Grace comes in “Small Portions”
We are told that Jesus was the fulness of grace and He dispersed it in abundance (John 1:16-18). I think so too and I have experienced a “jolt of grace” many times on my journey; not in huge bundles, but in small doses when I needed it. In reading the Gospels, I found that Jesus did not choke everyone with grace, but He only gave it to those who desperately needed grace.
This was how I learned how “Grace” works
The first fifteen years of my life, my parents were self-employed and they raised their own bread. During this time, and even during the war, we appeared to have either an abundance or no knowledge of what grace was. We grew and produced food for the German army in Western Poland. And to feed ourselves and the people who worked for us, they allowed us to butcher several hogs per year. The words of the Apostle Paul meant nothing to me because I lacked his experience of the pinch of hunger:
“My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness” (II Corinthians 12:9), or “…for I have learned, in whatever state I am, to be content. I know how to be abased, and I know how to abound; in any and all circumstances I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and want. I can do all things in him who strengthens me” (Philippians 4:11-13).
In January 1945, the war took away our independence, and we discovered that “grace” was not an abundant supply. We, ourselves, became less and less gracious because we had not stored enough grace to keep us supplied in the face of hunger. Grace is stored in people by God’s Spirit, but the war drained the supply of grace in those who could share it. We were homeless, workless, but not hopeless. We were in our own farm wagon drawn by two horses and seeking a place where we could settle from January 19 through October 1945. We managed to escape the Russians again, when the Americans handed over the heart of Germany to the Soviets. We traveled under the Polish flag and did not disclose that we were of the race they were now occupying. We were traveling in the American Zone South and then turning West into the French Zone, hoping to meet up with father’s youngest brother to be married upon our arrival.
In Frankfort, on the Main, our axle broke and a kind mechanic, with a small torch, spent two days welding it back together. People saw our predicament and they took an interest in our baby brother who was only four months old, our two sisters six and eight. Their hearts were filled with goodness and their apprehensiveness of us settling in the French Zone. These people had a bitter experience with the French after World War I, when they illegally invaded their country. They did change our minds and we returned North and then West toward the British Zone. One day, we passed a potato field in bloom and we were very hungry. Father sent me into the field and instructed me not to harm the plants, but find some larger potatoes and we were able to still seven hungry people. We grazed our horse beside the roads long enough so that the horse had strength enough to go on.
The reason for going West through the British Zone was to get to Holland, then to Canada and join up with mother’s brother in Manitoba. He had left Poland two years before I was born. Our parents had visas, but father’s eyes delayed their departure, and then I and two more boys kept on delaying their Canada imigration. Now we were set on going to Holland. We passed through a town, and father saw a machine shop and he needed something for our wagon. The owner was friendly and a blacksmith like father. In no time he had our father working for him, offering him free housing in three barracks in a huge meadow, a heaven for horses and a playground for us children. However, we were very lonely among strict Roman Catholics. And while we stayed there, it it rained and poured every day for the whole month.
We were back on the road with our horses and wagon and it took days to reach Calonge, where we could cross the river Rhine on our way to Holland. On one occasion, we did not find a place to observe curfew and we were stranded in front of a small farm. A lady had answered the door, but she did not let us camp on her property. Fortunately, the British patrol forced her to give us shelter for the night in her home. However, our parents understood her fear and elected to stay in an empty pigpen in her stable. Staying with the animals was warm and we slept quite well on the straw. In the morning, we learned that the lady had lost her husband and her sons in the war. And she felt that the prisoners the war brought to help her farm were not trustworthy. But when she learned about our plight, she became very hospitable, brought milk for our baby brother and our sisters; and she even brought something for all of us to eat. We did not take up more of her time than needed and thanked her for her hospitality and kindness. We ourselves learned that being friendly, polite, and kind went a long way to get people to help us where we were going (Ephesians 5:20).
Grace kept traveling a step ahead of us
Our journey appeared as if it had been mapped out for us. We had to be in certain places to find our own destiny. Again and again unexpected occurrences kept changing our intentions. The adjustments to the life we were forced to live wore us down. If it had not been for our strong faith of my parents, heaven only knows where we would have ended. Events began to shape us into an enduring family that could face the worst that was yet to come. We were facing to start life over with nothing and from nothing. During the war, we had land to grow our food, raise our beef, milk our cows, and so many other things we had and did. Now, we had no jobs, no home, and no country. If we had been traveling in the American Zone, we would have been shipped back to Russia, for that was where our parents were born, and we children, except for our baby brother, who was born in Germany, we all were born in Poland. Fortunately, we were traveling in the British Zone and the English did not send people back to Stalin.
