I am praying for the laity and clergy of the Mountain Sky Conference as we prepare to gather for worship tomorrow.
Yesterday was Holocaust Remembrance Day. This annual event was proclaimed in 2005 by the United Nations. On this somber day, we remember the six million Jewish people as well as millions of others who were killed by the Nazis during World War 2 as a way to honor those we lost by committing ourselves to never forget the atrocity of genocide that occurred in plain view of the entire world.
As I was reading reflections about the events of the Holocaust, I learned about Nicholas Winton. Winton was a 29 year old stockbroker who was heading out to ski in Switzerland when a friend told him to come to Prague--he was needed there. When he arrived, he was moved deeply by the refugee camps of Jews fleeing from Hitler. He saw the children, innocent yet in imminent danger, and began to act, networking to create an organization to assist in getting the children to a safe haven.
It required money, transportation, and families waiting in Britain who would take the children into their homes. Jewish parents in the Czechoslovakian camps had to make the painful choice: send their children off to a safe haven or have them face the brutality of the Nazis.
Winton faced danger and often had to resort to bribes to get the children through hostile territories. He got to know the chief of the Gestapo and was able to obtain forged transit papers so that the train wouldn’t be detained and could carry the children to safety. When fundraising didn’t meet the financial needs, he gave his own money.
In all, 669 children were brought to safe homes in Britain.
For fifty years, the children knew nothing of the man who orchestrated their journey to safety. The story wouldn’t have even made it into the history books if it weren’t for Winton’s wife, who found a briefcase in the attic filled with the records of his work: names, photographs, and documents that told the remarkable story that was almost forgotten.
One man. One man who saw a need and stepped in to save hundreds of lives. The ripple effect of his rescue work impacted lives across the world. Saved from the fate that befell their parents, these children became writers (like Vera Gissing, the author of “Pearls of Childhood” (2007)), politicians (like Alfred, Lord Dubs, who became a member of Parliament), researchers (like Renata Laxová, a geneticist who discovered the Neu-Laxová Syndrome, a congenital abnormality) and film makers (like Karel Reisz, who made “The French Lieutenant’s Woman” (1981). Their offspring numbers in the thousands!
All because one man saw a need and stepped in to make a difference, regardless of the risks or what it might cost him.
Each day choices are before us: are we willing to look around and see the people who are suffering and in need around us? Will we choose not to look the other way?
Will we step in to make a difference, with no mind to what it might cost or the risks it might entail?
I believe that this is what it means to a disciple of Christ. I believe this is the life God calls us to. I believe that when we are faithful to this call, we stand against hatred’s wrath and death’s clutches and create a safe haven for all: beloved community.
(Winton was so humble about his work—he didn’t talk about it and he never knew what happened to those children he saved. Until they were brought together to surprise him—see the youtube clip. Have tissues handy!)