A Reluctant Charismatic in Bavaria

Why was I reluctant to become a Charismatic? I was already a Christian. I had been a believer since about 1981, though I had done some regrettable flirtation with the „historical-critical school“ of Bible scholarship in late undergraduate and early graduate school. The details of the story are extensive and had their turning point in of all place Flensburg on the German-Danish border in spring 1995. The short version is that I had been raised Baptist and taught a strict „cessationist“ theology of miracles. While on graduate school exchange program in 1994-95, I fell in with a lively and international group of Charismatics and Pentecostals in Kiel, Germany. They did not buy into „cessationism“, not one iota. I found this confusing and at time even troubling. Our disagreement on this point of faith led to some…tense… discussions. Nevertheless, it was with some members of this group that I attended a „Lobpreis- und Gebetskonferenz“/ „Praise and Worship Conference“ in Flensburg that spring. During worship time on… a Friday evening, if memory serves, people around me, including my friends, started speaking in tongues and I was freaked right out. When my friend Torsten asked me what I thought of the service so far, I said „Dies ist ein heidnischer Ekstasekult mit christlicher Oberfläche. Ich bin hier weg!“/ „This is a heathen ecstasy cult with a Christian veneer. I’m outta here!“

Only I wasn’t. At the base of the stairs, on the way out of the building, the Holy Spirit spoke to me, audibly, as HE had only one other occasion prior to that night.

„Turn around right now. These are my people and I am not letting them be deceived.“

I felt a powerful wave of conviction, turned around, went back to my seat beside Torsten, and sat there in something of a baffled state for the rest of the night. The conversation on the way home I do not recall in word-for-word detail, but I do recall that I told everyone in the car what the Holy Spirit had told me when I set out to leave the building and that I was in the uncomfortable position of needing to revise my entire understanding of the supernatural gifts of the Holy Spirit- real 1st Corinthians 12 and 14 stuff.

Twenty years later…at an international Christian gathering called the MEHR, organized and hosted by the Gebetshaus Augsburg (Augsburg House of Prayer), I was ministering as a translator, having come all the way from Texas just to translate for them.

The blonde-haired blue-eyed woman sitting next to me in the simultaneous interpreter’s booth looked genuinely startled at what I had just told her in the break. The LCD computer monitors showing the stage allowed us to watch the worship band from the Gebetshaus Augsburg and the accompanying lightshow (it was dazzling). There was no need to interpret during worship, and so we had time to converse. Her name was Susie, she was from the north of Germany. She told me something of her life story while we were waiting on the next speaker to start and listening to the worship band play: She had moved to England after her time as a missionary in Asian, specifically Tibet, and had gotten married to a Bolivian man she had met through her church. We had both taken our headsets off and set them down on the table next to the control box for our audio feed.

“Do you really mean that? I’ve never heard an American say that before!”

So, I repeated what I had said (auf perfektes Deutsch selbstverständlich): “God loves your people and His history with you did not end with the rise of Hitler and the monstrous evils of the Nazi regime. The Lord wants to restore you, to heal you, to use you to bless other nations. Like with all peoples of the Earth.” 

I’d said variations of this to other Germans I had met and worked with over the years, and there had been many. I was by education one of a dying breed called “Germanic Philologists”- survivors of teenage Tolkien poisoning who had gotten fascinated with Old Dead Germanic Languages and not gotten the memo that the job market for that academic profession had died about 1985. But Susie, the fellow interpreter at the MEHR 2015 Conference in Augsburg, Germany, she had never heard my prepared remarks before. Don’t mistake “prepared” for insincerity, friend. I prepared these remarks about my love and God’s love for the German-speaking peoples of Europe precisely out of a sincere love.

“You mean, you, an American, you see something to love in us, Germans? What?”

I held up my hand and began to count off on my fingers. “Bach, Beethoven, Schumann, Schubert, Mendelssohn, Goethe, Schiller, Klopstock, Heine, Storm, Fontane, Mann, Doppler, Herz, Mach- can I name a few more Germans whose names have become units of measure in the physical sciences? Like Fahrenheit, perhaps? There’s a lot you can and should be proud of in your history.”

 The clear expression of incredulity on her face only grew clearer. “And you think these all matter in spite of the Holocaust?”

“The Holocaust is not the totality of your history. For a long time, being a Jew in Europe meant being German- well, you know, the 200 plus different states that became what is now Germany. There were periods of persecution long before the Nazis but there were also long periods where ethnic Germans and ethnic Jews lived in a peaceful sort of symbiosis. Where did the first pogrom in Western Europe take place and when?”

“In the First Crusade, here. In the Rhineland.”

“Nope. Spain. In 1066 in Granada. It was instigated by Muslims. 1,500 Jewish families were wiped out over night practically. And who stopped the Crusade pogroms in 1096? The U.N.?”

 She smiled. “Germans stopped Germans from killing Jews, I know. But it should not have happened in the first place.”

“No, it shouldn’t have. But time and again when waves of anti-Jewish violence broke out in German-speaking lands the Middle Ages or the Renaissance, it was Germans that started them and it was other Germans that stopped them.”

Susie shook her head. “To me, this is incredible. I’ve never heard anyone talk about us like that, about Germans like you do.”

“No one?”

“Well, no. Sure, I’ve heard Americans thank us for our part in the Cold War, but there’s always the Nazi ghost in the background. We’re always just one question away from ‘What did your grandparents do during the War?’ ‘Oh, they gassed Jews at Auschwitz, of course.’”

“Or they tried to start a student revolt against their own government,” I added.

“It wasn’t enough. Not the military resistance, either.”

“They weren’t nothing. They didn’t come out of nowhere. They were more German than that shrieking Austrian maniac, for sure.”

She shook her head. “No, you don’t get the depth of this. We are taught that the Nazis are really who we are and who we want to be. We are taught to hate ourselves for being German, my generation.”

“But you had nothing to do with it, and God knows that. I don’t believe in collective guilt in perpetuity.”

“No, not guilt forever, but for how long?”, she asked. “Some people said after the war that Germans would bear the guilt of the Holocaust for a hundred years. And that sounds right to me. What else do we do with the guilt of our parents and grandparents?”

“Glaubst Du an die Kraft der stellvertretenden Buße?”, I asked. “Und glaubst Du, dass Gott einem ganzen Volk vergeben kann und will, wenn seine Heiligen um Vergebung beten und Buße tun?”

