All Things Wireless & Letterpress

All Things Wireless & Letterpress

Sunday, October 29, 2017

Mission Accomplished! Installment Nr. 7

Worship in Berlin!
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Lubna and Cindy.

Berlin needs Jesus.  Just like Orlando, Florida.  Just like Atlanta, Georgia or New York City or San Fransisco. However, Berlin, and by extension all Germany, has a history that is overwhelming, and so much different than America.  What Berliners had to overcome in living memory cannot be fathomed by folks here in the U.S.  Much as I would love to delve into German history, I won't.  You can read it easy enough on line.  Suffice to say, Berlin needs Jesus, Who loves them enough to die for them.
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Jesus uses His Word and His Saints to awaken, and to disciple.  He uses people who love, who care, and most of all, who understand and are willing to share and partake.  To walk in Berliner shoes.  To "laden ein Bier ein" (share a beer with).  To come along side, to support.  To encourage.  We all do, really.  Berliners are just like everybody else. This was why I was curious about the Hillsong Church, which we visited one Sunday!
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It's called the B/C (Berlin Connect) Home.   The card and literature say "Welcome Home", which could be the name they use, but Googling shows a "parent name" of Berlin Connect.  Funny.... nobody there actually referred to it by name, and I didn't think to ask "Hey Duda, was nannt Mann diesen Ort??"  (Hey, you there, what do ya call this place?)

They meet in a large "Kino", a multiplex Cinema, located by the KulturBrauerei, Schönhauser Allee 36.  It was an awesome place, and I had one of the best worship experiences I have had in years!  It backed a large, cobblestone courtyard the size of a soccer field, which had food trucks parked for use after the service.  About fifteen foodies, in fact!  With food from all around the world.  I had.... ahem.... German.  Sorry.  I didn't come to Berlin to eat Korean.






Lots and lots of food.  Lots and lots of people.  Oh, of course many just came in off the surrounding streets to grab lunch, but how neat was it to be at the back door of your church, where as soon as you are done with engaging with the Saints of Light, you get to engage the folks auf der Straße, on the street, immediately!
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During the worship itself, the singing, the praising  .... I watched in amazement.  People dancing in the pews.  Ok, theatre seating.  They were dancing!    That's what I wanted to see.  Germans dancing before their Lord and King. Do you know how amazing that is to see Berliners dancing in the pews?  Trust me on this one.
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And here we Ami's sat, stiff as a board.  I wanted to run over with them and just... dance.  I wanted to dance for my mother.  I wanted to dance for my Uncle Kurt.  I wanted to dance for my Grandmother and Grandfather Klöpfer, who lost everything near and dear.   I wanted to dance for the atheists in my family who lost all faith and hope, replacing it with cynicism. I wanted to dance in the aisles with fellow Saints of Light.

It was not a packed house, but there were a sizable number there.  There was a Hillsong Band that played up front, and some really great vocalists.  They came from Germany, from Austria, the pastor himself is from Australia.  The guest speaker came from Britain.  The congregation is total einwohner Berliner, peppered with various ex-pats, from what I could tell in my one and only visit.
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It was too dark inside to take candid shots, I wish I could have made a video of the service, the band, and the worship songs which were epic.  The message themed on the value and worth of a person in the eyes of God.  It was one that I believe keyed into the thought-world of most millennial generation Berliners.  It keyed into the identity of the believer.  It may not have been a favourite theme for R.C. Sproul or John MacArthur, but I think it spoke to Berliners right where they are at.  It spoke of the fulfillment that only the Father of Lights is able to provide.  We don't have to go looking for love in all the wrong places!
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The take-away from the message that morning was familiar: everyone has a God-shaped hole in their person, their being, that only the Father can fill.  But we try to fill it with everything else.  Working in the "Gay Triangle", I sure cannot argue with the theology in this message.  It looms large in my life, and I suspect, everyone else's.  
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I did manage to get a couple videos of the entry area where folks are met by greeters, and where they meet each other.  It's the Multiplex food concession area.  It was neat to simply kibitz the area!
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Sorry for the lack of editing. I just sorta panned the 
area while waiting for the rest of the group!  You might
have noticed the top photo was taken between these
two videos.
 

