November 4, 2009
Dr. Margaret Nikol knows a thing or two about suffering missionaries - she has lived as one in Bulgaria for the better part of her life. An accomplished and world-renown violinist, Nikol shared her many experiences of anti-Christian persecution with Oklahoma Baptist University students at a weekly chapel service on Wednesday, Nov. 4.
Nikol's upbringing in Bulgaria was anything but carefree. Growing up as part of a pastor's family in a Communist country exposed her to anti-Christian persecution at a very young age. Alluding to her background, Dale Griffin, OBU dean of spiritual life, emphasized how perfectly her testimony fits into this year's chapel series theme, "Costly Illumination: Counting Everything Loss in Light of the Surpassing Worth of Knowing Christ."
"I am not a pastor, I am not a preacher, I am not an evangelist - I am a missionary," said Nikol. "Let me start to tell you that my testimony has a title: ‘To God Be the Glory' ... I play a song which absolutely reflects my heart; it's called my tribute."
Nikol quoted the lyrics of the song, "To God Be the Glory." Along with piano accompaniment, she then powerfully expressed her testimony with a smile on her face while playing the song on her violin.
After sharing her talent as a musician, Nikol provided students with context of her upbringing and life as a missionary by comparing persecution in Bulgaria with the persecution of the Holocaust.
"My friends, the Jewish people were killed for their race, they didn't have a choice. They couldn't change it," said Nikol. "Every Christian in our country was given a choice: deny your faith in God and you will live, or, if you stand up for Christ for your faith, you will die. What does that tell you? Seventy-five million people chose [death] but to be faithful to our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. I don't know about you, but that number greatly inspires me."
Nikol explained she was never asked to die for Christ even though her entire family paid that very price. Both her father and brother's choices to become pastors, and her mother's role as their wife and mother, placed them in high profile positions. After multiple imprisonments and torture in concentration camps, her family members sacrificed their lives for the sake of the Gospel.
"They all were killed, but I believe you and I, we are asked to live for Christ, and this morning I would like to challenge you in this way: that we all in this wonderful, free United States of America need to live for our Savior," said Nikol. "Sometimes the price of being Christian is very, very high."
Nikol shared detailed stories of her family's courage and bravery, commenting that none of their actions or her own were miraculous or extraordinary - but by the grace of God, they were given the strength to live for Christ.
"Lots of times, people whom I meet ... they ask me, ‘How did you make it?'" said Nikol. "And I always answer, ‘We didn't. We didn't make it. It was the grace of God who supported us and gave us the strength to stand in those persecuting times.'"
Reflecting on her life, Nikol said, "I don't regret it, because I saw a real example of people, not only my parents, but also the other Christians in our country who really loved the Lord and went through suffering because they wanted to be faithful to the One who first loved us."
Nikol expressed her reverence for the power of prayer. She claimed that if it were not for prayer, she would not be alive today. Before her birth, Nikol's barren mother prayed for seven years that their family would have a child who would have a musical talent and, in turn, serve the Lord with that talent. As an answer to that prayer, Nikol uses her gift as a violinist to share Christ's message.
"Many times she [Nikol's mother] told me that ‘I prayed for your life, I prayed for your gifts, and they belong to the Giver,'" said Nikol.
As a result, Nikol describes her own musical talent as an outpouring worship experience similar to the one depicted in Revelation 4:5 where peoples of all nations join together in worship.
Nikol challenged students to pray for their future to unveil the will of God for their lives. She explained her own persecution dealt primarily with her education. She was told Christians in Communist Bulgaria were not highly educated. In spite of this, Nikol received education due to her God-given talent.
"I have four doctorates in music: piano, organ, violin and musicology," said Nikol. "But it happened because of the Lord Jesus Christ; because God is not intimidated by Communists, Socialists, Atheists and any other ‘ists.' Our God is a sovereign God, and He plans the life of his children."
Nikol explained one of her most persistent prayers as a missionary was for her fingers to remain intact and unbroken by persecutors so she could continue to play music. She was happy to share that all 10 of her fingers are strong, and she can still play out of worship to God.
"I am so extremely grateful that the Lord preserved my ability to praise him with music - the gift my mother prayed for me to have to serve the Lord," said Nikol.
Nikol concluded with a word of encouragement for all in attendance: "I would like to encourage you today. God has a plan for your lives. Pray, and He will show you."