Which means, I asked essentially if she believed in the power of vicarious repentance and if she believed that God could and would forgive a people if the believers among them ask for forgiveness and repent.

“What do you mean, vicarious repentance?”

“The idea that a person who is right before God can intercede for the sins of his nation. Like the prophet Daniel. He wasn’t even born when the nation of Israel was conquered by the Babylonians in judgement for their sins, yet he comes before God and says ‘forgive us’ as if he had been part of it all. That’s our main ministry here, really, vicarious repentance.”

To be continued….

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Skipping Stones in Sankt Pölten (Part 1)

This past week was a bit of a departure from our normal schedule. We drove from Germany to Austria for the first time in years to attend the Antioch Network Council Meeting in Sankt Pölten, Austria. The Antioch Network is a ministry that grew out of a desire in a group of American missionaries and pastors to minister to missionaries who are in the field. The idea behind it is to provide spiritual, personal support for people with apostolic callings, callings as teachers or preachers serving abroad, in order to keep them spiritually and emotionally healthy. Healthy Christians serving the body around the world need this kind of support to prevent emotional and spiritual burn-out that can cause ministries – and ministers – to self-destruct.

The Long and the Short of It: Dominik McDermott and me (both representing Toward Jerusalem Council II) at the Antioch Network Meeting in Sankt Pölten, Austria, first week in June.

We´ve all heard the stories of missionaries who lost their zeal for the Lord and his house, their love for his Body, and came home embittered and defeated, right? Along with those who identified their pending burn-out in time to come home for sabbatical and regain their spiritual footing, seek appropriate Christian counseling abroad or in the States, or seek from the Lord (and often find) new direction in ministry. For most of the last two years we have faced worse financial struggles than ever before, as regular readers of our blog are aware. Finances have been the significant problem – still are, though we are grateful to those who have helped us in recent weeks (John, Charles, Mike, Nick, Leah, Tina, Tee) – there have also been other strains on our lives due to the financial lacks. Guilt feelings, stress, anxiety, struggles to remember that, “yes”, Jesus did promise that our heavenly father would meet our needs, but “no”, he did not promise any of this life would be free of difficulties. He said quite the opposite in fact: “In this world you will have trials”. Well, there are days when I cling to those verses from the sermon on the mount like a drowning man clutching a life buoy and days when I have been ready to throw in the towel.  I admitted to Susan some months ago that, for the first time since coming to Germany, I was ready to leave. Only we can´t. Cause we´re broke. And staying in a country because you cannot afford to leave? Not exactly a stunningly effective witness for the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

On the other hand, in the last year, we have been more involved in Toward Jerusalem Council II, in the ministries out of Koinonia, and in the Gebetshaus, than before. And Reasons to Believe commissioned me to write the German text for their website. Those are signs that the Lord is still using us here. They rather conflict with the other data that indicate that our time of ministering here as tent-maker missionaries may be coming to an end. This conflict is quite confusing, spiritually.

The Antioch Network Meeting was our first real chance to talk with other English-speaking Christian workers in the field about these matters. It was also a life-giving time of fellowship and teaching for Susan, Felicia and me. We even got to skip stones across the river Traisen in Sankt Pölten.

Susan, Felicia, some children from the Antioch Network, and a woman with two small dogs on the banks of the Traisen.

There’s more to tell, and I will tell it later.

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The Good Shepherd of Ezekiel 34

Photo by Gu00fcl Iu015fu0131k on Pexels.com

„The God of the Old Testament is so different from the Jesus of the New Testament.“

If you have ever talked to anyone about the Bible, Christianity, or the relationship between Judaism and Christianity, you´ve probably heard this assertion at least once in your life. In my own experience, the statement has been used to either a) argue, from the viewpoint of philosopical naturalism that the God of Judaism was more vengeful, therefore more primitive than the God of Christianity, therefore religions evolved from human thought (by implication) or b) from a triumphalist Christian viewpoint, that Christianity is a new revelation that supercedes the revelation of God seen in the Tanakh/Old Testament. There seems also to be a hint of an underlying attack on the doctrine of the Trinity in this attempt to drive a wedge between the Father and the Son, though that is harder to read. What these two ideas have in common is that they both depend on a facile reading of the texts of Jewish scriptures pre-Jesus. You see, not to go into the pre-incarnation appearances of Jesus in the Tanakh, but there are multiple instances in the Jewish scriptures that point quite directly to the continuity of character betrween the God the Father and God the Son.

In the last episode of The Chosen from its most recent season, the writers did a terrific job of showing this consonance in the echo of Psalm 77 that is inherent in the Matthew 14: 22-33 account of Jesus and Peter walking on the water. The episode is avaialble at angelstudios.com and if you have not watched it, you should. The sung version of the Psalm and the dramatization of Peter´s interaction with Jesus on the sea are both masterfully done.

Another parallel between the Father and Son, between „OT God“ and „NT God“ that has gotten my attention lately is the parallel between the LORD´s self-description in Ezekiel 34 and Jesus´s self-description in John 10. In the Ezekiel passages, God the Father rebukes the corrupt shepherds and promises that he himself will become the Shepherd of Israel, bind up the weak, sick and injured and will seek those who have strayed. And both passages are stark in their condemnation of the mortal shepherds who have failed in their God-given charge. In the John passage, Jesus rebukes the hirelings who flee when the sheep are attacked, pledging to lay down his life to save them unto eternal life, and to bring those outside of his sheep pens into the fold. Like Father, Like Son. The passages bear further study and analysis, which I encourage you to undertake and pray the Holy Spirit will guide.

Prayer for Israel in May

This year, two ministries we work with are joining in a call for one million or more intercessors to pray for Israel between the 7th and 28th of May. International Prayer Connect  (IPC for short) is praying both for the state of Israel, the Jewish people, and for peace, reconciliation, and salvation among the peoples and nations in the Middle East in that period. Toward Jerusalem Council II (TJCII for short) has joined with International House of Prayer in Kansas City in the Isaiah 62  call to fasting and prayer for the fulfilment of God´s promises to Israel and for protection of the Jewish people in the increasingly tense and hostile political environment in the Middle East. We will participate as will many with TJCII-Germany and the Gebetshaus in Augsburg. Please join us. There are prayer guides available on the linked sites for IPC and the Isaiah 62 fast.