The "Welcome Home" Berlin Connect church has a specific three point ministry.  
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1. "Envision", which speaks to the worship service on Sunday itself, which is amazing, and yes, "envisioning", as I hope you might conclude based upon the above narrative.   
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2. "Enlarge", which speaks to core development of the Church Community itself, and I get that.  You can never, EVER, in a million years have an effective outreach unless you have excellent inreach.  We miss that in main line "Evangelica" here in the states because, whether cognizant of it or not, we have overwritten Business Culture into our Churches.... which is why we rely so much on selling people on the Gospel, we train sales techniques, we try to attract people to 'buy our wares'.  Marketing the Gospel.  We make it sound sooo valid by using the Corporate Business term: Outward Focused.  "We are all-in", another business term that comes right out of the corporate think-tanks!  We are so, so commercially oriented, I don't think we realise it.  But if we do something novel, like rely on the Holy Spirit to draw and to call, and focus on the open Word, and love one for another within, then maybe those on the outside looking in may say what Josephus once quoted:  

"Oh, how they love one another!"   Nothing is more attractive than that.
Now, where was I?  Oh, yeah....
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3. "Engage".  This is where they take it to the street, that is, they engage the community in the "Alltage", the "Everyday".  The one on one.  Making relationships, making friends.  Enjoying their fellow "Einwohner".

I want to share this paragraph, which is found in the "Welcome" brochure:


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If any of this peaques your interest, look up:

Berlin Connect
Welcome Home
(Kino in der KultureBrauerei)
Schoenhauser Alle 36.  10435, Berlin

Did I just do a commercial thing and advertise a church?  (sigh!) 

Hey, gang, I have to wrap this up here.  I can go on and on, but time and space is limited.  Let me part by asking you, dear Saint, to pray for revival in Germany.  Maybe it can start at Hauptstadt Berlin!  The Capital City Berlin !

Tschüß!


Thursday, October 26, 2017

Berlin Wheels! Installment Nr. 6

 Berlin Wheels!

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After reading the last installment, you probably have a pretty good idea about the U-Bahn and the culture that surrounds it.  Mass transit rail has been a part of Berlin for well over a century.  The closest city in the U.S. that I can find that has the same selection of above and below ground rail is San Fransisco. 
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But what about personal transportation? 
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Europe has had to deal with urban societies for about a millennium.   So many people have lived and died in Europe that burial plots are stacked.  Roads, even urban Berlin roads, can be comparably narrow.  Smaller vehicles have always been the order of the day.  In the U.S., where we have become accustomed to the wide open spaces and long driving distances, we have become used to large vehicles, pick-up trucks, SUVs, 15-20 gallon fuel tanks and "cheap" petrol.  Well... cheap compared to Europe, anyway.  Most folks in Europe live in or very near cities, distances are much shorter, and petrol is about twice what it is in the States. Apart from the Autobahn, in-town driving, available parking, and price for those precious Parkplätze, which can be quite dear, -oops.  I meant 'expensive' - have since the early days of the automobile kept Euro cars small and nimble.
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Berlin itself has over four million Einwohnern, or Inhabitants, residents.  Approximately 500.000 (five hundred thousand - one eighth of the city!) uses the "Fahrrad", or the bicycle, as primary transport apart from mass transit.  It is one of the most heavily bicycled cities in the world.  I saw lots and lots and lots of bicycles, of many different types.  Next to that comes the Motorroller, the motor scooter, like the Vespa.  Then the Motorrad, the motor cycle.  Then the automobile, predictably the smaller, Fiat-sized compacts.  The largest personal automobile that I saw was a 1991 Volvo 240 wagon.  Next, maybe a smallish Rolls (that I've never seen before.)
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Hmm... not your typical Eurozone urbanite Auto, but a pretty neat looking Rolls, I must admit.  But hey, did you note the street?  This is Wesselerstraße, that takes you to the big downtown drag, Kurfürstendamm!  Two cars can barely squeeze by if they meet.  It gets wider in some areas but not by much.  As you approach downtown, about two blocks up, it gets tolerably wide, but man!  One block in from the main downtown drag and you are on a barely two lane brick road with cobblestone sidewalks, my friend.  And in the case of our street, right smack dab in the middle is... a U-Bahn Station entrance-way!  A Ford F-150 or even a Ranger would be doing a whole lotta narrow misses here, gang!  Best bet?
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Something more like this.  How many college students can you fit into this baby?  I think it's a Renault.  Remember the "Le Car"?  Try "Le What-happened-to-my-front-end?"
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Aww!  It's a li'l "Smart-Car"!  I think it's owner chains it to that bike rack thingie right there.  Lot's of these guys buzzing around.
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This, however, is the usual Bicycle fare.  They are pretty heavy, these bikes.  Not long distance tourers by U.S. bike-geek standards, but they typify what a large percentage of Berliners use to get from point A to point B and back again.
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Then, there are the modified variants. You see these three wheel bucket bikes a lot, with the bucket either before or behind the driver.  See if you can figure out how they steer these things!
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 Here's a front view.  This particular vehicle interested me.  I have seen these buckets converted into baby-carriers, too!  Watched a guy hit a curb with a tow-version, with baby in the back.  Kid bounced up, then back down, out of sight, into the bucket - giggling and laughing all the way.  Cool ride.  Check out the Yamaha behind it there in the background.
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Here it is, the Berlin "Triple Crown"!  Baby carrier, Euro Velo (the bike), and a Mini Cooper.  That spells personal transit.  Oh, and while I'm looking at this photo, notice that part of the sidewalk has pavers, the side nearest the street is cobble stone.  When you see a divided sidewalk like these - and most are - know that the left side is the domain of bicyclers.  You walk on the right, and mind those bikes.  They may or may not mind you!  It's part of the commuting route, just sayin'  In some cases the bike side is painted, I think it depends upon the sidewalk itself.
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This bike caught my attention.  White wheels, typical here.  The colours interested me.  What a nice set of wheels to enjoy a sunny afternoon, amidst the fallen leaves of Autumn.
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This is a double decker bike rack.  I believe the top portion rolls out and drops.  This is where you stow your bike in Pankow if you ride it to the U-Bahn station to catch the rail to work.  As, obviously, many do.
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Never seen one of these scooters before!  You can prolly guess where the petrol goes.  Oh, and how much is petrol here?  The Aral station sign  read 1,19E per Liter.  So, figure 1 Euro roughly equals $1.25.  About four litres to a gallon.  Roughly five dollars per gallon.  Still wanna drive that big V-8 pickemup all around town?
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Now, this is more my style in-town cruisin'!  These scooters all fall under the general catagory of "Motoroller" (no, not Motorola.  They make VHF/ UHF radio equipment... I think.)  This particular specimen is not a Vespa, although it has the lines of the old Lambretta Vespas.  I forget what the name was.... maybe you can enlarge this photo and find it on the rear fender there.  

