Ann Terry has enjoyed an adventurous journey with our persecuted family – and, thanks to her legacy, it’s one certain to continue beyond her lifetime.
Ann Terry was a prominent ice-skater and her 1964 visit to Russia was the focus of a newspaper interview
Ann Terry wasn’t expecting a call from Open Doors, but when the phone rang one day, she immediately sensed from God that it was them. “Ann, we’ve been praying for you and believe you’re meant to be the next person to visit the Soviet Union to smuggle in Bibles.”
It was the early 1980s and on the phone was Alan Hall, then president for international development at Open Doors. The invitation was a two-week trip to deliver 20 Bibles to Christians in Russia and Ukraine – part of a bigger project to smuggle one million Bibles into the region.
God had clearly been preparing Ann for the trip – even before she had become a Christian. In 1964, she spent ten weeks in the Soviet Union with her prestigious ice-skating group ‘Holiday on Ice’ – and it proved an eye-opening experience.
“I could see a lot of awful restrictions,” Ann recalls. “We saw a lot of cruelty with the way they treated the people.” The group was heavily monitored and locals were not allowed to talk to them. It was a marked contrast to other experiences on the trip, including a group dinner with Nikita Khrushchev, leader of the Soviet Union at the time.
"We saw a lot of cruelty with the way they treated the people" Ann Terry
“Your life is not free in Russia,” Ann shared in a newspaper interview on her return to the UK. “All the time I was there I felt I was in prison. I was glad to get out.”
It would be another eight years before Ann became a Christian. Ever since she was aged eight, when her grandma gave her a Bible, Ann believed in God and even prayed. “But I didn’t know Jesus,” she says.
That all changed over Christmas 1972, as Ann sensed God being behind changes in her life, including her skating career coming to an end and being stopped from living in America. Senator Ted Kennedy (younger brother of former US president John F Kennedy) even tried to get her a Green Card for a job in America. “I’m fighting something more powerful than my government,” he told her. “Do you mean God?” Ann asked, to which the senator replied, “Yes, I believe you’re meant to go back to England.”
It all fed into a prayer Ann offered on Christmas Eve. “God, I believe you’ve got a plan for me,” she said. “I want to know what that plan is.” Ann was so thirsty for God that it felt like ‘I’d eaten loads of salt’.
“On Christmas morning, God sent an angel who pushed me out of my parents’ home and took me over the road to a little tiny church,” Ann continues. Struck by the joy and radiance of those present, she asked a lady what they had that she didn’t. “We know Jesus. Don’t you know Him?” By the end of the morning, Ann knew Jesus for herself.
Three years later, Ann went on a mission trip with Youth With a Mission (YWAM) to 12 countries, including Russia and Ukraine. Given her experiences in the region, Ann would often cry when watching news about the Soviet Union or reading about its believers in Open Doors literature – to the point that she wondered whether God had another trip in mind for her. And then came the call from Alan Hall.
Ann was anxious to smuggle in Bibles, until she felt God speak to her through Isaiah 52:12, with the final words – ‘the God of Israel will be your rear guard’ – ending up being especially significant. “This was very important, because I was given a coat with pockets at the back between the lining and the outside, to put Bibles in.” It made for a heavy coat which Ann could not even take off on the plane.
On arrival at the airport in Russia, Ann had to split from her travel companion, Ruth, to avoid suspicion. She had no idea where to go – or even if she’d make it out safely. “I stood behind a businessman and said, ‘Don’t look now, but what is happening to a Jewish lady over there cannot happen to me.’ They were stripping her of nearly all her clothes because she was bringing in Hebrew books for Jews. ‘You need help with your luggage, don’t you?’ the man said. ‘I’ll help you with that, so it looks like we are together.’ He lifted my case up which had hidden a few things. It went through fine.”
"While we have breath, we must do everything we can to expand God's kingdom" Ann Terry
The trip went on to involve ‘adventure after adventure’, including visits to underground churches and secret meetings with believers to deliver the Bibles. Wherever Ann and Ruth went, there was always the risk of discovery. Sometimes they’d have to put coats over TVs to cover potentially hidden cameras, or communicate in writing to keep meetings silent. On one occasion, they had to follow a little girl at a distance as she led them to her father who was also smuggling Bibles into the region.
Some 30 years on, the region again fills the news. Ann is heartbroken at the situation in Ukraine and, like many of us, is praying for an end to hostilities.
Ann has seen what life is like for our persecuted family and felt immense joy at being able to help them not only stand firm in their faith but share it with others. It’s here Ann’s greatest passion emerges: people knowing Jesus. In Open Doors, Ann sees a kindred spirit, and it’s why she’s decided to leave a legacy for the persecuted church.
“Open Doors wants to see people meet Jesus,” she shares. “They need as much money as possible – to share Jesus, give food and shelter, make things better for people, and share hope and joy.” Ann is thrilled at how the ministry of Open Doors has developed since Brother Andrew first started smuggling Bibles behind the Iron Curtain. Ann once met Brother Andrew and the two of them exchanged books – she was given ‘God’s Smuggler’ and he was given Ann’s book ‘Skating on Thin Ice’.
“Don't hesitate, go for it!” says Ann, asked what she’d say to anyone considering leaving a legacy to Open Doors. “When you sow you reap a harvest. God can do so much with what you give. I don't have very much to leave, but when you leave this world, you can leave something so important behind. While we have breath, we must do everything we can to expand God's kingdom.”
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