God put Germany on my heart early. I began taking German as a foreign language in junior high and continued through high school and a bit in university (actually speaking German remains a challenge for me ). I’ve been drawn to Germany ever since. It’s not always been with an overtly "spiritual" context either. It’s mostly the culture and the geography that have somehow been attractive to me (though I know now that culture and geography are both VERY spiritual). I would have said it was just an "interest" to me when I was young. Now I’d say that it was God who gave me an attraction to this country, it’s culture and it’s people. Consequently, I’ve been really blessed in that:
- When God called us to France, He had us do our initial YWAM training (DTS) in Hainichen, Germany.
- Then, after several years of preparation and transition, He placed us in our current home in Alsace just 30 minutes from the German border.
- I’ve had the pleasure of regularly tasting German culture and connecting with German people while attending seminars and conferences in Germany.
- Two of our children even spent their high school years just across the Rhine river from us in Germany at Black Forest Academy.
As intercession for Europe has interested me for a while now, a couple years back when Operation Capitals of Europe (an intercession initiative to travel to each European capital and pray for the government and its leaders and to be a catalyst for ongoing intercession in each capital) began, I began to think about which capitals I’d like to connect with. One of the key ones for me was certainly Berlin!
So, as I write I’m on a day-long train trip across Germany back to France after having participated in the OCE initiative in Berlin. This was a very rich time. Here are some of my impressions.
I arrived after a cramped EasyJet flight from Basel-Mulhouse on a Tuesday afternoon. I met up with another YWAMer from England and together we negotiated the public transport from Berlin’s Schönefeld airport on the far south side of the city to the S-Bahn station at Alexanderplatz. Then a bit of urban orienteering on foot from Alexanderplatz for the last kilometer to the Jerusalem Gemeinde in the center of the city where we would be convening until Saturday. Getting off the train at Alexanderplatz, one is greeted with the site of the famous television tower, dating from Cold War East Berlin days, that dominates the Berlin skyline a bit like the Eiffel Tower in Paris. We had arrived during the period of time when Berlin was celebrating its 775th anniversary. As such many of the landmarks were lit up each night with changing colors and laser light shows on their facades. The TV-tower was a beautiful red-violet that we saw each night as we returned to our accommodations.
The Jerusalem Gemeinde is a small church, amazingly and strategically located right on the Spree river that bisects Berlin. Their location puts them in the heart of modern Berlin and with respect to Berlin’s ancient history they are located in the very cradle of the city’s origins. Their name comes from their strong connection with Israel where they run a prayer house (the Father’s House) on the Mount of Olives. They also run a prayer house in another location in Berlin. Their pastor, Andreas Bauer, is warm, welcoming, bilingual and well-connected! I would say that they were an ideal choice as the host church for the OCE intercession initiative. Obviously God knows how to connect His people together!
Having been on a couple of previous OCE trips and also being connected with some of its organizers, arriving in the church it was good to see some familiar faces! These trips are a wonderful way to build rich relationships in the Body of Christ as you reinforce existing friendships and create new ones each time – all in the context of worship and prayer in the service of a local expression of His Body.
Our evening was one of introductions (new friends!), worship (led by a wonderful long-time German resident from New Zealand who could quickly usher a group of eager worshippers into God’s presence) and a welcome from the OCE leaders of this trip (Jacky und Angela Krättli) and the pastor of Jerusalem Gemeinde to help orient us to the structure of the week. The presence of God and relationship form a fabulous foundation for any sort of outreach and this evening was no exception.
As is usually the case in an OCE trip, we received excellent presentations on the spiritual history of Berlin. This is done to help outsiders coming in to pray to have more insight into the specific anointings and callings of a city and the resulting spiritual struggles that the city has experienced. In a capital city both the redemptive anointing given by God for the city and the perversion of this anointing by the enemy are magnified and amplified for the nation and, in an "international city" such as Berlin, the influence extends outside its national borders as well – in Berlin’s case, especially for Europe.
A "spiritual history overview" is a way of looking at events in history with the discernment of the Holy Spirit to understand spiritual forces behind certain events and spiritual effects of certain events. Seen over time, these reveal patterns that show us God’s original "redemptive" intentions for a given place/people and how Satan has used deep wounding in the lives of people as the result of sin to harden and twist hearts and distort the image of God. This discovery is done by both looking at present societal problems in a place and trying to find historical roots as well as studying history while allowing God to highlight specific moments that were key turning points.
