NOTE: Sally Klein O'Connor's portion of this report appears in italics. All other entries belong to ATOR team members.
I always find myself a bit at a loss for words as I start to put together a report for A Tour of Roses. I am amazed this whole project can even happen—and that it actually does. It is certainly something that God has led us into these last few years and He has provided prayer and support and people who have a heart to go. He has also given us incredible favor and protection in more ways than I will probably ever comprehend.
What follows is a potpourri of Facebook posts, prayer updates and some linking narrative on my part. We have consolidated and rearranged them. While I know it is impossible to capture every moment, every encounter, it’s my desire to give you as much of the flavor of this trip as I can, so you can almost touch and taste it for yourself.
I started speaking with a woman on the plane named Irena. She is from Poland but living in Washington, D.C. She's going to the city of Auschwitz to visit her sister who is sick. I told her we were going to pass out 5,000 roses in Berlin. She was very moved by this. Sally gave me a CD to give to her. Bonnie gave her a rose card from Belfast. She was moved. Irena and Sally spoke about Sally being Jewish. She was very surprised and started crying. We told her we'd pray for her sister, Maria. An amazing encounter…
When the 7 of us from Los Angeles arrived in Berlin we almost immediately met up with Evi but then it took us another couple hours to connect with Randy and Jurgen. I was worried about the roses and not getting there on time to pay for them, but it all turned out quite fine. We drove up to Beit Sar Shalom in time for a splendid lunch, and right after we ate the roses arrived—3000 of them. I think people were surprised to see so many roses in one place. But everything went very smoothly. We got the buckets out and began putting the roses in water, getting them ready to be cleaned…
This is a great trip for me, whether cutting, petaling, or tying the roses, I get blessed because I know each rose is going to somebody and it will be a blessing to them because they are receiving God’s love through them. I am praying over the roses so when a person receives the rose the people get a prayer as well. So sometimes I’m quiet while everyone’s chatting. I thank God that He provided for me to come here. He’s given me the opportunity to be with a great group of people and a wonderful team. This is my first mission trip and I didn’t know what to expect so WOW!
We had several wonderful German volunteers from Beit Sar Shalom help with the roses and even prepare some meals for us!! They were all quite amazing, driving us home in their cars, accepting no gas money, helping stoically with de-thorning the roses, petaling, and tying the cards onto the roses. Bringing treats, cooking and cleaning, kind of overwhelming. They all had tremendous servant-hearts, and we were very blessed by each and every one.
I am so touched by the many deeply committed German Christians I have met here at Beit Sar Shalom. Pnina, Beate, Sigrid, Eike, Helga, and many others . They have come and helped us prepare the roses, bought us food, gone on the streets to pass out the roses and invite people to the concerts and yesterday three women came and drove us to Ravensbruck. Each one I have spoken to has a unique story to tell, but the most important and common thread is their love and passion to share God's love with people.
Our very first outing with the roses ended up being in the neighborhood on Saturday morning before the Shabbat service at Beit Sar Shalom. God is so good. I was worried because it was drizzling and I thought we had to get the roses out by cab to some location. But when I prayed about it I felt the calm leading of the Holy Spirit reassuring me that it would be enough that morning to take armfuls of roses out into the immediate community and hand them out in the shops and stores and to people on the streets in the nearby neighborhoods.
Bonnie and I were together passing out roses. Some people said "thank you" and I would say "shpeakin' dah English? Kashenk (gift). Fry (free)." A tall, sad-eyed woman came by. I said, "I want to give you a rose to have a wonderful day." Then I said "Kashenk. Fry" She stopped in her tracks and started reading the card. She started tearing up. I reached out and asked, “can I give you a hug?” I put my arms around her and she held on to me TIGHT! When She was done hugging me she said, "Now I'm going to have a wonderful day because of that hug."
I was with a volunteer named Mini. We were crossing the street together trying to catch up with two other people from our team. As we were going through the parked cars I called to a man we almost missed. She called out in German and then he stopped. I offered him a rose and he didn't say yes or no. We spoke with him. He said he would have a hard time holding the rose because he was carrying groceries. Mini asked him why.
He said he had an accident 2 1/2 years ago. He pointed to his head and he had scar going from one side of his temple over the top to the other side. He pulled up his sleeve and showed us more scars. He showed us his legs and the scars - they were all over his body. We asked what happened. He said he was hit by a car by a man who was trying to kill himself. It was late at night when the car hit him and he lay on the street for a long time. He ended up in the hospital in a coma for one month, and then 2 1/2 more months were spent in the hospital. The doctor said he was supposed to die (one leg was about 6 inches longer than the other because of reconstruction).