The virtues of the Motorroller are probably pretty obvious. 1: you have better range in a shorter period of time. 2: small footprint. 3: a little bit of protection from road splatter. 4: great on petrol. 6: you blend in with the scenery.  7: they are just plain awesome just setting there.  It's like they kinda flirt with you when you walk by.  I wonder if the their owners know that?
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Ok, so rather than narrate each photo, I'll just share with you some shots of rides that caught my attention, and made me think "Hmm... if I lived here permanently, I think I'd like one of those!

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And, of course, the rather unconventional wheels:  The downtown Onmibus which, I think, is actually more a Tourismus thing.


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Last, but certainly not least, is my favourite foodie-wagon, which is actually a "Lastwagen", a truck.  It was part of the food concession in the courtyard behind the theatre where Hillsong Church Berlin meets.  These are rare, but really cool to see when they show up.  How can you resist the running boards and radiator-cap thermometre? 

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Ok, thanks for riding along with Installment Nr. 6!  I hope it's been fun.  What is the point here?  

Einfach Spaß!   Fun!  Purely and simply.

Stay tuned for the next installment, Nr 7.

Tschüß!

Monday, October 23, 2017

Mission Accomplished, Installment Nr. 5

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Ok, so after looking through my photos to see where we go next in our exploration of the "Berlinersphere", we find ourselves taking a ride on "die Untergrundbahn", also known as...
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Die U-Bahn!
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Our residence was in the north by northeast former East Berlin burg of Pankow.  We worked in beautiful downtown Schöneberg, only a five minute walk from Kurfürstendamm, known locally as "Ku-damm".  This meant that we had a half hour commute each morning around 7:30 am, and came home after sunset, around 7pm.
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  This is what we had to get familiar with.  If you can spot the red "U2" label, that's Pankow, which is the U2's endstation.  We take that red line past all seventeen stops to Nollendorf Platz.  Then we "umsteigen", or transfer over to the U4 (yellow), and go one stop to Viktoria-Luise platz.  When we arrive, we climb about thirty stairs and emerge smack in the middle of Motzstraße, where the Lighthouse is.  In fact, it is directly in front of the Lighthouse.  How convenient is that??  At the end of the day, reverse direction.   Next day, repeat.  Of course, sometimes we would go to a local stube for dinner.
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You couldn't get more convenient.  This photo is the view from the front door of the Lighthouse.  Three of our group are already waiting for us to head out.  The stairway begins immediately under that blue "U" sign.
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Food for thought.  A lot of 80's bands were named after Berlin places.  One that comes to mind is Spandau Ballet.  While in Berlin, I would see all sorts of names, and suddenly 80s bands would come to mind.  Could it be that U2 was named after the Pankow U-Bahn, the U2?   Inquiring minds want to know.
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Each station has it's own personality.  They are spotlessly clean.  Some are larger than others because several rails may connect, such as Potsdammer Platz or Stadtmitte.  Some are small, like Spittelmarkt or our own little Viktoria Luise Platz.  The walls of each station are used like a canvas upon which each station is individually and differently decorated, some having a historical motif, featuring posters of trams and U-Bahn rail cars of the past (the Berlin Untergrundbahn, or 'U-Bahn', was installed in 1900!).  Others feature Theatre posters, some show the sights, the "Sehenswurdigkeiten" of that particular Borough.  Like New York, Berlin is divided into individual Boroughs, each having a personality of their own.
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Our little U4 station featured outsized posters of local artists' photography. 
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The walls of the Viktoria-Luise-Platz "Haltestelle", or "stopping place".  The tile design serves as a perfect frame for these posters!  You might notice that while there is spray-paint graffiti all over the city, there are none in the U-Bahn Haltestellen.  Apparently the city draws the line there!
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This is only a sample of the "photo exhibit", along the east-bound track of the U4.  There are about eight more posters on the west-bound track.  
