Cheerful Givers Wanted

Stories of Grace

Out of the Ruins

In 1943, the city of Berlin, Germany, was being bombed by the Allies almost every day making it an extremely unsafe place to live. Because of this great danger, the Panaczek family moved from there to another area of Germany. Two years later they were forced to return to Berlin by the occupying Russian authorities. After the war, the city was divided into four sectors and the Panaczek family found themselves living in the English sector.

Berlin had endured a tremendous amount of destruction, and literally lay in ruins. To small children, playing in the ruins seemed like a great adventure. Searching through bits and pieces of the lives of people who had lived in the city before the war was a regular thing to do. Setting up stones and blocks to create little houses and forts was a great activity for children who had few playtime options. It also helped break the daily monotony of scrambling for enough food to survive.

Life in post war Germany was very difficult, and even more so when the daily playing of children among the ruins took a tragic turn. Unexploded bombs and other types of explosive devices could be easily disturbed with disastrous consequences. The children would sometimes hear an explosion, see the smoke, and be aware that some of the kids in their neighborhood might not be going home that night. Such was life living in the ruins for Frank Panaczek.

In 1952, Frank’s mother and his step-father started a great adventure and emigrated to the United States of America, but they were forced to leave Frank with his grandparents in Germany until further arrangements could be worked out. It was not until 1955 that the rest of the family was sponsored to come to the states and join them in Wisconsin. This amazing opportunity allowed a fifteen year old boy to realize the dream he had longed for. He now had the chance to escape post war Europe for America, and he was determined to make the best of it. Although he had left the physical ruins of Germany behind, he would soon discover that there were ruins of a different nature in his life that needed to be addressed.

In the next few years, he worked his way through school and life until he was drafted into the US Army in 1961. He was not yet a citizen but was eager and willing to serve the country that had been so good to him and his family. He was assigned to a unit in Germany, where he worked as a translator for the Army, and later was stationed at Ft. Benning, Georgia.

It was there that he met his beloved wife, Paula, at a church sponsored roller skating event. She got his full attention that night and that hasn’t changed after all these years together. She invited him to come to church with her and he willingly agreed as she helped him get started on a needed spiritual journey. By 1965, he had trusted Jesus Christ as his personal Savior and his heart, formerly ruins, was changed.

Frank went from the ruins of Berlin and the ruins of a sinful heart, to freedom in Jesus Christ, forever. He was free from Nazi tyranny, from poverty, from a perverse tongue and a rough life. He remembers well the great desire to find the freedom that America had to offer him and the forgiveness and freedom he found as a part of the family of God.

Isn’t God’s grace a wonderful thing?!

So if the Son sets you free, you are truly free. - John 8:36

Roger Allen Cook

I love to write stories about God’s grace. If you have a story I should consider, please contact me at: Roger.Cook@SouthsideFamily.com.