Have you read the story of Irena Sadler? Irena saved 2,500 children from the Nazi death camps during WWII. A Catholic nurse in Warsaw, Poland, in 1940, she lived near a neighborhood walled off by the Nazis. They pressed almost 500,000 people into a very small area and 5,000 were dying each month for lack of food. Irena said, “My parents taught me that if someone is drowning, one always needs to give a helping hand and rescue them. I lost no time reflecting, knowing that I and my heart had to be there to come to their rescue.”
She was less than 5 feet tall, but she walked out of the ghetto with children in gunnysacks. She sedated the tiny ones and she walked with a dog she’d trained to bark, if the babies made noise. She took them to Catholic families who agreed to raise them as their own, but she wrote their names on cigarette papers, buried in jars beneath an apple tree across the street from Nazi barracks. One day she was betrayed, arrested and had both feet and legs broken. She was almost killed, but never revealed where she took the children. After the war she dug up the jars and began returning the children to surviving relatives.
Irena was 97 when found by 4 Kansas teenagers who ran across a mention of her, wrote her and eventually visited her in Poland. She was being cared for by one of those children she rescued who is now a nurse. The teens rescued this rescuer’s story after nearly 70 years. Irena asked them, “Why would you care when you come from a place that doesn’t have a Jewish family for miles and miles?” Reply? Race, religion, or creed didn’t matter to them. What mattered was that good can triumph over evil.
When I read Irena’s story, it was shortly after reading Matthew’s account of the beginning of the earthly life of Jesus. We all like Luke’s version better, because he doesn’t “mess it up” with details of Herod killing babies in Bethlehem. If we do read Matthew, we like to stop at Matthew 2:11 where the curious gifts of the wise men are named. We prefer the Christmas story without death and the unthinkable cruelty of Herod’s jealousy. In fact, some would really like to sanitize the whole Christian message and even leave out the cross. That would be far worse than putting Santa Claus in the nativity scene. That would pervert the message, even rip out its heart. Death came soon after that wondrous birth in the stable. An angel directed Joseph to escape to Egypt (2:13) and then to return after Herod died (2:19-20). Even then, Jesus’ life was extended only 33 years, when His own death could be an atonement for all of our sins.
What would the Lord have you do for the children in your life? Buy them more gifts than they can count or appreciate? Take them on expensive trips and entertain them until they are exhausted? What about the neighboring children, both here and halfway around the world, who don’t even have food? Why not take Irena’s example to heart and do whatever it takes to save some? Yes, I recommend donations to World Vision and Salvation Army and many other great causes, but there must be more. In our own homes, let us do whatever it takes to save the children. Save them from arguments, bitterness, selfishness and divorces. Save them from their own selfishness fed by us who do not teach them to share and care for others who have less. Save them, even if it costs our ability to walk. If we do, we just might find one of them saving others and caring for us in old age.
Article copyright (c) 2009 by Charles G. Mickey. All rights reserved.