Mini asked him if he knew God. He put his groceries down and took the rose and read the card and he told her that he had heard of this Jesus but he was having a hard time with too much to do to take care of himself. I then told him that I had an accident, too, that I had had frostbite and lost part of one leg and most of my other foot. So I explained to him that when I was about to die I cried out and Jesus appeared and had a wonderful talk with me.
Then he said that he had a similar experience. He said he lived by himself. When he was in the hospital his wife and daughters were there all the time. Since then, he had gotten divorced because his wife couldn't understand what he was going through. He didn't have much money because he couldn't work. I told this man that I have two daughters. Our daughters were about the same age as mine when I was hurt. I asked what he did for a job before. He said he was a truck driver. I told him I was a mechanic.
He said he couldn't take care of himself. I told him that for a long time I couldn't take care of myself. He said he was very, very lonely and had depression. I explained that I was very lonely for many years and had depression for four years. Then Mini asked him if he knew the Lord. He said that I had all this time to seek after G-d but he was too busy trying to care for himself. So I said it was the same for me for a few years but God showed me to give back to other people. But I was busy all the time, too, taking care of things. He said he didn't have much money and couldn't work. He became teary eyed and said he couldn’t deal with the medical problems. I agreed. He said he lost all his friends and I told him how I could relate.
We asked to pray for him and he said no because we were in the street and it was too public. So we invited him to come to the concert where I could then talk to him and pray for him more privately. He looked at the concert address and discovered it was around the block from him. Then he smiled for the first time since we first began speaking with him, but it was a very sad smile.
Before I went on this trip someone at church prayed for me and said that I would meet a woman in her '80s who had glasses on like mine but plastic rimmed. She would have a blue sweater on and that I was supposed to give her a hug. Today as I was handing out roses I was looking for this woman. I found her. I went up to give this woman a rose; she had a blue coat, glasses like mine with plastic rims and she looked around 80. I handed her a rose and i told her that God loves her and that God told me to give her a hug. She did not speak English and I spoke no German so I pantomimed like I wanted to hug her and she put up her hands like "no" so I didn't hug her.
As I continued handing out roses she went into a nearby flower shop. I went in to give a rose to the people in the flower shop and I thought if they spoke English then the could translate to her for me. The flower shop lady spoke some English and she told the lady my story. The lady got tears in her eyes, and said, "Well, no, because I have a cold." I replied, "Ok, so I'll hug you from behind" and I did. She had more tears in her eyes and was SO happy. I blessed her and then I left. I was very touched by the whole thing... that I found this woman that I was told to find. It was amazing to me.
A couple passed by me. I offered a rose and they refused. They passed by. A few moments later the woman of the couple returned and asked me if she could have a rose in English. I gave her one. She explained to me that once someone gave her a rose and then stuck their hand out and asked for two euros. I said, "oh no, this is free. This is because God loves you." She touched my arm and was happy, so very happy, and I gave her one for her husband too.
After we handed out roses in the neighborhood we got ready for the Shabbat service at Beit Sar Shalom which was in the same building where most of the team was staying. The service was in Hebrew, German and Russian…
The Shabbat service at Bet Sar Shalom was very moving. Not only being in BERLIN worshipping at a Jewish service. Dayenu. Not only worshipping in Hebrew, German, and Russian. Dayenu. Not only with Jews from many countries and Gentiles of many nationalities. But I truly realized that it wasn't the German or Polish anti Semitic people but it was the principalities of darkness; it was Satan behind all of that evil. The people were victims themselves. Satan was dividing people. He was doing what he does best - stealing, killing, and destroying. But here I stood in Berlin worshipping God in a Messianic service filled with people from every nation, tongue, and tribe in unity. It was so moving. After all the pain and prejudice look who wins! It is our King and His Kingdom that will survive and thrive and succeed. DAYENU!
I first met Vladimir Pikman (leader of Berlin Congregation Beit Sar Shalom) in 2007 when Evi and I stayed at the building in Berlin during our first visit to Germany. I also did a concert for the congregation at that time. In 2009 both Vladimir and Inna, his wife, participated in the concert/presentation I did at the palace ballroom in Dachau. Inna led worship and Vladimir shared just before the end of the concert. A lot of people were very touched. Since then Vladimir has continued to be supportive—in whatever way he can, along with the staff of Beit Sar Shalom—of A Tour of Roses. We were all so very grateful when the team was offered free housing at the building. Everyone in the office—especially Andrei and Ulrike—was so helpful, thoughtful, and generous toward the team for this project…
At the fellowship church meeting, Jews and Gentiles gathered in His name, Sally was asked at the end of the service to share about ATOR. I was asked to translate for her and out of the blue Sally asked me right in front of all the people, to tell them where I was from. I did not expect her at all to do this, but the Lord was so in it. I was overwhelmed and cried. I said that I was from Dachau area and that God has forgiven us. Just in those few seconds God did something very beautiful in my heart and I give Him all the glory.
