Concentration Camp on Christmas Eve

December 24, 2014

Christ is risen from the dead
Trampling over death by death
come awake, come awake!
Come and rise up from the grave

Oh, death! Where is your sting?
Oh, hell! Where is your victory?
Oh Church, come stand in the light!
Our God is not dead
He’s Alive He’s alive!
-“Christ is Risen” Tenth Avenue North

This December, I am spending twelve days traveling throughout Poland visiting former Nazi death/labor camps, ghettoes, and other sites relevant to the Nazi Holocaust. After a roller coaster of a semester, both mentally and emotionally, I was worried about immediately leaving SMU (less than twelve hours after the end of my last exam) and hopping on a plane to Poland for such an intense trip.
This semester was rough but it was also the closest to God I’ve felt during the school year in my whole life. Every day, regardless of how emotionally, physically, or mentally taxing it was, I found myself at least for a moment in awe of how much God had provided for me. It was hard, yes. But I never felt alone and never doubted that God was using every struggle for His glory.
However, a silly part of me was almost scared that since God had been SO good during the semester and always seemed to come through, He wouldn’t be able to do the same for me in Poland. Thankfully, I wised up before arriving in Poland and not surprisingly, God showed up, even on grounds where hundreds of thousands of people had been senselessly murdered, God showed up.
I am traveling with a group of eighteen other people and we all have varied beliefs about religion, God, and spirits which have been shared in our reflections about these places. Everyone has an opinion and is entitled to it but others feeling like they simply could not believe in a god that let the Holocaust happen broke my heart. Another member of the group wisely pointed out that God or any god isn’t responsible for the Holocaust, we, the human race, are.
I agree, and for this reason have found more reasons to believe God than not while visiting these sites. Since Adam and Eve first defied God in the Garden of Eden the world has been broken. The Holocaust is an unfortunate culmination of that brokenness. It displays exactly what mankind is capable of when separated far from God. My heart breaks for those who died and also those who survived, who had to live on with the memories and usually without their families. My heart also breaks for those who committed the crimes. That they, and that we, were so far from God’s love and light that they felt they had to do those things.The amount of suffering is incomprehensible. It is hard to look at these sites and not wonder why God didn’t just shut the whole thing down. But he gave us domain over the earth and really, if we humble ourselves, it is clear we are responsible, not Him.
Tomorrow, we celebrate the ultimate symbol of hope, the birth of our one true Savior. If this world were not broken, if these things didn’t happen, we wouldn’t need a savior. But how lucky are we to have one that died to avenge us and forgive us? This week, I have heard stories of people turning on each other, murdering their neighbors and family members, but I have also heard miraculous stories of unexpected mercies and unlikely heroes. Even better, every day, God has showed up for me yet again. He has graciously been present and reminded me of the greatest miracle there is. We are the broken ones yet Christ has paid our ransom and He is coming again. It’s hard to look out at these camps and try to understand where God was present but to me they also serve as the perfect example as to why we have and need a savior. Tomorrow, I visit another death camp but I also celebrate the birth of my Savior. Throughout my life, the past semester, and during this trip God has been there with me and I know he will be there with me tomorrow and for the rest of my life. For these reasons, I am clinging onto hope and anticipating the day He comes again and wipes the earth clean. How blessed we are to have a savior like Him!

Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In His great mercy He has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade. This inheritance is kept in heaven for you, who through faith are shielded by God’s power until the coming of the salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time. In all this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. These have come to prove the genuineness of your faith- of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire- may result in praise, glory, and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed.
1 Peter 1:3-7