(This post is an excerpt of my daughter Rachel’s Facebook post about her participation in the Freedom Walk in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania a couple of weeks ago)
Around 300 years ago, a religious group of people suffered severe persecution in Switzerland. A certain Lord Ribeaupierre invited those people to come and live in Alsace, France and farm the land. Among his conditions were that the people take a ‘vow of silence’ and refrain from any kind of witnessing or proselytizing. They agreed, moved, and withdrew as religious communities from the outside world. Later, many emigrated to the United States.
This story is about the Anabaptists, who are still around and known as Mennonites, Amish, and Brethren. And strange as it may sound, this is the reason I went to Pennsylvania last week.
Sins committed in the past can be confessed, repented of, and forgiven in the present. God leads individuals and groups today to stand humbly in the place of their ancestors and deal with these sins. This work of reconciliation breaks off generational curse of sin and spiritual strongholds that affect and imprison places today.
A team of people from my church in France flew to Pennsylvania to ask forgiveness for having imposed the ‘vow of silence’ and to intercede (pray for) Lancaster by joining a group of various believers to complete a prayer walk around the perimeter of Lancaster county.
I was invited to join by the leaders of the prayer walk (who are good friends), and to help with translating for the French team!
And it was awesome.
Revival is coming to Lancaster.
Revival is coming to the Amish.
We saw some of the beginning signs of this in the 5 Amish families who prayer walked with us! A few years ago, they were given a supernatural healing ministry and were consequently excommunicated from the Amish church. Now they are a community and call their work . They see themselves as bridging the gap between the Amish and the rest of the Christian community. I LOVED (lovedlovedloved) being with them, spending time with the children, mixing with another culture, and being challenged by their passionate spirituality and vision.
Read more about them here: https://www.lightofhopeministries.com/
Because of the French team and their need for translation, I feel like God has also used this week to give me a second chance – (that I really didn’t deserve – to appreciate the French and the French language. For the last few years, I’ve generally resented speaking French and feeling doomed to substandard communication. Despite what people say, I know just how far from fluency I am! Not only that, but my confidence had gone way down after being away at BFA for two years…
So, knowing that He could, I asked God to help me translate beyond my abilities this week. There were MORE than enough opportunities to serve, and of every variety – French to English/English to French, simultaneous/phrase-by-phrase, informal/formal, one-on-one/group situations… and yes, many times it was easier than I anticipated. God was helping me! I learned several things: first, that I may actually be gifted in translating. Second, I learned better to dismiss the fear of being judged for my mistakes. The fact that the people in the French team all know and love me helped. I had to think about others first, and realize when they weren’t understanding… forcing me to be very NOT self-centered. Not always easy.
I’ve been on a total of eight plane trips this summer, and – what are the odds – been given a window seat every time. I know heaven isn’t really a straight up shoot from earth (more of a parallel realm), and yet, there’s something about that “God’s eye view” that takes my mind outside the box… and I smile at the big screaming deal we think we are.
Do you ever wonder what it would look like to fly over the US on July 4th in the evening? I do.
I need to blog about this before it becomes ancient history!
But…I don’t think the impact of this will fade into history to be forgotten. Indeed “ancient history” and “making history” are central to this.
What is this?
Well, I blogged about it a while ago in: “Risky Business…” It’s about a 3-week intercession walk along the borders of Alsace that we (our church, intercessors in the region, intercessors from other countries) recently completed.
I personally was involved in the logistics of the walk…mainly the communication. I also walked the 3rd week of the walk along with my daughter Rachel.
There were many moments in the walk that God was speaking to individuals and to the group as the borders of Alsace were walked by groups of 5-20 people. Hopefully at our church site there will be a fuller report by those who took notes at the daily debriefing. Those would be initially in French and I’ll work at getting them translated into English.
I’ll just explain two times that were particularly noteworthy in that 3rd week of the walk.
As background, some research this past spring into the local history of Alsace and Guebwiller in particular, brought to our attention some horrible war time experiences that the people of Alsace had suffered. These were not the war time experiences that you might quickly associate with Alsace in WWI and WWII. These were from the 30 Years’ Warway back in 1618-1648! Specifically during this conflict the climate of fear which developed in the Alsatian civilians was such that they did not even leave their homes to cultivate their land lest they be attacked. This led to starvation conditions and and people even exhuming human remains for food.