Many people came up to us after the service to offer their help. Some even offered to drive us to Ravensbruck for our time of worship and prayer the next morning. That was a great blessing to us all. Carla, Micaela, and Beate showed up the next morning to transport all the team more than an hour out of Berlin to Ravensbruck, where Corrie Ten Boom and her sister, Betsie were taken. Betsie died there in 1944…
Sometimes I take a step, open up my keyboard preparing to worship in the stillness of a place like Ravensbruck, with all it's painful history, and wonder, can I sing in a place where birds don't? And when I actually do it becomes the most natural thing in the world.
As we worshiped and prayed the sun began to emerge and warm us. It was really quite beautiful. Light in the gloom. We prayed through the 19 blessings of the Shemoneh Esrei. There were individual memorials on what looked like the execution/shooting wall to every country that lost people at Ravensbruck. I think there were 20. The team put a rose on each memorial and prayed for the families and friends and loved ones of those who were killed. Then we gathered again, and the 5 of us who are Jewish asked God to help us release the perpetrators of this camp from our judgment and prejudice. That more than any human source it is evil itself that we hate and hold responsible, for as Jesus said, "Father forgive them, they do not know what they are doing." We prayed for the Lord to redeem the land and the people--to heal them and bless them...
At Ravensbruck I couldn't imagine being emotional. I thought it would be like going to a museum or an old ghost town that doesn't really matter anymore or is just history. At the memorial site we were told to stay in groups and in my group we couldn't find the SS Barracks.
Along the way I saw a small building with a brick chimney. As I looked in the window I was horrified to see that they were ovens--the crematorium where they burned people's bodies. I also saw the barracks where they tortured people. Near there I saw the entrance to the gas chambers but it had been shut. After seeing a certain documentary about Ravensbruck I didn't feel like talking. It was shocking.
Eventually we joined up with Mama (Sally) and she was near the crematorium. I felt like the Lord wanted me to go inside to pray and worship. While in there I could imagine inmates shoveling corpses into the ovens and angels and demons taking their souls as their bodies burned. I couldn't identify the spirit right away, but there were demons all around trying to say, "None of this happened. Don't worry about it. None of this happened." When I got home I realized it was the spirit of Denial. Even though I didn't know specifically who they were I still rebuked them.
Eventually as Mama was singing the songs I began singing out loud and rebuking every demon that was in or behind every oven. After we had all prayed together as a group outside the crematorium. I prayed for the entire land that they would be cleared of demons because they don't belong there anymore. I also prayed that when people come to this place that they will not say 'there is no God' but that they will remember what NOT to do.
The crematorium had a very dark atmosphere. I was there with one of the German volunteers, Beate. We were commenting on how difficult it was to be there. At the end of our worship, Beate came running to me to go into the area again. She said the spirit of heaviness was gone. And sure enough, it was a different feeling. Now hearing Bonnie's story I see why.
On the first Monday we started off working with the roses and then we went out to the Brandenburg Gate. We arranged for 2 van taxis to take all the team and the roses. Many times the team had to sit a bucket of roses on their laps as the cabbies packed us together like sardines. It was quite the experience. Eric had a real heart to pray for the roses to be anointed each time, as did Marlys when she was preparing them. I would usually wedge myself into the passenger seat along with my keyboard and my music notebook and back pack…
There was a demonstration/protest going on when we arrived at the dropping off place for cabbies at the Brandenburg Gate. I directed the team out of the main area toward the side where we situated several buckets of roses and I set up my keyboard on a table we kidnapped temporarily from Beit Sar Shalom. Even though there was a lot of noise and people moving through the area, the Lord touched many hearts that day through the roses and worship—and the cards…
Today was different than when we went in the neighborhood. People were in a bigger hurry, many people said "No" and turned away. It seemed there was a more cynical attitude. Sitting in front of the Gate were a couple of street kids with a sign that said “Beer and Weed” next to a collection cup. I wanted to talk to them about the Lord. I took the German volunteer translator, P'nina, with me and started talking to these kids.
They were saying they were hungry so P'nina went to get vouchers. The guard had them move to a different location. When she came back we couldn't find them so we went to the other side of the gate to look for them. In looking for them I spoke with a man dressed as a soldier. He was 34 years old and was an officer in the German army stationed in Afghanistan.
