Walking in Herrnhut - a story from Scot BowerScot Bower - 3 Oct 2007
I went for a walk because I needed to get some perspective. I needed space, I needed some time out by myself and most of all I needed to talk to God and ask Him to talk to me. It was a beautiful evening and I knew that if I timed my walk just right I’d reach the watch-tower just as the sun set behind the wind turbines in the distance. So I grabbed my Bible and disappeared promising not to be late meeting the others for our kebab date later.
Misty and I had just moved to Germany to become part of the Ramsdorf 24-7 community and were struggling to settle in. This was our first weekend alone with the community. We had said goodbye to all the good friends we had seen and spent time with during our first 2 weeks in Ramsdorf and had driven to Herrnhut in the very south east of Germany. This small town is the home of Zinzendorf and the Moravian Church and a place Misty and I had visited a couple of times previously. A perfect place to take an evening stroll and chat to God about my frustrations and apprehension.
I walked along the edge of the playing field and turned left towards the Watch Tower. My plan was to walk up the hill and spend time wandering amongst the Moravian missionaries in the graveyard known as "Gods Acre".
The first time Misty and I walked through this field of simple headstones we were struck by how deeply spiritual a place this was. We sat and prayed for some time feeling connected to the calling and sending of these people. On our next visit I spoke to an American missionary who had sat by Zinzendorfs tomb for 5 hours. Herrnhut is a deeply spiritual place. However this time it wasn’t the spiritual dimension that grabbed my attention but the natural.
As I wandered, I read name after name of men and women who had followed the call of God. Simple headstones bore the name of the person, the town in which they were born and that in which they died. I read place names from all over the world and imagined how these villagers must have felt knowing they were leaving behind their homes and families, probably for good.
When we choose to follow the call of God, there is a moment of commitment where we make a decision to put aside ‘vain pride and selfish ambition’ (Phil 2:3) and live a life of humility and self sacrifice. This decision is made in the cold light of day, away from captivating music or enthusiastic preachers. The decision is not one based on emotions, but with every ounce of our spiritual and physical selves.
The Celts remind us that we are at the same time both physical and spiritual beings woven together and that every choice, activity, person and place are simultaneously both natural and supernatural.
The first missionaries were sent from Herrnhut on August 18th, 1732. One of those sent was Leonard Dober. He was a young man who had written to Zinzendorf over a year previously offering to go. Dober desired to give himself to mission in the West Indies. How many times during that year must he have considered and reconsidered his decision to leave family and friends to travel to a world from which he stood little chance of ever returning? This was not some fluffy warm spiritual decision made on the spur of a moment, but one taken carefully, soberly and with the costs weighed and considered. Dober had been warned that “if missionaries go to the West Indies they may find it necessary to become slaves themselves if they wish to reach the people” and yet he still chose to go.
When I decided to go for my little walk around the graves of these saints I expected to be warmed by and to take comfort from their ‘spiritualness’. I had fallen into the trap of setting these missionaries apart, elevating them, declaring them as special and me as ordinary when the truth is these were men and women of flesh and blood. They were just as weak as I am, they struggled as I struggle, they cried and laughed and got angry and upset just as I do.
Leonard Dobers letter ended with the prayer “May the Lord lead us in the right path, rough though that path may be”. My path isn’t rough (not compared to some), but my prayer is the same as his: “Lord lead me, wherever, whenever, whatever… and please forgive my whinging when the path gets rough!”