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Written by Jeanie Shaw — Boston, MA Monday, 02 November 2015 10:55
Do you ever wonder if decisions you make can really make a difference today, or in generations to come?
God’s glory was evident throughout the church in Munich, Germany, on Sunday, October 25, as Stephan Kallus and Steve Krater were appointed elders. My heart was stirred as I heard of how this was possible through God’s honoring a woman’s faith decades ago in a very different Germany.
Antoinette Kallus had a deep faith in her God. Her husband was an agnostic. She lived in Nazi Germany, where God was not honored. Antoinette was told she would not have children, but inspired by Hannah’s prayer, she promised God that if she had children she would devote them to him. She was given three children. Antoinette’s faith was known in her village, and the local Nazis made fun of her faith.
However, as World War II war broke out and bombs fell, many of those same men came to her, knelt before her and asked her to pray for them. Antoinette’s faith left quite an impression on her fourteen-year-old son, Reiner. Reiner studied the scriptures and longed for a deeper walk with God. He made a decision that he wanted to become a missionary.
As he attended church with some friends, he asked why they were not doing what the Bible said in certain areas of life and doctrine. He knew from what he read that he needed to be baptized for the forgiveness of his sins. He had questions for the traveling preacher that were not answered, and became a bit disillusioned. His friends chided him for his convictions and his desire to be baptized. Reiner found a Baptist preacher, sure that he would baptize him. When the preacher discovered that Reiner desired to be baptized for the forgiveness of his sins, the preacher refused. He told Reiner, “I know that is what the Bible says, but it’s not what it means.”
Meanwhile, World War II came to an end and the communists took over their part of Germany. Reiner was the only young man in his high school who refused to join the Communist Youth because of his faith. He spoke against atheism and stood for his faith in Jesus. Because of this, he was considered an “enemy of progress” and was forced out of school.
Remember Reiner’s friends who chided him for his “strange ideas” on baptism? One of these friends had been attending the only Christian boarding school left in Nazi Germany. His school was bombed by the Allies. One of the Nazis who was near the bombing wrongly told the young man that his family had been shot. As the boy tried to reach his home he was stopped by some GI’s. The young man did not know what to do and claimed he was an orphan from Switzerland, because he was afraid he would get harmed by the GI’s if they knew he was German.
One of the GI’s, a member of the US Church of Christ who was stationed in Munich, took the young man under his wing and brought him home with him. After three years of staying with this Christian couple in Munich, they wanted to adopt him and told him that they would have to travel to his home town in Switzerland for the adoption. Only then did the young man tell the whole truth. The couple forgave him, and the young man managed to bring his physical brother to Munich as well. The boys eventually found out that their parents were alive and were reunited with them. The boy’s brother then began attending a Bible school in Frankfurt which was run by missionaries from a Church of Christ in the States.
Wanting to reach out, the missionary/teachers asked this young man if he knew anyone who might be interested in becoming a Christian. He remembered Reiner, and his convictions about baptism. The school contacted Reiner and invited him to come to the school. This was at the time when Reiner had been forced out of high school for his faith. Since East Germany was still closed, Reiner tried to escape across the border. Caught by Russian soldiers, he was jailed for a night. When Reiner was released he tried again, this time crossing the border through a river, and succesfully making it to the school. He was still eager to be baptized for the forgiveness of his sins, and the missionaries were happy to comply with his desire!
While in Frankfurt, Reiner met his wife, who was also at the school. Later he was able to teach and baptize his mom, Antoinette, and his siblings. After several years of ministry, Reiner moved to the US where he completed his education and taught German at Abilene Christian University.
In 1961 he returned to Germany to preach and later teach in a Bible school in Heidelberg. He also spent several years preaching in Austria. In 1986 he baptized his cousin, who still lived in communist East Germany. This cousin shared the good news of Jesus with friends and family. On December 21, 1986, when Reiner visited his cousin, 18 of these seeking friends were baptized. Thus God began a church in East Germany. When the border opened, Reiner moved back to his home town to help plant several churches in the former German Democratic Republic.
When Reiner was 65, he was invited to move to Munich to help a church that had previously been started. One of Reiner’s sons, Stephan, along with Stephan’s wife Martina, moved to Munich. They worked together to help the church grow.
Meanwhile, in 1988 a team of disciples moved to Munich, Germany, as a planting from the Boston Church of Christ. As many German men and women became disciples of Jesus, they helped begin several other churches in Germany. Some who were converted in these churches as college students are now married and have children who are college students in campus ministries throughout Europe!
For the past five years Wyndham and I have had the privilege to travel to several European churches twice a year to conduct leadership workshops and retreats for those desiring to become elders (and their wives). Last year, Marco Fortina and Fabio Birondi were appointed elders in Milan. This year in Paris, John McGuirk, Brad King, Yannick LeNoen, and Pierre Cariven were appointed elders. