August 13 passed with little notice. For most of us just another day. However, I was reminded through a brief newspaper article and even briefer comment on the TV news, that on that 50 years ago (1961), a great evil took place. It was the date on which the East German Communist government, under the authority of the Soviet Union, began construction of the Berlin Wall. This was a 25 mile long fortified stone and concrete wall, constructed to keep the people of what was then East Berlin in and to keep everyone except the Communist leaders out. It began with the homes of about 2,000 East Berlin residents being demolished. A path was cleared for the wall, which separated not only the city into two parts, but also separated families and friends. Despite the danger of being arrested or killed, some East Berlin residents continued to try to escape.
As the years went by the hope of freedom for the people of East Berlin, as well as for all the people of all the East European nations controlled by theSoviet Union, almost vanished. It seemed that there would never again be freedom and liberty in that part of the world. Nevertheless, some of the leaders of theUnited States and other nations of the western world continued to express the hope that one day the wall would fall. For example, American President John F.Kennedy, on a European trip in 1963, gave his famous “Ich bin ein Berliner!” speech (“I am a citizen of Berlin”), on the West Berlin side of the wall, within the hearing of the captives and captors in East Berlin. On June 12, 1987, President Ronald Reagan, gave another speech, I believe at the same location, in which he said “Mr.Gorbachev (leader of theSoviet Union), tear down this wall”! However, in the last quarter of the 20th century, few people on either side of the wall held any hope for freedom in that part of the world.
It would take a miracle for the wall to come down and for democratic governments to be established. Until one day, November 9, 1989, and over the next few days, the Berlin Wall came tumbling down. For the first time in 28 years families, friends and others were reunited as they walked across the border between East and West Germany without fear of arrest or death. More than that, soon thereafter, East and West Germanywere reunited as one nation. In fact, the whole Communist rule of the Eastern European nations, even the Soviet Union, which had controlled all these other nations for 45 years, would soon come to an end.
Not many people, then or now, remember how and where this miraculous movement toward freedom came about. It began with a man named Kristian Fuehrer, the pastor of Kikolai Protestant Church in Leipzig,East Germany. Under the Communist rule, the church was allowed to openly exist, but it was not allowed to speak of freedom and liberty or anything else which might be seen as criticism of the Communist government. (Much as the Communist government authorizes but controls the church in China today). Pastor Fuehrer came to believe that it was time for the church in East Germany, including himself, to stop “diluting the message” of the gospel and tell the truth. He convinced others in his church . They began to come together for prayer meetings on Monday evenings. They prayed, believing that with God all things are possible. They prayed, believing that Jesus was in fact alive and through the Holy Spirit, in their midst. They believed that therefore, there was hope for the kingdom of God on earth as it is in heaven. There was hope for freedom and liberty.
When interviewed by the news media after the wall came down Pator Fuehrer explained that after a short time , we encountered “in our services and meetings…the miraculous experience of feeling the effect of the Word. God’s presence with us. It was with us all, all of us.” The prayer meetings began on September 4, 1989. On that night about 1,000 people showed up. One night, these people who were praying in such a powerful way poured out from the prayer meeting in the church to protest in the streets. This began the movement which soon resulted in the destruction of the Berlin Wall. By October 16, there were 120,000 attending, praying, and protesting. On Nov.9 there were over 200,000, and 90% of them were non-Christians.
Pastor Fuehrer, in another interview, was asked why the church didn’t feel this before. Why did it take all these years? He explained that the church had accepted the image of Jesus which was acceptable to the Communist government. “The image of Jesus as one who doesn’t disturb, who is only passive, who is there only to make people happy”. Through prayer and Bible study the people found a new picture of Jesus. “Jesus that spoke directly to the people – the truth”, rather than a Jesus who diluted the truth. They found in a resurrected Jesus the power to dream again good dreams for their lives, their city, and their nation. That’s called vision. God given vision.
Pastor Fuehrer and the people of his church, and eventually thousands of others who weren’t even Christians, put their faith and trust in Jesus. They realized the biggest obstacle they faced was not the Communist government or military. It was their inability to really believe in and respond to a risen, living Jesus. But once they believed, they responded. They acted. Without a shot being fired. Without a life being lost. On November 9, 1989, after about two months of prayer and protest within and in front of the church building, they marched to the Berlin Wall, and began to tear it down. Some of you might remember, as I do, watching all of this taking place live on TV. Before long the whole Communist rule and system that created and maintained theBerlin wall, also came tumbling down.
There are a number of things we can learn from this experience. But it seems to me that the one thing that may be most important to remember is that, while it is inevitable that there will always be individuals, organizations, and governments who try to, and often succeed, in controlling others, it is also inevitable that God’s will, which is always for freedom and liberty, will ultimately prevail. And we can expect God to use and inspire human beings, like Pastor Fuehrer, and sometimes you and me, to do what is necessary to overcome those evil forces.
As you go through life, you will from time to time face what seem to be immovable walls. It will appear that there is no hope of scaling or destroying those walls. But if what you are hoping for is what God is hoping for, then don’t give up hope. Remember this miraculous story of a seemingly indestructible wall that came tumbling down. In God’s time and in God’s way, He will do the same with your walls.
Thanks for your attention. We look forward to hearing your comments about our web-site. We also invite you to send us stories of your experiences and observations of present hopes and hope fulfilled, so we can spread them around the world via this web-site. This is one way we can all join together to help keep hope alive.