The Insanity of God: Dmitri’s Story

Dmitri, the pastor of a small house church in the former Soviet Union, is one of the most powerful examples of faith in The Insanity of God book and movie. One night, communist officials burst into his home during worship and arrested him. They sent him to prison for 17 years, more than 600 miles from his family. He was the only believer among 1,500 hardened criminals. Despite the horrific conditions of the prison, Dmitri continued to share his faith and continue his worship practices. He even led some of his fellow prisoners to Christ. When the Soviet officials finally released him from prison, Dmitri continued to lead his family in their faith journey. Dmitri’s story is an amazing testimony to the power of God’s love and grace.

But he didn’t exit the story. Years later, his son chose to continue his father’s legacy at the very prison that held him. Impressed, Nik urges believers to stay in the story as Dmitri’s family did. Despite internal conflict and hurt feelings, Nik explains that staying in the story allows Christ followers to see the full effect of their faithfulness.

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Dmitri’s Story: 17 Years of Persecution

“What’s tough is that Dmitri’s faith is normal, biblical Christianity,” Nik reflects. “[This is] how Timothy must have felt sitting at the feet of the Apostle Paul.”

Dmitri explained to Nik that he learned from his father and grandfather the two practices that allowed him to practice his faith in a Soviet Union prison.

Writing on the Wall

Dmitri’s first practice gave him hope. “Every morning, when I got out of bed, if I could find a small piece of paper… a piece of charcoal, a pen… I would write every verse of the Bible. If there was enough, I’d write down a story from the Bible, a scriptural song, and I would put that on one of those wet concrete pillars, and it would stick there.”

Dmitri recalls that other prisoners did the same but it was usually a secular message, the name of their girlfriend, or someone they were cursing out.

“When the guards came in and saw the content, they would take that piece of paper and tear it into shreds, and then they would smack me and throw me around, and go out. Every morning… I would recall the Word of God… and write the Word of God and put it on that wet concrete pillar.”

Praising God in Prison

His second practice was a controversial one. Dmitri would stand at the bars of his prison. Every morning, as the sun rose, he would stand and raise his hands in praise as high as he could reach up in the air. “He would sing his heart songs to Jesus.” Nik describes the prisoners’ disgusted response as they threw human waste, food, and garbage at Dmitri. They laughed and cursed him, rattling metal cups on their cages trying to drown him out. Eventually, these 1500 prisoners learned Dmitri’s worship song and used it to save him from the execution line.

My Wife’s Dead

The prison guards tortured him with an illusion of men raping his wife and carrying her out dead. After seeing this, Dmitri was ready to give up. He offered to sign whatever they wanted to write. “My wife’s dead. I don’t know where my boys are. God, I’m done. I can’t do this anymore.” The Soviet Union officials urged Dmitri to sign a confession that they prepared: first, that he was not a follower of Jesus Christ and second, that he was paid by Western governments to overthrow the Soviet Union.

Overnight, God renewed Dmitri’s spirit. He heard the voices of his wife, his brother, and his three sons as they prayed for him. In this way, he knew that his family was alive and had remained faithful to God. The next morning, Dmitri told the jailers that he was signing nothing. “And he threw the jailers out of his cell.” The other prisoners witnessed this and honored Dmitri in the exercise yard.

Who Are You?

Eventually, Dmitri’s guards began to despair. “We’ve tried everything, and nothing stops you from singing those stupid songs.” The communist officials explained their intent to execute him. “In 15 minutes, you’re going to be tied to that post. In 20 minutes, you’re going to be shot dead. We’re done with you.” Then, the jailers began to drag him out of the prison cell towards the execution yard. As they got to the door of the execution yard, “1500 hardened criminals stood at attention outside of their cells. With their arms raised in praise facing the East, they began to sing those heart songs that they heard the man sing all of those years.”

“And the guards, in sheer terror, let go of Dmitri and jumped away from him.” They asked, “Who are you?” Dmitri responded, “I am the Son of the Living God, and Jesus is His name.”

Recently, Dmitri’s son revealed the rest of the story. “Nik, don’t go. You need to know something. I’m now the chaplain of the prison that held my daddy for 17 years.”