Shake It Out… #gc2012

I’m not even sure there are words to describe the last 24 hours. 

My roommate and re-acquainted friend from our youth days, Jessica Ireland, was hit by a truck in an intersection last night.  She came out on the other side sore, scraped up, with deep scrapes on her foot that will take a while to heal… but with no broken bones.  She came back to the hotel late last night and some of us young adult delegates from Iowa kept her company with pizza and conversation and laughter until the wee hours of the morning.

With little sleep, but a heart full of gratitude that Jessica is okay… or at least will be with some time… we headed to conference.

Our agenda today dealt with sex, money, and power. Literally.

Human sexuality occupied most of our morning session… and I do mean most, because after we failed to pass legislation that claimed United Methodist people of faith disagree on the issue, a protest crossed the bar and occupied the space.  We were heading into the morning break, so it didn’t seem like a big deal.  Those of us who gathered shared communion because what else do you do when you feel so broken?  Where else do you turn? 

But as the conference returned from break, it became clear that those who were in the middle were not leaving.  I was back in my seat, but others refused to budge.  After the monitoring report in which our head of GCSRW took off her badge and prophetically helped us to see that all of us are children of God,  Bishop Coyner declared that the conference was unable to continue its business, he dismissed us for lunch (1.5 hours early), and declared that when we returned from lunch at 2pm that the plenary hall would be closed to all but delegates.

I’m going to just say it.  I am an ally of the GLBT community.  I have not always been a strong ally or advocate in the past because I feel it is my pastoral duty to care for all of my flock and to provide a safe space for people wherever they are and whatever they believe.  So, I’m not outspoken.  But my mother-in-law is a lesbian.  I have dear friends who are clergy and/or would like to be clergy who are out.  I have friends and mentors from my years in seminary and working at West End who are gay or lesbian or transgendered and have helped me to become a better Christian.  A good friend from my high school youth group came out to me as bisexual. I have congregation members who have GLBT sons or daughters or grandchildren or siblings. 

So as I watched my brothers and sisters in Christ in pain, I was heartbroken.  We had said once again that we can’t even agree to disagree about this issue. And I saw the faces of those I love and knew that I couldn’t stand by, I couldn’t leave the plenary space if they were there, singing their hearts out, around the communion table.  Not knowing if as a reserve delegate I would be allowed back in if I left for lunch, I sat in my chair and wept with friends.  I prayed with my Bishop. While I knew that I was not prepared or felt comfortable occupying the plenary space or facing potential arrest from the non-violent demonstration, I was determined not to be shut out of the room.  I prayed for a peaceful resolution for that moment… knowing that a peaceful resolution for our denomination would have to wait another four years or longer.

For three hours, those who were around the communion table sang and marched.  And as plenary gathered once again, it was announced all would be welcome back in the room.  And then our Bishops became our pastors.  They calmed our hearts.  They spoke peace.  It was not okay, and they spoke that truth.  Bishop Wenner said:  This General Conference and the polity of our church have hurt you.  She was real.  She was honest.  And we all listened.  And the protest ended and they marched out of the room holding one hand up in the sign of peace. 

Someone tweeted that nothing quiets a protest faster than a discussion of actuarial tables and within minutes, we were ankle deep in pension discussions. And then we talked about delegating the powers of general conference to another body and the petitions (amendments to the constitution) failed. And all day long, I kept looking for the voices of women and people of color and they were few and far between.  I’m not sure if we were tired or beat up or if we just couldn’t get a word in edgewise, but the entire afternoon felt very heavy…

When we came to worship this evening, we weren’t quite sure we wanted to worship.  We weren’t sure our hearts were in it.  But Marcia McFee did it again… the right words at the right time.  The right songs to stir our souls.  The right symbolic actions to bring us together as the body of Christ… and dear Lord, the right bishop to break open the word of God for us.  Bishop Kiesey’s words were like healing balm for my soul.  I was reminded that this work of two weeks is just that – long, hard, difficult work.  But it is not everything.  We are called to feed the lambs of God.  We are called to feed the sheep of Jesus’ flock.  And on Sunday I’m going home to be IN ministry.  To love the flock God has entrusted me with… to lead them… to feed them… to care for and cast nets wide in search of those people in my community who are desperate for God’s love.  None of this matters if we can’t leave this place and go and serve the ones Jesus loves.  That’s it.  Feed his sheep.  Simple. Succinct. So True.

