I’ve just returned from a memorable three days in Germany. The original intention was to safely deliver Bronwyn, our 17yr old daughter to the Nuremberg YWAM base for her Discipleship Training School (DTS), which took place without a hitch thankfully. I couldn’t get an immediate return flight at a decent cost, so ended up having 2 days to spare.. what to do?
While much of what I saw and experienced is still soaking in, and most of my photos are already on facebook, I’d like to document some of what the Lord impressed upon me during a whirlwind tour of this amazingly beautiful, and historically rich part of Europe.
Germany has been for me, a certain molded stereotype. I suppose it’s from WWII, and the limited understanding through Hollywood and various documentaries. When I was about to leave, even my 9yr old son Noah was worried about my trip exclaiming, “You are going to Germany?! Are they still bad?’ – Noah plays too many video games. The mold was to be broken as I interacted with both history, the kind and polite people (I got lost many times).
What immediately impressed upon me was how affluent Germany is. In many ways, it’s more advanced and impressive than anything you’d see in the US. Incredibly smooth roads, even in the many very old towns. Everything seemed to be automated as well, which threw me for a loop as I attempted to figure out even the bathrooms. You don’t have to pay for your gas before you pump (trusting!), and there are few if any speed limits on the major highways. They expect you to self – govern, go figure! There’s a certain respect (for laws and humanity) and freedom in place that surprised me. I realize this is still relatively new, and the brutal history of the past war is still eerily present in many unspoken memorials and museums. Speaking no German, my charade skills were seriously put to the test. Fortunately some Russian helped in a pinch, though confused the poor hearers as this American, lost in a small German village switched to Russian for directions.
I had rented a hatchback, 5-speed, economic little car and I intended to redeem the extra few days. Redeemed and then some! It was an incredible 48hrs, traveling back in time to interact with history that has shaped my own personal faith and the faith of millions. I put +1500km on that little engine in 2 days!
First I traveled to Wittenberg, about 5hrs north of Nuremberg. Huge accident on a major highway forced all of us through Rural Germany – I was happy to see it! Did I mention how fast Germans drive? It felt like a Rally Car event through the countryside – I found myself yelling “Whooo Hooo!” like the guys from Top Gear. Driving was again fun!
Arriving just before sunset, I was astonished at how well preserved it was. The Castle Church, where Luther, on October 31, 1517 nailed his 95 thesis after being declared a heretic for his infamous challenges to then corrupted ‘Church’. His lesser known but brilliant companion Melanchthon, their homes, studies – preserved. I could have spent several days here, but I had to keep moving.
I had a lovely dinner outside on a Cafe patio, with a view of the famous church. The Germans have really fresh, but tasty food with a wide variety of cuisines available. I was among 100 or so tourist, most of the elderly variety. An Italian gentleman with his wife was as wide eyed at the surroundings as I – and asked me to take their picture. Everyone there, if they were a tourist, was there to pay homage to men of faith, and the God that emboldened them forward. This leaves an interesting feeling of unity and harmony among everyone in the town – folks from every culture congregating to witness where such doctrines like the “Priesthood of the Believer’ and “Salvation by faith alone” re-emerged in the Gospel.
These were men that swam upstream, and lived in continual threat, outcast and knew mostly difficulty. They were thrust forward by something greater than the promises of temporary happiness on earth – conscience. They possessed a ‘faith convinced’, an inward passion to do right, no matter what and entrust to God the results.
I reluctantly left Wittenberg, wishing for only another few days and my wife to somehow teleport to me to enjoy it together. I had another historical and inspiring place to visit! 5hrs to the East, nestled by the Czech border and Poland was a small, unassuming community called, Herrhut, where the Moravian church began, and my personal hero of the faith, Count Nicholas Ludwig von Zinzendorf lived and led.
You can learn more about the Moravian missions movement, and this inspiring history here if you are interested! This dude blazed a trail, and was so humble going about it.
