortress, and for his children it will be a refuge” (Proverbs 14:26).
Then the Bolshevik Revolution struck in 1917, followed by famine and pestilence in 1921. In our village the red and white armies were fighting for control, and a third army was prolonging the conflict. When the reds gained the upper hand, the Mensheviks helped the whites. When the whites were gaining the upper hand, they helped the reds. This way they maintained a condition that allowed them to continue plundering the people. News of their approach to a village drove people into hiding.
On one occasion they caught our parents and demanded that they hand over their possessions. As I walked home from school, the atmosphere was eerie. Instead of my parents meeting me cheerfully at the door, I saw several riding horses hitched to the post. I entered the home, wondering. I heard voices in the living room and tiptoed my way in. What I saw made me scream for fright. Mother tried to take me out of the room, but they wouldn’t let her. Apparently my fright added to their sport.
I saw my Dad with his neck on a chair and a Bolshevik drawing his sword threateningly. I learned later that when they could not get more possessions from him, they demanded that he deny his faith. I can still hear his response to their demand: “Nyet! You can have my money and you can take my life, but to deny my Saviour – No!” This example has followed me all my life. I thank my God for truly noble and faithful parents.
Students would often ask me, “Mr. Hildebrand, if you were called to deny your faith at the point of death, would you remain true to God?” I would reply in lowly terms, “God knows. Today I’m called upon to live my faith and bear testimony to it. I believe God is providing the grace to be true to Him. I also believe that if He should call me to seal my faith with my life that He will provide dying faith.”
May we humbly plead to be true to Him until we’re called home to receive His “Well done.”