Persecution, tragedy and trials are an ebony canvases on which the bright light of goodness shines so brightly. It is often through the worst of times that the best in people is illuminated and through the goodness of God poured through human action, lives are changed and eternities are altered.
Humanity was somewhat arrogant in the early 20th Century. Through Enlightenment and The Scientific Revolution we were very sure that we had progressed beyond more barbaric practices. Pride always comes before the fall and such is our story. Our foundation built firmly upon progression, idealism and great thought crumbled beneath the weight of the Holocaust. How could so many otherwise decent people murder 6 million Jews? How could otherwise educated and intelligent people remove the skin from other humans and use their skin to make lamp shades and watch bands? When humans are singled out, tortured, starved and executed,the stories left in the wake of those horrific events often inspire and challenge us.
Irena Sendler was a Polish Social Worker in Warsaw. She was a follower of Jesus and her faith would not allow her to stand by as Jews were being killed...isn't that a great thought all by itself...faith leads to action. Anyway, Irena risked her life daily by smuggling 2500 Jewish children from the Warsaw Ghetto. She would hide the children in caskets, sacks, luggage...anything that she could and anything that would allow her to get past the German soldiers. She even went so far as to train a dog to bark without stopping any time she was being questioned by guards or soldiers so they couldn't hear the children move about in the automobile or sack or whatever.
Once Irena had the children away from danger she would place them with Christian families, give them new names with new paperwork to properly hide their identity so the children could be in a family environment of love and provision. Irena also knew that the kids needed to know where they were from and who their parents were so she recorded all the names on paper and buried the papers in jars beneath an apple tree in her yard.
In 1943 she was arrested by the Gestapo and after being severely tortured she was sentenced to death. While in route to her execution she bribed a security guard and instead of death, she was left in the woods, unconscious and with fractured arms, legs and even feet. Officially she was listed among those who had been executed and she lived in hiding for the remainder of the war. Even in hiding she continued to work on behalf of the children...her beatings, torture and near death experience didn't cause her to waiver in her faith or conviction.
Once the war ended she returned to her apple tree and removed the jars from the ground. She immediately tried to reunite the children with their parents. Unfortunately the majority of the parents had been killed in the Treblinka extermination camp. The work of God through Irena saved thousands of children...what an amazing story.
The life and story of Irena Sendler stands alone and in no way needs my comments. However, that story leaves me with so many thoughts about the children with their new families and the thoughts of the parents who were killed by the Nazis. I think about how fortunate the children must have felt and how their gratitude was certainly mingled with great sadness over their lost. I imagine the parents had final thoughts about their children and again, they must have been relieved not to be dying beside their kids but their sense of separation and loss had to be more grave than death itself.
Irena Sendler died May 12, 2008. in her final days she lived in a nursing home and the woman that cared for her. That woman had been carried out of the Warsaw Ghetto in a tool box many years before by Irena. How fitting that Irena died being loved by someone who would have been killed had it not been for Irena's love of God and God's children.
Today Irena is with the parents of the children she saved and with so many others who I am sure applauded her as she entered the City of God. With all of the reasons they had to cry, laugh, cheer and celebrate, if God's word is true, The Father was the one who began the celebration and danced the most. I imagine a sign above the entry to God's throne room that said, "Welcome Home Irena". Perhaps that day God danced his first dance with Irena and she twirled like she hadn't in years...her feet no longer hurting from the fractures she endured being about her Father's business. As God smiled and laughed I am sure he took one somber moment to whisper into Irena's ear, "Well done, my good and faithful servant".
May we all join that dance in God's time...and until then perhaps we can live a life measured not in days or years, but in love. And may our love for the Father and His children lead to us helping others leave the place of danger for a home with their new family. May it be so.