As I sit here in the dining hall reflecting on the day, the smell of sautéed onions and kielbasa (kosher, of course) permeate the air. The tables are already set with the standard fare for every meal: smoked delicatessen style meats, cheese, bread and freshly sliced tomatoes, cucumbers and a new addition, diced onions. In a few minutes the dinner bell will ring and the room will once again be filled with the sounds of animated discussion and laughter. In any given spot you may hear Polish, Ukrainian, Russian, English, Hebrew or Yiddish. In the midst of it though will be serious, increasingly intimate conversations of life back home, differences of culture, and families both living and lost.
One would not know what these people, our holocaust survivor guests, have endured if you were to meet them on the street. They appear like your ordinary, elderly people and do not speak freely of the experiences they had as children, experiences difficult for us from America to even comprehend. We do not probe, we simply engage in conversation and let them take it where they will. What we have learned is that they love their country, and though life there is sometimes not easy there is no place they would rather be.
During our morning devotions by one of our team members we were reminded that God gave Joshua a plan to conquer the city of Jericho that didn’t make a lot of sense on the face of it, yet was nevertheless totally effective. We too, should make plans with the aim of being victorious. When our plans come from the Lord’s leading and align with his, their success is guaranteed!
Today was a day of great laughter and fun! Poland is observing Corpus Christi, a national holiday and the country effectively shuts down. While during the past few days we have left the retreat center and visited Ostroda on Tuesday and then traveled to Gdansk yesterday, today we stayed and enjoyed a series of outdoor games, the “Ostroda 2017 Olympics”. Even though our guests are mostly advanced in age, there was a great deal of competition and effort expended! While language can be a barrier at times, there is no misunderstanding a good laugh and the celebration of a skill well performed.
There is a good chance we will never know, this side of heaven, the results of the seeds of love and the message of the gospel of Jesus Christ that are being sown this week here is Ostroda. We leave that in the hands of the God we trust. Meanwhile, we are blessed to be in this place with these precious people.
Now, about that kielbasa…….
In His Grip