As we closed, the Lake Junaluska Singers broke it down like no other.  A regular dance party broke out on the floor of general conference and we continued dancing until we had worked out all of the tension and stress and weariness of the day.   It was cleansing to let go.  It was holy to let the Spirit move us.  It was joy in the midst of suffering, kindom fellowship in the midst of the broken world. 

My friend, Sarah, told me tonight that there is a reason dancing is a part of a purging ritual in so many cultures.  We can’t carry that pain with us everywhere.  We have to shake it off.  We have to dance it out.  We have to let wild abandon come over us so that we can breathe deeply, replenish our souls, and start over again tomorrow.

Lord have mercy. 

ding dong, the witch is dead…

I found out that Osama Bin Laden had been killed last night as I was crawling into bed.  It has been a long week, I was tired, and my husband came in and announced the big news.  My husband!  Who normally isn’t all that concerned about world politics/situations.

The first thing I thought of was – “no way!” And then – “hmm… I wonder what that means?”

Today, I had a congregational funeral to deal with.  No time to think about it… although a few people here and there mentioned it and I caught a few clips of stories on NPR.

This afternoon, I was knee deep in reciepts and deposit slips trying to account for donations and reimbursement items from a month of busyness and a couple of youth fundraisers.

And when I got home at 5pm, I really didn’t want to think about it.  I plugged in the headphones, turned up the music, and mowed my lawn for the first time of the year.

I found a few stray plants – an iris that was in the middle of the yard, a few ferns that started growing outside of their beds – so I moved them to better locations.  I raked up the grass clippings and I put them underneath the strawberries. I sprayed some turf builder on the grass until it ran out.

I guess what I’m trying to say is that nothing in my life has changed. Probably nothing in most of our lives has changed.

I listened here and there to various stories as I made a quick trip to the gas station for lawn mower gas and then again after I was finished to pick up some spaghetti noodles.  And everyone was talking about how this one guy created so much destruction.

My first thought is – we probably are giving the guy too much credit.  The organization he was the head of is not a one person show.  Yes, he was the face and figurehead of so much terror that has occured in this world, but I’m not going to let one person scare me or turn my world upside down. I’m not going to concede and give him that power.

My second thought relates to that strange mythological status that we have given him.  Kind of like the Wicked Witch of the East… at her sudden death, the people started singing and dancing in celebration.  Suddenly they were freed from the fear and the frustration, the anger and the pent up revenge and hostility… they burst forth in song in relief.
I can’t help but see images and hear audio from those crowds that have gathered to celebrate without transporting myself to Oz.  It is surreal, it is strange, it is funny and yet… not really.
As a Christian, the only reason that I celebrate the death of another person is because I believe in the power of resurrection.  I believe in the grace and mercy of God that takes what is perishable and makes it eternal.  I believe in the new creation.

I don’t believe I have been given the ability to judge another person’s life. It is not for me to determine their eternal destiny.  And… I cannot put a limit on God’s power to transform and renew and restore even the darkness itself.

I find no reason at all to celebrate the death of a man who killed many.  It doesn’t make me happy or feel good.  It doesn’t bring me joy.  It just reminds me that we are mortal.  That our grabs for power and our bent towards hatred and evil are real and that they are destructive.  This reality sinks me farther into the human condition.  We are broken.  All of us.  And we need help.