Our Ongoing Ministry Here

Susan and I continue to be in the morning shift at the Gebetshaus Mondays through Thursdays and in the Israel Prayer on Friday afternoons. Felicia is a worship leader in Generation4Christ, and we are all involved in various activities with the Kononia Community. Recently Koinonia began a scouting group that also functions as child evangelism. We participate in it and are praying to see it grow.

The translations I wrote for the apologetics ministry Reasons to Believe, which were used to create RTB´s German website (sieht man hier), are done and my work for them is at a pause of sorts while they determine how to proceed further. Please pray for the impact of RTB´s international ministry here in German-speaking Europe but also in the Arab-speaking world, India, Russia, the U.S.A. and Canada.

I would also ask for your prayer for our financial situation, which is, frankly, awful. When we came to Augsburg in 2015, the plan was only to stay for two years to support the Wittenberg 2017 initiative and then return to Texas. We came here operating on the tent-maker model of missions, which meant my work as a translator funding all of our activities. After that time had passed, though, we sensed and had affirmed by the Holy Spirit in prayer that we were to stay. So we did. For the next two years after that, things went well, materially. The demand for my brand of „tents“ stayed high enough for us to make a living. Then the idiotic overreactions of world governments and their agencies to the COVID-19 wave wreaked an appalling amount of economic havoc…and I am not going to re-hash those events blow-by-blow, but the end result in 2023 is that some sectors have not yet recovered, and translation is one of them. It is now also being hit by AI, with DeepL and ChatGPT causing demand to remain depressed, at least if you translate one of the most-frequently translated languages, like, say…German.

So, we are looking for additional sources of work and would also appreciate, and need, to be honest, support through this site. If you have any referrals for translating, copy editing, copywriting, research or other tasks for a couple of academics and writers, we´d appreciate it if you could send them. In the mean time, please keep this need in your prayers.

Thank you for your support of our ministry in Germany.

Helping us out financially keeps the lights on and the bills paid, and right now, the need is, frankly, acute.


Karwoche 2023

Karwoche 2023

That would be the German word for „Easter Week“. The „Kar“ in „Karwoche“ does not mean “Easter” but instead “sorrowful, sad”. It certainly sets a somber and mournful tone for the week as we commemorate the trial, execution, burial and resurrection of Jesus. Appropriate sorrow for our falling short of the glory of God, pursuing our own pettiness, cruelties, depravities, greed, and malice instead of goodness, godliness and holiness, should guide our self-evaluations not just in this week, but in every week of our lives. Accompanying us in that sorrow should be, however, a grateful awareness of the courage, mercy, compassion and love Jesus showed toward us in that he died for our transgressions while we were yet enemies of God. A dual consciousness of our own evil and our God-granted redemption should be part of our everyday lives and in our approach to all natural evils, including death.

Here in Koinonia we began the week with a reminder of that duality. Eva B., one of the founding members of the community and one of the first to make us feel really welcome here, passed away on the 26th of March. Her funeral was Tuesday of this week and it was one of the most joyful and evangelistic funerals I have attended. Yet also tinged by the sadness of knowing that we will not see her again in this life. We have to live in this tension, knowing that eternal life is real yet continuing to live in the poisoned ruins of the mortal world, until our own call to deathless glory comes. Pain, sorrow, and death are realities we rightly mourn. Mourning in awareness of and harmony with reality in Jesus is what we are called to when we have to take our leave of beloved persons here. Christians who act in all ways as if physical death is the real end of a person forever or as if it means very nearly nothing are both in error. With the deaths of our fellow saints (and that is what Paul called every believer at the church in Corinth, not just members of some spiritual “best of the best” club) it seems best to think of our loss as parting with someone who has gone on a long journey, who I know I will (most likely) see again. I mean, Jesus himself wept at Lazarus´s death, knowing exactly what he was going to do about that death just minutes later, so what on makes us think that mourning is somehow wrong. Mourn, but not like the world mourns. Eva B.´s funeral was a beautiful example of that principle.

Pesach and Easter

The Pentecostal Church we attend, the Arche, has for several years now, held a Pesach (Passover) celebration on the Thursday of Holy Week. This year it coincided with the second of day of Pesach on the Hebrew calendar, which made the reminder of the Jewish origins of Christianity more immediately present in our minds, at least.

Sedertisch “Seder Table” with Menorah

That Christian churches in the last 60 years, particularly of the Pentecostal or Charismatic lines, now often hold such observances as a way of raising awareness of the Jewishness of Jesus and his first disciples, the ineluctably Jewish nature of our Christian faith, is remarkable given the long history of mutual animosity between and Christian persecution of Jews in Europe and to a much lesser extent, in the New World. That such celebrations are not uncommon in Germany borders on the astonishing. And thank God for this renewal in the Church and the changed mindset behind it.

The Saint John Passion by J.S. Bach

Friday night we had the beautiful experience of hearing Bach´s Saint John Passion performed by the Yara Ensemble in the Emmanuel Evangelical (i.e. Lutheran) Church in Diedorf. The pastor did the right and brave thing before the performance: He gave an evangelistic introduction to the work, emphasizing how the Crucifixion, the Atonement it affected, and the Resurrection truly are the core of the Christian message. No recordings were allowed, of course, but the Ensemble sung and played beautifully. The pastor also enjoined us not to applaud at the end in order that the weight of the message conveyed in Bach´s glorious, eternal music might have purchase in our souls. There is a great performance by the Netherlands Bach Society available on line, though, and you can hear it if you follow this link: https://youtu.be/zMf9XDQBAaI.

I quite recommend absolutely everything by the Netherlands Bach Society. Their conductors and director have undertaken to record everything Bach wrote, in a project called „All of Bach“ and all of it is extraordinarily gorgeous musically.

What we´ve been doing lately…

We continue to intercede in the Gebetshaus as part of the morning team (for us, 9-11) and to work with the Christian scouting group at Koinonia. I maintain the Toward Jerusalem Council II Germany Website and translate the German site for Reasons to Believe. This week also so a new project come in from International Prayer Connect and I will post the results when they are available.

Recent writing projects include:

This piece on Biblical Archeology, reporting on two presentations at the Discovery Institute´s recent conference.

Beyond Tragedy (Easter post for Salvo)

Last week I began a Substack to which your subscription would be very helpful. The first entry is about David Hume and Carl Sagan.

That is all for now. Thanks for your time!

Thank you for your support!

Please do support us through this blog if you can. Any donation you might give goes toward keeping the lights on and our work going here in Germany.


