Tuesday, May 2, 2006

Ich liebe Deutschland!

Every three months I have to leave the country to renew my visa, and I was blessed to find an inexpensive plane ticket to the great city of Berlin to visit my friend Dorothee. The five days I spent there were sort of bittersweet: I remembered how much I like Germany and its culture, which made it sort of difficult to leave and go back to Turkey. It was cool, too, that though I could scarcely remember a word of German, a lot of it started coming back to my mind while I was there. I'm starting to wonder--and even wish--that I might have a future living in Germany. And please do not scold me for not eating the traditional foods that I love:
Knödl, Sauerbraten, Rouladen, or Spätzle. I was on a budget and hanging out with three near-vegetarians! Sadly, I didn't even get to enjoy a Masskrug (one-liter mug of beer) at all, either. Bummer.

"Whoever wants the world to remain as she is, does not want her to remain."

On Saturday we went to the concentration camp at Sachsenhausen. The 45-degree, windy, and rainy weather was appropriate. Though I had once before been to the camp at Buchenwald, it was still rather surreal to think that the grounds upon which we walked were not long ago a place of unspeakable atrocities: beatings, starvation, arbitrary murders, forced 25-mile treks for the sake of testing army boots, days spent standing in subzero temperatures with but a thin shirt on, and being hung from a pole so that the shoulders are dislocated.

But the scary thing that struck me was that these crimes weren't devised or carried out by monsters or animals.
They were done by humans just like you and me. "The heart is deceitful above all things and desperately sick; who can understand it?" (Jer. 17:9). It's easy to pass these things off and comment, "Who could ever do such a thing?" Yet was it any different with the vile death of our Lord Jesus? Whose sin was it that forced him to endure the lashes and being shamefully stripped and hung upon a tree? The desires that lied within the hearts of the National Socialists are yet in ours. We want to pass the blame. We put up defense mechanisms to defer complicity and make ourselves feel better about ourselves. We want to find meaning and value in ourselves and who we are--for some it's nation and race, for others it's intellect or beauty or academic/job recognition--rather than in being servants of God Most High. We wish to say along with Nietzsche, "God is dead," and we run from the light into the darkness.*

Sunday night was
Walpurgisnacht, known as the night when witches are free to rome the earth and gather at the Harz mountains in Germany to convene with the devil. It's one of the main holidays in Scandinavia and central Europe (and mentioned twice in Johann von Goethe's remarkable Faust). In addition to being a night of pranks similar to Halloween, it's also marked by shadowy happenings of occult practices and sexual revelry. Mostly, people gather to drink in a sort of bohemian, festival-type atmosphere, but in years past things have turned violent, with fights, fires, and rioting. We joined some other Christians from Berlin at one of the parks where this night was being celebrated, to pray for the safety of people and police and for the breaking of evil spiritual forces at work that night. The four hours we spent in the park were a rather tense time, but it was amazing to see how God and his angels worked for peace. The newspapers reported that this was the most peaceful Walpurgisnacht in Berlin to date.

Back in the fall, my friends (more like family) Lee and Joella discovered
Gemeinde Neues Leben (New Life Fellowship) tucked inside a much larger, old church building in Berlin. Ever since they told me of this tiny but faithful community, I've been praying for them. What a blessing it was to actually be there and visit the church! The pastor was nearly in tears that I was there and that I had been praying for them. And in fact, with Doro and my presence, that made five visitors--exactly what they'd been praying for all week! I was asked to share about my life and work in Istanbul, and then several people gathered to pray for Doro, for me, and for our team.
"What is the Confessing Church?" - Nazi pamphlet

Berlin is not only World Cup-crazy; it is also the city with the largest Turkish population outside of Turkey itself. Germany is home to some four million Turks, and when I was in Berlin's Wedding and Kreuzberg districts, their presence was notably felt. Please take a moment to ask of God that his people in Berlin would have both desire and discernment in reaching out to their neighbors.
*Consequently, I think we need more books like Golding's
Lord of the Flies, O'Connor's A Good Man is Hard to Find, and Wilde's The Picture of Dorian Gray. So few books are willing to deal strictly with either the reality of Satan or the evil within our own hearts that can only be cured by Jesus Christ.

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