If we can turn back towards God and seek peace…

If we can remember that justice and revenge are God’s work and not our own…
If we can love our enemies and pray for those who persecute us…
Maybe then, I might be able to celebrate.

But for now, I’m going to get my hands dirty and plant some irises.

conflict is a reality

I have now been a part of my church community for three whole years.  It is amazing how fast time has gone by and how much we have accomplished with one another.
As I reflect upon my time in ministry, I feel very blessed. We have been a family. We have worked together. We worship and study and minister. And through it all, there has been almost no conflict!

I have to admit… that last statement makes me a little uncomfortable.  In part, I feel like we have been “playing nice” with one another for some time.  I’m waiting for the other shoe to drop.  I wonder sometimes if I have done too much comforting of the afflicted and not enough afflicting of the comfortable.

During this season of Epiphany we have been exploring Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians and it provided an excellent opportunity to talk about conflict.  While Paul urges the people to be united and not divided in heart, I wanted to make sure that my church heard that conflict, in and of itself, is not bad. It is a reality. We will have differences of opinion. We will have varying perspectives. That is a good thing. How we deal with conflict is what gets us into trouble. Paul’s problem is not with the differences, but the fact that their differences have pitted them against one another; he urges them to seek a common unity in the cross of Christ.

As Christians, we have to be able to speak what we know. We have to be able to listen to what other people have to say. We have to dive into the Bible and let it be our foundation. We need to let the Holy Spirit guide us. All of these are good ways of handling conflict.

But we haven’t always let those things be our guide. And past conflicts have in many ways left this congregation tired and worn out. And so we choose not to engage anymore. We choose to be quiet. We choose to not participate.

I was reminded by a friend this week that what will destroy the church is not opposition from without, but indifference within. When we are content to sit back and let others make decisions… when we are afraid to speak the truth… when we don’t feel like we have anything to contribute… that is when the church should be worried.

While I am grateful for not having huge problems to deal with, I also want my congregation to know it is okay to speak up.

Speak up if we are going too slow or too fast. Speak up if you don’t understand. Speak up if you have a question. Speak up if you disagree. Speak up if you agree. Just participate. Be engaged. And know that every single one of you – from the quietest to the most outspoken – is a part of this Body of Christ… each of you are important and vital. Each of you has something to offer. Don’t be afraid.

I wrote those words a few days ago. And this morning, I have been glued to my computer as I watch the protests in Egypt.

Egyptians protest in central Cairo today.
Photograph: Khaled El Fiqi/EPA
(from guardian.co.uk)
A commentator on the live Al Jazeera English broadcast said that these protests are so unprecedented because for so long, the Egyptians sat back and were not involved.  They had become complacent and indifferent.
And then, they found their voice. A number of people have said that the Egyptians are no longer afraid. They are welcoming the tanks on the streets… it is a dare to continue protesting and they are taking up the challenge.

People from many different walks of life have come together today to protest the regime that has been in control in Egypt. Young and old, religious and non-religious, men and women have taken to the streets all across the country. There are men in suits and in jeans and t-shirts. Conflict is rampant…

Some are peacefully present.  Some stop in prayer. Some hurl rocks. Some shout. Even in the face of lines of communication being shut down, they are not afraid to speak and to continue to find ways to get their message out. What has troubled me today is how violent these protests have turned.  Years of pent up anger and frustration are being spilled out through fires and projectiles being thrown. Violence from the police and army and violence from protestors feed on one another.

Today, the conflict that has erupted is good.  The greviances of the people should be heard. But let us pray that both people and government might find peaceful ways of resolving this conflict, of talking and communcating, of finding a way forward.

Are Ye Able?

I have just two simple questions for us to wrestle with this morning… First – what do you want? And second – are you willing to do what it takes to get it?

What do you want? And are you willing to do what it takes to get it?