Kudos to those who presented to us the spiritual history of Berlin. 775 years of history in this place is enormous and really impossible to fully distill in our short time. Consequently, I can assume that what we covered only scratched the surface of spiritual dynamics of Berlin, but also that it was just what God wanted our small band of intercessors to engage with on this trip. They did an excellent job of researching and presenting some key points of history to help us connect what we see today in Berlin to the origins found in history. My distillation is, of course, even more concentrated than theirs.
For me, the key points that I took away were:
- Berlin and Germany are called to exercise authority – to rule
- Berlin is called to exercise this authority with a father heart and a servant heart
I believe these two are the most important, or foundational calls which Berlin has. After that are other important gifts/callings:
- Berlin has a gift to teach
- Berlin has a gift of creativity
- Berlin has calling as a city of refuge/welcome
The "Father Wound"
When we look at the history of Berlin and Germany in the first half of the last century it is relatively easy to see that the personification of an "abusive father" fits fairly well. This is fatherly influence, responsibility and authority perverted by Satan. One can see that in Hitler, who was at one point a real "father figure" for Germany after World War One but who obviously exercised that authority in a perverted, controlling and abusive way. This kind of abuse of authority distorts the image of God as Father and fosters rebellion against authority of all kinds.
Farther back in Germany’s history, however, we were introduced to a key case of an abusive father whose wounded son opened the door to one of Berlin’s biggest challenges today – homosexuality. I quote from one of the excellent documents we received about Berlin’s spiritual history:
Frederick II (the Great) (1712-1786), prepared the way for homosexuality in Berlin. He was raised by a brutal, tyrannical father with extreme harshness and many beatings. In 1730 Crown Prince Frederick attempted to flee from his father during a trip to southern Germany. After he was caught, the king demanded the death sentence for his son. Through the intervention of the emperor and the Prussian judges, the sentence was lessened to incarceration in Küstrin. In order to make an example, the king had Frederick’s friend and helper, Hermann von Katte, put to death before his eyes. Following Frederick’s submission under the will of his father and an imposed marriage in 1733, Frederick was of course deeply traumatized.
This wounding through his father (thus no example of fatherhood and no example of God as Father) led to Frederick’s rebellion against God. In many ways, he opened the spiritual gate to the Enlightenment, humanism, and philosophies which turned against God. He was a homosexual.
To continue in the spiritual history on this theme:
On May 15, 1897 a homosexual doctor in Charlottenburg, Magnus Hirschfeld, founded the "Scientific Humanitarian Committee (Whk) with the goal of getting rid of paragraph 175 of the German penal code. He attempted to research homosexuality "scientifically" and founded the theory of the "third gender". Thus through the gate of Berlin, seemingly "scientific" sexual research began, which was aimed in a specific direction: to legalize homosexuality and establish the possibility of a third gender. Thus the path began, and today Berlin is still a leader in this area. The work of this institute was definitely successful starting what today would be called lobbying on the political level.
In the 1920’s homosexuals were drawn to Berlin and its "freedom". Here they and others could live out their sexuality relatively freely. Many artists were homosexual. In the 1920’s there were already dance halls for men.
In 1933 everything changed instantly. The Nazis fought against these "deformities", sharpened paragraph 175, and founded the Third Reich’s Centre for Fighting against Homosexuality and Abortion". Homosexuals were incarcerated, deported to concentration camps, and murdered. Hirschfeld’s works were burned on the Bebelplatz.
The student revolts in 1968 (a rebellion of the sons against the fathers), which began in Berlin, also brought change for the homosexuals. Leftist political homosexual groups were formed. Paragraph 175 was abolished in 1969. Films were made in which statements were made such as, "It’s not the homosexual who is perverse, but rather the situation in which he lives."
Humility and Pride
In the evening we had a speaker from Poland who would share with us an amazing story Thursday and Friday evenings of how God has used prophetic intercessors at the very highest levels of Polish government to demonstrate to leaders that it is God who raises up and brings down authorities in a land, leaving man no reason to boast but simply to humbly serve while in positions of leadership. To underline, however, that those in places of prophetic intercession are no different in their need to serve with humility, he shared with us a deeply personal message about pride and humility in the place of exercising our spiritual authority.