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So, just how busy are these rails in a city of four million?   Surprisingly, quite manageable!  Sometimes it's standing room only, but often you can find a seat, especially after an exchange station, where passengers "umsteigen", or change rails.  I was actually rather surprised to find older folks are still being offered seating by younger riders, getting up and motioning them to sit down.  "Kommal, setz dich hier!"   Oh, for you German linguists or students :  yes, I used the "du" 2nd person personal pronoun form.  I was amazed how folks used the informal pronoun on the street with strangers.  The only time I "Siezen-d", (use of the formal 2nd person personal pronoun) was with either a waiter or waitress, or a store employee or anybody behind a concession or table (Kasse).  On the streets of Berlin, it's "du".   
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There is another thing a rider of any mass transit "Fahrzeug", or vehicle, must observe: before you get on (einsteigen), you wait until everybody gets off (aussteigen).  If you try to push your way on board, you will be met by aussteigers telling you to wait your turn.  Oh, and don't try to push through anyway.  Berliners are a reserved but pleasant lot.... but don't piss 'em off.  You ain't in New York, homeboy!  Nobody respects a dis-respecter.  Especially here in Berlin.  
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Also, when it comes to the U-Bahn: move fast.  Don't run, just don't dilly dally!!  Those doors close automatically and they have NO SAFETY!  It will shut on your arm or leg, trust me.  Someone from the inside has to push the green button to open the door again... and they will... but whether you get pulled in or pushed off depends on whether there's room in the car.  So, MOVE, as soon as everyone gets off.  Oh, and yes, I had a door close on me.  Have that happen once, and chances are it will not happen again.  I was admitted into the car, btw.  They felt sorry for the verrükter Amerikaner, methinks.
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Well... maybe more folks wait for the U-Bahn than this, usually.  But after 7pm, it's not unusual at a smaller stop to find maybe six or so other people.  This is Anna, Cindy, Zac, and intern Kelly after a long day.  Facing a long ride.  We are at the U4 Viktoria-Luise-Platz stop awaiting the eastbound to Nollendorf Platz, and from there, the Pankow U2.
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 The U-Bahn arrives!  These are insanely clean, very efficient rails.  They conduct their power from a power strip that runs along the left rail, not a "third rail" as most do in the U.S.  They are not, however, "ultra-modern".  They don't need to be!  All they need to be is on-time, quiet, and reliable.  They are.  Even during Hurricane (Orkan) Xavier on 5 Oct, these rails ran after all surface transport was knocked out!
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Any foreigner or non German speaker will leave Berlin knowing instinctively at least two phrases: "Aussteigen Bitte!" (exit, please!) and "zurück bleiben, bitte!" (stand back, please!)  The video above was a late-nighter.  I would not have shot this video, otherwise.  The fella by the door is, I think, a service worker, but not a "Bahnbeamter", or rail employee.  
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Ok, I mentioned how the stations are generally not super-crowded, and I mentioned Hurricane (Orkan) Xavier.  Here is a shot of the Stadtmitte (I think) station during the hurricane, when we all ran down into the "tube" to catch a rail out of there!   Heh, no go.  It was ten-bodies deep, and this station, built to hold... what... maybe a thousand people?   I would say we had three times that much that afternoon and evening.  ALL surface transit, all taxis, all rentals were out of commission or booked.  It was one insane evening.  In fact, one U-Bahn station caught fire (the next day, not a crowded station), forcing the evacuation of our particular train, and of the whole station.  It was caused by an overload caused by a short, which was in turn caused by a fallen monster tree.  Google "Storm Xavier", and check out the Wikipedia report.  It was just put up a couple days ago!  Oh, and if you do, you might see the Brandenburger Tor (they change out the photos every other day, apparently).  That little cluster of people there?  Heh... that's us.
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Wow.  Just looking at this photo brings back how lost in the shuffle we were, but it was an orderly crowd!  The trains that arrived were just as packed as this station, but still, people waited for the train passengers to disembark, before they entered.  For every one person that got off, one person got on.  We soon realized that we would be here for hours at this rate.  This is where Kelly, Lighthouse intern extraordinaire, had a stroke of genius!  Since she had a few more weeks of experience on the U-Bahn than we, she suggested we take a train in the opposite direction.  Then we might get off at a less crowded station, and maybe pick up the train going the other direction, our direction, with less people on board.  We did, and it worked!  Thanks, Kelly!!