A Church made out of Blocks

It’s been a long time since we had blocks in our house. First there were the boxes of wooden Melissa and Doug blocks, and later Legos. My daughter and I packed up the last box of Legos at Christmas to pass them on to a young neighbor. I miss that time of building houses, airplanes and even once a strange looking pet-care salon made of mostly pink cubes. But never a church.

Our little church on the corner looks like it might be made of Legos right now. The beautiful „onion top“ dome has been removed and carefully set on the ground. The octagonal bell tower still chimes, even though it is wrapped in sheeting and surrounded by a wire grate. It still works of course, and no plaster falls on anyone’s head during services, but somehow it is not the same because all the pieces are not where they should be, and some are missing.

I thought about the onion top dome lying on the ground. When something is taken apart because it needs to be repaired, it is not the same as when it is destroyed by fire or broken. Yet the Gentile church is broken, at least to some extent on the inside, by her early separation from the Jewish church. Johannes Fichtenbauer describes it as one of the ways that the Enemy keeps the church from being who she should be:

„Since the One Church is the instrument of healing and restoration of humanity, a divided Church is massively handicapped to fulfill its ambassadorial purpose. The victory of Jesus on the cross is still valid, without the union of Jews and Gentiles, but in a way limited to the individual aspect of redemption“ (The Mystery of the Olive Tree, 29).

Just like our building has a limited ability to express its full beauty this Easter week, the church in her current separated state can’t yet imagine how much more beautifully she will be able to speak for the kingdom when Jew and Gentile are united.

Yet there is much that stands in our way, as Jews and Gentiles. As a pastor said this week: „We, the Gentiles, were not there in Egypt. We, the Gentiles, were not there at Auschwitz.“ And we must acknowledge that we are responsible for much of the painful history and some of the anti-semitic parts of our liturgy that even emerge, like ugly thorns, during this most holy of Passover weeks. It is difficult to know how to proceed.

In Germany it is still not uncommon to see portrayals of Synagoga and Ecclesia, the old allegorical figures for the Jewish and Gentile churches respectively. Shamefully, Synagoga is often depicted either blindfolded or as here, with a broken staff:

How often we have examined our churches from a lop-sided perspective that made the Jewish identity of Christ invisible. The history of how the first divisions in the church occurred can be traced back to the Council of Nicaea in 325 AD when Emperor Constantine asked all of his bishops to remove any Jewish elements from his churches. It was then that Passover was separated from the date of Easter. The separation of the church from synagogue was often so complete we could not see that they had once been one.

Our tiny Bavarian church is a jewel, and we look forward to seeing her again in her full beauty. But we should look forward even more to a future with our elder brother, Israel. We should look for ways to wonder about how our churches are put together. What blocks do we need to keep? Which ones are blocks that we no longer recognize? And, are there some foundations that make our church unstable?

The church is not made of blocks, of course, but out of the communion of the saints. We can rejoice that we will be there, whole and without blemish when He comes for his Bride, and both Gentile and Jew shall call out: „Let us rejoice and be glad and give the glory to Him, for the marriage of the Lamb has come and His bride has made herself ready“ (Rev. 19:7).

An old Vine

Today is an important day in the life of my grapevine: the sap begins to run and pours out in clear, sparkling drops onto the paving stones below. I had already started to trim a few of the dead winter branches away, and I love to run my finger over the cuts I have made and feel the sap running. It is a promise that there will be deep shade during July when we most need it, and further on, of dark fruit at summer’s end.

This is not my vine. I inherited it from another resident, and so I take my vine dressing responsibilities very seriously. To be truthful, it does not demand much. There are only two times of year when I must pay careful attention: now, and in late summer when fruit ripens because of the summer heat and I must harvest quickly.  Waiting for me to finish my work, a large grey song thrush comes then and settles herself deep in the leaves for a feast.

When Paul talks about the church, he refers to cutting off branches to bring more life. He says that we gentiles have to understand that we are like shoots, supported by another community that is much deeper and much more solid. Looking at my vine, I can see what he means. Branches near the stock have deep knots and stubs. They are covered by skin like brown paper that slips off in curls like hair. These branches learn well. They can be trained to grow straight across a roof or pergola. They form a framework that carries the heavy leaves and fruit.

Paul was referring to a community of Jesus-following Jewish believers who formed the robust branches of the early church at that time. They carried the writings of the prophets and the apostles. They strengthened the church, by keeping it from getting lop-sided. Some branches even bent themselves into Hebrew letters: a forked chof or a tzaddik jabbing in the air with one brown gnarled finger, but always giving life to the church. Over time, though, the church forgot about these old paper-covered branches and they became broken or were even cut off, since they seemed to go nowhere.

There was less and less fruit with each passing year. Or there was fruit, but it was bitter, or the grapes were very small.  And people did not think about the vine. They even forgot about the fruit, perhaps even threw it away.

When I stepped out on my patio this morning to see the splashes of sap, I was filled with hope. Not just hope for Spring, but hope that the deep reservoirs of memory, energy, and fruitfulness in our lives and in our communities will gush forth. Lent is the time to rejoice both in the creaking of dry wood, the dull thud of nails and the snapping of greenwood. It is a time to reflect on what carries us. Doubtless , I’ll do more trimming in the next week. I hope it will bring good fruit.

The Search for Wisdom

But where can wisdom be found?

And where is the place of understanding?

Man does not know its value,

Nor is it found in the land of the living.” (Job 28:12)

Photo by Oladimeji Ajegbile on Pexels.com

On an ordinary Wednesday morning, a young mother prayed for the German government with this passage on her heart. She said, “sometimes we just delved too deep in our own minds. We forgot that we cannot even draw the next breath without you, that in you is all wisdom. Please forgive us, comfort us, give us the fear of the Lord.”

There was a moment of silence and then everyone in the room stood to their feet. What everyone was thinking, but no one said, was “we need you, Lord. We need you to tell us what to do about the war.” It is the one-year anniversary of the war in the Ukraine.

To the commentators and to the wise of this world, the war looks inevitable, and it seems the best thing to do is pick the option that makes your government look good. For most, that means supporting the downtrodden against the powerful.  It also seems to be the Christian thing to do. But that is not what Job does. There was no one more downtrodden than Job. But he does not insist on his rights. Having lost everything, Job declares that sometimes, in the face of chaos not having the answer is the best option. How can this be?