There were four different prayer walks that had been proposed to us by email before the beginning of this trip. Two had to do with local government and the general history of Berlin and two had to do with the issue of homosexuality in Berlin. Before arriving, I had planned on the prayer walk concerning the local government and was very interested in it. I’d not given any real thought to either of two walks concerning homosexuality. As is the case in most intercession initiatives, the vast majority of the people involved were women. As we began to hear about the calling of Berlin to reflect God’s Father heart and the abuse of authority that had opened the doors to homosexuality, and of the importation from America of many aspects of the homosexual culture, I really felt convicted that even though I didn’t WANT to go on the prayer walks concerning homosexuality, that it WAS, in fact my place as a man, as a father and as an American. In so doing, I would come with the ability to identify more closely with the sin that had opened the doors to the influence of homosexuality in Berlin. As we were finishing one of the worship times, I really felt like it was a time where God was mourning the loss of the chance for the young men snared in homosexuality to become fathers. In the world wars a generation of fathers was nearly wiped out, leaving a void still felt today in Europe. With the spread of homosexuality another generation of fathers is being "killed off" by the enemy.
Our particular walk focused on three of the monuments to homosexuality in Berlin and their proximity to other important structures in Berlin. Our path started with the Schloß Bellevue where the German President has his office. President Gauck has fairly recently come into office and is the third president in fairly quick succession following two previous "failed" presidencies. The two previous presidents were both attacked mercilessly by the media and both resigned after a relatively short period of time in office. Though his personal life is somewhat "fractured" (he is estranged from his wife and lives with another woman), he once was a pastor and has accepted the challenge of taking responsibility in a challenging political and social climate. We were able to pray that he would be a "father" and a "pastor" to this nation, exercising authority with integrity and humility.
We moved on to two monuments to Magnus Hirschfeld (see quotes above). The first one is a set of two plaques that have been erected in a place near to Schloß Bellevue with an eye to constructing a larger, more permanent monument. Here we prayed that the advancement towards the seat of authority would be stopped and would, in fact, retreat. This monument was just next to the river Spree and at this very spot, all the tourist boats turn around in a wide spot in the river. We prayed for a shift in the direction of this movement that it would turn around and retreat in the opposite direction and that the other monument would not be built on this site. The second monument to Hirschfeld is on the opposite side of the river and specifically refers to the crackdown by the Nazis of all homosexual activity. Here we prayed about the abuse of authority that creates deep wounds, opening the doors to the enemy to sow division and rebellion into the society.
Then we walked/prayed past the Chancellor’s office, the Reichstag and the Brandenburg Gate before arriving at the last monument. This is a monument to the homosexuals that were exterminated by the Nazis. This monument is just across the street from the Holocaust Memorial. The Holocaust Memorial is a very unique and powerful area. It is rows upon rows of large concrete blocks of varying heights that one can walk among. (see my Berlin gallery for more photos) The homosexual memorial across the street is interesting in that it is a single block, about twice the size of the largest on in the Holocaust Memorial. It’s symmetry is slightly skewed. On one end is a small window/portal into which you can look. On the inside is a film loop that shows alternately, men kissing men and women kissing women. Again we saw the placement of this monument as strategic, across the street from the Holocaust memorial. Here we were also able to pray about the abuse of authority and also that each monument would be isolated from the other – so as to not create a more influential "whole" as a series. Already they form the three points of a triangle and we believe that their physical placement, one related to the others, is not a spiritual accident.
Prayer for government
On Friday morning we heard from a pastor from Tübingen about praying for the government and government leaders. This pastor and his church practice what they preach. Some years ago, their church acquired an apartment in Berlin, some 7 hours drive from Tübingen, that they use only for bringing prayer teams on a regular basis to the capital city. As he spoke, we could see his commitment to the responsibility to pray for the government – regardless of one’s agreement with the policies of any particular politician. He spoke of how the Lord supernaturally showed him Germany’s Chancellor (a previous one) with whom he did not agree, through the eyes of Jesus. A compassion was immediately placed in his heart and he realized at that moment that the Lord was calling him to be the Chancellor’s "spiritual bodyguard." We heard later from one of the members of the German parliament (with whom some of our group were privileged to meet) of the ENORMOUS pressures put on these politicians; how they are literally scheduled to be in three places at once and must consequently have discernment at all times to know where to go and what to do. We gained more understanding about how much these men and women need our regular, on-going prayer as they navigate the pressures put on them by their office.
In the afternoon we split up into three groups. One prayed in the Reichstag dome – a impressive glass enclosed structure that sits above the plenary session hall on the top of the Reichstag. Another group was the group which was able to meet with the aforementioned parliament member. The group that I was in prayed at the office of the Minister of Foreign Affairs. We were able to sit at a café in the huge atrium of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, split into to groups of 3-4, and "innocently" sip our coffees and pray as we had no official invitation to be there. Afterwards we were walked around the enormous complex of two large buildings (one of which was designed by Hitler and used as the Nazi’s finance ministry during that era. While walking around, we witnessed the departure of a Japanese delegation and the changing of the flags from Japan to the next nation that would be visiting. One could really see the "international connecting" that went on in that building.