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I noticed that there was a way you composed yourself on the U-Bahn.  Yeah, call it a U-Bahn study.  One thing, everybody more or less avoided eye contact.  Usually, eyes were looking down.  Usually at a Handy (cell phone) or a tablet or a book or some other reading material.  The car is absolutely quiet save for the announcements and the sound of the rail itself.  Same goes for the station.  If you hear loud talking, it's probably tourists.  The only time I ever saw anybody looking at anyone else was if they were talking to a friend or a family member.  Friends usually came on board together, or if they met on board, they stood right next to each other.  Conversation was never loud.  Always a bit below normal convo level.  Kids were very well behaved, no kids ran around.  Dogs?  Yes, they are allowed aboard.  And they were exceptionally well behaved!  In fact... it was sorta scary how well behaved they were.  They looked down, too.  Unless they were listening to their master or mistress.  Otherwise they were also looking at their Handys.
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I got a pretty good idea of what Berlin Footwear was all about.  Hmm... maybe I'll swing by Salamander or maybe some shoe store at KaDeWe or Mall of Berlin and get a pair of those cool slip-on runners!  That way I can just slip 'em off when we get home instead of having to stoop down to untie.  You don't wear shoes in German homes.  Off they come.  If it's your home, you have house shoes waiting for you just inside the door!  I noted that loafers and slip-ons were quite popular.  Do tell!
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Not all U-Bahn stops are underground.  Some are street level, and some rails are actually elevated as high as 30 meters in the air!  But for the most part, they are indeed underground.  This is... I think... the Potsdammer Platz station.  You can see that it's an elevated platform.
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Well, after seventeen stops, here we are at Pankow Endstation!  From here we either catch the S-22 bus and ride a block to our Wohnung (Apartment), or if it's a nice evening, we will walk.  Most Germans would opt for the walk.  Spaziergehen, they would call it.  No real English translation.  Walking is an art, in Berlin.  In fact, all Germany.
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So are stairs.   Just sayin'.
The Point.
So, why do I post these Berlin/ German cultural posts, even though we were on a specific mission to work with Syrian Refugees?  Well, I'll divulge.  I had another reason for coming, in addition to the prime directive.  I wanted to get a feel of the German Evangelical landscape.  I wanted to get a feel for the Gospel in Germany among Germans.  We are talking about a country of eighty-million, with a mere six per-cent "Christian" demographic which many of the national pastors and the Campus Crusade folks believe to be, in reality, less than one percent.  That 6% figure represents those who admit to a belief, but is largely a cultural-traditional adherence and identification.  Even in my mother's family, to be German is to be Lutheran.  When I was saved in the U.S., in at St. Andrews Methodist Church, it was taken by mum as abandoning my German heritage.  I was told by my mum that I had become one of those "Holy-Rrrollers" (roll the 'r'). 
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I have a burden for the German People.  But to reach a People, one must know them, become familiar with them, and be able to communicate with them.  I did a little of all three, and I made, as I could and had time, some great connects.  
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I had, on one Sunday, the unbelievable joy of watching Berliners dancing in the aisles of the Hillsong Church.  That's what I long to see. 
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German People, dancing before the Lord.
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It was so awesome to see the Syrian/ Palestinian/ Lebanese regional refugees coming to discover, to inquire, who this Jesus is that motivated us to help a people we don't even know.  It was a privilege to enter into their world, even for a short time. It was awesome to see Germans helping in that work.  It was great to witness the Holy Spirit using His choice tools of the Word and the Prepared and obedient Saints, to work effectively toward a harvest.
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Scripture exhorts the Saint to be prepared to give a response for the hope they have in Jesus.  We are advised to be ready for use by the Holy Spirit. I believe this to be the choice tool of the Holy Spirit, Who changes the heart and reveals Jesus to the rebel.  It is twofold: the Word, and the prepared  Saint who is obedient to go wherever He calls them.  Jesus is He Who calls, cultures, Who reveals Himself - to those whom the Father gives Him; that's His ministry, to make a heart of flesh from a heart of stone.  That is the ministry of the Holy Spirit.  My job is simply to teach them, to love them, to make disciples of those whom He brings to my "door".  This is, to me, the heart and soul of Missions.  This is the Great Commission.
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These are my people. 
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Stay tuned.


