By Sandi Brown
It’s easy to say that we believe God is faithful. It’s even easy to know in our heart that God is faithful. But what happens when our faith is tested? What happens when bad things happen and we don’t understand why? Do we continue to trust God even when the road gets tough? Or do we look at the storm surrounding us and give in to the panic and fear?
I often wonder how I would react in an extreme circumstance. I mean, here in America we have it pretty good, wouldn’t you say? We aren’t facing situations such as religious persecution, starvation, concentration camps, or war in our country—at least not at this time or on the scale that other areas of the world are experiencing. I look at things going on in other countries and wonder how I would deal with the same thing. Would I still trust Jesus? Would I make it through?
A Woman of Courage
As I contemplate my own reaction to tragedy, my mind always reflects on my grandmother’s testimony. My Oma is an amazing woman. She was born in 1927 and was the ninth daughter of 10 children. They were Germans who were living in Poland on a farm.
In 1939 their quiet lifestyle came to an end with the start of World War II. They were in the middle of the action, with planes flying over their house and dropping bombs nearby. Their home had shattered windows and was continually full of wounded soldiers. Their lives had abruptly changed and there was nothing they could do about it. Oma recalls many times playing with discarded hand grenades— grenades that were not used yet and were very dangerous for young children to be playing with! Her sister would often make a fire and throw leftover ammunition into it for fun. God certainly had his protection over their family.
A short time later Oma and her family had to flee their home because Russia was taking over the area. She speaks of the hopelessness she felt as they packed up their belongings and escaped to her sister’s house. But through this time, God continued to protect them from harm.
The day came when all the girls and young women were collected from town. My Oma and her sister were taken from their home and had absolutely no idea where they were headed. They walked all day and then were put in prison, where they were forced to do the horrible task of cleaning up human waste while the soldiers stood and pointed guns at them.
“I wanted to die,” Oma said. “If someone had offered to shoot me, I would have kissed his feet. Just let me die! I can’t take this!”
They were in this prison for 12 weeks, with little food the entire time. They wore the same clothes the entire time. They had no baths and no water to wash in.
Stop right there. No baths? Little food? Wearing the same clothes every day for 12 weeks? Being forced to clean up human waste? How would I have reacted to that? How would you react to that?
My Oma tells the story of leaving the prison camp three months later. Some people were picked to leave and some to stay. My Oma was picked to leave, while her sister was picked to stay. When the soldiers left for a few moments, her sister urged her to come over to her line so they could stay together. Oma was scared the guards would notice but was convinced to join her sister in line. When the soldiers returned, they noticed someone was missing from the group that was leaving, but they simply disregarded it and kept moving. God once again displayed his faithfulness. All the people from the group who left that day ended up dying of starvation and diseases. My Oma was spared.
Soon after, Oma and her sister were sent to work at a large office building that housed government officials. At this time a very special man named Henry lived right behind them and kept a watchful eye on the two ladies. Henry was a man Oma had met at the prison, a man that God miraculously put in her life, even in a time of trial and hardship. Henry would one day become her husband.
Work conditions were horrible, including my Oma being raped in front of her sister and future husband. So the three began to contemplate escape. Henry would sneak out at night and make extra money by hiring himself out for work. He brought them food and saved up money. The day finally came when they snuck out in the middle of the night, with Henry buying their way onto a freight train that took them to East Germany.
In East Germany they were put into refugee camps, where the conditions were very poor. Henry once again came to the rescue and found some people who told him how to sneak over the border into West Germany. They took off on foot and found a place to sneak through unnoticed. And after reaching safety, Henry returned and helped several more people escape from East Germany.
Eventually Henry, my Opa, took my Oma to a Menonite camp, where they were married in 1947. They lived in a big hall that housed 350 people and had bunk beds that were divided by blankets to make little rooms. It was there that my Uncle Walter was born.
Fighting tuberculosis, my Oma faced months of separation from her family. And with that sickness came the fear that she would not be allowed into the United States, as they didn’t allow anyone with lung problems in at that time.
“I was so worried because I didn’t want to be the reason why we couldn’t go to the U.S. I had never heard that God heals, but I kept thinking, Couldn’t I just ask anyway?”
She prayed, and God once again proved his faithfulness. When it was her turn for X-rays, they took one look and told her that her lungs looked perfect. She was so shocked, she didn’t actually realize that she was healed. She thought that God had only blinded their eyes to the X-ray results. Only later did she realize that God had truly healed her completely.
In listening to my Oma’s testimony, I am simply amazed at everything God has brought her through and rescued her from. And hearing her speak about God’s faithfulness is inspiring. She is a woman who has lived through war, starvation, prison, separation from family, rape. But yet she is thankful to God for everything she has been through!
“God has been so faithful!” Oma continued. “I wish everyone would give him a chance to prove that he will never fail. He has healed me so many times. He has saved my life a multitude of times. He has provided for my every need in every circumstance that I have been in. He cares about all the little things in your life. If you just give him a chance to prove his faithfulness, he will never let you down!”
You may not be living in extreme circumstances like my Oma did. You may not be facing life-altering situations. You may never have to face starvation, disease, or war. But look at what you are facing. How are you handling it? Do you trust that God will come through for you and be faithful in every situation? Do you trust him in the little things? Does that trust continue into the hard things?
And what happens if one day America is faced with war here in our own country? What if we are faced with poverty, hunger, despair? What if everything changes? We know our God is faithful, but just how far will our trust in him go? God has promised to be with us in every circumstance. Just remember my Oma’s testimony—he never left her side.
Sandi Brown is a minister’s wife and freelance writer from Tomah, Wisconsin.
Saying Thank You
Here are 10 ways to show thanks to people whose faith has inspired you:
1. Write a thank-you note.
2. Pray for them.
3. Keep listening to them.
4. Teach what they taught you to someone else.
5. Read, write, or do a creative project based on them or a lesson they taught you.
6. Do something fun together. (Thankfulness doesn’t have to be serious business.)
7. Share your joys—don’t just go to them for help.
8. Introduce them to other people who’ve influenced you.
9. Be there for them during difficult times.
10. Be the person they’ve inspired you to be.