|Ch1: Vision of Awakening - Part I|
Let God but send down the fire, and the biggest sinners in the neighborhood will be converted; those who live in the dens of infamy will be changed; the drunkard will forsake his cups, the swearer will repent of his blasphemy, the debauched will leave their lusts-
Dry bones be raised and clothed afresh,
And hearts of stone be turned to flesh.
--Charles H. Spurgeon
In East Berlin's Alexanderplatz, well over 100,000 communist young people gathered for the Communist Youth World Festival. They represented every nation in the world. Everywhere I looked, there was nothing but young people, policemen, and soldiers. It was the summer of 1973.
The atmosphere was electric. The sun was shining. The air was cool. The borders were jammed, and the city was geared up for the Festival. This was to be one of the most important days of my life.
It all began a year earlier when I met Pastor Bush. I had been preaching evangelistic campaigns in West Berlin. Because I wanted to meet some believers from Eastern Europe, a friend brought me with him on a visit to East Berlin. There he introduced me to the elderly pastor. During the Hitler regime, he had been arrested and imprisoned for refusing to instruct his congregation to bow to the Fuhrer. When World War II ended, he was left in East Berlin. There he circulated a letter to his Lutheran pastor colleagues, begging them not to sign a document calling Communism, " the Savior of the world." As a result he was not allowed to pastor. But that didn't keep him from attempting to reach the East German people with the gospel.
Pastor Bush was a man of deep prayer. He had a burden for the youth of his country. He pointed his finger at me. "Young man," he said, "next summer, young people will be gathered in East Berlin from every nation in the world. They'l be trained to evangelize the world for atheism and communism. I want you to pray about coming to that meeting and preaching the gospel."
I was shocked. "They would never let me in to preach. It's impossible!"
Pastor Bush responded with a twinkle. "Don't ever say impossible. 'With men this is impossible; but with God all things are possible!'" (Matthew 19:26).
Those words haunted me when I returned to the United States. I told two American friends about my encounter with Pastor Bush and his challenge for me to go to the Communist Youth Festival in East Berlin. Fred Bishop, Fred Starkweather, and I prayed and stepped out in faith. The impossible became possible. God did open the doors for us to be in the middle of the Communist Youth World Festival.
As we mingled with these young people, a multitude of questions raced through my mind. How would we be able to open conversations about Jesus with these young people? If we did have opportunities to speak of Christ, how would they respond to us? They had been skillfully trained in atheist teaching.
We were soon to discover that God's power is greater that the power of the atheist teachers, motivators, and philosophers of Eastern Europe.
As the three of us talked, our conversation began to draw a crowd. It was considered important at the Fest to get the autograph of a foreigner, and I guess everyone within earshot could tell easily that my German was heavily influenced by my Southern American heritage. The crowd gathered in the hope of getting the autograph of someone from the States. The young people all wore scarves on which they collected the autographs of kids from various countries.
As the kids asked us to sign their kerchiefs, the Lord gave me an idea. I pulled my two companions close and told Fred Bishop to write in German, "God loves you and has a wonderful plan for your life, " before signing his name. Fred Starkweather could write, "Man's sin has separated him from this plan, " and then signed his name. And before signing my name, I would write that Jesus is the only way to bridge the gap left by sin, along with a note explaining how to receive Him.
We would explain the plan of salvation to those who were curious about what we had written. We must have signed more than two hundred scarves that night alone. I felt the presence of God with us, and I also felt a special anointing of the Holy Spirit. Sensing His power at work, I began to preach. To my amazement, the communist youth asked many questions, and I was able to show them clearly the way to Christ.
Within the next week, 200 of these hardcore communist youth committed themselves to follow Jesus Christ. The last night of the fest, these new believers marched through Alexanderplatz playing their guitars and singing about Jesus.
The Communists sent a thousand young people to break up the march. They ended up behind us, and we appeared to be 1,200 young people. People began to run throughout Alexanderplatz shouting, "What are we going to do? The Jesus People are coming!" Eventually we were trapped in a corner, and thousands of delegates came running to see what was taking place.
I began to pray, and as I did God clearly spoke to my heart. "You'll never again get the chance to preach to this many lost people in your life. This may be the greatest opportunity you'll ever have to tell communist youth about Me. Stand up and preach about Jesus."
"Lord," I cried, "Your strength and Your power will have to be with me. I can't do it on my own."
After calling for silence, I began to share my testimony as quickly as possible. About 2,000 communist youth burst forward, nearly trampling the 200 Christians and pushing in toward me. They were waving their fists in my face and threatening. The whole place was in an uproar as the crowd surged forward. For a moment, I thought I had preached my last sermon.
We then attempted to break our way through the crowed. As the Communists swung at me, I was overwhelmed with the joy of the Lord. God's Word leaped within my heart, "Blessed are [you] when men shall revile you" (Matthew 5:11).
I had learned the most fundamental principle of spiritual awakening: "With men it is impossible, but with God all things are possible." The old German pastor had been correct. The glory of God always shines brighter when the night is the darkest.