Exploring the Social Imagination

Monday, December 8, 2014

A Social Imagination... Unheard of Thesedays

Posted below is an incredible story that I had to share with my blog readers. The story below is amazing on many levels. The first is that a marriage can last a lifetime. In modern social imagination, that seems odd. Yet, in the story you will read that it is possible - one can give live with the same spouse for an entire lifetime. You will read that a couple can have the same imagination about love, marriage and raising children. They can have the same imagination about how to get through hard times. Americans rarely experience such things, marriage that lasts, love that never ends and is unconditional, and the joy of raising children together as husband and wife = mom and dad - the same husband/wife, the same mom and dad from beginning to end. We live in a throw away culture, that is in love with 'new' and hates 'old'. We love new things, and we want to have fun. As if any other kind of living or imagination is useless, has no purpose, no value.
I wanted to share this story because it is not about new things or having fun. It is about a full life filled with sorrow and with happiness. I have been to the Ukraine and lived in eastern Europe for a number of years. You cannot believe the level of poverty in some places yet people are always happy to share a meal. You would not expect to see the residue of War, not the recent but of long past. It is hard to understand that if there was such conflict in the past, why don't people try to work things out today. As Americans, it is easy to say that. But Europe is a different world. People there have a deeply embedded consciousness of 'being in' or 'connected to' a place. So deeply embedded, they are willing to fight for. I took my husband to eastern Europe, he loved the old towns and how people seemed to live a symbiotic relation - past and present. There was a kind of 'recursiveness' everywhere.  I wanted him to know that though old towns are charming, they were often destroyed and people too. I took him to the eastern border to see the extermination camp - Sobibor... what remains of it. It is hard for people to believe the hardships that many people had suffered during WWI and WWII. For today's generations, they are pages in a history book. But, for many memories are still present or have left a vivid impression as one can still see in Warsaw. As a listener of Moody Radio, valuing the programming so much; hence, I wanted to share this story about Pastor Erwin Lutzer's parents who came out of such hardships.

