Long Shadows and Bright Lights
Feb 7, 2020 | 3 min read | Dave Patty
I’ve never seen Karl Marx so large.
His massive face glowered at me as I walked through the square in Chemnitz, a German city in the former DDR. The grim concrete building behind his huge head created a perfect backdrop with slogans in multiple languages urging workers of the world to unite. No surprise that this industrial city was called “Karl Marx Stadt” before the fall of communism.
Our event was just across the street, in a building ironically named “the Pentagon” because of its unique shape. I was joining 130 youth leaders from Saxony who gathered to learn how to reach their schools and cities for Christ.
Talking to the students I could almost feel the long shadow of Marx reaching across the street. Although unified Germany is a model of health and economic prosperity, this region still feels the effect of years of totalitarian oppression when the Republic was divided. The lingering darkness was almost palpable.
“I grew up with little attention from my parents,” said Sven, one of the key leaders. “After the revolution, they were able to give me a nice home and exciting vacations, but very little of their presence. I was a ‘key child’, a boy with a key tied to string around his neck to make sure I could let myself into an empty house. Just now the government is starting to realize that they invested much into new buildings and roads, but little into the people.”
We were just two hours’ drive south of Wittenberg, where Luther launched the reformation by nailing his list of 95 complaints to a cathedral door. Yet this region of the country has one of the highest percentages of unchurched and unbelieving, an enduring legacy of the long shadow.
As the young people threw themselves passionately into another round of worship, I could feel something else—the light of Jesus in their lives. Over half of the group crowded to the front of the room in response to a challenge to consecrate their lives and give themselves to bold witness. Their leaders met over lunch to plan a citywide youth outreach in the fall, boldly asking God to fill a thousand-seat hall.
Sven and his wife Maria were leading the event, having left promising carriers to invest in the young generation. Andy just quit his job at VW to live by faith and lead a team taking the gospel into public schools. Matthias just turned his youth ministry over to a team he has been discipling, and is now shepherding young leaders to develop healthy youth ministries in ancient Lutheran churches. These courageous “Josiahs” are turning the tide.
Long shadows can only be chased away by bright lights. Thank you for helping us fan the flame.
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