He was protesting the loss of freedom of speech and all the surveillance going on. He felt that the purposes of the wars were just to take over the countries and not to bring freedom. I agreed with him and talked with him about the way everything is heading toward the one-world kingdom. I told him I found the solution was not in politics but in God's kingdom. I shared many Scriptures and we spoke a long time. It was friendly conversation. His name is Daniel. May God open his eyes to see Christ; that his stand for justice is good, but ultimate justice is found in the Lord.
There were two gentleman in a bicycle rickshaw. I gave them a rose and a flyer. One asks me "What's this about?"
I said, "It is about the love of God being shared by passing out roses."
He says, “Is there a God?”
I said, “Have you ever heard about the Bible?”
He says, “who hasn't? Its the most famous book in the world.”
I said, “Have you ever read it?”
He says, “Yes. It's like any other book. Its just a book.”
I said “You are talking about head knowledge versus heart knowledge.” Then he looks at me strangely.
I said, “When you are looking for God you will find Him and He comes to live inside you. It opens your heart and changes you.”
He says, “What do you mean by change?”
Then I said, “It's a transformation that happens inside you. It's a gift; it's free; His son died on the cross for our sins”.
He said,” there's no such thing as sin”. I realized how humanistic he was.
Then I said, “You think you're a good person?”
He said, "Yes, i'm a good person. I''ve never murdered.
"Have you ever hated anybody?"
He said, "Yes."
I said, "In the Bible if you hate somebody it's just like you murdered them." I said, "Have you ever lied?"
He said, "Yes, who hasn't?"
I asked, "Have you ever stolen anything?"
He said, "Yes, who hasn't?" I agreed with him.
I said, "Have you ever looked at a woman with lust in your heart?
He said, "Yes, everyone does."
And I said, "So have I. By God's commandment you are a liar, thief, murderer, and adulterer.
Then he says you can do nothing to convince me about this."
I said, "I'm not trying to convince you about anything. I'm just answering your question. If you really want to know what it's like to be loved by the one true God, this love is REAL, not a fake love. It's a transformation.
I wished him a good day. Please pray for Til.
JURGEN & ELAINE:
A man and woman came together and stood in line to speak to me (how often does that happen?) I realized they spoke no English so I called for my trusted friend Jurgen to help. He broke off a conversation he was having and came to help.
They asked what this was all about? Jurgen told them about that "this is an American team with Jews and Gentiles who came to Germany to tell us God loves us and they have forgiven us and God will forgive us." He told him that "I grew up in the Dachau area and Sally came to hand out roses there, and it really blessed me that we have forgiven each other. Germans Jewish friends forgiven each other." I think they were touched and hungry because they stayed glued in the spot for Jurgen to continue.
We found they were from Austria. I told them that I was in a boarding school in Austria. I met a friend there and we went in the basement to pray together and God came really close. He was Catholic and I was Free Church and it didn't matter. Jesus' love reaches all of us. As they left we prayed for them and asked God to connect them with Christians. They just seemed so expectant and touched. It's a seed planted and they seemed very, very close.
It was a short conversation with one lady near the underground station. People were in a hurry. One lady was very pleased to receive the rose and asked “Why”? I told her God loved her. She was very deeply touched. It was a special moment.
At first we were getting all “Nos”. Finally some started accepting the roses. Bibi handed out some to people. I felt a tap on my shoulder and here were two servicemen and they wanted a rose and a card. It seems to turn out that it begins slow and then they come running to you! We were kept quite busy giving out roses from then on. We even ran out.
I am standing near the Brandenburg gate on cobblestones in stocking feet, roaming on my keyboard through melodies, worshiping the King while the rest of my team is handing roses to tourists and locals, children and the old, anyone who has a pulse—inviting them to the concerts. Probably 600 roses disappeared within the hour. One of the volunteers encountered a couple of people with roses somewhere else in town, saying there was a lady playing the piano...
As we went home 4 of us got a cab. I got to sit in the front with the driver. I found out he was from Turkey. I told him with all my heart that I was so glad he and his family were here in Germany. He was surprised because some Germans have told him they don't like Turks. He soaked it up and appreciated it so much. I told him what we were doing and invited him to a concert. I explained that some were Jews and he watched Schindler's list several times and talked about the Turks providing a haven for Jews several times throughout history. He said, "Abraham is our father."
We talked about prophets Moses. And Issa (Jesus) a great prophet. We hugged in saying goodbye. As he was ready to leave he rolled down his window and asked that I pray for him. I realized I could give him roses. I turned around and he was still looking at me. I said “Would you like roses?” I ran to get some for him and his wife. He received them with sincere joy. He was touched.
