Conversations are often difficult here. And I don’t mean so much in terms of a deep or serious nature, but just in a very practical way due to the language barrier. Right now I am sitting next to a gentleman I’ve sat next to and met in passing many times. He never smiles. Ever. I always give him a warm smile, which he returns with a short, firm nod. I would love to talk to him. But that requires an interpreter and the right timing. Our interpreters are amazing and always willing to help us bridge the communication gap. But they are very busy and it has to be exhausting doing that all day long. Honestly, I’m not even sure how I would start a conversation with him. Anyway, I was able to have three meaningful conversations with Survivors yesterday. If you’re interested, read the paragraphs that follow. If not (or you don’t have time for my long-windedness) I’ll just ask you to pray for the team from Savannah that is headed back home tomorrow. Also, tomorrow is the last full day for Survivors to be here. Kazik will give his final talk, in which he will remove the veil and clearly present the gospel. Please pray for God to prepare their hearts and move in a powerful way. Read my post “Shalom” from 2012 if you’re wondering why the message would have been veiled at all until now.
My first conversation was with Olga. We were riding on the bus to Stutthof and she sat in the long back seat of the bus right between mean and Tanya (one of our incredible Ukrainian interpreters). I looked for an opportunity and then ask Tanya to tell her that I would like to get to know her better. She is younger (mid 60’s) and said she is privileged to come with this group since she is not a Holocaust or Ghetto Survivor. She walks with a cane, and I learned this is because she had polio as a child. She became a believer as an adult. I asked about her family – if they are believers. She said that all of her family is except her husband. She shared some other details about their relationship, which isn’t good. Would you please join me in praying for Olga’s husband?
At Stutthof Concentration Camp, I was able to talk a little with Geula. She speaks English and was concerned about Anna and Lidia seeing the camp. I told her that we had prayed and talked long about whether or not to bring them, but decided that they were old enough and mature enough to handle it if we used good judgement about what displays they really saw and read. Both girls wanted to come, knowing fully what they were going to see, although we did guide them away from the worst of it. She told me that there is a huge hole in her heart because her mother would never talk about the Holocaust. She said she knows nothing about her extended family other than that they were destroyed. She has begged and pleaded with her, saying that she knows it is horrible, but she still wants to know. Her mother just will not talk about it. This is true for many. I know that most of the people here have memories and experiences they could share from that time, but they have no interest in doing so. Who can blame them?
Finally, I was able to spend a few minutes talking with my friend, Erika. If you’ve followed this blog through our previous trips, you’ve heard me mention her before. She is a retired teacher and now spends her time traveling and sharing in several countries about the Holocaust (she speaks six languages!). Erika spent time at the concentration camp at Therensienstadt. You can read her story here. She said that she has had many conversations that have lead her to believe that another Holocaust will happen. Her words made me tear up, and expressed to her how much I just didn’t understand that kind of hatred. It was a good talk. It is clear that she has lived a lifetime of hatred, prejudice and persecution. I told her I loved her and we hugged until she let go first. I know it can’t take away the hate of the past, but I pray God will use it to give some hope for the future.