Phyllis Beveridge Nissila
If you are familiar with the movie Schindler’s List based on the true story of World War II era businessman Oskar Schindler who saved the lives of 1,100 Jews in Hitler’s Germany you know what the now-famous “list” is: column after column, page after page of the names of those he saved by hiring them to work in his enamelware and munitions factories in Nazi occupied Poland and the Protectorate of Bohemia and Moravia .
Schindler is a hero to Jews and non-Jews alike, one of many—most working in obscurity—who rescued Jews and others destined for destruction in Hitler’s ovens or by his firing squads.
In the dark times in which he lived, this businessman worked his trade and his humanity, prospering in both and saving hundreds from a Hell on earth. At the time the movie was produced in the early 1990s the so-called “Schindler Jews” and their descendants numbered 6,000, two-thirds again as many Jews as were left alive in Poland at the end of the war. The “family” continues to grow .
The expression from the Torah often associated with Schindler and engraved on a gold ring the Jews made for him as a parting gift at the end of the war reads thus:
“Whoever saves a life, it is considered as if he saved an entire world” .
The world is in need of rescuers today, too.
On another battleground, this one not only temporal but spiritual, this one today, there are “rescue lists” of a very different kind—one for each believer in Jesus Christ “assigned him or her” by God, so to speak.
The columns on our lists may be few or many. They are comprised of the names of friends, family members, and acquaintances (some, even strangers) entrusted to our care and influence on a minute-by-minute basis or for a lifetime, and each one is as precious to God as were Schindler’s workers to him.
Very few of us, however, may achieve the kind of notoriety in our sphere of influence that the rich and well-connected businessman did and our reunion with the recipients of our aid when our work is done may not be possible until eternity.
We may even be surprised at some of the names that will appear on our lists, having perhaps felt our efforts a failure in the life of this one or that one or not even knowing who made a decision for Christ based on some morsel of intercession or more practical contribution we sent others ministering in distant front lines of need.
But our lists are critical, too, to those on them. More importantly, to God.
Perhaps, as my sister Nancy often says, we may not even know what it is (or isn’t) about us that impacts another for Jesus Christ and for eternity, that is to say, what helps one “assigned’ to us!
I think of a woman who lived down the street from my family of origin during very dark years for us where a certain poverty of spirit as well as material poverty took hold of our big, sprawling household. She was a Christian, I knew, though not of my family’s denomination so we never talked about that the few times I was at her house to babysit or for some other reason.
Mrs. W. had a quiet, hard working husband and two children, and she was a stay-at-home mother. Her home was orderly and quiet when I visited her. In my seemingly crisis-to-crisis family environment, this was a hopeful thing to me: the fact that one could live a quiet, peaceful life.
And I knew it had something to do with her faith.
One thing in particular about her stays with me, a silly thing, some might think, but it had its place in my awareness of spirituality. I would say now that for me it strongly evidenced the fruit of the Holy Spirit at works in a believer’s life, and I have always wanted to write about it so as to encourage others who might think they aren’t doing much in the way of ministry or witnessing.
Mrs. W. was also an accomplished seamstress; however, she didn’t just hurriedly sew together some needed item to replenish hers or her children’s wardrobes. She took extra time to add finesse to her work, to make it not just functional but special.
I remember one of her own “everyday dresses” in particular (women still wore them most of the time back then) on which she took extra time to embroider a beautiful floral pattern on the bodice. An intricate multi-colored pattern of posies intertwined in a semi-circle around the neck of the otherwise plain, everyday dress.
It was beautiful, to be sure. But what most impressed me was that it was perfectly okay to spend the thought, time, and extra material for just some ordinary thing to make it extraordinary.
One didn’t, I thought, have to live crisis to crisis, paycheck to paycheck, as did my family. One didn’t, I thought, by spiritual extension, have to suffer to be closer to God or to try to scrape together some kind of peace about one’s eternal destination from day to day, whether one was saved or not, as per the teachings and inferences in the denomination in which I was reared, teachings that wore one down not lifted one up.
Maybe, I thought, a little later in life, there was something in that Bible Mrs. W. read that could offer such beauty and such solace. (Yes, I came to find out, there is: a personal relationship with Jesus Christ through Whom we can experience such things even in the midst of darkness.)…
Perhaps, as another sister Claire often says, our ministry is more one-on-one, a sometimes frustrating realization in this era of “business model church growth” influences. (Side note: Jesus, of course, had more a tendency in His earthly ministry to drive people away by His teachings, if you study His ministry in the Gospel accounts, not gather them by some seeker-friendly manipulation.)
Claire is a perennial student of Hebrew and the insights her studies have given her regarding our English version of the Scriptures are remarkable. Her tri-folds (available on my Free Downloads page) on Jesus Christ, both God and Man, the Baptism of the Holy Spirit, and other tri-folds focused on patterns in prophecy are illustrations of her long-term, quiet-but-steady scholarship.
One of the “assignments” that she believes is from the Lord to her is that she has been sent to minister to “the lost sheep of the House of Israel” (Matthew 15:24). The thing is, sheep usually stray one by one, and the people on her “list” tend to show up one at a time. Not a business model accepted by many churches today where “nickels and noses” are what counts for effective ministries. Nevertheless, each one she ministers to in this way or that is precious in God’s eyes and one (at a time) for whom He waits, too, longing to rescue…
And then I think of the millions throughout time who may not know until eternity that what they thought was their complete failure to minister effectively to this or that one may actually have at length born fruit. It’s just that they were not around to see it, down here.
In short, this is our time now to facilitate rescues how we may, to serve the needy on our lists if not by aiding their deliverance from some Hell on earth today like Schindler’s back then, by intercession for their eternal salvation.
Indeed, we ourselves have benefited from being on somebody else’s list (or perhaps several people’s lists) whose intercession, encouragement, support, preaching, teaching, guidance, comfort, and/or the simple but profound witness of their steadfast and faithful life lived for Christ has made all the difference…
(Thank you, Mrs. W., by the way, and all the others then and now…)
So who is on YOUR list? Who can you pray for, talk (preach or teach) to, encourage, comfort, or guide today?
Family members? Neighbors? Co-workers? Random people you pass by on the road or in the grocery store who, it seems, the Holy Spirit is prompting you to pray for right now? Some ministry serving people on a dangerous front line somewhere in the world to which you can send a little financial support? Or, perhaps, some kid in your own neighborhood who needs a little respite?
Most of us, unlike famous Mr. Schindler, minister in obscurity or with a few others, but each of the people on God’s list for us is precious in the eyes of our eternal Savior Who has already paid the price for her and for him—as well as for us—on the cross.
Check your list.
They—we—need you today.
We need each other.
*http://www.auschwitz.dk/lamus.htm : this is a photo of the real Schindler’s list.
 Schindler’s List.Dir. Steven Spielberg. Perf. Liam Neeson, Ben Kingsley, and Ralph Finnes.Universal Pictures, 2004.DVD.