As many of you know we had a devotional time each morning in Berlin. I allotted an hour for our time, but it was not enough. Often we ran over by an hour or more. But it was such an incredibly rich time of the Lord drawing our hearts together. Eric and I traded off leading worship and several people brought a special devotion to the group. But it was the community forged in this unlikely situation and place that really touched all of our hearts. Eric kept reminding us all how like Acts 2:42 this moment in our lives was…
We were having a time of prayer, worship and intercession in the morning, and the love and brokenness of our Brother and Lord filled my heart. There is one thing I asked Jesus a while ago, that he will give me brokenness which only He can create in me. The Lord has shown me things which can turn a heart to pride--especially mine. So I am asking the Lord for the gift of brokenness, that he will create the opposite in me, to have the same attitude as Christ and essentially live out of His heart. It is Christ, in each one of the team members which is blowing his love and spirit around me. I am not sure what is happening, except God is gifting me with a beautiful people and releasing more of his glory and brokenness through them and by just hanging our with them.
As we were worshipping yesterday, the Lord Jesus showed me that he is the head of his church and he is walking amongst and in the midst of his church and he is about to release his glory and presence also right here in towns and communities all across Germany.
Jesus Christ is the key, as he shed his blood for every tribe and nations all around the world and this time it will hit Germany in a glorious new way. He showed me that since the day the blood of Christ was shed until now, his blood will cleanse all the sin and sorrow and unrighteousness that ever happened to the land, towns and communities.
Jesus will also take all the prayers prayed since the cross of Christ, until now, and bundle them up and let them rise before the Father and this will cause to release a glory and a presence which will change us forever more, including towns, even across Germany. In Christ and through Christ all the walls have come down, between Jews, Gentiles and everyone and everything in between. We are united as one, and our Lord and Brother Jesus, being the Head.
For me being a part of this team as a German with my Jewish Sisters and Brothers and all my special Gentile Brothers, is releasing the heart of God in me and showing me that the walls indeed have come down. This is the heart of God and His desire for all the people even for all the people who live in Germany right now. The walls have and will come down and there won’t be Germans and foreigners any more. Christ will pour himself out to us and as we are broken by him we are made one.
I’m so impressed with the group that God has put together for this trip. There is an openness, a vulnerability and such a humble spirit among the men and women of the team, that everyone feels that it is a privilege just to be working together. We realize that the Holy Spirit is at work doing many things at once: reaching out to the people of Berlin, participating with the saints from here that have volunteered and realizing what true servanthood looks like (very convicting), and the deep work that He continues to do in us by removing us from our daily lives to take us another step forward in His. I think we are all sad at the prospect of having to relinquish this unique and special fellowship that we’ve shared.
It’s remarkable that there has been no irritations, no interpersonal struggles, etc. Just a melding of our personalities, gifts, nationalities and weaknesses in watching the Lord be strong for us. It is very humorous to note that every one of us is working out of some sort of weakness or other and that we present ourselves as a pretty motley crew. I love it that God has such a sense of hilarity when it comes to choosing ones to extend His hand to others.
There are few things in life that compare to watching God move in the lives of so many people, both on the team and with other people; taxi drivers, waitresses, police, guards, shop owners, shoppers, street workers, politicians, and SOOOO many other people. It is difficult to place words of meaning on seeing so many lives and hearts changed, either in increments or grand fashion. Our team is a crew of people that all have hearts to serve others and serve God. Often we wait for the answers to come and to be flexible for whatever needs done next. It has not been about skills or performance anywhere down the line, it has been to this point purely a willingness to serve. What wonderful results have been completed with this priority.
Personally I have been moved over and over again by not only my own experiences but just as much by those of the others on the team. Such incredible encounters for each and every one of us. Everyone can sit and tell of one story after another, one moving moment after another. The common theme is how moved those others who received roses, or hugs, or prayer, or information, or testimonies, or invitations to the concerts, or any number of things were at those moments. I wish that all of you who read this could see how lit up the faces of the team members get when sharing these things.
The fact is that each person that is on this team has brought special gifts to bear on this trip. We have become closer than family in many cases. When we gather together in small numbers or when we all eat or meet, there is consistently a special gift that comes in many forms. My heart has been broken over and over by the honesty and vulnerability each one has brought to the group. So much good stuff because it is all done in love.
In fact because we move out and return in love, which surpasses any understanding one would normally have, I have started already to have a small piece of my heart that does not want this community to disband. Not the core members, or volunteers that just keep appearing out of the different places and associations. I know that the distraction of concerning myself with parting over time is not the focus I/We want to have, but yet when we return to the lives we know or knew must be different because we are different.