Sunday, October 22, 2017

Mission Accomplished, Installment Nr. 4

Lutherstadt Wittenburg

On a free day, we were treated to a trip to Wittenburg, which is actually called Lutherstadt Wittenburg (Luther's City, Wittenburg).  We took the train from the Gesundbrunnen, where my mom lived and went to school for a time around 1942.  That train was singularly the smoothest rail I have ever rode, and probably one of the fastest, too.  We headed a little south of west, near the Herz Mountain range, which looked like the Appalachians from a distance.  We went through a number of small burgs and dorfs along the way, and countless windmills!


From what I can see, windmills are a tradition here, owing to the number of the older "Holland" style remnants I also saw, in various stages of either repair, restoration or disassembly.

 There was a lot of overgrowth on some of these neat old buildings, something I was not used to seeing when I lived in Germany half a century ago.  But then it dawned upon me: this was the former East Germany.  This was the region where, when we took the "D" train from Helmstedt to Potsdam, we were required by the East German VOPOs (Volkspolizei, the People's Police) to pull the shades of our rail car down for the entire trip through the DDR, or East Germany.  I wonder what they didn't want us to see?  My suspicion: utter postwar neglect.  In the twenty eight years since Glasnost, the former East Germany has been largely brought back up to speed, but no doubt it is still a work in progress.
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 Here is another neat little Dorf we slowed down through.  We may have stopped here.  It reminds me a little of old Neubiberg in the southern suburbs of Munich back when I was about ten or twelve years old.  My family settled there after the War.
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We arrive at Lutherstadt Wittenburg.  We take a taxi from the train station (Hauptbahnhof), across a small river, and into a down still bedecked with its original Turm, or tower keep from the old fortress, and lots of 16th century architecture.  A lot went down here, five hundred years ago!
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 The bridge road going into town.

 Its really kinda hard to take a bad photo here.  The streets are fairly narrow, cobblestone and brick.  The "Dorf" is the German word for "Village".  There is a lot of legacy and history in these Dorfs.  This particular one happens to have Martin Luther living, pastoring, and teaching in it.  Luther, the wayward monk that married a nun, Katharina von Bora.  The scandal of the decade.
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 I had to get a shot of this house by the bridge.  It's only one-room deep.  But it was built to conform to the structural continuity codes that were common at this time, such as London's building code, put into place after the great Fire of the 1660s at the time of Samuel Pepys, banning any wood construction on the first floor.  All exposed timbers had to mount on the roof girts and summers of the first floor.  In Quebec at this same time, two foot firewalls had to be in place between buildings that adjoined one another, giving rise to the famous step-gables roof also common in Holland and Belgium.  I noted in Wittenburg, everything was masonry.  The only exposed posts and beams I noted were at the top of the ancient Turm, the tower keep.

Here at the University of Wittenburg was where Dr. Martin Luther began teaching in 1512, as a Professor and Augustinian Friar.  His home here, which can be toured, houses a huge collection of original printed works of Luther, who was one of the most prolific authors of his day, taking advantage of the new medium of the printed word.  It helped that one of his buddies was Lucas Cranach the Elder, one of the finest artists of the period, on par with Hans Holbein and Bruegel.  In fact, the Ninety-five Thesis points, or demonstrances, were not written for public consumption, they were printed!  The original manuscript was given to the printer, who set the type from it.  Over one hundred copies were printed in a couple days, and were distributed.  One was hung from the wall door of the Wittenburg Castle.  Some of these copies made it to the Pope.

