A Reluctant Charismatic in Bavaria, II
Here: A photo of me and my daughter at the MEHR Conference in Augsburg, 2015
The conversation with Susie was ended a few seconds later when the worship music ended and the moderator began speaking, meaning I had to start interpreting. About three hours later, my wife, daughter and I made our way from the Augsburg Convention Center back to our very tiny hotel room downtown. That particular night it also rained torrentially, so we were drenched by the time we got there, having practically swum through the streets to the front door of the IBIS hotel, just down the street from the Main Rail Station. We got ourselves as dry as we could as quickly as we could and also got to bed as quickly as we could in that cramped cubical of a lodging.
The MEHR that January was our first family visit to Augsburg, a sort of scouting mission for what would become our journey to and life in Germany starting in 2015. Our journey to Augsburg, the one that brought us here to live for soon-to-be six years, really began one night in Austin House of Prayer in 2011. Austin House of Prayer had been founded by friends of ours from a church in Austin called Hope Chapel. Both of these Charismatic Christian communities played important roles in our lives from 2005 to 2015, and still do, so it’s likely you’ll read more about them here in the future. For now, what you need to know is that it was part of the 24/7 prayer and worship movement influenced by the International House of Prayer in Kansas City, was located in east Austin, and was where we were at nearly every Friday night in that era of our lives. In 2011, though, we had only recently resumed out involvement at AHOP, having been there only sporadically from 2005 to 2009. In that interim period, we had been involved in the Round Rock House of Prayer, but it had folded and, since we were still committed to a life of prayer and worship, we went back to AHOP when we felt the time was right.
As providence would have it, that night in the autumn of 2011 was when we heard the words „Augsburg House of Prayer“ or „Gebetshaus Augsburg“ for the first time. Two friends of ours, Michael Michel and Thomas Cogdell had recently been on a sort of reconnaissance trip in Europe, searching out the spiritual landscape for a possible future ministry. They showed a cell phone video of worship and intercession time at this “Gebetshaus Augsburg” that night. As soon as we heard about it, well, I wanted to be there. I mean 24/7 prayer in the model of the International House of Prayer in Kansas City and it was German?
“Why am I not there?”, I asked Susan as Thomas finished their presentation.
“Yeah, why aren’t you there?”, she replied.
When the presentation was over that night, I approached Thomas and peppered him with questions about this “Augsburg House of Prayer” and whatever connection AHOP might have with it. In his answers, he explained that he and his wife, Amy, had been praying and seeking the Lord’s will concerning the work of promoting reconciliation between the various streams of the body of Christ in the world as part of the commemoration of the 500th anniversary of the Reformation in 2017. The Cogdells other members, friends and acquaintances of the AHOP community, were at that time planning the first of a series of international meetings at key sites in church history where representatives of various Christian constellations—here meaning Catholic, Lutheran, Evangelical, Orthodox and Messianic Jewish—would observer periods of prayer and repentance and forgiveness together.
I immediately offered my services as German translator for these meetings ministry that might take place involving German-speakers.
“You speak German?”, Thomas asked.
“You could say that. I did my doctorate in German with a focus on the depiction of Jews in medieval and early modern German literature,” and I gave him a quick summary of that work, including that which touched on the most relevant topic for the potential ministry project: The historical relations between Christian and Jews in the 15th and 16th centuries.
By the end of the conversation, we were both excited about the prospects of working together for Jesus in this particular often-neglected and deeply needed area of ministry. By the following October, he, I and a small group from AHOP were preparing to go to what would become the first meeting of the Wittenberg 2017 Initiative. It was held in the ecumenical community of Ottmaring, near Augsburg. That community had been formed in the 1950’s as an intentionally inter-confessional group of Christians living out a ministry of Protestant-Catholic reconciliation in a nation where the rubble of the most hideous period of their history had barely stopped smoking. The messages of reconciliation and forgiveness lived out in Ottmaring and in communities like it over the past seven decades have, I think, been of decisive importance in healing nation that had been at war with its neighbors and itself for the 12 horrific years between 1933 and 1945. Here are some pictures from their chapel, a room built to celebrate the various streams in the body of Christ. The top image if from the alcove dedicated to the Catholic stream, the second that dedicated to Messianic Judiasm.
The result of the meeting was the birth of the Wittenberg 2017 Initiative as a reality and not a concept. There’s a more detailed history of Wittenberg to be found here, at the ministry’s now-archival website.
(The site also contains extensive audio archives of teachings given there which I recommend.)
Following the 2012 meeting in Ottmaring, the second meeting was held in 2013, took place at the Abbey Volkenroda n the German State of Thuringia. It had been the site of a bloody massacre of monks by some of Thomas Müntzer’s followers during the so-called “Peasant’s War” phase of the Reformation, and had served various other purposes, both sacred and secular, through the intervening centuries. Nearly 500 years later, it had become the eastern location of an ecumenical group called “Die Jesus Brüderschaft”, and contact with them was what led us to choose the site for the 2013 Wittenberg meeting.
Another year passed after that, and we continued to pray, seeking to know if we should and then, when we would, move to Germany for ministry.
Then, in 2015, while walking in Old Settler’s Park in Round Rock, we got very clear direction from God to sell our house, leave everything behind and move to Augsburg to be part of what God was doing in Europe.
Now, five years- plus a bit- later, we’re still here.
That provides an insufficient, superficial and brief answer to the question of „Why Augsburg?“. To answer it in greater depth will require more blogging…and I will get right to that. After a Bier.