“… It is with great pleasure that I want to present to our beloved brothers and sisters in the church behind what we have called the Iron Curtain these last fifty years, a check from money raised by faithful believers across America…. Ladies and gentlemen,” he went on, “I want you to meet a man I know you are eager to hear from, a man who carried the standard of the cross bravely, as you know – imprisoned and tortured, he never gave in to those who would destroy his faith. And so now, Dieder – Dieder Palacki, won’t you please come, accept this money on behalf of Christians behind the Iron Curtain everywhere. I have here a check for three million dollars to give you!”

At the words, sighs and gasps and a few low whistles could be heard, all of which gave way to a round of applause. He turned, expecting Palacki to stand, come forward and shake the outstretched hand that awaited him.

But instead Palacki remained seated where he was, until the clapping died down. At last he rose, came forward, took the check, shook MacPatricks hand unaggressively, but still said nothing. Slightly unnerved, but still not losing his cool, MacPatrick resumed his own seat with the other dignitaries.

Slowly Palacki make his way toward the podium. He appeared not even to notice the applauding reception that broke out again, and in his eyes was not a look of warmth.

Reaching the center of the platform, he did not lift his head to scan the faces of his listeners. Gradually the clapping died down and the hall fell silent. Still Palacki stared downward in front of him, while the delegates waited expectantly.

It was several long moments before he at last spoke. “It has been a curious past several days,” he began, speaking softly. “I have been listening with great interest to the many discussions and exhortations, all with the end in view of promoting the Christian faith in a region of the world where one might conclude never before had a single soul heard the name Jesus of Nazareth.”

“I must admit that when the invitation came to join you, and even to address this gathering, I found myself seized with a certain trepidation. As you know, large assemblies of Christians such as this have not been customary where I come from, and thus most of my work among Christians has been in small groups of less than one hundred. Addressing several thousand I found a very intimidating prospect.”

“In the end however, I decided to join you, for we pastors and Christians from the regions formerly behind the Iron Curtain are certainly excited about the new possibilities for evangelism in our nations too.”

“But as I listened to more and more talk of money and pamphlets, of missionaries being sent and books being shipped, of teachers and pastors coming to help and train us in spreading the gospel, and of your gospel TV and radio stations and your gospel trains and gospel trucks full of your Western-style gospel paraphernalia – your badges and tracts and stickers and music and gaily written happiness-books with their joy-filled, razzle-dazzle Christianity – a knot has steadily risen in my stomach.”

“Do not forget, I have spent much time in your countries. I have been in your churches and bookstores. I have witnessed with my own eyes the trappings of your so-called spiritual prosperity, which is really no prosperity at all, but a hollow empty shell.”

“Something within me wants to shout and say to you all, “Go home to your contented and wealthy homes and communities and churches. The Good News of Jesus Christ is alive and vibrant and is fully capable of carrying itself abroad into the hearts of hungry men and women without the benefit of your expensive and lavish commercial efforts on its behalf.”

“Why do you think that those of us such as my brothers Wurmbrand and Duduman and Vins and others have been risking our lives for all these years? Each of us has been imprisoned, beaten, tortured, humiliated because of our preaching of Christ’s gospel. Thousands upon thousands of our fellow Poles and Russians and Slavs and East Germans have laid their lives on the line for the sake of their faith and in order to share that faith with others.”

“I tell you, my friends, God’s church is alive and well in the areas you represent as lost and in such desperate need. Small, perhaps, it may be, but it is alive and thriving because in our corners of the world there is a price to be paid to call yourself a disciple of the Lord Jesus Christ. A price that cannot be measured, as you seem to measure all things – by money. No, you who hear my words who I hope and pray are my brothers and sisters, it costs to believe in the East. It costs all you have to be a Christian. So there are very few lukewarm, halfhearted souls among us. To be halfhearted can cost you your life!”

“For years we have tried to alert you Christians of the West to the true state of affairs behind the Iron Curtain. We have written, we have traveled, we have spoken, we have prayed, we have wept.”

“How many of you listened to us?”

“My brother and friend Alexandr Solzhenitsyn attempted for a decade to be heard, as have so many others. We asked for your prayers, for Bibles, for help in teaching and training our people. And some help did come, for which we were grateful.”

“But the rest of you continued to feed your own mammoth religious systems, building yet bigger and bigger transmitting stations and more television stations and publishing more books – all in the name of proclaiming the gospel.”

“But did you ever give of yourselves? Did you come help us? Did you pray for us? Did you suffer and die and starve with us? How much did you really care about the people you now so pompously think you will save for the kingdom?”

“Where have you been all this time? We needed your help and prayers and support and Bibles when times were hard! We have been beaten and imprisoned and even killed for the gospel’s sake. Where were you when it counted? We lived our faith behind the Iron Curtain, and now that it is down, who is to say we even want you coming with your pompous egoism and self-reliance?….  Do you truly expect us to share your enthusiasm and welcome you and your wealthy brand of capitalistic Christianity with open arms?”

“Think again, my friends, those I would still call my brothers and sisters in spite of your blindness. Pause and consider the egotism of your presumption and the worldliness of your method.”

By now the auditorium was filled with the heaviness of shocked silence. No one dared move a muscle or so much as shift in his seat. But Palacki’s chastening diatribe was not over yet.

“How dare you well-fed, contented, prosperous Christians of the West, come here now and think you can throw your money at us poor unfortunates and suddenly save the world with all the gadgets and inventions and high-tech wizardry of electronic spirituality! You with your multi-million-dollar architecturally imposing churches, you with your computer Bibles and preprogrammed Bible Studies, you with your posh cars and soft, upholstered pews, your grand libraries of Christian books, your leather-bound reference Bibles, you who have all the answers to the world’s ills nicely at hand to spout off when asked.”

“Have we Christians of the East been idle all this time? What would you have us to do, go off quietly somewhere so you can come in and pat yourselves on the back before your watching congregations and claim credit for saving all the souls who would be lost without you?”

“No my shallow brothers and sisters of wealthy, contented Western evangelicalism! Build a prayer tower or a glass church somewhere, but think not that your money can save souls. Go back from whence you came, and spend your evangelistic self- gratifying mammon elsewhere!”

Suddenly he stopped, stood another two or three seconds gazing at his listeners with calm countenance, yet flaming eyes. Then, with decisive motion he ripped the check he was still holding into several pieces and let it drop to the floor.

Palacki turned and strode off the platform and out of sight, leaving his hearers gaping in stunned silence.