By Gail Flynn
When Michael went to church on Sunday morning, he was marked. Neighbors and classmates would notice. During the week he would feel the repercussions. Going to church made a statement to his community—one that would impact the way he was treated in school and his opportunities for the future.
This is the experience of Christians in parts of the Middle East, Asia, Africa and Eastern Europe. For Michael, it was what being a Christian in East Germany meant before the Berlin Wall came down in 1989.
“Youth group was different from any other group in my school or community. My friends in youth group were my ‘brothers in arms,’ and we all knew what it would mean for us to be seen going to church.” They attended different schools and would spend their days alone being mocked and bullied. In spite of that they were drawn to youth group because at church they were free to talk about their real thoughts and feelings. And although they all knew a government spy probably was in their midst, they were ready to share their hearts and their faith.
Michael saw God working in his life in many ways. When he was 18, he was sent to the western frontier for his mandatory military service. This was unusual for a student who did well in school, but because it was known that his first allegiance was not to the Communist Party, he ended up in the worst environment possible. He was put in an infantry unit in the midst of 32-year-old harden soldiers, who had little education and even less hope. The mission of his unit was to hold the front line for 5 to 7 minutes against any advancing forces. In this oppressive place, Michael happened to meet another 18-year-old Christian. The two of them were immediate friends and found a church and youth group in the area that encouraged and supported them.
This year, Michael’s son, Max, was confirmed at St. Luke. His family traveled back to the town in East Germany to visit the church where Michael, his father, and his grandfather were baptized and confirmed. Michael desires that the faith that defined his family for generations and set them apart will be the center of his son’s life too. Max’s confirmation verse, Psalm 84:12, is his father’s wish for his son:
“Blessed is the man who trusts in You.”
The severity and struggle that galvanized his father’s faith is not part of Max’s life in the U.S.A. Although he is glad that Max is not persecuted for his faith, Michael wants his son to understand the cost of faith and for his heart to be fully committed to God.
Watch the sermon to hear more from Michael as Pastor Dan interviews him about his experiences as a Christian behind the Iron Curtain.
Read Max’s Confirmation Paper here.