The epistle of James can be understood as belonging to the literary genre of the wisdom literature of Israel. Written by a Messianic Jew, intended most probably for Messianic Jewish congregations beyond Palestine, it reflects Jewish thought patterns throughout. The overarching wisdom theme of the book: external behavior reveals the condition of the inner life.
Retreat in Trieb
Sixteen of us gathered for six days in the ancestral home of the Benecke family in Oberfranken (northern Bavaria) for a retreat on discipleship, and the fruit of discipleship—the formation of Christlikeness in the inner life.
Our days were ordered around shared meals, liturgy of the hours, teaching sessions, work times, and engaging in spiritual disciplines.
Teaching sessions, drawn from George’s book Maturing toward Wholeness in the Inner Life,included discipleship, humility, the Kingdom of God, practicing God’s Presence, inner healing and learning how to forgive. We engaged in the spiritual disciplines of solitude, meditation, pilgrimage, personal journalling, and celebration…..
Forty or so years ago a number of churches invited Fritz Schuler, the leader of Operation Mobilization, Germany to visit and speak about missions. He asked George and I to join him for a series of meetings. As we travelled together he suggested that I should also share my story.
At that time my long journey with forgiveness was still immature and probably my words about my German past were stilted and superficial. Even so, I was unprepared for the response from the middle-aged and older christians. After my last word I sat down on a chair facing the audience, no one broke the shocked silence, a heavy suffocating cloud filled the tense room.
About a year after this sobering experience, another friend, Erika Baber, asked me to share my story with a small group of older ladies who met regularly for Bible Study at the Evangelische Kirche (Lutheran church) in Mosbach.
“Will my story be too painful for them?” I asked.
As a child Erika had lived in a Displaced Persons’ Camp. With all her heart she desired that the women could be made free from the past by facing the truth.
The small group was seated around a large wooden table in a dark room and at the end of my story… the same heavy, suffocating silence. Heads bowed, eyes on the floor until one woman whispered, “Wir sind schuldig” (“We are guilty”).
Only in the early 1980’s was the silence broken. The catalyst was a German TV program, The Holocaust. In the ensuing years, the widespread open truth telling and sorrow about the Holocaust in Germany has been a moral light shining on our dark world.
As for me I have experienced the Hand of a loving and just Heavenly Father leading me to go further and deeper into my own journey of forgiveness.
And so, on 25 August 2018, when I faced an audience of 70 or so local people looking at me in the barn in Nüstenbach, Mosbach, waiting for me to read from Meine Krone in der Asche (A Garland for Ashes), I could begin with freedom and, yes, a love for Germans, fellow human beings.
At the end, what a contrast… continuous… honest questions… seeking answers.
How much has changed in the lives of the audience and in my life!
I trace the finger of God leading to this redemptive event. This book reading in a barn was rooted in a place, Mosbach, and our common history… the Holocaust.
We were hosted and welcomed by the Hildenbrand family who had farmed their land around this village for generations.
Gerda and Manfred, our friends, known leaders in the local community, invited us and organized that unforgettable evening.
Those were the days!
This photo just landed in our Inbox. It was 1972, MV Logos was in Bangladesh & Dr Harawatiki (white hair) the ship’s doctor was visiting remote villages, hosting medical clinics. Kertstin Littlejohn, in the blue dress, was the nurse and Hanna was tagging along.
The end of our interview. Tina Schmidt asked Hanna gentle, penetrating questions about the past. Fontis Verlag, the publisher of Meine Krone in der Asche just posted our talk, in German, on YouTube.
Seated around a table, enjoying friendship and food, pausing and noticing the other guests.
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Oil Painting by Hyatt Moore