All of us have been so blessed in numerous ways, and we continue to be hour after hour. So seeing this is quite encouraging to me as it is a sign of the life each of us has chosen to live. Ones where we walk hand in hand with God’s love. The simplicity of these lives are to make regular decisions to focus on saying yes to God and to grow in ways we don’t necessarily want to do, but we know that His tenderness and gentleness is the safe space that makes this possible. This is my prayer to all of you, to embrace the heart of God because He is already embracing you. Peace to all.
The Lord is keeping on breaking my heart with his love and presence during worship time this morning. Eric, our brother from the team, has also shared some personal stuff learning and giving up and learning to play guitar again and how the Lord helped him to sing and play worship songs. Eric is a walking, singing and playing guitar miracle and so much more and I can see Jesus in him so clearly.
As he started us off with the songs, I felt such a presence and love from God. It is a beautiful, and amazing thing to see the Lord moving in his Body and through his Body, whose members can be so weak and bruised, but so strong and beautiful displaying the glory of God.
As we shared and prayed as a team, God was doing the very thing he wants the people in this world to experience as well. His love, and very real presence and comfort and glory. We are all a jar of valuable oil. As we get broken by Fathers love, the oil and scent of his glory is pouring out of us and on to people around us, God allows us to be with.
What ever we have done unto the least of them we have done unto Christ our Lord. What a glorious mystery. May the scent of His glory be poured out and forth even through the several thousand roses we get to hand out to precious people the Lord has prepared for us to encounter.
Tuesday morning the last installment of the roses came—2000. We quickly, expertly unloaded the truck, paid the driver and tipped him, and got the roses into the shed to work on later…
Then we pulled out 10 buckets for 2 cabs and 10 people and away we went to one of the train stations right next to a very compelling memorial called “Trains to Life, Trains to Death.” Bibi remembered this particular memorial. It was small but very moving. On one side of the display were two Jewish children in bronze who were taken to Great Britain in 1938 and sheltered in foster homes during the war. On the other side were 3 children going to Auschwitz...
Because it was raining we put the roses inside the subway station, backed into a little corner with my keyboard. People were everywhere. 700 roses were gone in just under an hour. About 10 minutes before we were done the police came and said we couldn't do this because I didn't have a permit. So we were ready to pack up, but then one of our German friends said it would only take about 15 minutes to finish. So they said OK. 15 minutes. We were done in 10!!
It was amazing today! When handing out roses today children swarmed all over me, each wanting a rose! People wanted roses from us and our thousands of roses were gone in about an hour! And people who asked what our purpose was in handing out these roses were touched today by what we said we are doing, but very touched that we are American Jews coming to Germany to tell them in the Name of the Lord we love you!
When we finished giving out the roses in the subway/mall area the rain had stopped and the sky was beginning to clear. We cleaned up our buckets, packed up the keyboard and went outside to look at the memorial. Several people had laid their roses on the memorial. It was very touching. As we were standing there one of the German volunteers approached me and she was crying. She began to ask my forgiveness for what her people had done to mine. I impulsively began to try and comfort her, but she wouldn’t be comforted. And I realized later—with Evi’s help—she was grieving that Godly kind of grief that helps heal the heart and leaves no regret (2 Corinthians 7:10). This was one of the first scriptures the Lord ever gave me about Germany.
In the early evening we went out to a location across from the train station on opposite sides of corners. I have never in my life seen so many young people coming and going. I was wondering where they all were going dressed up so nice and really they are just out to hang out like our young people who do this in the USA in the malls.
I was feeling there is not much difference except where we live. Believe me the enemy is fast at work in all nations, but God is so much bigger working too; and of course we know who wins in the end. My heart was so overwhelmed with love for these young kids or adults. I felt this smile in my eyes as I asked each one if they wanted a free rose (fry is the word for free). I said it was a gift (GESCHENK the word for gift).
I had a whole group of 12 to 15 young men who were handsome and about 6’3” tall surround me; and I realized they could do me harm but I knew and felt the Lord’s presence all around me. I asked them spenkin de English? Yes they said. They asked what I was here for passing out roses. I said I’m in a group from the USA who are predominantly Jewish to share God’s love for the German people. I said it is about the reconciliation of God’s people (All Nations) into a relationship with Him. The leader of this group said to me that is very beautiful and they went on their way, but each one took a rose from me.
I met this Italian lady who took a rose. She asked what I’m doing. I told her. She reached over and hugged me and kissed me on the cheek. She said that is SO beautiful. Then she left.
