Like millions of twelve-year-old girls, I read The Diary of Anne Frank when I was in sixth grade. I was mesmerized. From that day, I dreamed of meeting Holocaust Survivors and hearing their stories first-hand. I used to daydream about sitting in a quiet cafe, sipping dark, steamy coffee, and listening to their thick European accents as they spoke in distant, far-away voices of things tragic yet incredibly important. Even before it became a cultural “thing”, I developed a Bucket List, no matter that there was no logical expectation that I should ever accomplish any of my outlandish goals.
Over the years, I traded away certain goals for others, and some were forgotten entirely. But not the Holocaust Survivor dream. It would still pop up on occasion, unobtrusive, but ever present. One day, somewhere around 2010, I was reevaluating the items on my list. Armed with a real job and a more firm grasp on reality, I was taking a look at what could be accomplished and what needed to be dropped entirely – a very decade-y sort of thing to do. I considered the Holocaust Survivor idea. What was the use of holding onto that one? By this time, the number of Holocaust Survivors around the world was greatly reduced. Those who were still alive would have been children at the time of the war. What were the chances of my running across one in Savannah, GA? With great sadness, I mentally struck that off my list.
I moved on with my life.
A couple of years later, my friend Morgan had a post on Facebook about needing another woman to sign up so she could go on a mission trip to Poland. I walked in our house after work that afternoon and asked my husband what he thought about me going with her. Jeff said he knew I had always wanted to do missions overseas. Six minutes later, I was signed up for a trip. Other than “In Europe”, I wasn’t entirely sure where Poland was, and I had no idea what the focus of the trip was. All I knew was that I was going.
The next day Morgan called to tell me that we would be ministering at a summer camp in Poland for Holocaust Survivors who were coming in from Israel. I think she had to repeat herself three or four times before my brain registered what she was saying. Holocaust Survivors! I was going to meet not one, not two, but about 30 of these iconic individuals! And it wouldn’t be just an hour-long conversation over coffee. We would be with them 24/7 for two weeks! I’m not sure my feet hit the ground after that.
Six weeks later we boarded the plane. This was it! I was excited! I was terrified. I was heading to Poland!