Today the barrier gave way and I was able to interact better with the Jewish people. Shortly after breakfast we loaded into cars and traveled about 50 minutes to the Ostróda-Elbląg Canal (totally awesome feat of engineering that my fellow science geeks should check out). We rode with George, who works with one of the organizations involved in the camp (Impact Europe). George is an amazing man who has traveled the world. God’s love and joy flow from him so much that I cannot imagine anyone leaving a conversation with him unchanged. Ben saw me snap this picture of George today and said “You just think he’s adorable, don’t you?” Yes, I sure do. His joy is contagious, and I think he is full of knowledge and wisdom. We had good conversations in the car and I’m looking forward the drive back to Warsaw with him as our escort.
I didn’t have a lot of conversation on the boat, but I did when we lead crafts after lunch. One lady sat with a blank memory book in front of her. At first I thought she was just thinking about what she wanted to do, but when I came back and saw her book still empty, I asked her if she needed anything. She spoke pretty good English and told me she needed money. She said that she needs money and she needs to have peace in her heart. “I have no peace in my heart,” she repeated. She told me about her eyes – that they hurt her and no doctor could help her. That was why she was not working on the craft. So I sat with her and made one for her. She thought this was great. I made a little envelope pocket in the front for her to put keepsakes from her trip. She said it was for a “secret note,” so I wrote her one and gave it to her at dinner. I told her that my heart was full of love for her and that I’m praying for her eyes to heal and for her heart to find peace. I quoted Numbers 6:24-26 (the Scripture reference for the song I wrote about singing to my kids)
“The Lord bless you and keep you, the Lord make his face shine on you and be gracious to you; the Lord turn his face toward you and give you peace.”
I’ve heard those verses so many times, but when I looked them up for her letter, I noticed the verse before them.
“The Lord said to Moses, ‘Tell Aaron and his sons – this is how you are to bless the Israelites.”
In the evening session Ben was able to share a few words about why these two Americans are following them around everywhere. He spoke eloquently about his grandfather’s experience in WWII and the impression it made to hear him talk about it – including the fact that what he saw was so terrible that he didn’t talk about it at all until late in life. He talked about feeling drawn to the Jewish people and to Poland and about coming to serve three years ago. He said that his experience then was so great and that he wanted to return with his wife to be with them and to serve them in any way we can. I was very proud of him for his willingness to address them and how well he chose his words.
It is absolutely time for sleeping. Thank you to all who have been praying for healing from my stupid cold. I did feel better most of the day, but I’m pretty miserable right now. Please pray for peace for my new friend and that Ben’s words will help them be open to our presence.
Today I am sick. I was fine yesterday and today I have a horrible head cold, sore throat and even feel a bit feverish. I napped when I could and medicated myself all day so I could be as engaged as possible and felt decent during the afternoon, but please pray that God make me better! I don’t want to miss out on time with the Jewish people because of a stupid cold!
We had a morning session with music and an activity to help them get to know one another. I’m attaching a file of the music. You’ll love it. Then we rested and had obiad (lunch, which is their biggest meal of the day). We traveled with the Jewish people into downtown Ostróda for some shopping and relaxing around the beautify city center. It was a beautiful day for this, the warmest it’s been since we arrived.
Each evening’s session will include a couple of the survivors telling their stories. Tonight we heard from an adorable man who is so full of love and joy. He is the one who immediately grabbed me when he greeted me and kissed both of my cheeks – quite a spirited little man. But he told his story saying that he wanted to talk about happy things, but he was to tell about his life and it isn’t a happy story. He talked about being moved to the ghetto and then to a concentration camp when he was nine years old, walking 42 km in winter to get there and watching people die who couldn’t survive the walk . He talked about how they weren’t given food, water, warmth or medical attention and how most died of starvation or cold. He said he could tell a lot more about this, but it would ruin our evening. 40,000 died at that camp and he was one of only 256 survivors. When he and his mother returned to their home, it was just a hole in the ground. I am amazed and inspired by a man who can show so much joy when he has such horrible memories.
We also heard from Kazik, who is the founder of the Holocaust survivors camp. He was a young adult, already in ministry when he asked why his mother always carried around a picture of the Jordan River and learned for the first time that he was Jewish. He decided that his ministry would change, and he would serve God by reaching out to his brothers.
Tomorrow we will travel with them to a canal where we will ride a boat for an hour or so. With the help of an interpreter, I hope I can have a chance to talk with them personally. I’m also leading our craft time tomorrow, so that is another thing that you can pray will go well!
Thank you all for your prayers and your encouraging posts. It helps to know that there are some of you out there following this and enjoying being a part of our experience.