On Wednesday morning it became clear Elaine was in a lot of pain in her back and we rallied around her as a team and held her up in prayer, asking for healing and seeking the Lord for direction. She realized that it was not a good idea for her to participate. And for the balance of the trip Elaine stayed back most of the time and rested, interceding for us as a team. Marlys also had a struggle that day…
During devotions Randy, Sally, and Mallory each expressed thoughts that touched me. It got me really emotional and we prayed some more…. We got ready to take the roses out. As we were waiting, I was sitting with Bonnie & Eike and Eike was telling how her father died in WWII, and that she didn’t have him during her childhood to pat her on her head or to ask her about her day. I just started crying. I had my dad growing up, but I don’t remember him ever doing or saying those things to me. I didn’t have a close family. I became so emotional, that I couldn’t join the others when it was time to go out with the roses. I felt I couldn’t go out to pass roses when I was in such an emotional state.
I stayed in the room all day and cried. I was experiencing a feeling of rejection in many ways and I remembered several instances when I had recently felt rejected. I prayed, read the Bible, and journaled. Elaine also prayed for me. When the team came back Evi prayed for me and she helped me see a different side of what I was going through. One of our volunteers also prayed for me. It was very helpful and I felt a great weight lifted off my shoulders. God was there to relieve all of it. I feel that the rejection was an intercession for the people of Berlin and what they were/are feeling. It was very heavy and it gave me a real understanding of why before I came on this trip that I had such a heart for this people.
As we continued to seek the Lord for the “strong man” of Berlin during our devotion time the realization came slowly that the core spirit was rejection: rejecting others and being rejected. Prior to this realization we had some amazing devotional times together, including a time where we prayed about strongholds and had many words for binding various elements of the enemy—fear, pride, shame, among many others.
Marlys was the first to experience this feeling, then P’nina, one of the German volunteers and Rudy also. Bonnie experienced it on the last Friday during our last roses outreach, and Eric had also been encountering this spirit of rejection. I think even Gayle was touched by some of that feeling at the big memorial on Friday.
Elaine had to go see a doctor for her back. Fortunately, the orthopedic doc/massage therapy person was a short walk from where most of us are staying and there was an opening at 11AM. Elaine has a pinched nerve and they gave her a cortisone shot. Bonnie had a rough morning, struggling with thoughts that the enemy sent her way. She overcame and joined us at lunch. The cab with the roses and most of the team came right away and we arrived in the middle of crowds of people in the vicinity of Jerusalemgemeinde, which is on the Eastern side of Berlin. We had the roses but the group going in the second cab had almost all the flyers... They (the second part of the team) had to call for a cab 3 times before they finally got one. When they found us our roses were already gone--all 10 buckets (700-800 roses) in less than an hour--and all the flyers we had on us...
We went together with several hundreds of roses to the Alexander platz. As soon as we started handing out roses, several people received them with beautiful smiles and a kind of wonder on their faces. Some of them asked why we are doing this and we had the great opportunity to share the love of Christ and that He showed us how to forgive and love one another. One couple with small children came up and asked what this is, and I told them that we have Jewish people on our team who believe in Jesus Christ. He told me with a big smile that he is Palestinian and said, “Peace, peace.” I brought him to Sally and he hugged and kissed her while she was playing. This was an awesome picture to me personally that the walls have and will come down in and through the messiah our beloved Lord as his kingdom comes and as his will is done.
Afterward, we hiked over to Jerusalemgemeinde and left our empty buckets and keyboard, etc and went for a quick dinner at a chicken place Bibi likes. Pumpkin soup was awesome!!! Amy served us. She was tough but very real. We dined across from lewd/porno pictures of women on the walls. The men sat with their backs to the pictures. I didn't even really see the pictures until about 10 minutes into our time there. Dinner was good. Amy and I had a quick exchange. Found out she was a genuine Christian also and has a love for the Jews. Gave her a CD and a hug. Got back just in time to lead worship for the Wednesday night prayer meeting at Jerusalemgemeinde. It was a very sweet time. Elaine and Marlys were also able to come. I asked Bonnie and Jurgen to share their testimonies. Bonnie talked about worshiping in the crematorium in Ravensbruck and casting out every demonic spirit of death. It was amazing!!
And Jurgen shared the Father's heart for Germany--and the brokenness God is showing him in his own life. It was beautiful!!! Then Pastor Andreas and his team prayed for each one on our team, anointing us with oil and giving us words. It was awesome!!! Praise the Lord!!!
