Faithfulness to God in tithes and offerings has always been the hallmark of our family. I learned the lesson early.
As World War II was coming to an end in March of 1945 my father, who was a medic in the German army, was captured by advancing Russian troops and spent the next four and a half years in a Russian prison camp. My mother and we four children, ranging in age from 3 to 11, went on welfare. Food was scarce, and money was almost worthless. Yet mother was very particular about tithes and offerings. From the meager sustenance we received from the city, my mother selected the best-looking bills and shiniest coins to give as tithe and a love offering to God. This was an outward expression of an inner grace—love for her God.
Early in May 1945 the war ended, and people had little to eat. Food could be obtained only with ration cards. But my family had some potatoes stored in the community basement of the building where we were living. Mother had calculated that they would last us until the fall harvest. By May, however, she noticed that our potatoes were disappearing. Somebody was stealing them. We no longer had enough to last us until fall.
About a week later I heard about a local German farmer who had fled the advancing Russian army. The previous fall, according to the usual practice, the farmer had stored his potatoes in the ground out in his field. Now he had left those potatoes free for the taking. The day we heard the good news was a warm, sunny, late Wednesday afternoon. My mother made quick plans to get an early start the next day.
Thursday dawned cold, sleety, and rainy, but mother and I took our little hand wagon and made our way to the field. About halfway there, Mother saw that I was very cold and sent me home. She was less than five feet tall and not very strong, but she gathered as many potatoes as she could pull through the rain and the mud in that little wagon. Friday was still chilly and rainy, but Mother and a younger, stronger woman went together and brought back more potatoes. During those two cold, rainy days, nobody else picked potatoes in that field.
Sabbath dawned warm and bright—a gorgeous day. We went to church. And on that day Mother prayed, “Lord, why did You send rain, sleet and miserable cold weather while we gathered potatoes out in the field? You knew, Lord, that we needed those potatoes. We could have gathered more if the weather had been pleasant. Tomorrow, if the sun shines, I will go again!”
Sunday was another beautiful day. Mother and I returned to the field and began gathering potatoes. A Russian soldier suddenly appeared and accused her of stealing the Russian soldiers’ potatoes. Apparently the field had been confiscated by the occupying army. Mother insisted that we had understood the potatoes were unclaimed, but the soldier quickly left to bring the commandant to arrest her. Fearing Mother might be locked up for several weeks or months, we immediately started home without any potatoes.
Soon the commandant and soldier roared up behind us on a motorcycle with a sidecar. They slowed down without stopping, drove a few yards past us, turned around and came toward us, slowed down, looked at us, and then drove off.
The measure of God’s providence became clear to us as we hurried home. Now we understood the blessing of that miserable Thursday and Friday. The bad weather had kept everyone—even the Russian soldiers—away just long enough for her to get some much-needed food.
“Thank You, Lord,” we said, “for that sleet, rain, and miserable weather on Thursday and Friday!”
“I have been young, and now am old; yet have I not seen the righteous forsaken, nor his seed begging bread” (Psalm 37:25).
By Christof W. Kober
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