Now – let’s be honest with one another… how many of you first thought of something you really want like a new car or a new house or retirement to come early? Show of hands =)

I hate to disappoint you all this morning, but I’m not one of those fancy television preachers that can promise fame and fortune and personal success if you just pray hard enough. Sorry.

No, I’m asking these questions – not because together they are the key to unlock a world of personal gain… but because they ask us if we are willing to lose everything.

What do you want? And are you willing to do what it takes to get it?

Some time ago, I had my congregation make a list of the five most important things in their lives. I asked them to write them down and to number them in order of importance.

I think that all of us found the task very difficult. While it might be easy to list those things that are really and truly important to us – our families, our work, our education, our faith – to place one of these things above the other, to make those kinds of choices is hard. It is hard because it means that some things in life – some things that we truly love – have to be placed second. Or third. Or stop becoming a part of our lives all together.

This morning, we are talking about allegiances, about priorities, and what we do when those priorities conflict.

As much as we love to talk about freedom here in the United States, the truth is, we are always, every day, constrained by choices. We are always, every day, limited in our ability to do one thing, because we have chosen to put another thing first. Whether it is our jobs or our families or a certain value like freedom itself – we live our lives so that that thing determines all of our actions.

Our courageous men and women in uniform understand this choice. Just as they are working tirelessly to defend the freedoms of others – they must sacrifice and put their own families on the back burner.

New moms and dads can attest to this fact – when a baby comes into your life – everything else stops. That infant child becomes the highest priority in the world to you… above work, about yourself, above everything.

And for most of us, we do that, we prioritize one thing over another because we truly love it. We love it so much that we would be willing to do ANYTHING for it.

We understand the word “sacrifice” when it comes to our jobs or our families…

But how often do we understand the word sacrifice when it comes to our faith?

I was driving around recently and caught a segment from BBC World News on the radio. It was a story about how the peace talks between Israel and Palestine are being perceived in Israel itself. One of the men being interviewed said very adamantly – I want peace, but I don’t want to surrender.

As I kept listening to him say those words: I want peace, but I don’t want to surrender, I found myself so frustrated by this attitude that says the only peace that is acceptable is the one that comes on my terms.

And I realized how often God must be frustrated with us… because we make the same choice. The only faith that is acceptable to us is the one that comes on our terms.

We want to be Christians, but we don’t want to surrender the things of this world.

Today in Luke’s gospel, Christ teaches us that we can’t have it both ways.

We can’t hang on to our own desires or hopes or dreams or things and also follow Christ.

We have to answer the question – What do you want? And are you willing to do what it takes to get there?

Do you want to be a disciple of Jesus? And if so, are you willing to do what it takes?

Photo by Michaela Kobyakov
Jesus looks out upon the crowd and asks us some questions. If you were going to build a house, wouldn’t you first sit down and figure out the supplies you needed and how much money it would cost? You don’t want to be stuck with a building you can’t complete? If you were a president going off to war, wouldn’t you first sit down and figure out how many troops you needed and how much money it would take? And if it was a fight you didn’t have the resources to win, wouldn’t you go to the other leader and surrender?

Take stock, Jesus tells us. I know you want to be my disciples – but are you willing to do what it takes to be one? Count the costs. Are they burdens that you are willing to bear?

Are you willing to hate your father and mother and spouse and child? Are you willing to give up your job and your security? Are you willing to give up your citizenship and your rights? Are you willing to lay it all on the line to follow me?

Hesitantly, we say yes – I want to be a Christian… but we wonder about where that line is.

You see, we draw our lines in very different places than Jesus would draw lines.

We draw lines around our family and say – I’m not willing to sacrifice this. Or we draw lines around our jobs – and will sacrifice it all for the next paycheck. We draw lines in the sand and say that this particular issue – whether it’s abortion or animal rights or Islamic religious centers or the creation of a Palestinian state – this issue is the most important thing and that we will never give up until we have gotten our way and if you stand outside of that line then you are the enemy. We refuse to surrender. We refuse to give in. And in the end, I think we loose it all.