A Tribute to my Mother by Pastor (Dr.) Erwin Lutzer
After having served her generation by the will of God, my dear mother got her wish and went home to heaven on January 1, 2012, a month after her 103rd birthday. By any measure, mother was a remarkable woman. She was a hard worker who gladly sacrificed for her family; she had a focused love for God and intolerance for sin. She was a woman of prayer, a woman who understood better than anyone else I know, both the eventual terrors that await the unsaved and the glories of heaven reserved for those who belong to the King of Kings. She loved Christ passionately and has waited with a longing patience for her entrance into the heavenly kingdom. And what an entrance she will have!
Mother was born to German parents in the Ukraine in 1908 and after World War I began in 1914, the Russian government, fearing that the Germans within its borders might mutiny, forced them to become refugees to places like Afghanistan or Siberia. Incredibly, her father (my grandfather) had actually come to the United States to make preparations to bring his entire family here to Chicago. But when the war started, he immediately made plans to hurry back to be with his family. Providentially, he was able to catch the last passenger ship back to Europe; after that the ships were used only for war material. If he had been stranded here in the US, my mother’s family would have had to manage the hardships of Siberia on their own. How thankful they were that he was able to return in time to be with them on this long and painful journey.
Meanwhile, the trip to Siberia took weeks (the large family had only one horse and wagon) and when they arrived at the Volga river they were loaded onto barges and from there herded into freight cars for the long train trip to the northland. The entire family (with about six or seven children at the time) lived in one room; later they moved into a basement. Life was not only very hard but also dangerous. Remember, not only was World War I in progress, but so was the Bolshevik Revolution. Often there was fighting outside of their small quarters and the family had to stay indoors.
Mother recounts the deep grief she experienced when her younger sister died, and because of the fighting, her small wooden coffin had to lie on a back porch for a week (my mother was about 8, her sister was 6). Finally, when there was a lull in the fighting, my grandfather buried her in a grave along with another body. But my grandmother was grieved that her little daughter was not buried in her own grave, so to please her, my grandfather dug up the coffin to bury the little girl in her own shallow grave. Mother was very close to her younger sister and wept for days in her grief.
When the war ended in 1918, the families were able to return to their homestead. Then the decision was made that my mother and her older sister would go to Canada to seek a better life. Just imagine: my mother was 20, her sister was 22. When they said goodbye to their mother and father, they knew they would probably never meet again. Later they learned that my grandmother lay in bed for three days, mourning the loss of her precious daughters whom she expected to never see again (about 32 years later they were briefly reunited when my parents visited Europe).
I will not detail all the hardships that mother and her sister experienced in Canada. Soon after they arrived, they were separated, working for various farmers. Mother loved to hoe the garden, she said, so she could pour out her soul in lonely weeping where no one would see her.
As God would have it, the sisters then ended up working on farms that were close to a small town with an evangelical church. My mother and her sister had a strong desire to be “born again.” They had been baptized Lutherans but knew that their baptism could not save them. When evangelistic meetings were held, my mother was gloriously converted. “It was as if I was in the holy of holies” she recounted later.
My father was attending the same church. He also had been born in the Ukraine back in 1902, and his story was similar except that his family had to migrate to Afghanistan. There his mother and older brother died. As a boy of 14, he threw himself across the bed and thought he’d never stop crying. But when his family returned to their homestead, he bravely came to Canada alone to work for a farmer who was willing to sponsor him.
My father had become a Christian while in the Ukraine. Now as he attended church, he couldn’t help but notice the two young German women who had just arrived in the area. He knew of my mother’s conversion and she had heard him pray, so she knew he was a firm believer.
One Sunday he asked my mother if he could walk her home and along the way he asked if she would marry him! My mother said she’d have to think about it, but within 3 weeks they were married at a farm on July 25, 1931. The marriage lasted for 77 years, until my father’s death 3 years ago at the age of 106! (A word to the singles reading this: don’t use my parents as an example of how long you should know each other before you marry!)
In our home the Bible was read every morning and prayers were offered, rain or shine, followed by a song sung by the family; my mother’s favorite was “Take the name of Jesus with you”. I was the youngest of 5 children, and as my sister put it, “I got away with blue murder.” My parents were desirous to protect us from sin (out on the farm there were few opportunities to get into trouble, but boys will be boys!). My Dad was a very hard worker but often sick in those early years, telling us that he was dying (evidently he was having panic attacks which he obviously outgrew!), so mother helped by milking cows, she grew a garden, washed our clothes and cooked for the family. In the fall she helped with the harvest, canned food for the hard winter and made sure that we had warm clothes. I simply don’t know how she did it. When hail took our crop away she and my father and we as children got on our knees to thank God for his goodness. “We still have food to eat” my father said. And that was enough.
At Mom and Dad’s 70th anniversary I asked my mother if she knew the names of all of her great grandchildren (I think the number was about 25 at the time). She waived her hand and said, “Sure, I have a prayer list and I bring them before my Heavenly Father every day!”
My mother and father were plain people who taught themselves to read (they had at best a grade 3 education back in the Ukraine), and to speak English. They were free of all hypocrisy or pretense; what you saw is what you got. They were fastidious in their honesty and although they were frugal when spending money on themselves, they were very generous with others. Even in retirement they gave virtually all of their money to Christian ministries. They showed hospitality to those who were in need. The legacy they left us is not in worldly goods but in their example of faith, hard work and Christian virtues. I’m prejudiced, but they just don’t make them that way anymore!
“Thanks, mother. I owe you more than I could ever say. For the times just the two of us were at home in the farmhouse while the older children were in school, when you watched me play on the floor, you read to me, loved me, prayed for me. And when I needed a lap to sit on, you were there. Only heaven will reveal who you were and all that you did and the prayers you offered on my behalf. Whatever I’ve been able to accomplish in my life, I owe it all to you…I’m your last born, your “der kleine” (“the little one”) as you affectionately called me in German.
And yes, mother, we shall meet again.”
Erwin Lutzer

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