Dieter F. Uchtdorf recently shared a memory of his childhood in Germany during World War II. He was four years old at the time and recalls, “Massive firestorms, caused by thousands of tons of explosives, swept through Dresden, destroying more than 90 percent of the city and leaving little but rubble and ash in their wake.”
Of Dresden, which was once nicknamed “the jewel box”, Erich Kästner, a German author, wrote: “In a thousand years was her beauty built, in one night was it utterly destroyed.”
Mr. Uchtdorf states, “During my childhood I could not imagine how the destruction of a war our own people had started could ever be overcome. The world around us appeared totally hopeless and without any future.”
However, 70 years after the war, Dieter has gone back to the city of Dresden, and witnessed that it is, once again, a “Jewel Box” of a city. The ruins have been cleared. The city is restored, and even improved.
“The beautiful Lutheran church Frauenkirche, the Church of Our Lady, was originally built in the 1700s. The war reduced it to a pile of rubble. For many years it remained that way, until finally it was determined that the Frauenkirche would be rebuilt.”
The new Frauenkirche—reconstructed over seven years by architects using 3D computer technology to analyze old photographs and every piece of rubble that had been kept—was formally consecrated on 30 October 2005.
“Stones from the destroyed church had been stored, cataloged, and when possible, were used in the reconstruction. Today you can see these fire-blackened stones pockmarking the outer walls. These scars are a monument to hope—a magnificent symbol of man’s ability to create new life from ashes.”
Frauenkirche illustrates that no matter how ruined your life may seem; no matter how deep your bitterness, loneliness, or broken heart may be, all that is lost CAN BE RESTORED.
Are you without hope? Are you despairing; perhaps feeling betrayed? There is no life so shattered that it cannot be restored.
Erich Kästner said, “There is nothing good unless you do it.”
How do you rebuild? You start with a foundation of service to someone else. The love you show to another in service will be the bricks that one by one will rebuild your love of self.
Robert Herjavec, a “shark” on the TV show Shark Tank, learned that lesson when, despite his millionaire status, prestige, and blessed life, he lost the most important aspect of happiness – his partner. His wife divorced him, and Robert was devastated, even suicidal.
Herjavec reached out to his pastor John McAuley, who steered him to Seattle’s Union Gospel Mission, an innovative shelter that provides emergency care and long-term recovery services to the homeless.
The next day, a despondent Herjavec arrived in Seattle, made his way to the downtown shelter and was promptly put to work in the soup kitchen. “Nobody knew who I was,” he says. “People thought I was a recovering addict.”
The pain of his own life was soon eclipsed by the “suffering and hopelessness” of the desperate men and women he met in the shelter. Before long, Herjavec was heading out on late-night “search and rescue missions,” bringing food and other essentials to “this whole world of people living beneath underpasses and under trees, who aren’t well enough to make it into the shelter.” At one point, he bought out all of a local Walmart’s inventory of socks to hand out – “I think I’ve donated around 100,000 pairs,” he says.
“I always used to think that if you are compassionate, you are weak,” Herjavec says. “You see that on our show.”
After two and a half weeks, Herjavec left the streets of Seattle humbled.
“I was hollow and broken,” says Herjavec, who still volunteers at the Seattle shelter whenever he can and helps support it financially. “And these people saved my life.”
Love and service helped Robert Herjavec rebuild his tattered life. Love and service will help you as well.
You may keep the scars of whatever trauma you’ve been through – just as the Frauenkirsche has lasting scars of darkened bricks. Let those scars illustrate the strength you’ve gained, the beautiful monument your life has become, and the reminder that service to others is the only way to save your own life.