According to all worldly measures the situation has become more stable. Even locally. In our house, all but three of our original refugees have left the countryside for the city. On the one hand this is a good thing, since it means that their residency and integration processes are going well, and that some are earning enough income to purchase more than a single room. On the other hand the war has moved to the background and most people seem resigned to continuing it. For refugees who can afford it a new life in Germany will begin. Those who can’t, will certainly suffer an even more prolonged uncertainty and bitterness.  

In 1961 many said similar things about the Berlin Wall. People who could leave did. And many years of uncertainty and suffering followed. Soviet occupation of half of Germany was just inevitable, and could not be opposed. It was the only way to avoid enveloping Europe once again in a military conflagration. But in 1989 the world looked very different because some people prayed over many years for reunification. They prayed in the face of a world political situation that made such an outcome look impossible. They prayed for the fear of the Lord, despite unbelievable injury to personal freedom, conscience and human dignity. They prayed specifically for the church in East Germany to be strengthened and to meet God face to face.

The situation back then is not unlike the situation right now in 2023: an impossible political situation, social upheaval and a church that seems to be both deaf and blind. At Gebetshaus Augsburg we pray regularly for revival in the Russian church. For her to have real encounters with Jesus, for her to know God as Father, and for the church to be a source of strength to the Russian people. Some object that praying for the church in this way ignores the complexity of history. But just the opposite is true. Prayer illuminates history. About two weeks ago, on a Friday afternoon a friend of mine from Lithuania talked about her experience of growing up in a small third country nation that had experienced a lot of aggression from world powers and from Russia in particular. She testified that when living in Lithuania, she swore she would never pray for Russia. It took coming to Germany for her to realize how short-sighted that really was.

My own challenge to pray for a nation I didn’t particularly like or find it easy to forgive was moving to Germany. Seven years ago, when we moved here, I could also have said that I would never pray for Germany, the land of Dachau and Buchenwald. I grew up going to a Quaker school with many Jewish teachers and students. But then I met a woman named Hanna Miley. Hanna was literally one of the last children on trains leaving Germany for London during the war, called “Kindertransports.” She grew up in Great Britain and had lived in America many years before she decided she needed to understand more deeply what had happened to her parents. Her book,  A Garland for Ashes (Outskirts Press Inc., 2013) is the story of how Jesus helped her forgive the people who murdered her parents and helped her begin to pray for the Christian church that sanctioned the persecution of the Jews.

That is the essence of revival: while for many it summons up the image of stadiums filled with worshippers as it has in Asbury, it is also about being emptied of the false belief that we can get to the truth of things, or of ourselves by our own understanding. The truth of all things is only found in Jesus, and it is only through him that we can begin to heal the wounds of the past.  Hanna closes her story by talking about how God brings life out of what is truly dead. While walking near an old mill where her parents were imprisoned, she happens on the stump of a  Sycamore that is putting out a new shoot.

For there is hope for a tree,

If it be cut down, that it will sprout again,

And that its shoots will not cease.

That is my prayer for the church in Russia, for the church in the U.S., and for the church in Germany. That we would know the one who brings life out of death. That instead of following our own judgements, we would follow the scent of the water of life and put out green leaves.

Post Written by Susan Martin

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Praying for your Enemies. For real. During a War.

I began writing this entry on the anniversary of the Russo-Urkainian War´s beginning. For some context: Over the last year, we have been regularly praying for both countries and providing what relief we could in both the Gebetshaus and Koinonia. With that in mind:

If you are a Generation Xer in the west, you grew up with a concept called Mutually Assured Destruction. This meant that we rested our geopolitical hopes for peace, or at least an absence of active, armed hostilities, on the proposition that the Soviet Union and the western nations (pre-eminently the U.S.A.) would be too fearful of the immediate annihilation from nuclear retaliation that would rain down on them should the opposing polity to initiate a direct military confrontation. While we didn´t live with the “duck and cover” drills that our parents (or older siblings in some cases) had lived with, we did live with the persistent sense that the world around us could vanish in nuclear fire at any moment if the wrong decisions were made by those in power. This fear was of course influenced our popular culture, higher literature and politics. The Soviet Union, that Evil Empire, was a constantly threatening, though distant, presence. Sure, there were useful idiots in the west who fell for the deception that there was a moral equivalence between the two political and economic systems. We even elected one as president in 1976. The overall tone of the culture at the time was then one that rejected the totalitarianism of the Soviet Union and rightly saw it as a threat to their lives and liberty. Did we Christians in the West pray for the Soviet peoples? Yes. Some of us even went their as missionaries, but that was rather a different set of conditions than those experience by people who lived near- or behind- the Soviet border.

Pray for Ukraine.
Pray also for Russia. Interesting. I could not find a photo of a Russian flag in the Pexels/Wordpress image library.

For those who grew up in the Soviet Union and were not members of the party or adherents to Dialectical Materialism, the threat to life and liberty was not distant. Tell the wrong joke, talk to the wrong western tourist who happened to be in a Soviet city, or (Lenin forbid!) practice any form of any religion not controlled from Moscow, and you were likely headed to prison. And daily life was often a misery simply because of the innate backwardness of socialist economics. In the 42 years since the collapse of the Soviet Union, I have occasionally lived in Europe, and here I have met a couple score people who lived in the USSR. Every single one of them has had some measure of bitterness and hatred reserved in the heart for the Russians who imposed the communist system upon them. So, when a woman who grew up and lived around half of her life under that system prays for the body of Christ in Russia, and in Ukraine, on the anniversary of Russia´s initiating its war of aggression against its neighbor, it gives one a powerful illustration of Matthew 5:44-45. Exactly that is what we saw in the Gebetshaus in Augsburg last Friday. It was kind of an awesome moment.

Photo by Wolfgang Krzemien on Pexels.com

It should also be regular, normal action for Christians. And times like now, with nations at each other´s throats, we pray that this war will stay contained, at least, not engulfing the whole continent.  We also pray that the Russo-Ukrainian War, essentially a fratricidal conflict, will end sooner rather than later.  Current developments in the conflict are not encouraging, and work toward reconciliation between the two peoples is going to take years, likely decades. Without intercession and the power of the Holy Spirit responding to us here, I don´t think for a minute that such efforts will be successful however long they continue. So please do take time to pray for Russia, Ukraine and for those in power.

