Book Review: Tortured For His Faith by Haralan Popov
A Brief HIstory
Bulgaria first was sided with the Nazis in WWII, but in Sept. 7th 1944 they declared war against Germany. On Sept. 9th the government was taken over by a Russian regime and the country became dominated by the Bulgaria Communist Party.
In 1946 the communist came to power fully with the apathy of the West to help otherwise. One year later Haralan Popov was arrested and taken from his family because he was one of the leading Evangelical Pastors in Bulgaria's Christian Church. He was to spend 13 years being tortured for his faith, and only by God's grace was he able to survive and live to write this book to tell what happened.
Pastor Popov was released in 1961, and Tortured For His Faith came out in 1970 for the first time after he and his family moved to America to found the: Evangelism to Communist Lands Ministry ( now called Door of Hope International).
Bulgaria was freed from communism in 1989, a year after the death of Haralan Popov. He died of complications due to cancer while living in California. A month before his death, he was allowed to visit his home church in Glasnost, Bulgaria where he pastored 26 years before.
The Initial Questioning
Haralan takes us through the beginning of the communist occupation of Bulgaria and how the authorities were dealing with the leaders of the church specifically. He and other leading pastors were called in and questioned about their views about the regime.
Trouble began to become inevitable for Haralan and the other pastors when they would not obey the regime over their God. It was clear that all liberty and freedom to practice their religion was being taken, and the only way to not be killed or imprisoned was to do exactly what they said, which was against the Bible.
The uncompromising love for Jesus Christ, Haralan and many other Christians had during this restructuring of the Bulgarian church by the atheistic powers of communism, is what led to him being jailed. One night some men came to take him away from his terrified family, and this began his nightmare.
The White House
This book is a smaller mass market paperback of 146 pages, but it is rich in it's description of a true story that in unbelievable and unimaginable to most who read it. Whether you are a Christian or not, you should be able to appreciate a man who suffered so greatly for his convictions in his faith in God. Therefor this book is a must read for humanity at large.
The book describes many different stages of his imprisonment including a trial in which he was convicted of being a spy for the Imperial Western powers of the US and Britain. This charge led to him being sentenced to 13 years in harsh prisons with only the hand of God keeping him alive.
Harlan at first denied this charge for months while they tortured him day and night. He goes on to describe how they would use different techniques that in the end through trials that defy a humans ability to endure, he finally stated, yes - he was a spy. In the book he describes that he wasn't brainwashed, but his will was broken. The difference was important, as he refused to be brainwashed through years subsequent to this admitting he was a spy.
The communist took Haralan to what was called the White House, this was a place specifically meant to torture and break the will of the prisoners. Many prisoners were killed there and horrible things happened in the darkness there. Haralan describes the conditions of the inability to sleep because of the swarms of bed bugs, but he wasn't allowed to sleep most of the time anyway. As he was kept up for even weeks at a time, standing up holding himself up against a wall with his fingers. If he moved or shut his eyes, the communist guards would hit him hard in the head.
The beatings and threats were constant, and the prisoners were fed what he called a death diet. It consisted of only enough to keep them alive, but slowly dying of malnutrition and hunger. Mostly it was a small piece of dirty bread and water "soup."
With guns put to his head in dark hallways, fellow cellmates turned spies, sleep deprivations, and constant beatings, Haralan kept his faith and talked to the Lord the whole time. Not knowing how his family was doing, this time was the initial hell that the main pastors of Bulgaria really went through.
The communist didn't want Haralan dead, because they wanted to use his influence to ruin the moral of the other Christians who weren't obeying the regime. The communist were smart enough to try to manipulate the people into thinking their leaders couldn't resist, so they shouldn't either. They had put puppet pastors in the State run churches and spies were telling the communist if there was any Bible studies outside of the controlled church.
The trail came months after their initial arrests. All but one of the couple handfuls of pastors confessed under their duress and torture that they were spies and were either sentenced to long prison sentences or put to death. Haralan's brother who had no wife or kids was able to endure the torture enough to resist this confession and thus was sentenced with 5 years in prison for some trumped up charge they basically made up.
This was the harsh beginning of this long journey into darkness for Popov and many others who would not deny the faith.
Door of Hope International ( Haralan Popov's Ministry he first started as Evangelism to Communist Lands)
The Horrible Story Unfolds
This review is obviously not going to capture all the many details the book gives describing the experience he went through during this time. You'll have to get the book to find out just how much this man and those around him endured. I'll try to recap the best I can the rest of the book.
