[This is a re-posting of a blog that I wrote for the Moore College Mission Blog]
I’m in something of a dilemma about how to write a mission update from MTC Leipzig. I don’t want to you to think that we’re having too much fun, after all, we’re on mission… But hey! We’re in Leipzig!!!! Some days I just ride around on my bicycle with a big sloppy grin at how awesome it is to be in a beautiful European city talking with people about Jesus. I’m probably going to end up plastered on the front of a tram. Oh yeah, the church have provided most of us with bicycles for our two weeks here. Most people get around Leipzig on bikes and the drivers are much nicer to cyclists than in Australia, but we’d value your prayers for safety.
I’m writing this from a cafe in the centre of Leipzig, just around the corner is the Thomaskirche where Johann Sebastian Bach was the music director. It’s a little surreal. Most of the team have been here since Thursday and we’ve officially been on mission since Friday. It’s already been a hectic programme.
The Leipzig English Church (LEC) is our partner church here in Leipzig. The LEC is an Anglican church that was planted here in 1995 by Pastor Martin, an Englishman to whom God has given the gifts and the passion for German mission. The church has grown since then predominantly reaching multinational couples (one German-speaking spouse) and English-speaking students. The evening service is largely students while the morning is families. I’d encourage you to visit their website if you’d like more to inform your prayers
Leipzig is an 800 year old city that grew as a trading point between Eastern and Western Europe. It has about 500,000 inhabitants, of whom about 40,000 are students. Leipzig was one of the chief cities in the formerly communist East Germany (GDR). At the end of 1989, after forty years of atheistic materialism, Leipzig was dirty, fearful, and spiritually destitute. Dirty: because the communists believed in mastery rather than stewardship of the environment the city was black with coal dust (it’s been beautifully repaired over the last 20 years). Fearful: fully 1% of the GDR population (170,000 out of 17 million people) were informal collaborators with the Stasi. This usually meant they were blackmailed into reporting on the activities of their colleagues, friends, and family members. No one knew who was watching and recording every thought and action and so people lived in perpetual fear and suspense. Watch the movie The Lives of Others if you want to get the feel of what it was like. Spiritually destitute: Christians were ‘free’ to continue to worship in East Germany, Churches continued to operate (this is unlike Communist Russia). However, the State-supported Lutheran Church was and is very liberal; the Free Churches tended to be taken over as centres for political resistance to the ruling party and so lost their real source of resistance in the Lordship of Jesus. Even more deadly, the ruling party tended to adopt and adapt the forms of christian community in service of State ideology. There were communist youth groups, communist naming ceremonies (infant baptism), communist confirmations. The whole communist system became a form of atheistic inversion of Christianity with the founding party members as apostles and Karl Marx as the anti-christ. It’s terrifying.
When you factor in that the 40 years of communism followed the evil Nazi regime which also used inverted forms of christian worship as vehicles for State propaganda, you can understand why people are wary of the real thing. Doesn’t it fill you with anger, that Satan could wound and sear the hearts of these people with vicious lies, with borrowed glory from the Messiah, with a form of godless godliness that has no power to save? And here we are a mere 70km from Wittenberg, the birthplace of the reformation. I can see the towers that mark the place where Luther and Johann von Eck debated for 23 days in 1519, and where Luther took his stand for the supremacy of God in salvation and the supremacy of the word of God over all human religion. Great christian heroes contended for the faith right here and Satan has waged unholy war against these people ever since. Lord Jesus, why do you tolerate such outrages against your name? Aaagh! Angry!
But still a remnant remains. The city of God remains entwined with the earthly city of Leipzig. Here are some of the places we’ve seen it so far:
Eating together: At the end of our first day here the LEC put on a fellowship meal to welcome the team, and again after both the services on Sunday. I love seeing Christians sitting down to break bread together. Best of all is hearing the stories of the believers here: a lady who marched in the protests that overthrew the communist regime in ’89; a guy whose Dad kept up the struggle to preach the gospel during the GDR time; so many people who have been led to genuine trust in Jesus through conversations and love shown by LEC folk. Jesus keeps stealing people’s hearts for himself!
Outreach: On Saturday we started with a Men’s breakfast, spent the middle of the day leafletting and running a book table in the city centre, and then went along to a Spring Ball in the evening. Everywhere we went there were opportunities for gospel conversations. A few of us went door-knocking in the university student residences. I was so encouraged to see local LEC people who were basically fearless in approaching and initiating conversations with students. So many people have invited friends to events. One girl told me she brought 15 friends to the Spring Ball. I spent 45mins talking with two self-identified atheists who I think walked in off the street!
On Sunday we took a part in the morning service of the LEC (Klaus preached, Jason shared his testimony); afternoon was team-meeting time; and then we helped to set up for the evening service. The evening service was done in a ‘cafe-style’, i.e., we all sat around tables rather than in rows of seats. David Höhne led us in a seminar about Faith and Reason. I shared a table with a group of teachers from the International School here in Leipzig. Three of these teachers teach a course called ‘theories of knowledge’ at the school. They were fascinated by David’s presentation. Two of them admitted that they couldn’t accept the claims of Christ but we had a fantastic discussion and I think David’s presentation helped to clear away a lot of the ‘defeater beliefs’ that had never been exposed to them before.
Today (Monday) most of the team are involved in a school visit, giving a basic english lesson and a presentation about Australia. It’s a good chance to build relationships at the school and to invite people to our kid’s club later in the week. I’ve got the morning off because my focus is Uni ministry which seems to involve staying up to the wee small hours, drinking German bier, and chatting with people. It’s a hard gig but someone had to do it. In 15mins I’m heading off to have some lunch at the Uni cafeteria with a group of students I met yesterday. We were up ’til 1am last night watching Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist and listening to music. I’m totally reliving my misspent youth. I think they’ve all been sleeping in this morning. Three of the 4 aren’t christians yet. Pray!
The Team: we’ve really been blessed with a diversity of gifts and a sense of unity and love for each other. David Höhne keeps reminding us of the grace of God which has brought us here, and which creates and preserves his church everywhere. Pray that we keep revelling in his grace. A few people have fallen ill at times in the past few days, and recovering from jet-lag has taken its toll. Please keep praying for our health and relationships with each other. Pray particularly for our hosts. German hospitality really puts Aussies to shame, these people have opened their houses for two weeks to us. Please pray that we will have sensitivity and be generous guests in return.
Most of all, pray that we can continue to confess with boldness and joy that:
He will come again in glory to judge the living and the dead
and his kingdom will have no end.
Satan’s days here are numbered.
[P.S. I’m regularly updating Twitter with prayer points and pics – you can follow through searching for the hash tag #mooremission]