Czech officers are true ‘heroes of the faith’
TRIBUTE TO KORBEL AND HLADIKOVA
BRIGADIER JOSEF KORBEL is inducted into the Order of the Founder by General Jarl Wahlström (R) during the 1990 International Congress.
BY PREMEK AND CHARITY KRAMERIUS, CAPTAINS –
On the 4th of July 2002 Brigadier Josef Korbel–the longest surviving Salvation Army officer commissioned before the Communists took control of Czechoslovakia–was “promoted to Glory.”
Brigadier Korbel’s name is very well known among Christians in the Czech Republic. As soon as it is said, people know you are speaking about a Salvation Army officer who suffered 10 years in a Communist prison.
His name draws an image of a man who came face to face with atheism, terror and suffering yet who managed to keep his faith in Christ. He overcame the evil of this world by proclaiming Jesus Christ as his personal Savior to many within and beyond the prison walls.
For me personally, Korbel will always be a man who kept Jesus at the center of his life and lived as an example of victorious faith. When I first heard about Josef Korbel, I was amazed. I imagined him as some kind of Christian super-hero. When we finally met in Prague, Czechoslovakia, I discovered an ordinary man turned extra-ordinary through his choice to focus his eyes on Jesus no matter the situation.
While his amazing and powerful story is told in his book, In My Enemies’ Camp, other Czech Salvation Army officers’ stories of persecution and imprisonment are less well known.
One such hero of faith is Major Hladikova. She was a corps officer in Prague during the 1950s when the secret police began to work towards closing The Salvation Army. When early one morning the police rang the doorbell, Hladikova knew their first question would be about the Salvation Army hall keys. She obediently surrendered the keys, after which the police went to the corps, confiscated the instruments, flag and drum and sealed the property. Hladikova was ordered to never again enter the hall.
Major Hladikova secretly followed the police to the second-hand shop, where they sold the precious instruments, the flag under which so many open-air meetings had been held, and the drum, which had served as a mercy seat on the street. She decided that was not where these tools used in preaching the gospel should end. She waited quietly for the secret police to leave, and then bought back the instruments, flag and drum. Today when you visit The Salvation Army Heritage Center in London, you can see the stolen and redeemed drum on display.
The story continues. The Communist government tried to stop the work of God, but could not. The Salvation Army in the Czech Republic is again preaching the gospel. It actually never stopped. Czech officers first ministered on the streets, then preached in prison, and later served in house groups, through one of which I became a believer.
Members of younger generations like myself have found Jesus through the testimony and example of persecuted Christians who knew that nothing is able to separate us from the love of God. To them I just want to say thank you…you are true soldiers of Jesus Christ.
(Captains Kramerius are Western officers serving in Brno, Czech Republic.)