No Sparrow Unnoticed

No Sparrow Unnoticed

I was in Budapest two weeks ago. Travel generally transports one into the drama and glories of ages past, but I had a moving spiritual experience that only God could’ve orchestrated. On the blue Danube River that separates “Buda” from “Pest” – two cities, now one – there is a memorial to the Jews who died in the very last days of World War II.

Danube ShoesIt is called, Shoes On The Danube Bank.


Raoul Wallenberg




In July 1944, Raoul Wallenberg, of Schindler’s List fame, came to Budapest as Secretary of the Swedish Foreign Ministry with a plan to save as many Jews as possible. He created thousands of Swedish identity documents for the Jews, protecting them from Nazi deportation. He is credited with ultimately saving as many as 100,000 people.

Meanwhile, the Nazi Party had handed over their power to Hungarian fascists known as the Arrow Cross party. Hungary had initially sided with Germany. On the night of January 8, 1945, Arrow Cross militia marched thousands of Jews to the Danube in Budapest to be shot. The shoes—left behind—brought reality to the human genocide. Though it took place 70 years ago—the terror felt palpable. The shoes, now bronze replicas, are a permanent memorial. Our guides said 600,000 Hungarian Jews were killed in the last five months of the war. The Soviet Red Army would liberate the city only a few weeks after the Danube slaughter.

Memorial Plaque ShoesAt the memorial, I closed my eyes. Intense compassion stirred me down to my toes. Even now as I write this, my eyes are filling with tears.

Where were you God?

To my surprise, a scene unfolded on the screen of my mind: I saw the mass of Jewish people, young and old, male and female, trudging toward the river. Fascist solders flanked them on each side. The people had to know what was about to happen.

But so did God.

Angels vastly outnumbered the soldiers on each side and followed along with the death march. As the people neared the river’s edge, angels passed through the militia as if the soldiers were ghosts. One by one, angels took the arms of each man, woman, and child about to be executed. As the Jews were shot and cast into the river, the angels went under with them, but it was only a matter of seconds before the angels rose up with each person’s spirit. Then I heard the Lord say, “Let My people go!”

I caught my breath. Sometimes when I close my eyes and lift my heart to God, He shows me a glimpse of what He sees. The unseen is greater than the seen. One might easily dismiss such a thing as a daydream, or wishful thinking. But God will speak—now one way, now another—because man may not perceive it (Job 33:14). He would say the same thing in other ways to support what I saw in the vision, and that helps me separate my own thoughts from God’s. Confirmation came in several ways over the next few days.

UnknownLater, we came to a metal statue of a soldier with a flag, who is being honored with a laurel wreath by Victory – a winged female figure. (Click link for a better look). I don’t know if you can tell from my photo, but the angel is holding the wreath over the war weary soldier and helping him hold up a tattered flag. The nearness of the angel and her compassionate look at the man is touching. So often we think we’re alone in our struggles.

A few days later we toured the Fine Arts Museum in Vienna. I came upon painting after painting of martyrdom scenes—a terrible moment from an earthly point of view. But angels were present and waiting. One painting showed an angel holding a heavenly crown, ready to bestow on the martyr’s head.

the-martyrdom-of-st-stephen-1603.jpg!xlMediummartyrdom-of-saint-catherine-of-alexandria-1607.jpg!xlMediumAnd though I was surprised, I shouldn’t have been.  You don’t have to look far to find this theme in great world paintings. The martyrdom of Stephen and later St. Catherine, for example…


And Scripture undergirds everything God says in a fresh way.

Near the end of our trip, we came to Passau Germany. In this relatively small city, St. Stephen’s cathedral features a memorial of the stoning of Stephen. Acts 7 says this:

55 “But Stephen, full of the Holy Spirit, looked up to heaven and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God. 56 ‘Look,’ he said, ‘I see heaven open and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God.’ …59 While they were stoning him, Stephen prayed, ‘Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.’ 60 Then he fell on his knees and cried out, ‘Lord, do not hold this sin against them.’ When he had said this, he fell asleep.”

God used a vision, a statue, many paintings, and most importantly Scripture to convey the reality of His presence, especially for people in tragic and unjust situations. He sees every persecution, trial, suffering, captivity or martyrdom in advance. No sparrow falls unnoticed. God is there.

He is closer than our skin.


  1. What a powerful revelation of timely truth. Thanks Susan!

  2. God may be there, but it does not seem like it. The step into eternity, especially when in fear and terror makes it feel alone. Being a Jewish woman, I am sorry, but this makes me angry. My people died. In terror and fear. That could happen to me. Just because I am a Jew. WHY? WHY? WHY? I KNOW God is in my suffering, but the fear of Him not turning up or not being real even, haunts me. The fear is overwhelming. The hate of people hating others because of ANY reason, makes me tired. the question I ask,” why?” the answer, “because of sin, we are all fallen” is just not enough. But you know, actually I think God also on the cross, His cry was “WHY?” He too was abandoned, lost and lonely. And somehow writing that gives me comfort. God was abandoned. God was scared. God was lonely. And knowing that happened to Him, that He was not remote, makes Him more accessible. That He cries my tears, not just out of some remote place of non suffering, but of suffering and not knowing the outcome Himself. HE also had to trust BLINDLY that God the Papa would NOT abandon Him. His questioning makes me want to know Him. Because He feels how I feel.

    HE FEELS. EMOTIONALLY. He has not just read about it. He is not in some way detached from it. HE HAS DONE IT. And because He has done it, a small part of me feels maybe there is a chance He will be real, in my suffering.

    Sin like genocide just does not make sense. Suffering just does not make sense. WHY? Because that was not how it was meant to be.

    • Nicola… I am humbled by your words. I have never faced that level of terror in my life, and so on faith I have to take God at his Word that what is unseen is far far far greater than what is seen. And that as Paul said, that our present sufferings will seem like nothing compared to the weight of His glory. And YES, the terrible, terrible things that have happened in the world in ages past as well as present day are NOT how it was meant to be. Please forgive me if I offended you in any way. You are so real in writing about your honest feelings. Lv, Susan

  3. It’s so easy to forget the angel guards in the unseen realm working on our behalf. The truth of angels is the most uplifting (well, of course it would be since that’s their purpose) vision I can plant in my mind’s eye. Thank you for reminding me of the truth of them. If I could hold on to that for one whole day, what a day I would experience. At least your post has started me off on the right foot this day.
    suzee B