By the late Rev. William MacLean
Extracted from The Free Presbyterian Magazine, Volume 84, 1979, and edited.
THE apostle John saw in the Revelation a white robed multitude before the Throne, which no man can number, of all nations, kindreds, people and tongues. None given by the Father to the Son in the everlasting covenant of grace shall be lost. As the Good Shepherd He will seek out His own in the cloudy and dark day. One of those sought out and who is now, we believe, on mount Zion above, was Vladimir Wenz, who passed away at the early age of 24 years on the 7th day of August 1951. Vladimir, or Walter as he liked to be called, was born in the Ukraine and brought up in the faith of the Greek Orthodox Church. While still at school he experienced all the horrors of aerial bombardment, evacuation, famine, sleeping in cold and damp shelters and then at the age of 16 capture by the Nazis, and internment far from home and loved ones.
At the end of the war he found himself in the American occupied zone in Germany. About this time he spent several months in hospital suffering from rheumatic fever. Later, when he had recovered, he returned to his interrupted schooling in the camps. During this time, displaced persons were being forcibly returned to their respective countries. Many committed suicide rather than return to meet the fate awaiting them in Communist Russia. Walter lived in constant dread of his name appearing on the transfer list, but happily before his turn came, the regulations enforcing transfer were rescinded. His desire was to come to Britain. This desire was fulfilled when he arrived in Scotland early in 1948, and settled in Inverness. As he was no mean scholar, he immediately availed himself of opportunities to learn the language and the history of the people among whom he came to live.
An extract from a letter written after Walter’s death, by a lady who showed him much kindness and gave him lessons in English, depicts for us the type of person he was. “He was a charming boy,” she writes, “courteous, sweet-tempered and with a mind of the finest quality. One can take consolation in the fact that before his young life came to an end, he knew what it was to live without fear, in a free country, to get a chance to cultivate his mind, and to know the joys of friendship. Boredom was something one never connected with Walter, whether in health or sickness; time was never wasted by him. When not at work he was always to be found studying. Recreation to him meant dancing, and, like most Ukrainians, he loved music. From childhood he had been trained to dance the national dances of his country.”
In November 1950 he was admitted to hospital, suffering from severe pain in his leg. The diagnosis was more serious than expected, and Walter was informed that amputation would be necessary. After his operation a few friends endeavoured to impress upon him his need of salvation, but to no avail. Ten weeks later he was recovered to the extent of getting round on his crutches, and was able to leave the hospital. To all appearances, Walter seemed to improve in health and for almost two months he was happy and active in the pursuit of his studies and worldly pleasures. At the end of this period it became apparent that his health was failing and quite soon he was confined to bed.
At this time Walter was presented with an English Bible. To these Holy Scriptures, which are able to make one wise unto salvation, he now turned, “The entrance of thy words giveth light:” said the Psalmist, “it giveth understanding unto the simple,” Psalm 119:130. Light from heaven began to enter his darkened soul, and in that light he saw himself to be a lost sinner in need of a Saviour. As is natural to man, until divinely enlightened in the knowledge of Christ as the door of salvation and the way to the Father, Walter sought salvation by the works of the law, but in vain. At this time he had a dream which deeply impressed him regarding his spiritual need and helplessness.
“I saw in front of me a mountain, very high and steep,” he said. “I had to get to the top. Climbing was a long and difficult task, and I had almost reached the summit, when I slipped and fell right to the bottom. As I lay there, I lifted my head and looked, and there to the right was a flight of broad steps reaching to the top of the mountain. Why had I not seen them before? I saw that I could only get to the top by these steps.” How like the dream that Jacob saw of a ladder set up on earth and the top of which reached to Heaven! Walter, we believe, was led, by the application of the word of God and the teaching of the Holy Spirit, to Him who is “the way, the truth and the life”, and to rest on Him alone for salvation.
A few days after this Walter confessed his faith in Christ. “There is nothing in this world,” he would say, “to compare with the love and peace of Christ. He is the Good Shepherd.” The sinful pleasures of the dance and the vain song had now lost their charm for Walter; old things had passed away, and all things had become new. The Word of God was now his delight. One day while reading his Bible he lifted it to his lips and kissed it saying, “Most wonderful Book. May the Bible be blessed. It is the best present I ever received. Oh precious gift! I wish all people would see the value of this Book and read it, and they too would be blessed. May N…… get great understanding from Christ for giving me this Bible in which I found the true God, our heavenly Father.”
Walter’s constant prayer and desire was that his own people, the Ukrainians, would have the Bible, and that in reading it they too would find the way to eternal happiness. “Our people are not ignorant, as some suppose,” he once remarked. “It is the religious teaching that is at fault. They have 45 holy days, but I see in the Bible that God’s day is the only holy day, and his commandment is, Remember the Sabbath day to keep it holy’.”
By now it was learned that medical skill could do no more for him. At no time had he been informed of the nature and seriousness of his illness, but his conversations and prayers showed that he realised that his time in this world was to be short. He often expressed the desire to depart to be with Christ which is far better.
As time went on Walter suffered severe pain, but he never complained. To anyone who would express sympathy with him, he would say, “It is good that the Lord punished me. Happy is the man whom the Lord correcteth. It is wicked of us to grumble. Think of Christ: what He suffered. And Oh! the awfulness of hell.” Psalm 119 appears to have been his favourite Psalm. He also liked to read the book of Job.
By this time a young married couple in the town of Inverness, who were most mindful of him when he was in hospital, took Walter to their home and lovingly nursed him to the end. Walter deeply appreciated their love and devotion, and when praying for his beloved mother, brothers and sisters, he would also pray for them, saying, “Bless my N… and R… who have been so good to me.”
One day, as he looked at a recent photograph of himself, it was remarked that his mother would be happy to see what a handsome son she had. Looking up he said, “It matters not how I look. What does matter is that I have found Christ.”
A fellow Ukrainian was a regular visitor. Realising how ill Walter was, he asked him if he would like a holy picture of Christ to wear round his neck. He answered immediately, “I have no need of it. Christ is already in my heart.” Another friend who asked him if he were lonely received the reply, “I am never lonely. I have Christ. Without God all is vanity.”
The devotional book, Daily Light, given to him by a friend who called almost every day to see him, was a great comfort to him. Especially precious to him was the book, The Spirit of Grace and Supplications, by the late Rev. Jonathan Ranken Anderson, Glasgow, about the work of the Holy Spirit in the soul of the believer. To two friends who called to see him a few days before he passed away, he remarked, “Next to the Bible there is no book I love more than The Spirit of Grace and Supplications, for it was blessed to me.” In it his soul feasted on the marrow and the fatness of the everlasting gospel. The Scriptures remained his principal pastures to the end, and great indeed was his delight when he received a copy of the Bible in the Ukrainian language from an elder’s wife in Inverness.
Before passing into the coma from which he never awakened, he was heard to say, in words that were barely audible, “Leave me not nor forsake me, my Saviour.” His last words were, “Jesus is good.” The following afternoon, as a ray of autumn sunshine fell across his bed, he peacefully passed away, in the flower and comeliness of his youth, to be forever with the Lord.
May Vladimir Wenz’s earnest prayer and petition for the people of the Ukraine that they too would see the value of the Bible and find in it the way to eternal happiness be speedily answered. “There shall be a handful of corn in the earth upon the top of the mountains; the fruit thereof shall shake like Lebanon: and they of the city shall flourish like grass of the earth,” Psalm 72:16.