Tomatoes and cucumbers for breakfast – along with meat, cheese, and delicious bread with cherry jelly. Cabbage served many ways. Kayaking. Feeding swans and ducks. Shabbat celebration. New friends. Old friends. These are just a few of the memories made during our almost two weeks in Ostroda, Poland this summer.
We went for the third year to minister to Holocaust survivors who come from Israel for a retreat in Poland – a land associated with oppression and camps. But instead of reliving bad moments in their lives, our precious friends find love and peace that many of them had never known. We love them with the love of Jesus, showing them that true Christians love those whom God the Father loves – and that includes them!
Our loving the survivors includes day trips to Ostroda and Gdansk; an American-style cookout; playing the Ostroda Olympics; giving manicures; and doing crafts. We kayak, talk (with translators), and share small gifts. We listen to talks about the love God has for them – something most of them don’t believe when they arrive because of the difficult lives they’ve lived. And we hug, hug, hug!
One precious man shared how he came to know the Messiah of Israel late in life because of this trip and other opportunities to see the love of God in action. Others have asked for help finding places of worship and learning near where they live, and some have declared they will begin reading the Bible. Small steps of growth that can lead to dramatic changes as they let the love of God soften their hearts and accept His love for them.
In my heart, I am reminded that these are precious people that the Lord loves. And I am reminded of my family members who need to let the love of God soften their hearts also. I pray. I live my faith before them. I try to share. And I hug, hug, hug every chance I get – maybe some of them will also take small steps this year.