As for what we are doing…

Koinonia continues to host a small group of Ukrainian refugees, mostly single women at this point. The two families who were here have found more spacious accommodations near by and are integrating into German society, last I heard, as well as they can. Recent surveys have shown about 1/3 of those war refugees who came here since last February are planning to stay. So, helping with integration will continue to be a need. Please continue to pray for Koinonia specifically in this ministry and for Germany as a whole. In the last seven years, the country has taken in approximately 2 million refugees from Eritrea, Syria and now Ukraine. To say that there has been some social tension proceeding from this political and humanitarian decision is to put a bright, shiny bit of litotes on the page.

In a sign of hopeful normalcy, Koinonia has also started a “Pfadfinder” (lit. „Pathfinder“) group- sort of European (and specifically Catholic) version of boy scouts/girl scouts. Susan and I are working with the troop. It´s been well-attended for the age groups up to 14, but is still in its beginning development. Our next meeting is this Thursday.

Felicia continues to lead worship with Generation4Christ regularly, and will be participating the state-level competition of “Jugend Musiziert” at the end of March. This means going to Passau, where we have never been before, so we are researching the location and the possible accommodations.

We continue also to be involved in the Gebetshaus, with our shifts Monday through Thursday mornings, and Friday prayer for Israel. We also continue to translate for and work with Toward Jerusalem Council II. Recently this has included supplying German subtitles for the One New Man documentary series that explores and explains the history of the ministry. I also continue writing for Salvo:

Materialist Origin Myths

And Susan continues translating for a regional ministry to women seeking aslyum. Their main clients are, not surprisingly, recently arrived refugees.

Finally, your prayers for my continued translation work for Reasons to Believe would be also appreciated. The next project may involve subtitling videos, and which videos those would be has yet to be determined.  Für Deutsch-Könnende ist die Internetpräsenz des Werks hier zu finden: https://de.reasons.org/. If you want to refresh your college German and learn something about apologetics, dann ist es genau für Dich! That´s all for now.

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Your support helps keep the lights on and enables us to continue in ministry here.


Reflections on the Chosen Season 3

German billboard for The Chosen. “You´ll see him when you´re dead. Or now. The Chosen. The series that changes everything, now on Bible TV.” Photograph taken right here in little ol´ Biburg, near Augsburg.

The Christian streaming series The Chosen has now completed its third season on streaming services, available now on The Chosen App, the Angel Studios website, on YouTube and now on Netflix as well. The series premiered its first two episodes for this season in national theatres back on Thanksgiving Weekend 2022, to great box office numbers. The numbers were so great in fact that the production company released the final two episodes theatrically as well. The series is reaching more people than ever in more languages than ever.  As an article in The Economist recently stated:

The show’s success is revealing. It attests to the popularity and profitability of Christian entertainment. It also highlights how film-makers of faith can circumvent Hollywood’s godless gatekeepers.

You can read the whole article here. And it is worth your time and deals with some elements of the series I don´t have space to touch on here. What I am going to touch on will be as spoiler-free as I can keep it while still making my intended points.

Real People, Real Problems, Incarnate God

As The Chosen continues, the familiar New Testament story further unfolds and is integrated with the historical fiction elements that deal with the lives of the disciples and their families. Part of the development of characters and plot that go beyond the biblical narrative is a necessary outgrowth of the form. Series television, even streaming series that produce only eight episodes per season, needs to draw viewers back to the screen every week in order to keep going financially. Though The Chosen does not depend on advertising and subscription revenue the way that broadcast, then cable, now streaming services do, being financed instead by crowdfunding and charitable donations, it still needs to keep those donors interested and invested in the story. Otherwise, they don´t come back and they don´t keep funding the series. Consequently, we have plots involving the family lives and personal struggles of the disciples, the incidental characters and the antagonists of the narrative. All of these are needed to keep the overarching story of The Chosen going. There´s also the fact that most viewers, even in an increasingly biblically-illiterate West, know the general contours of the Jesus story. The drama must come from elsewhere. Will Thomas and Ramah finally get married or are they headed for heartbreak? Will Matthew reconcile with his alienated parents? And what happened with Eden while Simon was away from home on a first-century mission trip? All of these and more sub-plots are developed and addressed in this season. Some viewers have taken umbrage at the non-biblical material being inserted into the story, but frankly, that sort of complaint seems unmerited. Have the people raising this issue read any Jeff Shaara? Larry McMurty? Brock and Boedie Thoene, perhaps? Historical fiction, even Bible-based historical fiction will necessarily have characters and plot elements that deviate in some measure from documented historical events. That´s the nature of the genre. And a part of that deviation from sources that succeeds brilliantly in The Chosen, to my mind, is the way it treats its villains.

Good Villains are Human Villains

The still photo of Quintus used to advertise Episode Six, Seaons 3

The series´ popularity stems not only from an unprecedentedly human treatment of Jesus and his disciples, but from the humanity of its antagonists. The Roman Praetor of Capernaum, Quintus, played by Brandon Potter, has attracted a lot of positive fan attention for his wit, his charm, and the pop culture coincidence that Potter´s voice mannerisms playing the character are reminiscent of a young John De Lancie in the role of “Q” on Star Trek: The Next Generation. The writers, though, are careful not to let us forget that Quintus is a bad guy. He subtly threatens Jesus in Episode 7 of Season 2 (“Reckoning”) by mentioning the imprisonment of his cousin, John the Baptist. In Season 3, Episode 6, when his subordinate, Gaius (played superbly by Kirk B.R. Wollner) asks for clarification of possible orders to deal with civil unrest, Quintus makes the off-hand suggestion “kill Jesus of Nazareth”. True, he quickly rejects his own idea, not out of any love for Jesus or any higher moral sensibility, but because he does not want to spark a revolt. That would make his life as administrator even more difficult. Quintus will not turn Jesus into a martyr. But he does order Gaius to make life difficult if not impossible for the inhabitants of the tent city that has sprung up following Jesus.

And Gaius? He does not do it. He instead helps some of the squatters in Capernaum, warning them what they need to do in order to avoid being prosecuted by other soldiers (under his command, no less) for violations of public order. And he strikes up something approaching a friendship with Simon (not yet Peter). The character development of Gaius this season has been extraordinary. He has moved from being an authority figure, potential threat, who merely has something like  an avuncular affection for Matthew to a potential ally, and certainly someone who is moved by and open to Jesus´s message.

