Read This: Cell 58

Cell 58Great adventures make great stories, the kind we love to hear about. There’s the suspense—will the hero live to overcome evil? There’s the thrill of God’s light and love overcoming darkness. We all love a good page-turner.

In this case, the circumstances are real and the story is true.

Disclaimer: I have not read this book—yet. However, the author, Dan Baumann, recently came and talked to our missions-oriented Sunday school class. If his book is half as good as his talk, you have to read it! I certainly plan to.

As Dan stood up in front of our classroom, I love how he introduced himself. Describing an epiphany he had as a teenager, he said, “Everything you do for God should come from intimacy with God. It was at age 16 that he began to discover how much Jesus loved him, not for what he could do, but for simply who he is.

Out of that realization, he started living his life, not for God’s approval, but because of God’s approval.

As time went by, Dan realized that God had given him a profound love for Muslims. After spending a number of years overseas, first at a hospital in Afghanistan and then in neighboring Turkmenistan, Dan and a friend decided to visit Iran. Most Americans would choose to avoid Iran, but he knew that a sizeable population of Turkmen were living in the country, and he felt God leading him to reach out to them. The two men boarded a bus for a two-week trip.

The two weeks flew by. There were plenty of opportunities to interact with and bless the people in the towns they visited. Finally, it was time to return to Turkmenistan. But when they reached the border, without any explanation their passports were confiscated. They were stuck in Iran.

They waited for hours to get their documents back, but were finally told that they’d have to travel to a distant city to retrieve them. The friends retraced their steps, arriving at the designated government building several days later. There, they were arrested, separated, and thrown into one of the worst prisons in Iran. After being badly beaten, Dan was put into a tiny cell, barely four paces across, with a sink, a toilet, and a blanket, but no bed. He still had no idea why.

The beatings continued. The food wasn’t adequate. As week followed week, Dan was bored, then depressed. At one point, he learned that there were two death sentences against him. Yet, somehow, in the midst of all his suffering, he saw the goodness of God.

I’m going to leave you hanging at this point. What did Dan do? What did God do? Since he survived to visit our class in Colorado Springs (and to write this book), you know he was released at some point. Yet, it’s what happened first that will have you losing sleep. How did Dan survive? What about his friend? This is one story that must be told.

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