Poland was lovely.
One of our favorite places to visit since we’ve been in Europe, we have loved the casual vibe, the friendly folks, the great prices, and the castle in which we stay. It’s a lovely time of relaxing, swimming, eating, pottery shopping, and exploring.
This last time we explored something we hadn’t known was there before. About thirty minutes from where we were staying lay what was left of a POW (Prisoner of War) Camp from World War II. It wasn’t just any POW camp, either. It was actually what they call “Stalag Luft III.” If you’ve ever heard of the story of “The Great Escape,” you know of this very camp.
Years ago in this rural area of Poland, a bunch of allied pilots were put together inside this brand new camp. Some of them had made escape attempts before, many of them more than once. They were from many different allied countries: England, Australia, New Zealand, Canadian, Norwegian, Polish, Greek, South African, American, and others. So many differences and yet a single cause.
The story of how they came together, their ingenuity in digging the tunnel (plus two others), and the ability to acquire things are all testimony of the amazing men they were. But it was more than that.
They had planned for two hundred to escape that night, with only eighty of them coming out of the tunnel and seventy-six actually getting away (for a short time – you’ll have to read the rest of the story yourself!). The camp held many more than two hundred. Their skills, ingenuity, and acquisition amazed me, but what amazed me even more was something far different.
What amazed me was how and what they were willing to sacrifice both for survival and for each other. Eighty guys made it out – what about number eighty-one? They planned for two hundred to escape. What about all the others?
They knew the risks of leaving, but also the possibilities.
They could get in the fight again, see their families, eat. It was a gamble for sure. And considering the outcome, it was a serious gamble. But there were some who helped to dig, provide security, forge paperwork, or a million other things and yet were not the ones to leave. They had stayed behind to continue in hunger, fear, dirt, lice. The place they stayed was not a fun place and yet some of them chose to stay so others could leave.
The bottom line was that they were determined – determined to fight for their cause and help others survive. The consequences of being found out, the repercussions once the guards found out the prisoners were missing, the continued lack of food and filthy living conditions were all real and immediate experiences. Their fortitude, perseverance, and selflessness make me wonder if I would make it, if I would be so sacrificial.
In our military culture, we know the expectations of giving your life in place of another. We’ve seen friends and comrades do just that over the years. Honorable for sure, but somehow this POW experience seems different to me. It wasn’t a split-second reaction. It was a sustained choice over years of time.
When I think about my Christian walk, I have begun to pray that God would give me this kind of fortitude, perseverance and strength.
As a follower of Christ, I want to continue to pursue Him, to stay in the fight regardless of consequences. I want to choose well over the years of my life and not just in one split moment. And I want to be willing to give anything for someone else to know the freedom of salvation.
Standing at the marked entrance to their escape tunnel and looking down the length of it, I am determined to fight, persevere, pursue, and give whatever it takes to do what God has made me to do here. The cool thing about the war we are in is that we already know who wins. Thankful I’m on the winning team.
Do you ever wonder what you would be willing to sacrifice should you be asked to so? Are we growing in our relationship with Christ today so that we are ready for anything?
Do you know the story of the Great Escape?