Then there is Shmuel the Pharisee (played with remarkable depth by Shaan Sharma). He, like Quintus and Gaius, has been with the series from the beginning. Shmuel was introduced as a student of Nicodemus, but by the end of Season 1, he had turned on his mentor, believing Jesus to be a false prophet. Season 2 saw him continue to seek to prosecute Jesus as a false prophet, but the writers, director and actors did something extraordinarily smart with this character: They showed that his opposition to Jesus was motivated by a concern for the truth. As he learns more about Jesus, and about the politics behind the scenes among the leading rabbis, his concern for the truth …seems to be taking him in another direction. That is perhaps the best cliff-hanger at the end of this season.

Walking on the Water

The season also saw The Chosen bring its first major special effects scene to the screen successfully. This was the event when, after the feeding of the five thousand, Jesus approaches the disciples at night walking on the storm-lashed waters of the inland sea as they were rowing toward Bethsaida. The series brought that moment to life to a degree that was unexpectedly deep and emotionally realistic. The focus on most preaching I´ve heard, most exposition I´ve read is always on the miracle and if anything is said about the disciples, it is that they were cowards or weak in faith because they did not get out of the boat with Simon. In this dramatic treatment, we get a better rationale presented: They are too stunned to move, literally unable to mentally deal with what they are seeing. The subsequent exchange between Jesus and Simon, paralleled with Eden´s conversation with Jairus, is the emotional and dramatic peak of this season, perhaps of the series to date.

Jesus and the disciples near the Decapolis. Cast list available at IMDB and elsewhere.

This final episode of Season 3 also used a frame narrative that depicted King David and his consort Bathsheba listening to Asaph lead the singers in Psalm 77. This was a stroke of genius. And tying in verses 16-19 with that particular miracle event from Matthew 14 and Mark 6 was more brilliant still, a real “like Father, like Son” moment for Trinitarian theology on screen. Season 4 is scheduled to start filming this spring. Pray for continued good work from Dallas Jenkins´s writing team, the actors and the whole crew, as well as for the Holy Spirit to inform and bless the series as it has been blessed thus far.

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I am very glad you dropped by. Contributing to this blog helps us continue our involvement with Christian ministries here in Germany.


Mourning with those who Mourn- Even When They are Your Enemies

Photo by u0410u043bu0435u0441u044c u0423u0441u0446u0456u043du0430u045e on Pexels.com

This first full week of February began here in Europe with news of the massive earthquake afflicting southeastern and northwest Syria. As of this writing, the death toll has exceeded 25,000 as of Sunday evening the 12th, and the number of injured has exceeded 75,000. Both numbers are expected to increase in the next days and weeks. The death and destruction the Turkish people are suffering through is staggering, leaving no family in the country untouched. German media has been full of images of the rescue workers, the devastation and the survivors all week. German aid agencies like I.S.A.R. (International Search and Rescue) and Hanseatic Help sent volunteers as rapidly as was possible. A report from France24 notes in particular that three ancient cities, one of them the modern descendant of the biblical city of Antioch, were all but totally destroyed by the quake and its aftershocks.  Scores of humanitarian relief agencies have moved to assist those in need of medical aid and basic humanitarian assistance, but perhaps the most morally significant aspect of the relief efforts is that substantial aid is coming from both Christians and Jews.

The list of Christian international aid organizations that began sending assistance to Turkey and Syria within hours of the first reports includes World Vision Samaritan´s Purse, Christian Aid, World Relief, and The International Fellowship of Christians and Jews. More importantly, local Christian congregations in Turkey, represented by the Turkish Evangelical Alliance , have sent aid and personnel to the affected cities and towns, while mourning losses of their own. The Medical Corps of the Israeli Defense Force has  been at work on-site since late Monday, its teams recovering and treating the injured.  All of these organizations working to save lives and help survivors in the predominantly Muslim Turkey? They are showing love for the citizens of a nation that persecutes the Christians and has provided aid and comfort to Hamas and Hezbollah in their efforts to wipe out the Jews in the Middle East. Would you eagerly and willingly help someone who, say, drove your father out of his profession because he was not a Muslim? Who kept your mother from being able to walk to the store on her own out of fear that she would be attacked because she was raising you Christian? How about people you knew would likely attack you if you walked outside wearing a yarmulke? You would? Good.  If you think, however, this is the default setting for mankind, you are operating on the assumption that biblical, Judeo-Christian moral propositions, e.g. “love your enemy, do good to those who hate you and persecute you”, should be the baseline for humanity. And you are right. It should be. But it has not been since the days of Cain and Abel, those very first enemies, and love of the absolutely everyone won´t be again until Messiah returns. There won´t even be enemies at that point, and loving your neighbour will then be as natural as breathing. Come to think of it, there won´t be any more natural disasters then, either.

So please do pray for the people of Turkey, for the relief workers and emergency medical responders, and contribute financially if you can.

The other major story in Europe is the same it´s been for most of year now: The Russo-Ukrainian War. Continue praying for an end to the war and for the long-term future of both countries. Living here in Germany we are quite aware that it is possible for former enemy nations to become allies and even friends. Yes, there were decades and decades of relationship between the U.S.- Americans and the various Germans (Bavarians, Prussians, Swabians, Hessians) prior to the bloody first half of the 20th century, but there were also centuries of relationship between Ukrainians and Russians before the current armed conflict. A group from the Geistliche Gemeinde Erneuerung (lit. „Spiritual Renewal of the Church“) which includes friends of ours is in the western part of Ukraine right now. Please include them in your prayers.

What are we doing?

Writing, writing, subtitling. The odd thing is that I am writing subtitles in both German and in English for Toward Jerusalem Council II (German) and Johannes Hartl Ministries (English).  We have both been writing for Salvo, and you can find the articles here:


And here:


And our commitments to the Gebetshaus and Koinonia continue. We are even working with the newly founded group of „Pfadfinder“ lit. „pathfinders“, essentially boy/girl scouts here as of January.

That is all for now. If at all possible I will write again this week. Tbe Lord bless and protect you.

Thank you for your support!

Contributing to the blog enables us to keep the lights on and the water running. We appreciate it.


“If only for this life…

Photo by Kristina Paukshtite on Pexels.com

…we have hope in Christ, we are of all people most to be pitied.” (1 Corinthians 15:19).

