So how does an ex-communist and KGB agent, who received rigorous scientific training and thorough ideological brainwashing, become a Christian? Unexpectedly!!! But also predictably?
I grew up in East Germany and spent almost 30 years of my life on the wrong side of the Berlin Wall. The communist system I was subject to rested firmly on an atheistic foundation. Religion was banned to the periphery of society and declared to be an “opiate for the people” (Karl Marx). The whole education system was steeped in materialistic Marxist philosophy which was declared a science on par with physics and math. This massive indoctrination, to which there was no contrary opinion available, resulted in my firm belief that I knew the truth; and there was no place for God in that truth.
My arrival in the United States at the age of 29 was arranged by the KGB. I spent ten years under deep cover, spying for the Soviet Union. Other than a retrospective realization that God protected me from harm through all those years, my spy activities have little direct connection to my conversion to Christianity.
As I gradually assimilated into American society I came to realize that God-fearing people were not naïve victims of some fairy tale. I even got to the point where I admitted to myself and others that people who consciously follow Christian tenets MUST be good people. At that point, my atheism had morphed into relativistic agnosticism.
I was at the pinnacle of a very successful career in corporate America, when my personal life began to crumble. My children had grown, and as young adults who set out on their own, they needed less attention. Sadly, my marriage had become dysfunctional. I came to the painful realization that I was lacking a spiritual anchor, and there seemed to be no refuge for what had become a lonely soul.
Was my useful life on this earth destined to come to an end? And if not, what else was there for me? I expressed my conclusion in an email to a friend stating that, “all that is left for me is to become the best person I can be.” I did not really know what “best person” meant, nor did I know how to get there. With the benefit of hindsight, I now know that this email was my first prayer for salvation.
God knew I was ready, so he answered my (non) prayer. Within three weeks of sending out the email, I hired a new administrative assistant. What impressed me most about this young lady was an incredible peaceful glow on her face and a certainty about all things in life. “How is it that you have arrived at such a marvelous inner peace?” I asked. The answer was eye-opening, but at the same time hard to believe: “I take my strength from Jesus”, she said. “How can one take strength from somebody one has never seen?” I thought to myself.
The curious scientist in me wanted to find out more, and so I opened the Bible for the very first time. To continue to what I considered a purely academic exploration, I asked my assistant to take me to her church. The service was beautiful, and I was particularly moved by how many times the pastor uttered the word “love” during his sermon. That drew me in – I was so hungry for real love! Interestingly, the pastor had the very same peaceful expression on his face that I had observed in my assistant.
I returned to church the following week, and soon realized that I had finally found what I was looking for, a spiritual home. Of course, my intellect had to join in this journey, but with the help of C.S. Lewis and Ravi Zacharias, this was not a problem. Christian apologetics sealed the deal, and three months after I set foot in a Christian church for the very first time, I accepted Jesus as my Lord and Savior, and one month later I was baptized.
In my book Deep Undercover I provide a much more detailed description of the events leading to my public declaration of faith. I elaborate even further on some of the details in my testimony which is entitled “Be Still and Know that I Am God.”
So what does the Christian faith mean to me? The most important aspect of Jesus in my life is His role as my savior. The Son of Man died on the cross to seal the new covenant the Lord made with His people. I have sinned much in my past, and even though I am trying to live my life according to Christ’s example, I am probably going to sin again. However, Jesus’ sacrifice made it possible that all sins can be forgiven and that I can attain eternal life in His holy presence. Nothing can be more important than that!
I know that Jesus loves me, so how can I not love him? He made the ultimate sacrifice so my unworthy soul can be saved! Out of this love for Him comes my determination that I must serve Him as He is truly the King of Kings and the only one with ultimate authority in the whole universe.
And so the answer I was looking for in my (non) prayer is much wider, much more fundamental than I had ever expected. But at the same time I now understand the meaning of “best person.” This means that I must treat all others the way Christ treated His fellow human beings while He dwelled on this earth – with love. And so finally, I found a healthy outlet for my desire to love and be loved — and that my friends — creates a peace I could not have achieved otherwise.