Without going into details that can easily be Googled, Luther's big import to the German People was his Bible.  It was the very first ground-up translation from the best available MSS and codices available in his day.  This bible was the first to be translated into a vulgar tongue that an average literate person could read and understand.  It's effect upon the Culture was vast.  It helped to trigger a Reformation.  It also codified for the first time a Uniform German Language.  This, in turn, greatly enhanced the academic exchange of thoughts and ideas throughout the German speaking world.
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 Not bad for a 1520's piece of printing, eh?  The pages are, of course, linen rag, so there is literally no lignin or tannin, so the pages are about as supple and white as when new.  Wood induced acids are a post-18th century thing. This particular Bible probably bears a leather case binding that dates to the 1700s, just my guess.  Usually the leather rots off every 200 years or so.  Sometimes it wears off after 100 years if used a lot.  The pages way, way outlive the bindings, so it was very normal to have your old books rebound every couple generations.  Some of these old books were available in text block form only, with no covers.  The idea was that you had your fav binder do that for you, using the leathers and stylings that you select.  Often, families of means would have all their books bound to match.  This is why I, as a bookbinder, do not look so much at the book's cover, but rather, at the condition of the text block.  
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Dr Martinus Luther was a gifted songwriter and  musician, and from what we read from his contemporaries, had a pretty good voice, too!  So did his wife, the former nun Katharina von Bora.  Dr Luther would incorporate Gasthaus Liedern (uh... bar songs, really...) into his melody lines.  One example is "Ein' Feste Burg", or, "A Mighty Fortress".  The tune comes from the local drinking songs of the day.  That was by design: Luther witnessed the intimate  fellowship of friends as they came into the Kneipe, or Pub after a long 15 hour day of work, grabbing their Bierkrugs, and sharing their small victories, tragedies, joys and sorrows one with another over not a few hearty brewskies, and how they would bear each others burdens as a fellow and friend and neighbor.  Dr Luther longed for that sort of fellowship and community to exist within the walls of the Body of Christ.  He thought that bringing in popular tunes such as these might encourage the same intimate fellowship and community within the Body.  Ergo, the first true "Christian Contemporary Music" took form.  This paradigm was followed over the years by Bach and Watts, the Wesleys and others in the  following centuries.  These "Psalters" became the Church's first true Hymnals.  This is why when you hold a hymnal in your hand, dear Saint, you hold many centuries of the Legacy of the Body!  Treasure, and never neglect your Hymnals.
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No tour of the Lutherhaus (actually, it's more a Hoff, a self sustaining plantation of sorts) would be complete without a good look at the good Doktor's Bierkrug.  

Here it is.  Luther's Beer Mug. Probably about a litre.  

Yup, and he was a home-brewer, too!  Made his own, and also did draught.  A clear, spring fed river flowed through Wittenburg, don't think they drank beer 'because it was safer than the water'.  In fact, clean water is required to make beer, and they had some pretty good ingredients, dare I say! They drank beer because it was beer, don't kid yourself.  The Bible was translated over the foaming brew.  Tyndale wrote out his Englyshe Translaycion MSS over the brew.  The printers that printed the Bible (these were Church Printers.  Private Presses were unheard of.  In fact, at this time in England the Print shop was called a "Chappel") - formed their Guilds, brew in hand, and ended their printing day with it!  It permeated both German and English society, both within and without the walls of the Body of Christ.  Lewis, Tolkien, Philips and Herriot would meet at a Pub to talk, review manuscripts and simply be with each other over the Brew.  Incidentally, Spurgeon did so too, and with his fav cigars!  MUCH, much to the chagrin of Dwight L. Moody, who could have stood a few less ounces of pork himself.  
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Ok!  So... lets visit der Herr Doktor Martinus Luther!  (His name was pronounced "Loot-hair", more or less.)  His is the first Hoff on the left on good ol' Collegienstrasse!  
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 There are actually a couple wings behind the front building, which in itself is approached through a gate.  Here we are walking into a sort of court yard with out-buildings.  It really did remind me of a 16th century version of a plantation.
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 I love the windows in the tower, or "Turm".  They are angled to match the pitch of the stairway inside.  Can you imagine having those windows made?  Now, a lot of this house is rebuilt.  Inside they show you some of the original masonry walls.  Of the original structure, I doubt even 30 percent is actually there.  The rest is built over the original structure, incorporating it's walls and some of it's rooms.  Now when I say "rebuilt", don't think any time recently.  It may have been in the 1600s and 1700s.  As well, some newer and expanded renovations can be seen. 
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 The Lady of the House, die Dame des Hauses, Katharina von Bora, lately die Ehefrau Doktor.  (The wife of the Doktor.  In German culture, the wife carries the husband rank, and is traditionally addressed on the street as "Frau Doktor")
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 Karen, part of our group, checking out Miz Luther!  It may be a life size statue.  Contemporary description of her indicates she was a babe and a half!  Way to go, Martin!
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 At any given time at der Hof des Herrn Luthers, the home of Mr. Luther, there were about thirty guests, mostly students.  Luther was known to have "Table Talks" with these friends and students.  This was the table used for these "Table Talks".
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What I found to be most interesting was that guests sometimes carved their names in this table!  Man könnte sagen, dass dieser Tisch das Wort "Schreibtisch" hervorgebracht.  (One could say this desk gave us the word "writing desk")  Literally!
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A plaque commemorating the good Doktor. 
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Finally, the last shot from the Lutherhof.  This is a double-pull "Common Press", a second generation version of Gutenberg's single-pull model which we think is illustrated in the well known 1480's print "Dance Macabre", or "the Dance of Death".  This press is capable of printing two octavo sheets, or 16 face pages in one impression, provided the page print area were about 4 x 7" or less, about the size of an average Octavo publication. "Octavo" means eight face pages per impression.  "Quatro" means four, and "Folio" means two face pages per impression.  Most books are Octavo, duodecimo (12 face pages) or sexidecimo (16 face pages, making a rather smallish book).