Haralan was moved from prison to prison, each had their different difficulties. The Persin prison was the worst. The scene he depicts there was one where human life was no longer valuable at all. This was a hard labor camp that suffered many harsh conditions and Haralan witnessed many people die horrible needless cruel deaths.
For example, he witnessed a man get beaten so bad his eyeball popped out of his head. There were many people who were simply shot at random just to keep the other prisoners frightened and under complete submission. Many died of being to weak to go on, others dies because they bent down to eat a piece of grass and were shot. The tragedies are countless in this book.
The real story through this horrible nightmare being recounted by Popov, is the his faith and service to God even in these dark times. His faith grew and he called out to Jesus many times and was answered by supernatural rescues. As the story unfolds, you'll see yourself that it's a miracle he survived, when many times he was on the verge of death and he escaped. God knew he was to write this book and lead many to Christ in his life and kept him alive.
Haralan Preaches In Prison and Out of It
Can you imagine 13 years of this dismal torturous existence? And if you're a Christian, can you imagine not having a Bible for that long? Haralan talks about that being one of the hardest things he had to endure.
Haralan was heard by God praying for a Bible one day, and lo and behold, a cell mate somehow had one in his hand one random day after his prayer. His cell mate was using it to roll tobacco to smoke or as toilet paper. Haralan somehow talked the guy into giving him the Bible. He went on to memorize 46 chapters or so, before the Bible was taken. This gave him the Words he needed to preach with even more strength and conviction to the other prisoners.
Pastor Popov in the later part of his sentence had a calling to preach to everyone he could while in the prisons. He was able to help save many people when they came to believe in Jesus Christ as their savior because of his preaching in those torturous conditions. He brought light unto his fellow cell mates, many of which were political prisoners like himself.
In the end, Haralan said he wouldn't change a thing, cause it was worth all of it to save all the souls he reached in those horrible days of his life. What helped him gain confidence to preach even more fearlessly was knowing through the prison grapevine that his wife had escaped to her native land of Sweeden with the government of Sweedens help.
After he was finally released after 13 years he made his way home. His family was in shock to see him, thinking they would never see him again. His brother informed him on the repressive state of affairs for the Christians who were supposedly free citizens. There was an underground church that was dangerous to be part of.
Haralan nevertheless became one of the leaders of that underground church during the next year or so. His memorization of 46 chapters of the Bible came in handy when there were hardly any Bibles around to read.
In the later part of the book, he describes how the underground church operated away from the repressive eyes of the communistic regime. The church was full of life within those who refused to stop believing and braved the threats and dangers of meeting for worship in secret.
Do You Think Christian Persecution is a Problem in The World Today?
In the end, the persecuted church in Bulgaria in the early 60's wanted Haralan to leave Bulgaria and join his family in Sweeden. They wanted him to go, so he could get the word out about the need of the persecuted church to get Bibles and help from the free world Christians in America and Europe.
Although, Haralan didn't want to leave his persecuted country and all of his brothers and sisters in Christ, he eventually did go when God made an impossible move to get him out of the country. The book ends with Haralan in Sweeden with his family. What a sweet reunion, yet sad when he sees his children nearly all grown up since they had seen him last. They were just little children when he was taken that night long ago, now they were adults.
Nevertheless his nightmare was over, but his mission had just begun. Haralan went on to raise awareness for the persecuted church and help his brothers and sisters in Christ with his hard fought freedom. Writing this book was a large part of this mission, and it is an eye opener for every Christian and person otherwise, of the enduring spirit of humanity when they have faith in Jesus Christ and the Holy Bible.
I would recommend this book to anyone who like to hear true life stories and wants to be edified in the Holy Spirit.
Although Bulgaria is now free of communism, let's pray for the persecuted Christians in the many lands they are tortured for their faith today. May God protect and strengthen them through their trails, and may they never deny Jesus Christ til the end.
Get your copy of this great book.
Another Book Review and Haralan's Ministry
- Book Review: Out of The Devil's Cauldron
Author John Ramirez was the third highest ranking Devil Worshiper in New York City, yet came to believe, through miraculous ways, in Jesus Christ as his Lord and Savior.
- Non-profit organization serving Persecuted Christians Suffering Church
DOHI A non-profit organization founded by Dr. Haralan Popov serving Persecuted Christians & the Suffering Church