We have in the last two weeks received sudden and hard reminders to keep our hearts on our eternal hope in Jesus the Messiah, and that this world is not our “forever home” to use a phrase common to foster care and adoption ministries. Two friends of ours from our Austin House of Prayer days and from Hope Chapel, Jack Cotita and John Michael Wall, died, Jack on the 12th and John Michael on the 18th. They were both men who loved Jesus, were devoted to their families and not yet 70. John had been afflicted with Parkinson´s disease for three years or so, but Jack had, it was thought, been recovering well from a heart attack. Both deaths were still surprising to us and I still have difficulty wrapping my mind around the fact that I won´t see John Michael when next we visit Christ the Reconciler in Texas. In spite of the photos of the burial that friends and family posted online. Not being there with our friends in their grief has been painful.

And so, I´ve spent most of the last twelve days living in the assurances of eternal life from Jesus himself and Paul of Tarsus, along with the reminder that we are not to pretend that losing family and friends here in this earthly life is not a loss. “Mourn with those who mourn,” even if we know that we will be reunited with fathers, mothers, brothers, sisters, friends in the New Heaven and New Earth promised in Revelation.  While I´ve had dreams and visions relating to the reality of eternal life, so subjectively, as well as objectively, I´m utterly assured on the question of eternal life, I am also utterly sure that even saying good-bye to my family in the States when I know we are not going to seem them again for months is a keener pain than any bodily hurt. And for anyone reading who might be considering foreign missions: start asking the Holy Spirit to strengthen you for the day when you will face such losses.  Call it part of counting the cost (Luke 14:28-30).

Yeah, we´ve heard the cliché „so heavenly minded that you´re no earthly good“, which I have always taken to be a swipe at Christians who talk about the kingdom and eternity incessantly but don´t show any sign of living out the kingdom Jesus describes in his teachings. And there is some admonitory good embedded in that phrase. We are called to love our neighbors as ourselves, show hospitality, share a cup of water with a brother in the kingdom, and express the love of Jesus in practical ways to those around us. The Sermon on the Mount is either a way of life that the Holy Spirit empowers us to live or it is a cruel moral taunt, rubbing our noses in our moral imperfection. But the „no earthly good“ phrase is also something of a straw man: No one that I know of in the Christian world, let alone the revivalist sub-set of Christians called the 24/7 prayer movement, is arguing that we should stop doing deeds of charity and compassion. The hope that springs from the promise of eternal life that Jesus gives has, I am convinced, the profoundly practical effect of robbing death of its sting and the grave of its victory. A man who knows he´s going to live forever because the Lord of all Creation told him so holds a hope that is absolutely indestructible.

KODAK Digital Still Camera

As for what we´re doing in Augsburg right now….


First an update on our Ukrainian guests: At present Koinonia has four Ukrainians living here. The families have all moved out, and that is not surprising. Living out here is difficult if you don´t have a car, because the public transportation schedule is… thin. On weekends, hardly anything. We lived with that for the first sixteen months of our time here, ourselves. Those who could have gotten vehicles and moved into apartments or houses. The community is open to receiving more refugees should the need arise and so is in touch with the immigration and asylum authorities.  

We also have some outstanding financial obligations to Koinonia which the community needs us to pay off and soon I will detail that matter below under Prayer Concerns and Related.

Koinonia Sunrise in winter

Speaking of immigration and asylum authorities

We are up for renewing our residence permits again. There was, according to the email I just received this morning, something of a change in personnel in the Office for Foreigners and Integration, so we have to re-submit some documents-. Please pray that our continued residency application be approved quickly. We are sending in our documentation tomorrow. Their decision will determine if we will be able to continue in working with the various ministries we´re a part of here.  Which brings me to our update of the month:

The Gebetshaus Augsburg

Susan and I continue to be part of the morning shift in the Prayer Room, and also to regularly intercede as part of the Israel Prayer group on Friday afternoons. A new area of ministry has recently opened up in that I am now providing the English scripts for dubbing of Johannes Hartl´s teaching videos.  Please pray that this work go well, that the Holy Spirit use these teachings to reach a broader international audience. Hartl has been an effective Gospel teacher, apologist (at times), and voice for Christ as a public intellectual here in Germany for some years now. It´s an honor and a responsibility to convey his work effectively and eloquently.

There is also good news that the Gebethaus will be holding it´s larger international conference, the MEHR again next year for the first time since 2020. Praise God!

The MEHR will return in 2024!

Toward Jerusalem Council II (TJCII)

Recently Susan and I completed the translation of several papers from the Messianic Jewish Theological Symposium that TJCII held with the Faculty for Catholic Theology at the University of Vienna last summer. I also completed the German translation of the subtitles for the first episode TJCII´s new documentary series “One New Man”. The video is available here:


It provides a biblical background for the ministry and for the Messianic Jewish movement more generally.

Reasons to Believe, Germany

The German website for Reasons to Believe is now up and running. Für die Deutsch-könnenden: man findet die RTB Deutschland Internetpräsenz hier.

I will continue working with them in the weeks to come and am quite in need of your prayer support for this. The ministry has charged me with building up contacts with campus ministries here, which task I have only recently been able to undertake. The TJCII work was very time consuming and demanding.  Please pray for my continued work translating Reasons to Believe´s apologetic resources into German to be effective in communicating the powerful relationship between sound science and sound faith.

Family news:

Felicia competed las week in a regional music competition called “Jugend Musiziert” (“Youth make Music”). It was held all day at the Leopold Mozart Musikschule here and… she advanced to the Bavarian state competition! It will be held at the end of February.  Now she must select which pieces she will sing there, likely operatic music. Praise God!

Prayer Concerns and Related:

First of all, thanks to everyone who has prayed, corresponded, and has helped us financially in the recent months. You have made a very needed difference. As noted above, we continue to have a significant financial need right now due in large measure to the increase in fuel prices in Europe in the last two years and the Corona-Panic-induced economic downturn. The latter wrecked our reserves and my business has yet to fully recover to pre-2020 levels, while the former has made rebuilding reserves basically impossible and repaying debts incurred 2020-22 very difficult. The main financial stressor right now is paying of €1,400.00 (approximately) of fuel costs that Koinonia absorbed for us in that period. They cannot carry that debt any more due to increases in the house´s insurance premiums and fuel prices. If you can help us out with this, which would directly benefit the community as well, we would be very grateful.

And … I have written two posts for this blog this month. Hurrah!

Thank you for stopping by. Let us know what you think and keep us in prayer.