Ok, this is, after all, a Letterpress blog.  Did you actually think I wasn't going to geek out over a 17th century letterpress?
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 I fell in love with the architecture all over this region of Germany, and here in Wittenburg was no exception.  These are some of the structures that surrounds the Marktplatz. That monument, or "Denkmal" is more than likely a statue is the man himself.  Why don't I know for sure?  Well.... actually, I didn't have time to go over and find out.  We had just found out the last Zug back to Berlin was in about 45 minutes, and we didn't even have lunch yet!  It was 3:45 already!  We had to hoof it! 
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 I shot this photo for the architecture, but if this town is laid out true to form with other smallish towns and cities I remember as a kid in the western and southern regions of Germany, I'd be willing to bet this was the Rathaus, the city hall.  It could be a guild hall, but usually the emblems and symbols of the guilds would be somewhere on the building, so I'm holding out for Rathaus.  "Rat", or "Ratten", to give advice or counsel, and "Haus" for... well...'house'!
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Nearby to Marktplatz is the Stadtskirche, the City Church.  This might be considered the first Reformation Church, because guess who was pastor (Pfarrer) here while teaching at the University?  Give up?   Dr. Martinus Luther.  Betcha didn't have a clue.
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Ok, time out for a window shot.  I love windows, especially the diamond pane types that are leadened.  This is from inside Luther's church.  This is not the Wittenburg Schlosskirche, the Castle Church, which is closer to the keep.  I have a few shots from that one as well.  It's a bit more bedecked.  This church, however, was a bit more interesting to me.
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This was Luther's pulpit.  Could you even imagine sitting here under the ministry of the man who started the Reformation?  The man who translated the Bible into the language you understand and speak every day?  The man who wrote many of the hymns you sang?  And yet he was in many ways an ordinary man with ordinary failings, and not the most popular guy with the other reformers.  He was not a man without error.  He was a man in many ways overwhelmed by his own shortcomings, and horrified by his own sin.  That's the kind of guy I want to share a lager or two with.
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 This is the foot of the Chancery Balcony where the pipes are, and possibly where some of the choir may have sung.  I can see the organ pipes just barely.  But what is most interesting to me is what is written - in plain German - on the balcony.  "Lobe den Herrn, meine Seele.  Ps 92 u. 103"   Praise the Lord, O my soul, Ps 92 & 103.  The Psalm inscribed at the rail reads, in English, "...all that has breath praise the LORD, Halleluja!"  

The pulpit is diagonally across from this balcony.  It was in plain view of the preacher.  I wonder how often Dr. Luther may have pondered these words in his native German and recalled what he endured so that these words might appear here - in the German of the common Bürger, or "Citizen".

To me, Dr. Luther is a hero of the Faith, who never sought  the fame and attention he got.  Neither did he wish to leave his mother Church.  Neither did he wish to inflame and insult the leaders of his mother Church, save for those who used scripture to make money for obviously ostentatious things from which his parishioners derived no benefit.  What he wanted and attempted to achieve, was a correcting of the course of the Mother Church back to a sound and honest Biblical interpretation and adherence, and to make that Bible available to everyone.   He wanted the Universal Catholic Church to be put back on the proper rails, for it had derailed into error and even apostasy.  He considered himself an Augustinian, and even continued to hold to much Catholic Theology through his life, such as the transubstantiation of the Eucharist.  He had many a falling out with the Swiss Reformers.

After this, I tried to talk a small restaurant, "Zum Schwarzen Bär" to feed fifteen of us.... in thirty minutes.  I must have had two heads!   At least, that's how they looked at me.  

So....

We ate at the Hauptbahnhof, the main Wittenburg Train Station, and made it onto the 4:30pm  Zug nach Berlin Gesundbrunnen.  We were on our way back home.

Tschüss, Herr Doktor!!   
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Tschüss, Bubsche!