Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Irena Sendler

This is what the Lord Almighty says: “Once again men and women of ripe old age will sit in the streets of Jerusalem, each of them with cane in hand because of their age.  The city streets will be filled with boys and girls playing there."  This is what the Lord Almighty says: “It may seem marvelous to the remnant of this people at that time, but will it seem marvelous to me?” declares the Lord Almighty.

Zechariah 8:4-6

"When Hitler and his Nazis built the Warsaw Ghetto and herded 500,000 Polish Jews behind its walls to await liquidation, many Polish gentiles turned their backs or applauded.  Not Irena Sendler.  An unfamiliar name to most people, but this remarkable woman defied the Nazis and saved 2,500 Jewish children by smuggling them out of the Warsaw Ghetto. As a health worker, she sneaked the children out between 1942 and 1943 to safe hiding places and found non-Jewish families to adopt them."

I can't imagine having to make the kind of decision these mothers, these parents had to make - to save their children from a fate they knew they, themselves, would soon be facing.  To give up their children, their babies, flesh of their flesh, to a stranger - a woman who could only give them the choice, not the certainty of a better moment in life.  Not even a promise of a whole life - just the hope for one.  And the hope for a reunion one day - if only circumstances changed.   Heartbreaking.  Heartrending.  

Twenty-five hundred children saved.  Twenty-five hundred lives rescued.  The woman responsible was caught - her arms and legs broken - she was dumped in the forest, left to die.  But she didn't die for many, many years.  She remembered.  She remembered the cries of the children as they left - the cries of the mothers, sacrificing.  She thought it could never happen again - this inhumanity.  

She died in her apartment in Warsaw, ninety-eight years old, a reluctant heroine.

Faith.  A little bit goes a long way - mustard seed faith.  A lot moves mountains.  Faith in God, faith in ourselves, faith in humanity.  Years and years ago, God gave a picture of a life of redemption to his prophet Zechariah - a picture to tell to the people of Jerusalem.  Families - whole families - old and young - would be together in the city streets.  The idea was so foreign to the people at the time, so unbelievable, so marvelous - the thought of the kind of life where people grew to old age and children played in public - that God made the prophet add a disclaimer.  Nothing is too marvelous to Him - God of Miracles.  

So where's the faith?  

In the woman who did everything she could to save strangers she didn't know because it was the right thing to do.  Because she had a picture in her head - families - old and young - free and able to be in public together, to play, to sit with canes, to live.  She must have had faith that her mission was God-breathed, this faith that gave her strength to do what needed to be done.  She must have had faith that there were others, like her, who would step up when called and when needed.  And they did.  

In the parents who sacrificed in order to save their children.  In the lives of the children saved - who have experienced grace.  In God who provided the means and the miracles.  We can do miraculous things in His Name, with His help, to His glory.  In all times.  Even now, even today.   

Irena Sendler was a warrior for God.  A woman of faith.  Strength, hope and compassion  Today, I find joy in her story.  Below are more links.

Heavenly Father, thank you for your heroes on earth - people who follow you even into that Valley of the Shadow.  Thank you for showing us true faith and belief, strength and hope.  Thank you for teaching us compassion.

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