“Oh God, how I can do this? You have got to help me. I have never felt this helpless in my entire life.” Caught in the throes of desperation, this missionary wife and mom needed Jesus as never before.
It was the summer of 1977, and Larry and I, with our Baby Girl, were students in a summer language program in Lublin, Poland. We were trained for culture shock, but this shock was way beyond our preparation. This was Communism. Nothing could have adequately trained a free American for this. We were living a dual life behind the Iron Curtain; we were behind the lines of NATO. Alone didn’t begin to describe the 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 required us to make a reservation 48 hours in advance, 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, our conversations were hyper-guarded for personal safety.
Life was far more challenging than I expected. We washed our clothes in a wringer washer in the concrete basement of our housing facility. 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.
And, lingering questions, like “How did I get here?” were far more threatening than even the cultural turmoil. 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 a place with the gruesome remains, buildings, photographs, and personal effects of the Nazi concentration camp Majdanek? How screamed at me!
Recalling my personal history reminded me that 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. You must help me in a way I have never experienced.” 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 vulnerability, 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 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)
We went through fire and water, but you brought us to a place of abundance (Psalm 66:12b NIV).
Living With Eternal Intentionality
When is the last time you most needed God and He gloriously showed up?