Remembering back to that hot, steamy June day in 1998, I realize it was an experience like no other. Was it the heat, my empty stomach, or the gruesome details of what once took place in that exact location that caused me to almost pass out? I truly could not have prepared myself for the emotions I experienced at the Dachau Concentration Camp memorial site as I anticipated the visit with apprehension.
Walking through the small, peaceful town from the train station, it was a surprise that the site was so close to the city center. The foreboding entrance stands out in my mind and that dark feeling did not pass throughout the proceeding hours. As we toured the barracks and surrounding area, you can probably imagine what a shock it was to two, fairly young, naive girls from the United States. At several points, I had to leave the group to sit in the shade, escaping from the historical details of this horrific place.
Filled with dread, my friend Leslie and I hesitantly neared the gas chamber and crematorium toward the end of our visit. It was there that we were approached by an older gentleman beckoning to us. I took in his long pants and suitcoat, wondering how he was withstanding the heat as we tried to decipher what he was emphatically trying to tell us. As understanding began to dawn on us, the realization that we were standing in front of an actual Dachau Concentration Camp survivor was a shock. As he boldly shared his story of the tragic events of his past and his life after the liberation of the camp, so many questions emerged. He was more than willing to answer our inquiries and provide details.
He resolutely shared with us that the tour guide was wrong in claiming that the crematorium and gas chambers were never put to use in Dachau. He was there and remembers the screams. After the liberation, he explained to us that he did not return to his home country of Poland. Instead, he settled in the town of Dachau, marrying and building a family there. He then went on to tell us that he has visited the site each and every day to share his story with others. I repeat EVERY DAY. Rain or shine, hot or freezing temperatures, no matter what. Above all else, he placed importance on sharing his personal story at a place which brought so much pain and unimaginable horror to his life. Why? So others would not forget. So history would not repeat itself.
At the end of our conversation, he adamantly insisted we each take a picture with him. Begging us to share his story with others. Asking us to use the picture as proof when he was no longer on this earth to share his experiences himself. At the time it was a bit awkward, as you can see. I can tell you this man was not taking no for an answer. Did his strategy work? Absolutely, I’m sitting here writing this to you now.
When I think about “tenacity,” I think of this man.
What if we, as Christians, apply that same unwavering tenacity to our daily walk with Christ? What if we boldly share the good news of Jesus with people that God places on our path. What if we serve others and share God’s love, never knowing when our time will run out? What if we are passionate about our relationship with God, spending time in prayer and digging into His Word each and EVERY DAY? What if we place a focus on building a legacy that will far outlast our days here on earth? Both inside our homes and with those within our circle of influence and beyond… What if our eyes are constantly fixed on the purpose that God has laid out for each of us?
God does not promise us a life free of adversity. But He does promise to be with us every step of the way. Maybe you are thinking that “life” is holding you back from living tenaciously for Him? Consider that your suffering is not unique. Jesus also faced trials and hardships during his days on this earth. Recognize that your Father is working to take your pain and turn it into purpose. A purpose that would bring Him glory on this earth. Trusting that the pain experienced will expand your endurance, produce maturity, and help to develop perseverance.
The concentration camp survivor must have experienced torture and imaginable horrors at Dachau, but he continues to share his story so that the atrocities will not be forgetten, nor will history repeat itself. In the same way, we can share the comfort we receive from God with others, making our purpose to share love and hope through Christ.
All praise to the God and Father of our Master, Jesus the Messiah! Father of all mercy! God of all healing counsel! He comes alongside us when we go through hard times, and before you know it, he brings us alongside someone else who is going through hard times so that we can be there for that person just as God was there for us. We have plenty of hard times that come from following the Messiah, but no more so than the good times of his healing comfort- we get a full measure of that, too. When we suffer for Jesus, it works out for your healing and salvation. If we are treated well, given a helping hand and encouraging word, that also works to your benefit, spurring you on, face forward, unflinching. Your hard times are also our hard times. When we see that you’re just as willing to endure the hard times as to enjoy the good times, we know you’re going to make it, no doubt about it.
2 Corinthians 1:3-7 (MSG)
While recently searching for more information online about the impressive Dachau survivor, I stumbled across other people that had similar experiences with him on their tour. I learned that the man’s name was Martin Zaidenstadt and there have been several articles written about him. I also recently read the book, The Last Survivor: In Search of Martin Zaidenstadt. The text digs into Zaidenstadt’s claims, along with describing the effects of the presence of the concentration camp on the surrounding town and it’s people.
I learned that many people question Martin’s story and the details he has shared about what took place at Dachau. Inaccurate, lost, and destroyed records from that time contribute to the points that have been put in question. But even under scrutiny, Martin Zaidenstadt was not deterred from his goal. In the same way, some will surely challenge you, doubting your beliefs and questioning the faith you live out in your daily life. Will you be steadfast about deepening your relationship with Christ and following His will in the face of scrutiny? Will you boldly live according to God’s leading, focusing on His truths?
Let us consider Paul’s words in the book of Acts,
However, I consider my life worth nothing to me; my only aim is to finish the race and complete the task the Lord Jesus has given me- the task of testifying to the good news of God’s grace.
Acts 20:24 (NIV)
I pray that God strengthens us with a tenacity for living a life for Him. I ask that he help us face the world by putting our devotion and passion for Christ above all else. Though hardships will come, we know that peace and joy will also be experienced through faith in Him. May He bless our steps as we tenaciously follow the path laid out for each of us with undaunted purpose.