…hard to read…hard to write…imagine experiencing it…
A part of the invading/occupying force during the 30 Years’ War was from Sweden. During the 2nd week of the walk, the group came upon a large, old oak tree that had a marker indicating that it had been used by the Swedish during the 30 Years’ War to hang Alsatians. Hold that thought…
The Lord has His ways of orchestrating His redemptive purposes…
A few weeks before the walk, we got an email from a family from Sweden asking if they could join us during the 3rd week of the walk. They were going to be on staff at the OM Teen Street camp in Germany near that time and wanted to come a bit early and participate in the walk for a couple of days. They had heard about the walk through Martin Scott’se-mail newsletter (read his report of the 3rd week of the walk here). We were thrilled to have them come and indeed they were a blessing but I don’t imagine that we had any idea when they first asked just how key their presence and participation would be.
They joined us Tuesday morning and walked with us all day. It was a day where we got lost (took the wrong forest road) and ended up 9kms short of our goal for the day (about 40kms/day normally). The day ended in driving rain and we felt a fair amount of spiritual resistance. We ended the day near the foot of Mont Donon where there is some overt historical occult traces (roman and celtic temple remains, sacrificial stone, etc.). That evening in the debriefing time, the wife/mother of the Swedish family, Maria, mentioned that while we walked and prayed, she had had an image of a “large tree of unrighteousness” that we were uprooting as we prayed. Vito, our leader, took that as a cue that perhaps now was the time to share with them about the oak tree that they had seen the previous week during the walk and the history of the Swedish occupation of Alsace during the 30 Years’ War.
The Swedish family was not aware of these things and we did not want to press/push any “resolution” right then and there.
The next morning, Wednesday, August 2nd, at the foot of Mont Donon, before we started walking, we had a time of prayer to start the day. We broke bread and poured out wine and milk and honey on the bread and prayed for the region. At the end of this time the Swedish family (the father and mother and teenage daughter) came forward and, standing for Sweden, confessed, repented of, and asked forgiveness for the occupation of Alsace and the atrocities committed by the Swedes during the 30 Years’ War. It was a powerful time of reconciliation between the Alsatians and the Swedes and facilitated the rest of the day. We started walking down to St-Marie-aux-Mines while a small group want to the top of Mont Donon.
Meanwhile, another couple who walked with us the 3rd week, Rusty and Janet, from the States, had already been all this time in St-Marie-aux-Mines searching for the perfect spot.
They had come from Lancaster County, Pennsylvania with a signed declaration of repentance to bury in the ground at St-Marie-aux-Mines.
Well, it turns out that also way back in history, just after the 30 Years’ War, the aristocratic Ribeaupierre family in Alsace invited persecuted Swiss Anabaptists to come and farm their war-torn region around St-Marie-aux-Mines…
…under one condition…
They could not evangelize. They were muzzled from sharing their faith. The Swiss Anabaptists (from the Bern area), had had enough of deadly persecution and they agreed. They agreed to keep quiet and be hard workers.
In this town, there eventually came a split among the Anabaptists that had settled there. The followers of Jakob Ammann split with the the Swiss Brethren and became the Amish.
Rusty and Janet come from the heart of Amish country in the US where they are active in reconciliation ministry between the various Anabaptist streams (Amish, Mennonite, Brethren, etc.) and the Swiss Reformed church which had brutally persecuted them so long ago. Janet recently published a book entitled Unlocking our Inheritance – Spiritual Keys to Recovering the Treasures of Anabaptism. (Read about the reconciliation process and how to acquire the book at https://www.anabaptistreconciliation.org/).
Their declaration had been signed by Mennonites and Amish leaders from the Lancaster area and was a specific declaration of repentance for having accepted the agreement to stop evangelizing in order to avoid persecution and for the origins of the Amish split in the Anabaptist tradition.
This also was a powerful time of repentance and reconciliation between the Anabaptists represented by Janet and the Alsatians and even a Swiss lady from the Bern region.
The end of Wednesday was at the top of St-Marie pass were one re-enters Alsace from the interior of France. At this pass we found a military cemetery, a large “mile-marker” from the days when Alsace was German, and a large information board which mentioned many of the difficult parts of Alsace’s history tied to that very area…including issues of the Swedish in the 30 Years’ War. The Swedish family was leaving the next morning, and because we had had that time of reconciliation Wednesday morning, we could face that information about the Swedes in the 30 Years’ War Wednesday evening and know that it was dealt with and have a wonderful time of blessing and prophetic send-off for that family that became so precious to us in just 2 days!
This was truly a blessed week. Don’t get me wrong, it was physically hard at times (especially on a nearly 45-year-old body like mine!) and not always comfortable (weather, wet camping two days, etc.), but we were used by the Lord to redeem history. In all, it was rich beyond measure!!!