Previous Challenge Entry (Level 1 – Beginner)
Topic: Europe (excluding the United Kingdom) (02/19/09)
By Susan Sargeant
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The two teenage girls faced one another. They could have been mistaken for sisters. Both had the same complexion, height and similar facial features, however, Sarah was a Jewish convert from Poland and Brigitte was a German Christian. They had met through their church and had been communicating through the internet. Sarah had lost both of her grandparents in the Second World War to the gas chambers. Only her mother and uncle had managed to survive the brutal conditions of a concentration camp. Brigitte’s grandfather had been an officer in the Gestapo. Strangely enough Sarah’s parents had Christian friends in Germany and she had convinced them to take her to Bonn to visit Brigitte during their summer holiday. The awkward silence was broken at last when Brigitte extended her hand to Sarah.
“Come in.” Brigitte motioned her into the modest townhouse.
“Welcome my dear.” A warm voice greeted her from the living room and she saw an elderly woman sitting in a wheelchair next to the window.
“This is my grandmother, Oma this is Sarah.”
“My mother is working and Oma looks after me when she is not here.” Sarah nodded and started to relax looking around the room while Brigitte went to the kitchen to organize refreshments. She remembered how her mother had not spoken much about the concentration camp but had seen it as a trial from which God had mercifully delivered her and her brother. After Sarah had suggested the arrangement, her mother had agreed wholeheartedly to the meeting of the two girls. She wanted Sarah to experience what it means to truly forgive one’s enemies. Sarah had thought a lot about forgiveness in such a situation. Could she forgive? She knew that only God could forgive and cast sins as far as the east is from the west to look on them no more… She had often yearned for grandparents and had felt bitter in such times when she realized the cruel way that she had been robbed of their presence especially now when she was entering young adulthood. Mother had often talked about grandmother and grandfather. They were both artistic. Grandmother had been a painter whose work had graced the art galleries in Europe and grandfather had played first violin for the Polish National Orchestra. Mother had often said that Sarah had inherited grandmother’s artistic fingers and grandfather’s ear for music.
“Brigitte tells me you play the Cello dear.” The warmth in Brigitte’s grandmothers voice made Sarah feel at ease.
“Yes, Mother says I have Grandfathers……..” Sarah’s voice trailed off and her eyes glistened with tears.
“You miss your grandparents dear?” the old lady looked at Sarah with eyes full of compassion. Sarah nodded silently. She still could not understand the injustice of what had happened during the Holocaust.
“Forgiveness is a very difficult thing for us, dear. What I say to you are only words and I know that they will not bring your grandparents back.” The old lady took Sarah’s hand in between hers and continued.
“The only way we can forgive is to see the terrible things that happened in Europe all those years ago as a product of mans’ sinfulness. Our lord Jesus came to take all the sin of His people onto himself and set us free. We must ask him to help us to be free through His Holy Spirit. It takes more than words.” She looked deep into Sarah’s eyes.
“You and my granddaughter are the ones who can learn from our mistakes. Remember it is our unforgiveness that breeds hatred to continue the vicious cycle.”
Brigitte came back into the room and placed the refreshments onto the table.
“Can we show Sarah our photographs?” she asked the old lady who nodded as a smile brightened her wrinkled countenance. An old leather bound album was presented and the three heads came together to look at family portraits, baby pictures and memories of a happy holidays. Sarah marveled at how alike their families had been. She felt Brigitte squeeze her arm and point to a picture of an attractive young lady playing the violin.
“This was Oma in her youth.” Announced Brigitte proudly.
“Maybe we can play together next time you visit.” Suggested the old lady with a kindness in her eyes. Sarah nodded enthusiastically. She could feel that the Holy Spirit was already at work in her heart. Maybe forgiveness would not be as difficult as she had thought.
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