I carefully took the fragile teacup from my grandmother’s hand. She always brought out her best tea set when she wanted to tell me something important. She placed her worn Bible on the table beside her and began to speak.
“You are now old enough to hear my story of the Nazi police and my Jewish savior. Do you remember me telling you about the Yahovawitz family? Ah, we were such dear friends even though our religious beliefs were different. I so much wanted them to know my Jesus.
“During those days the hatred toward the Jews was unimaginable. Against the wishes of my mother who feared for our safety, I moved the Jewish family into our home. Every time the police came to our door, they would go down into a small secret cellar until it was safe to come out. Our plan was working perfectly.
“That knock on the door, I can still feel it pound through me. There they were, the police, the gendarmes of the Nazi regime at our home yet again. This time everything went differently. Out of fear, my mother had informed them that I had been hiding Jews in the cellar.
“I watched the police grab the child away from her parents. I witnessed in horror as they shot her mother and then her father. I was dragged away by one of the gendarme for being a traitor. The others took the child with them. I can still hear her screaming for her mamma and papa. I wondered if I would ever see her again.
“I was held captive by the gendarme for almost two years. He took everything of value from me, especially my dignity. He even stole my Bible and spat on it. He told me it was trash to him.
“Finally, I was allowed to return home. I was still in captivity. My hatred toward my mother and toward the Nazi police was so great it was if I were in a concentration camp of bitterness. A few months after my return home, my mother killed herself. It was my bitterness that killed her.”
My grandmother paused to take a sip of her tea. There was a kind of silence in the room that was as fragile as her tea set and I knew I had better not break it. Finally, she continued with her story.
“Years later there was another life-changing knock on my door. There stood a beautiful young woman. The Yahovawitz child! I wept with both joy and shame when I saw her. I had failed her. I had failed God. She said she had been sent to live with the very same gendarme that had held me captive. Then she gave me back my very own Bible.
"She told me that because she didn’t believe in Jesus the gendarme had her read the Bible with him daily. After months of what he thought would be punishment, they both came to know Jesus as their savior.
“Instead of being filled with joy, resentment flooded over me. Why would God use such a vile man to lead my friend to Jesus? Why should that gendarme be allowed to go to heaven after all he had done? Why hadn’t her suffering made her bitter?”
My grandmother began to cry. A tear even fell into her cup. Still, she pressed on with her story.
“I thought I was the one who was meant to teach her about Jesus. I thought I was the one who was meant to keep her free from captivity. Instead, God used a Nazi police officer to teach her about Jesus—Jesus, the only one who really sets captives free.
“The soft-spoken Jewish woman taught me that the Nazi police can imprison us in concentration camps and even murder innocent lives, but they can never capture our hearts. My heart had become as bitter as this tea mixed with tears. My heart had remained a prisoner in my own bitterness for all those years. In the light of her presence, I saw myself for who I had become. I had become my own gendarme. The little Jewish child had come back to remind me of what I had so desperately wanted her to know.
“God truly did send a precious Jew to set me free.”
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