Because you know what – Christ draws a line. He doesn’t draw it around our houses or cars or children or institutions or issues – but he draws it right down the center of our lives.

Remember, Christ turns the world as we know it upside down. To save your life, you must lose it. To be exulted, you must be humbled. To be first, you must be last.

Nowhere in the gospel does it say that if you go to church on Sundays and the rest of the week work really hard at your job and raise a good family then someday after you die you’ll go to this happy and wonderful place called Heaven. I wish it did, but it simply doesn’t.

No, the gospel tells us that we must hate our parents and our spouses and children and put it all on the line and bear our crosses – and then we will be his disciples.

Just bear with me for a second…

Because alongside all of those hard demands on our lives, there is the good news… Because the gospel also says that the sick will be healed. The gospel also says the poor will be lifted up. The gospel also says the oppressed with go free. The gospel also promises Emmanuel – God- with-us.

Those are the words and the promises that I find in scripture. I believe in the God that will set all things right… and that includes my sorry, screwed up life with all of this messed up priorities. I believe in the God that went to the cross to experience the agony of human suffering and who rose victorious on the other side. And I have to trust that if God says – turn it all over to me and I will make something beautiful of your life – that God means what God says.

Priorities and allegiances matter. What we want more than anything in the world matters. And Christ says that if we choose to be his disciples… if we chose to be known as his followers, then we are in the palm of God’s hand. We should not be afraid, because we have life in Christ. We will find our lives and our fullness, when we follow him.

Today – we are challenged to turn our lives over. We are challenged to surrender all of those things that we think we want and that this world tells us are so important. Here our lives are, Lord. Here we are, Lord. Use us to feed the hungry. Use usto heal the sick. Use us to lift up the brokenhearted. Use us to speak the truth in love to those who preach lies. Use us to stand with the oppressed. Use us to say “no” to a world obsessed with more. And if by chance the world turns against us – so be it. We will know who stands beside us.

My prayer is that we as a community can stand up and say to the world – We want to be Christ’s disciples – and we know what is asked of us. We are ready to live God’s kingdom in this world. We know what it asks of us. And we are not afraid. Amen.

Peace without Surrender

I was driving around this afternoon and caught a segment from BBC World News on the radio.  It was a story about how the peace talks between Israel and Palestine are being percieved in Israel itself.  One of the men being interviewed said very adamantly – I want peace, but I don’t want to surrender.

I kept listening to him say those words and found myself so frustrated by this attitude that says the only peace that is acceptable is the one that comes on my terms.

This week, our gospel lesson from Luke in the lectionary teaches us that we can’t have it both ways.  We can’t hang on to our own desires and hopes and dreams and things and also follow Christ.  We can’t have the peace that passes all understanding unless we are willing to surrender it all.