Tomorrow should be our last "stand" with the roses. I am hoping to go to the main holocaust memorial in Berlin and have a time of worship and roses. I can hardly believe how fast the roses have gone--and I was there for a lot of it. Lots of little things going wrong tonight before the concert at 7:30 tonight. But God broke through all the issues and it was a very good evening. Several people came forward to take a rose symbolizing their faith in Jesus and release of their bitterness, unforgiveness,,,
From the beginning of planning for ATOR-Berlin I felt it was very important to hand out roses in front of the main memorial near the Brandenburg Gate. It is large and stark. It consists of a series of 2700 gray blocks of different sizes, set apart from each other at what looks like exactly the same distance. The blocks are unmarked and very uniform looking. The memorial is directly across from the American Embassy. It is called: Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe.
Today was the last day we worshiped and handed out roses on the street. We pulled the remaining 7-8 buckets of roses around my keyboard in front of the Holocaust memorial to the murdered Jews of Europe... I stood with my back to the memorial for most of my time there. At the end I turned around and saw one of our roses on almost all the stone blocks of the memorial that I could see. People had placed them there, with and without the cards. It was really quite powerful. There, in the midst of this stark statement in stone was this crimson on a slender green stem silently testifying to the love God in a much more profound way than we could imagine in such a place...
Our last Sunday morning began fairly early as we drove off to Saschenhausen. Carla, Beata, Micaela, and Helmut were drivers for us and participated in our time of worship and prayer. It was very powerful!! Saschenhausen was one of the very first concentration camps where the Nazis tried out all their ideas.
The SS Command met once a month at Saschenhausen to discuss their plans. Pastor Andreas had suggested that I might want to hold our time of worship and prayer in the building where they had met, which is where the group from Jerusalemgemeinde meets once a month to pray and intercede. I wasn’t sure. When we arrived I still didn’t know until Helmut suggested that we worship and pray there. Then I suddenly knew that the place for me to worship—as a Jew—was the crematorium.
Evi spoke the Kaddish while we were inside and I led worship as many of our team raised their arms to praise the Lord in the midst of the ruins of gas chambers and ovens. Eric circled the structure 7 times in prayer and Bonnie went into every trench and crevice praying out the spirit of denial and death. While I was there one of the German women came over to me and asked my forgiveness and gave me a huge hug.
She had brought her guitar and decided to continue worshiping there as our team moved on to the execution trench. We gathered together there and recited the Shemoneh Esrei as we alternated our prayers with those declarations and blessings. Praise the Lord!!
In the evening after the last concert that night at Jerusalemgemeinde, a German woman came up to me and asked if I would forgive her for what her people did to mine. It was not the first time on this trip. I know it is not given to me to forgive in any direct way, but to release them from any judgment or prejudice on my part, and to love and bless them, that they might come up from under the shadow of shame...
I am always amazed that we all actually make it home after one of these projects. I have to say that this was the hardest and deepest by far. How do I tell you what it is to stand in the pits of where so many were put to death by gas and burned in the fire and sing to our God and King, the Giver of Life??? I don't even understand it all myself. How can I help you see (even with pictures) the profound meaning of people spontaneously laying the red roses on so many of the cold dark gray stones of the "Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe???" It's impossible.
We were on the plane to Frankfurt (maybe an hour flight total) and I sat next to a man maybe in his forties. He asked how my vacation was in Berlin... I told him--and so much more. As I did, Marlys handed him a rose card and a CD. He asked me what made us do such a thing and I pointed to the One. He asked who funded such a thing--and I pointed. He asked how people responded to the roses and I told him some people were very open and moved, others were resistant, kind of defended—resistant to something so foreign in their culture.
I told him I really understood that there was a deep sense of rejection in Berlin—of people rejecting and being rejected, and that there are some heavy scars between Jews and Germans. He agreed and was deeply moved by all I had to say about the scars. He said he had never heard of anyone doing such a thing, and that it was remarkable. I don't think he was a believer in God. For the last 20 minutes he attended to his work, but as he was getting off the plane he turned to look back at me and say again how remarkable this thing we were doing was, and would I please keep doing it...
During the last couple days of our time in Berlin I was haunted by the idea that every one of us on the team were the people the Nazis would have come for. We were the people who would have been gassed and burned because some of us were Jews, cripples, Polish, too old and weak. But God continues to make Paul’s case in my life, and in every area of ministry I am involved in…
“Brothers, think of what you were when you were called. Not many of you were wise by human standards; not many were influential; not many were of noble birth. But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong. He chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things—and the things that are not—to nullify the things that are, so that no one may boast before him… Therefore, as it is written: “Let him who boasts boast in the Lord.” (1 Corinthians 1:26-29, 31)