40 Years in America

The Coup and Its Aftermath

No one could have imagined that on that very same evening Gorbachev had been imprisoned in house arrest by a hard-line dictatorship that catapulted the entire nation into an emergency military situation, starting the three-day coup and "the days that shook the world." The morning after the Closing Banquet, everyone was shocked by radio reports that Gorbachev had been placed under house arrest. Soviet students, experts at the art of pessimism, expected the absolute worst -- that a dark Stalinist age of repression would engulf the country for a decade, maybe more. Any optimism that had been growing in the hearts of the students was crushed by a heavy wave of despair.

The main workshop site where the professors, parents, and students’ workshops as well as the actionizing programs were held was situated near Riga, the first Baltic city to be occupied by Soviet tanks during thecoup. Professors, parents and students all began to panic as all communications were cut off, making it impossible to contact their families. In those first tense moments, Jack Corley, coordinator of Unification Campus Activities in the Soviet Union, gave an inspiring and prophetic speech to the entire workshop.

"What a country, what a country," he said, with a broad smile on his face. The students couldn’t believe that someone could be cheerful in such a desperate time. Yet he projected a powerful confidence that began to spread to the students. He told them that the coup leaders had no foundation. He predicted that it would be over in just a few days, with very little bloodshed or war. He called it a great and crucial moment in Soviet history, where the nation must make the final choice between freedom and dictatorship. "And I am absolutely confident that the Soviet people will make the right choice," he assured them.

The twenty-one-day coordinator, Josh Cotter, ACC leader in Georgia, gathered all the staff to pray. He prayed that even if they had to give their lives to save the Soviet Union, they were willing to do it. They were absolutely serious and united as they offered a very powerful unison prayer together. "God allowed us to feel what it must be like to live under communism, to directly experience the hearts of these students and their families," said Joshua. "I believe our prayer and seriousness convinced the students to stay, and were even a condition for God to use to destroy the coup attempt."

After that prayer meeting, the staff became filled with confidence. The students had expected that the Americans would jump onto a plane and abandon them; and yet here the staff was willing to lay down their lives. Even in this difficult situation, the attitudes and actions of the staff had not changed. At that moment it became so clear to them that the Principle was not just a theory but a way of life.

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