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1. We Went Through Fire and Water

But You led us to a place of abundance. (Psalm 66:12)

 

“Oh God, how am I going to make it? You have got to help me. Never in my life have I felt this helpless.” Caught in an absolute desperate depth of desperation I never knew possible, this missionary wife and mom needed Jesus as never before.

It was the summer of 1977, and Larry and I, with our Baby Girl, had gone to live covertly as missionaries behind the Iron Curtain. We were students in a summer language program in Lublin, Poland. Though we were trained for culture shock, this shock was way beyond our preparation. This was Communism. Nothing could have trained a free American for this. We were behind the Iron Curtain; we were behind the lines of NATO. Alone didn’t begin to describe the acute isolation created by a covert, undercover lifestyle.

The iron fist of communism screamed around every corner. Economic deprivation was astounding. Routine tasks became monumental. A simple phone call to my parents in the U.S. had to be reserved 48 hours ahead, and then on the appointed day, we waited two hours in the post office for the international operator to connect the call. Once the call was connected, we hyper-guarded our conversations were for personal safety. 

I assessed my situation and knew: 

Life was far more challenging than I expected.

We washed our clothes in a wringer washer, the type my Daddy purchased for my Grandmother when he returned from World War II. There was no dryer, and the cool summer weather made drying clothes especially difficult. Food lines outside of nearly empty stores resembled black and white movie clips from The Great Depression.

Language school was far more challenging than I anticipated.

My high school Spanish class paled in comparison to this. The Polish language was daunting.  I felt so stupid. 

Lingering questions, like “How did I get here?” were far more threatening than I could handle.

How did I end up as a clandestine missionary in a communist country? How did I find myself walking the streets of a town a mere 97 kilometers, 60 miles from the Soviet border? How could I have landed in the same town with buildings, photographs, and personal effects of the Nazi concentration camp Majdanek? How screamed at me!

I grew up in a Christian home, and I became a follower of Christ at an early age. As a little 3rd grade girl I believe God wanted me to be a missionary. Yet, for years my relationship with God was laced with fear, fear that He would ruin my life and send me to Africa as a missionary. 

Then, at university, I met a group of students who had a smile on their face, a spring in the step and a song in their heart. They were marching to the beat of a different drum, and I joined their ranks. Our clarion call was “Come help change the world.” My manifesto before God was declared, “Anything, Anytime, Anywhere.”

Soon after, I met and fell in love with a young football player. His proposal was “Will you go with me in helping to reach the world for Christ?” My “yes” to that question, and the supernatural call of God on our lives, now placed me right here on this unfamiliar piece of earth in eastern Poland.
 
“Oh God, p l e a s e help me. If I am going to survive, You must intervene.” My prayer gushed from an honest, confused, hurting, aching heart held out before God. 

And. God. intervened. Deep down, in the depths of my soul, in the power of His Word, God took over.  He marched right across communism, right across culture shock, right across my emotional crisis, and met me, Debby, with the words of Psalm 139:9-10: “Though I dwell on the far side of the sea, even there Your Hand will guide me, Your right Hand will hold me fast.” 

The Holy Spirit threw a Lifeline, and I grabbed it. I held on for dear life. Right there in a communist coffee shop, surrounded by a language I could not understand, heaven descended and brought peace to my troubled, broken heart. Just what I needed most, just when I needed it most. God showed up - right then, right there.
In July 1977
     In Lublin, Poland
          In His Word
 
That dark day I discovered the light of a lesson I will never forget, a lesson that laid the foundation for the 12,045 days of the 33 years to follow

When I was most desperate, He was most dependable.
Geography is not an issue to God.

“I will never leave you or forsake you,” is for real. (Hebrews 13:8)