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A Story Of Grace
By Dr. Mike Murphy
Purim is usually a holiday that comes and goes. A time for music, food, gifts, and celebration. Over the years the religious foundations of Purim have been lost in the hearts of the Jewish people. But in recent years, Purim has began to again hold special meaning in many of the homes throughout Israel, and in the hearts of many throughout the world.
As events had unfolded throughout the Middle East over these past years, many people have began to wonder just what the future holds. We watch as the world again focuses its’ attention to the nation of Israel. We see images on our newscast, filled with the powers of this world pressuring Israel to compromise in ways that will bring its’ certain destruction. We listen as politicians and social leaders speak words of anti-Semitism, often times without us hearing their words condemned by the media, and those throughout this world. Will the groggers we see each Purim, now be needed by those in Israel to drown out the noise they hear from this world? Just as Haman did so many years ago, is the world now casting ‘lots’ for the fate of Israel, and the Jewish people? As Esther and Mordecai were once lead to do, will the Jewish people once again need to call on the Lord for deliverance from their certain death?
To answer this question, I want to tell you the story of a young girl, and the events of her life years ago. Our history books are filled with the horrors of the Holocaust. What the Jewish people were forced to survive was unthinkable, and many stories of devastation and survival have come from those horrendous years. One of the most famous of these stories came from a book called the Hiding Place, the story of Anne Frank. Today, I want to tell you about the life of another young girl who attended the same school Anne Frank did in Amsterdam at the time of the Nazi occupation. A friend of Anne Frank by the name of Elly.
By 1942, eleven year old Elly had seen two years of the Nazi occupation in Holland. By 1943 round-ups, arrests, and mass deportations of the Jews had become commonplace throughout Holland and much of Europe, and all had become aware of what was happening to those that were taken. Elly’s grandfather came to the conclusion that he was going to put his family into hiding.
For eleven months, Elly and her family shared a two room attic with another family. Because the attic was located above a business, these two families had to remain in complete silence from 8 am to 5 pm everyday, as not to be heard by passers-by and those that shopped at the business. Only drips and dribbles of the outside world came their way, but the Dutch Underground did share with them the information they received. They learned of other families they had lived with and grown up with been captured, and they would receive the occasional report of how the war was going.
One day, Elly’s father learned that the attic they lived in was about to be discovered. With the help of the Dutch Underground, he decided on a daring midnight escape to a new hiding place. There was only one problem, only Elly and her brother would be able to get out.
They hid Elly and her brother in a hearse so they could be relocated in a small village in the Dutch countryside. You may ask, why a hearse? A hearse was one of the few vehicles the Nazis did not search. They had no problem with seeing as many Jews as dead as possible, so the removal of dead Jews was always a welcome sight.
As soon as they escaped , Elly and her brother had to be separated as not to draw suspicion. Elly was sent to a Christian family in a small farm village. Few may know, but it was often Christian that risked their lives to help those facing the Nazi persecution. Elly assumed a new identity, as a young Christian girl. As to not be caught, she was taught of Christ, and taught the ways of her new Christian family. Elly fell in love with her new family, and soon came to call the woman that was keeping and raising her as her “foster mother”.
Elly and her adopted family constantly found themselves at great risk. Many times the Nazi soldiers would show up unannounced in her village. Rewards were always offered to anyone who would turn in Jews, or those that were concealing them. Living in perpetual fear and always facing starvation, these rewards were very tempting for many throughout the occupied lands that Germany controlled. It was during one of these ‘tempting situations’ that Elly’s life and her faith would forever change.
Someone had turned in Elly’s village as housing Jews, and the village was raided without warning or notice. Elly was home alone with her ‘foster mother’ that day. She was completely caught off guard, with their village completely surrounded. With nowhere to run and no place for them to hide, Elly’s ‘foster mother’ did the one thing she could still do. She fell to her knees, pulled Elly into her arms, and began to pray. She asked Christ to shield them from the enemy, and to protect them from a fate that would be far worse than death.
They heard the soldiers as they raided the houses of their neighbors, breaking down doors and ransacking the houses in search of the Jew they had been told this village was hiding. As they waited for their own door to be forced open, Elly and her ‘foster mother’ continued to pray. Her ‘foster mother’ prayed with force and in a strong voice, loud enough it could easily be heard by anyone close by. But after a few minutes, the screams and destruction had grown quiet, the soldiers had left. The village was turned upside down. That is, all but one house. The house of Elly and her family was left unnoticed. The house, where prayers could be heard above the screams, was the one house left untouched! It was on that day, on the floor in the middle of that room, that Elly found the love and grace of her Savior!
Elly survived the horrors that the Nazis brought on the Jewish people and the world during those years. Elly and her ‘foster mother’ continued to face incredible dangers during the war. She once, out of fear of being found, took Elly to an attic in a city in a different part of Holland. She stayed in that attic with Elly for over six weeks unwilling to leave her until they could return home. Elly later became reunited with her brother, who also survived. But they did soon learn that their parents and their grandfather had not, they had been captured and gassed in Auschwitz. Even after the war was over, Elly’s “foster mother” was still there for her. She became Elly’s legal guardian, and continued to raise Elly to the woman she would become.
And what type of woman would Elly become? She married a Jewish man. A Messianic Jewish man! And together, they served as missionaries to witness to Jewish people inside the United States. Her husband later became the pastor of a Messianic Jewish church, where the two spent the rest of their lives telling anyone who would hear of the love that only Christ could offer. They taught anyone who would listen, that no matter where you are or what situation you may find yourself in, the grace that only Christ could offer was always there.
Elly’s “foster mother” died in 1964. But in 1983, when the names for the Wall of the Rescuers was being collected, Elly submitted the name of her “foster mother” to the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum committee as one of the righteous gentiles who protected European Jews during World War II. She explained her story, and told them that she was submitting the name of the woman who demonstrated the best God-given traits of human nature. Her own granddaughter would later be named after her ‘foster mother’, so every time they looked into her eyes they were reminded of the miracle that gave Elly life.
In case you may be wondering the name of Elly’s “foster mother”? The name of the woman whose prayers and faith had shown Elly the love and power of Christ in a time when evil had surrounded her. Her name, Grietje. But no one who knew her would have known or called her by that name. She was called by her nickname, and what other name could it possibly be, but Grace!!
No sermon is needed. No word I could possibly give you could say more than the story already has. I just pray, that the nation of Israel, and all of us who follow Christ, will remember the story of Elly. That we will realize, no matter what horrors this world may throw at us, or what evil may bring our way, we are always surrounded by God’s Grace!
Praying that in God’s Grace you will always see hope!