As Germany has a "Father" anointing as a nation, its impact and influence on the world stage, especially in Europe, is significant. Chancellor Merkel might get the most air-time and ink, but the Minister of Foreign Affairs and his office put the face of Germany into clear relief on a daily basis in countries around the world. Whether it be the role of gatekeeper of individual visas, foreign trade agreements, the official voice of German foreign policy or the promotion of cultural exchanges, Germany’s role in the world has an impact. We were able to pray that the Foreign Affairs Minister would, again, show the Father’s heart in the way he presented Germany to the world. We prayed that Germany’s stand as friend of Israel would not only be firm/unwavering for Germany as an individual nation, but also that Germany would serve as an example, in particular to other European nations and in particular with respect to the vote in November at the United Nations about the Palestinian’s request for "observer status".
We were privileged during this week to connect with Germans who have lived their whole life in Berlin and love their city and take their watchman and priestly responsibility very seriously. One of these was an 80-year-old spry man by the name of Wolfgang. Wolfgang was 8-10 years old as Berlin was bombed during World War II. He remembers the hand-to-hand combat in the streets between the German and Russian forces and he lived in East Berlin during the years of the Cold War. He told me that what he sees now with respect to coordinated and united prayer for the city of Berlin is unprecedented. There was really a sense during our week there that "now" is the time for Berlin.
After our time of prayer was over, we had a few free hours in the afternoon before the evening teaching session. After a loooooonnnng wait for a bus (thank you Lord for the fabulous, sunny, "open heaven" weather that we experienced in Berlin), I was able to return to the Holocaust Memorial and walk slowly through it taking photos in some incredible autumn afternoon light. We ended the day with a time of worship and sharing from the different groups and then we commissioned the OCE team that is travelling to Moscow.
Saturday, our last full day was filled with one principal focus, the Sachsenhausen concentration camp just north of Berlin. As we were already staying in the northern suburbs of Berlin at Gnadenhaus (a wonderful Christian guest house), we were able to catch a bit more sleep before being taken by the pastor of Jerusalem Gemeinde to Sachsenhausen. Sachsenhausen was a strategic camp in the German network. It was built close to Berlin to be used as the "mother camp" where camp architecture and methods (including extermination) where developed and "perfected." It was also where the other camps were administered from and where the camp staff was trained. Rudolph Hess lived in the town next to this camp.
The pastor shared with us that though foreign missionaries and intercessors come to Germany all the time with the same message: "You are forgiven. Put down the past. Take off your mantel of shame. Move forward." etc., the truth is that the horrors of the concentration camps have yet to be fully dealt with spiritually. Their church has made it a regular practice to come to Sachsenhausen (the pastor also lives in the northern suburbs of Berlin) for different occasion to simply pray and worship. He told us that while in places such as Auschwitz and Treblinka, the local towns have incorporated this part of their history into who they are – not trying to distance themselves from it but to help facilitate the healing – the town where Sachsenhausen is located however, does not openly try to engage with it. One new vision is, that as there was a network of camps, that there would be a corresponding network of prayer houses at the towns where all the camps were located to establish life where death was once established.
We did not see much of the camp itself, but we went into one of the remaining barracks that has been converted into a meeting room for different presentations on the camp site and we simply worshipped and took communion there. We then went to the former administration building of the network of camps (currently in use for local Brandenburg state administration) where we did an prophetic act. We took a length of about 250 meters of red nylon cord and went around the building with it. (it was good to do this on Saturday, but we still had to explain our bizarre activity to one person in the building!) We then proclaimed the blood of Jesus via this red cord around the building in an act of cleansing and to cut off the negative influences that once spread from Sachsenhausen to the other camps.
We then returned to downtown Berlin just in time for the Jerusalem Gemeinde’s weekly service, Saturday at 4pm. As we had used their facility the whole week and connected with a handful of people from this church, it was good to "meet" the rest of the congregation and worship with them. Finally, grabbing a great Kebab on the way back (thank you Edith!), we took the train back to Gnadenhaus to pack and sleep.
Up early for a beautiful, calm day-long trip on the train from Berlin to Mulhouse. Thrilled to pass through the German countryside for several hours and to reconnect with my family at the end!