At the Gates of Hell and of Heaven

I decided early on that the world was a terrible place. Oh yes, it was beautiful, marvelous and mysterious, but it was also terrible.

My family in Red Square, Moscow, 1967. I’m the shorter girl.

An excerpt from my childhood memoir-in-progress, Into the World, was published yesterday and I wanted to share it.

The book takes place in the turbulent 1960s as my family travels the world so my dad, who believes he’s heard God’s voice calling him to be a writer, can gain inspiration to write his books. This chapter is about my experiences visiting Dachau and then a convent with some amazing nuns whose love transcends all boundaries.

FYI, I am still working on the final draft of this memoir to make it as accurate as possible. Thanks to my mom's journal, I am able to get dates and even prices of bread accurate. Otherwise, I rely on my memory and I have many vivid memories since this time of my life made such a huge impression on me.

You can read the first four paragraphs below:

I decided early on that the world was a terrible place. Oh yes, it was beautiful, marvelous and mysterious, but it was also terrible. I believed this because it was preached at me from the pulpit every Sunday morning and night. And Wednesdays too. And at the breakfast table before school. And at night before bed. The devil was real. He was all around us. He brought suffering and death. Hell was real. Anyone who didn’t believe as we did would end up there.

I grew up in a conservative Christian family. In the 1980s, my dad, Dave Hunt, became an influential Christian author, selling over four million books. The road to that goal was long and hard. It all started on a night in 1966, when my dad gathered our family of six in his study and made an announcement that would change our lives forever. Dad told us God had spoken to him. He was to give up his successful business career and become a writer. With the fire of faith and fervor in his eyes, he said we were going to travel the world and go where God led us, so he could gain inspiration for his books.

It seemed to me the height of folly for a father to make such a rash decision. But off we went, landing in London early that summer and beginning our travels. We had all sorts of adventures, from smuggling Bibles into communist countries to escaping from Egypt right before the Six Day War. Through it all, seeds of doubt germinated in my mind. How could it be that people of other faiths were going to hell, while we were going to heaven? By the time I was a teenager, those seeds flowered into outright rebellion, although through it all, I never lost respect for my dad’s determination or gratitude for the experiences I had on our travels.

One day, after some months of wandering in our bright red VW van, I found myself looking out the window at the entrance to Dachau. I’d never heard of the place. As far as I was concerned, this was just another stop on an interminable journey, a museum of sorts, so I understood, and I wasn’t thrilled to be visiting yet another museum. I didn’t know what awaited me. I didn’t know I was about to confront the demons I’d heard about from the pulpit back home. Real demons, not just made-up stories. I don’t even think my parents were prepared for what awaited us. How could anyone adequately prepare for hell?

You can read the entire piece here

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