The truth is, most of the time, we think we don’t have what it takes.  Our families are too important to us. Our jobs and that sense of security is too important.  We aren’t willing to put it all on the line and so, the irony is that we do surrender – but to the wrong things.  We surrender to the idea that we will fail.  We surrender to the pressure of family values.  We surrender to patriotism and nationalism and consumerism.  We surrender thinking that we will keep our lives… but in the end, we will do nothing but lose it all.
Christ turns our whole lives upside down.  To save your life, you must lose it. To be exaulted, you must be humbled. To be first, you must be last.
No where in the gospel does it say that if you go to church on Sundays and the rest of the week work really hard at your job and raise a good family then someday after you die you’ll go to this happy and wonderful place called Heaven. I wish it did, but it simply doesn’t.
No, the gospel tells us that we must hate our parents and our spouses and children and put it all on the line and bear our crosses – and then we will be his disciples.
I have to admit, I’ve never been a person to think too intently about what waits us after this life.  I’m not the type of Christian who has her heart set on heaven.  I don’t care that much about blissful and peaceful eternity.  What I want is for the sick to be healed.  I want the poor to be lifted up.  I want the oppressed to go free. I want to experience Emmanuel – God-with-us – to be in the presence of God and to know that all things are well.
Those are the words and the promises that I find in scripture.  I believe in the God that will set all things right… and that includes my sorry-ass. And I think if I got to experience that for even a moment – that would be enough. I have to trust that if God says – turn it all over to me and I will make something beautiful of your life – that God means what she says.  Lay it all on the line…
Maybe the tricky part is that line.  You see, we draw our lines in very different places than Jesus would draw lines.  We draw lines around our family and say – I’m not willing to sacrifice this.  Or we draw lines around our jobs – and will sacrifice it all for the next paycheck.  We draw lines in the sand and say that this particular issue – whether it’s abortion or animal rights or Islamic religious centers or the creation of a Palestinian state – is the most important thing and that we will never give up until we have gotten our way and if you stand outside of that line then you are the enemy.  We refuse to surrender.  We refuse to give in.  And in the end, I think we loose it all.
Because you know what – Christ draws a line.  He doesn’t draw it around our houses or cars or children or institutions or issues – but he draws it right down the center of our lives.  And Jesus says, leave it all, come and follow me.
So I’m turning my life over.  I’m surrendering all of those things that I think I want and that this world tells me are so important. Here it is, Lord. Here I am, Lord. Use me to feed the hungry.  Use me to heal the sick.  Use me to lift up the brokenhearted.  Use me to speak the truth in love to those who preach lies.  Use me to stand with the oppressed.  Use me to say “no” to a world obsessed with more. And if by chance the world turns against me – so be it.

Moltmann Conversation – Session 4 Justice

• War and Peace = 3 options 1) chance swords into Christian swords and become a dragon killer – the evil kingdom is oppressed, the axis of evil eliminated, etc. HCE option and atomic bombs into Christian atomic bombs; 2) leave the swords to the unbelievers – this is an option outside of the perfection of Christ, but the wars are going on and on and on; 3) change swords into plowshares and change war industry into an ecological industrial complex and this is is not to become a peaceable man but a peacemaking man – this would be my option to try to change swords into plowshares. Take swords out of the hands of the violent and make them into peace, because mankind will not survive with swords. For this we need a double strategy – communities which anticipate this peaceable kingdom and on the other hand communities who work for peacemaking in the world. We need peace-makers!

• The anticipation piece, with the piece of resistance- if we embrace hope we live in the peace of resistance. Interested in examples of where are the concrete practices/rhythms/values that we can live as we anticipate. Within the global social movement, resistance only takes us so far before people look for alternatives – where does the church create “landing places” for the future? These movements are not always Christian churches! But many Christians take part in these movements. Some of them are very effective – ie: the green party in Europe, they were an extraparliamentary opposition groups – they formed a party and were bringing the ecological questions to the public. After 20 years, we already see how they pressed these topics/questions of ecology into the other parties – so now they all talk about the environment; same with social justice in Germany – even in free market neo-liberal thought. Showing an alternative life was effective! Many people in Europe don’t join political parties anymore, because that is limited to a nation, while groups are global (like Doctors without Borders).

• Basic communities – different kind of home church – but they tend to embrace practices different from the system – how do they touch you? To live a community life in the slums – to show people how mutual help will bring them out of the misery. The contrary of poverty is is community – b/c in community we are rich in ideas, energies, we can help ourselves. Only the individualization, commercialism that makes people powerless. In community we are strong! Social justice should remind us of the first Christian congregation – Acts 4 – there was not a needy person among them, they had everything in common. This is a promise… but also a commandment in our churches. The church is alive when in the congregation there are communities – smaller groups live together. A lot of churches in Germany are only ½ filled – because you can’t enjoy the service, there is nothing to enjoy – there was a church in Tubingen that is overfilled every Sunday because they consist of smaller communities who meet in houses and work for issues on behalf of the poor, feeding the poor, etc, and then in the service, these groups say what they have done and each speak where they need help and a person who they engaged, etc. (WOW!) This is an old knowledge that a community exists of communities (Wesley class meetings?)

