Damaris Kalakos spent four of the first ten years of his life in a Nazi concentration camp in northern Greece. When the Nazis took over the rural village where Damaris lived, they herded all of the townspeople into a large cave. Then they sealed the cave’s entrance with barbed wire and stationed trigger-happy guards who specialized in brutality behind it.
The cave was over-crowded and lacked sanitary conditions. Privacy was non-existant; Damaris’ mother gave birth with the entire village watching. People behaved like starved animals when food in insufficient amounts was tossed over the fence. Use your imagination to envision the lessons young Damaris learned about life as he watched evil on both sides of the barbed wire.
Although Olivia Kalakos had a father, she never had a dad. There’s a difference between the two, she told me. Every milestone Olivia achieved in her life was observed without her father’s presence. Oh, he was alive; he just saw no reason to celebrate special events like his daughter’s graduation or her wedding.
Damaris Kalakos told his daughter that there was no such thing as love. “Love exists only in make-believe,” he said. As far as Damaris was concerned, life consisted of harshness and brutality, both verbal and physical. It was what he had observed and learned when he lived in the cave with people who became more like an animal than a human.
Because of her father’s callousness, Olivia grew up learning to expect nothing good because that way, she would never be disappointed. It was a safe way to live. That is, until she met a man from Nazareth who embodied nothing but love, the very thing she was taught did not exist, the very thing she craved.
The day finally came when Olivia’s father passed on, and she, her sister Sophia and their stepmother were summoned to an attorney’s office for the reading of Damaris’ will. When the attorney read “To both of my daughters, they will receive nothing,” Sophia burst into tears and loud sobs. Even their step-mother, who had only been married to their father for four weeks before his death, began crying at “the unfairness of the way Damaris treated his daughters.” Only Olivia remained composed, and she asked the attorney if she could use the ladies’ room.
Once inside, Olivia locked the door and prayed out loud, “Father, there isn’t anything my earthly father could give me that compares to what You have given me.” She took a deep breath and returned to the office.
Linda, the stepmother, was in a state of shock and told Olivia, Sophia and the attorney that what their father did was disrespectful. Still, the will was a legal document that contained Damaris’ final instructions. Some, however, would call his will ”the final slap from the grave.”
It took Olivia a long time to get her sister calmed down once they left the office. She advised Sophia to not be mad at their stepmother, that it was their father’s wish to hurt and disinherit them, not Linda’s. As for Olivia, she had already chosen to focus on God and not the final hurt that her father had intended for her.
Olivia told one of her co-workers about the contents of her father’s will, and every day for the next two years, the co-worker did her best to convince Olivia to sue her stepmother. And each day, Olivia told her co-worker that she was leaving all of the consequences of her father’s will up to God. The co-worker was certain that Olivia had a far better chance of getting something through a lawsuit than she did with God.
Olivia’s faith and focus on the One who loved her before she was even born never wavered. She knew she could trust God to take care of her.
Two years later, Olivia received a letter from her father’s attorney. Attached was a check that the lawyer said was Olivia’s inheritance from her father’s estate.
How could this be when Olivia’s father clearly stated in his will that Olivia and her sister were to receive nothing? You see, when Olivia let go of her hurt and gave the situation completely to the Lord, God worked on her stepmother’s heart and Linda found that she could not abide with Damaris’ cruelty toward his daughters. Linda put Damaris’ properties and business up for sale and cashed in his investments as they matured. Once everything was liquidated, Linda made certain that both Olivia and Sophia received a share of their father’s estate.
God provided to Olivia and Sophia what their earthly father would not. Because Olivia realized who had caused the hurt and advised Sophia to be kind to Linda, the three women never had words or hard feelings between each other.
I asked Olivia what scripture she thought would be appropriate to include with her story. She knew immediately that it should be John 15:5. “I am the vine; you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.” (NIV 1984)
Damaris Kalakos couldn’t have been more wrong; there is love in this world. Perhaps the reason he never knew love was that he never looked beyond the cave where he spent his youth.
What is keeping you from knowing, from living in God’s love?
TO GOD BE THE GLORY
Cynthia Howerter © 2012