I was still basking in the experience of Wittenberg, so visiting this place on the very next day was a bit overwhelming. What century was I in again? 1700’s, ok so about 200 years ahead. The reformation was still in effect happening, it caused all sorts of heartache for families, division, and much persecution towards those ‘breaking away’ from the established church.
My heart was stirring with the importance of obeying and trusting God. I was able to visit a museum, the original church (re-built interior due to the Soviets pushing back the retreating Germans, the entire town was scorched). The graveyard was probably my most favorite part of my visit to Herrnhut.
I’ve always felt drawn to cemeteries. I still visit them here in Ukraine (my wife probably wonders where I am sometimes!) I don’t think this is a morbid thing. I think that death, and even those lives now completed on earth, speak to us. Death is the most sobering and unifying thing of our existence. We will all die. Yet, we are now, at present, alive. The deepest questions seem to be allowed to surface when you allow yourself elongated moments pondering the real questions of life. My faith and corresponding theology is put to the test each time I walk around and consider the brevity and meaning of life.
I think as a culture today, we avoid death like the plague, but we shouldn’t. We are, I think, required to think upon death and allow our faith to rise up to its awkward and ugly face. A solid theology, one based on the life and resurrection of Jesus will have no problem removing deaths sting, so that each one of us can smile at it and even embrace it when it comes. This is nonsense to the one who constantly avoids deaths reality and refuses to stare intently at it. In short, what do we really believe? Where does our hope truly lie?
The sweeping views of the Moravian cemetery, complete with 1000 or so identical gravestones of the believers from that first 100 pioneering years, is, well, moving. These men, women and children were part of a missional movement that led to over 100 missionaries being sent from their tiny village in the first 25yrs, and +1000 missionaries over the next 75. Literally the four corners of the earth were felt by the spiritual awakening that took place in the hearts of the believers in this town. It’s called “God’s Acre’, and I believe it is.
I dropped off Bronwyn, my own little history maker! She’s with a crew of 70 or so similarly aged, passionate creative types. She is however sharing a room with about 10 other girls and a bathroom with 30! She will be sharing in some suffering 🙂 I’m so proud of her, and know this is going to be an incredible opportunity to meet with God regularly and grow in Him and build some lasting friendships.
On the way home to Ukraine, I wrote down some questions that were immediately present in my mind. I’m still mulling them over, but they are fresh and I wish to document them. They center around the lives and work of those who inspire like Luther, Zinzendorf, Bonhoeffer (highly recommend this book http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/7501962-bonhoeffer) , I finished it on audio while driving around Germany, adding to the historical effect.
- Be God’s, not mans.
- Life will go on without us, leave breadcrumbs for the next generation.
- “Preach the Gospel, die and be forgotten” Count Zinzendorf
- Will God smile at my grave?
- Persecution, Resistance, Misunderstanding – will by nature accompany any real work for the Kingdom.
- Focus on sweeping, grand, revolutionary change – not nit picky small stuff.
- Prayer, Faith, God’s Word, the Holy Spirit – we have all we need.
- Be the Worlds. Incarnate Christ.
- Christianity conceals within itself a germ hostile to the church – morality and religion. Through pride, they attempt to circumvent God’s Way through faith alone in Christ by attaining God some other way(s).
- “Where the people of God pray, there is the Church” – Bonhoeffer
- We must critique the church in order to keep it from dead forms. Reformation is like Repentance is not only an event – it’s a dynamic, fluid call to form into His image.
- “Flee to His wounds and you will be safe!” Erasmus
Perhaps some random quotes above, but we all desire to live a life worth living don’t we? We can all confidently look into deaths abyss and be free from fear in Christ. These men lived for eternity, they set their hearts on passing THROUGH death into reality. I look forward to meeting them, but not yet!
There’s work to do for our King. Be encouraged friends. You are not alone, He is with you – lean into His arms, surrender and be filled with hope in believing. I really enjoyed my 2 day journey in Germany. I already miss my little girl. Life is a gift.
Bruce & Deborah