• American public theology has lost a lot of space – the church is relegated to the margins, personal spirituality. Public debate about justice is left to politicians/social services. We wonder in our congregations where is the place of the church? We try to take back some of this public conversation but it’s difficult because the public conversation about justice and goodness is not based on God but is secular. What kinds of vision do you have for the church in relation to that conversation (political theology)? 2 tasks for the church: diakonia – serve the poor and the sick and the homeless and the jobless; prophetic task to say to the powerful and the public “Look! To those who are in the shadows” and without the prophetic voice, the diakonic service would just be reparation and without the diakonic the prophetic would be shallow and empty. Words & deeds. Every person has this experience – if you visit a sick member in the hospital and they say, how nice is it that you are coming b/c my family has forgotten me, you will turn around and go to the family and ask why do you leave your family alone in that hospital?! Same is true for the church at large! We need the silent work and the prophetic voices. You cannot make this – prophets are called and sometimes against their will.

• When I read your work and the work you are asking us to engage into – living the prmise right now… are we becoming co-creators of the kingdom or is this something that we are just to expect to come and to happen? We prepare the way for the righteousness of God to come in our possibilities and our potentialities ,which are certainly limited. Otherwise the kingdom would be the kingdom of man and not of God, so we should have in minds the difference, even if we can and must anticipate the justice of the kingdom. 20th century was called the Christian century – but divided by the colonial powers of the west, and the abyss of WWI, the end of this belief in progress. Now this belief in progress is returning in this idea of globalization – finance/goods/products – this is approaching already with an impact on the environment so we have a globalization without the globe! We need a globalization of social justice, peace-making relationships

• Abu Ghirab – thought of Moltmann’s story and how he said the main thing that helped you follow Jesus was that you experienced so much grace at the hands of your captors – you went back to the camp where you were a prisoner… interested in tension between those two stories. Talk about grace and tragedy: I share with you the anxiety about what your own country can do to other people – it is terrible. We never expected this to happen from the hands of Americans. We had other experiences with Americans after the war in Germany when they started the Marshall plan and the care packages coming, so it’s more convincing to love your enemy than to hate and kill the enemy! So what happened in this prison and Iraq was outrageous and I cannot understand an administration that allows this to happen. But let me stop b/c I don’t want to interfere with your internal affairs – 20 years after the close of the camp I was in, we surviving inmates came together in the same place where nature had taken over the camps and we had worship outside under the oak trees and invited the camp commander to the meeting and he said he had never heard about prisoners who voluntarily came back to the place where they were imprisoned and praised God for what they had experienced! But that is what happened to them and it was a great and gracious gift of the Brit. Govt. and the YMCA to give the former enemies a new chance for life and we will never forget that . After WWI different story, but after WW2 we experienced only help to stand up, to get away from the ruins, to rebuild Germany – reinvented their country with the help of the English, Amerians and the French. This is a much wiser policy when you are against enemies.

• The sweeping up of you into the Hitler Youth and there are young people in other countries who are likewise getting swept up into these movements – any perspective on that? The resistance movements against the Hitler regime were strong in other places because the Germans were an occupation force – to form a resistance in your own people makes you an alien in your own people. To resist apartheid as a black man, was to resist on behalf of your people, but the whites who resisted became isolated in their own people and alienated from own families. This is much more difficult and painful – but one should not… in Germany after WW1 – patriotism was so strong that only a few could go into resistance against your own father – after a time of being alienated in this way – there is no fathership in dictatorship and tyranny! I said to myself when I returned home I will never serve in a german army again – but if I have the chance to kill the german dictator I will do it. I was committed to peace and killing the tyrant. I told this to Mennonites and they said “oh, that’s okay”