People are fascinating, aren't they? Every one unique, and every one with a life story all their own. But few can claim a more interesting story than Elly Mark's account of God's hand on her life over the years. Born on Christmas day, 1922, this dear Sanctuary member and friend, died this past week and passed quietly into the presence of her Savior on Good Friday. Born on Christmas day, with the Lord on Good Friday. Today, she is happy to be finally Home.
Some years back I sat with Elly at her place across the street at Carmel Manor, and we reminisced on some of the many ways in which she could look back and see God's hand of care. Always with a smile and a great sense of humor, Elly told how she had learned through adversity of God's providential handwriting in her life. Though some of you know bits of Elly's remarkable story, now with her passing, I thought it worth sharing a little of what I've learned as a tribute to her and as a testimony to God's faithful care.
Elly grew up not far from Stuttgart, Germany in the years leading up to WWII. Even as a young girl she distinguished herself as a gifted athlete and honors student, and so was selected at the age of 14 to be one of 60 taken from their homes and sent to a training camp for Hitler's elite youth corp. She had no choice. The call was sent out, and she had to go.
At the camp Elly and the other girls were subjected to intense physical and academic disciplines, furbishing the camp itself and providing for their own care as well. Several months along, scarlet fever broke out in the camp, and isolated from doctors and without antibiotics, Elly and the other girls barely survived. The camp was disbanded, and Elly returned home, but the fever left her with an infection that crippled her so that she could no longer walk.
With all able-bodied doctors at the war's front, it then took a remarkable series of providential events that enabled Elly's father to find a retired orthopedic surgeon who knew how to treat her disabled condition. But that treatment would require a body cast for Elly- something she would endure for the next five years, all the time wondering if she would ever walk again.
The war also brought bombing raids to Elly's third floor home. Every time the sirens wailed, a handful of soldiers would run up the stairs and carry body-casted Elly down on a sheet of plywood to the home's basement shelter, returning her to her room when the raid had passed. It was nearly at the war's end when, during an air raid, Elly was able enough to make it on crutches down to the bomb shelter next door, only to emerge after the raid to find her family's home nothing but a pile of rubble. God had again spared Elly's life, and even through this tragedy, Elly could see His kind hand of protective care.
In the post-war years Elly quickly learned English and had the opportunity to work for an
American family on assignment in Germany. One opportunity led to another and she ended up working in the office of an Air Force Commander who was doing film documentary work on the rebuilding of post-war Germany. Little did she know then that one day in the future she would "run into" that American officer again, this time on a sidewalk in San Francisco, and "Woody" would eventually ask her to be his wife. (I wish space here allowed to tell about how she had saved her money to fly from Germany to come to San Francisco, how her contact here then never showed up, but how she was then taken in by a kindly priest who gave her work at a Catholic thrift store, and then to her surprising meeting with Woody...) Yes, Elly's is a fascinating story.
Today, Elly is with the Lord. Her story is now being written in the eons of eternity. But what God wrote through her life here is great testimony to His hand of faithful care. I thank God for the delight of knowing this gracious and spunky lady, and I look forward to a great reunion with her in the Lord's presence not far ahead. How good to know that our great God is the Master Storywriter in every one of our lives. Elly's life story reminds us that we can trust Him with the story He is writing in each of our lives as well.