Cologne was a huge city. In fact, the entire Ruhr area was an industrial metropolis that the French coveted and invaded after World War I. Hitler used the French violation of the treaty to gain the German people and the chancellery of Germany from Hindenburg. Hitler was one of the most clever politicians the world has ever seen, and he is being copied today all over the world. He used a very simple but brutal and ruthless concept that begins small, but grows into a gigantic totalitarianism. He employed demolition experts in the major cities, proving that the police are useless, and that his “Brown Jackets” could take care of these bandits whom they themselves employed. Hitler, himself, had Hindenburg join him in the Munich rebellion and where the police killed a dozen “Brown Jackets.” Can we help it, but see similar tactics in our time by our parties blaming it on the police? We are not the first being fooled, nor shall we be the last; however, we are the ones that keep suffering. Jesus, our Lord, warned us not to allow such things to happen. For a person who betrays his own people, it would have been better, “If he was never born.” I shall share my understanding as to why God does not stop such people in another chapter.
“Woe to the world for temptations to sin! For it is necessary that temptation come, but woe to the man by whom the temptations comes“ (Matthew 18:7).
And as they were at table eating, Jesus said, “Truly, I say to you, one of you will betray me, one who is eating with me.” They began to be sorrowful, and to say to him one after another, “Is it I?” He said to them, “It is one of the twelve, one who is dipping bread into the dish with me. For the Son of man goes as it is written of him, but woe to that man by whom the Son of man is betrayed! It would have been better for that man if he had not been born” (Mark 14:18-21).
Grace helped us deal with the unexpected
In my native German language we say, “Man thinks, but God leads.” In real life, especially when we became homeless refugees, we did need to believe that our lives were in the hands of a “Higher Power.” We were on our way to Holland when a car with men in it passed us that spooked father; and therefore, our plans for Canada were dashed. At that time, our father’s face changed color and fear was in his eyes. Without explaining, he made me turn the horses into a small side road, which hid us from sight. Then he told us that he knew who the men were and father feared that they would come after him. Apparently, these Nazis did not see our father, and we were thankful that we were kept out of harm’s way.
Life had many surprises, some good and some not to our liking. In spite of our ups and downs, we had to practice grace so we could deal with the unexpected. Up to the time we were crossing the Rhine on a pontoon bridge, we had met many gracious people; yet not the right kind for us. And while we waited for our turn to cross, we visited the magnificent Cathedral and its damaged steeples, and also saw the underground burial area where strange gasses keep the dead from decentigrating. Years later, my wife and I revisited the place; and my wife and one of my cousins climbed into one of the steeples. However on this day, our thoughts were on Holland and Canada. We were asked where we were going and our response made the English soldiers laugh out loudly, presuming that we could cross the ocean with horses and wagon. Several days toward Holland, we stopped at a Catholic manse where three priests reclined. We asked for rest for a night off the road, and they sent us to a huge farmer, who was harvesting at the time. The farmer needed help and treated us well. We spent two weeks setting up sheaves to dry before they could be trashed. This too was a strong Catholic district and we felt completely out of place. So, we resumed our trip to Holland, but we did not go very far. Again, a fast approaching automobile, with men in it, frightened father, and he made me turn off the main road onto a small road. And we stayed on that alternative road until we crossed the Rhine in Cologne again. This time, father wanted us to look among Protestant areas, where we could settle for a longer period. After weeks of traveling, we ended up going along a river called Diemel. It separated the Catholics from the Lutherans, and the British Zone from the American Zone. When we came to a guarded bridge, father told me to turn right to visit this American town. We stopped in front of a large barn and hoped to stay the night. We stayed four years and began a new life.
A new experience of grace was in the making
The town was called Wrexen and a handful of people welcomed us with a place to live, with work we could render with our horses, and they assisted us to establish residence. For the first time, we felt wanted and needed by people with similar needs and ways to ours. They were similar, but not like us in faith, customs, or morals. We were able to repair a rat-infested war-damaged place, which already had two bombed out families live in it. We arrived here two years before other displaced people from the Check Republic were assigned to this area. Before they arrived, our horses and then one horse were my friends and companions. Physically, I did grew up in Wrexen, where a lovely local girl had serious intentions, but I had nothing to offer her and she promptly married another young man. At the same time, another young lady had a fortune teller predict that I would marry her and we would have four children. Shortly after, we moved to a farm, that we bought from the government on a long lease and contract. A large farm was divided in to six smaller farms, and six families were chosen to become the owners. One family had two boys my age and we became friends. Another family had one boy and we did not do well being together in the presence of girls. My interest was in a family that had five girls, and one, in particlar, held my attention for a while. She was a Roman Chatholic and I belonged to the Protestants. Our parents, as far as I was concerned, worried needlessly over us. Also, my mind was on her younger sister, and my mother’s mind was on sending me to her brother in Canada. I did follow my mother’s advice and migrated to Canada where I had to grew up mentally and spiritually. Grace was in me and with me in small portions and I did not even know it.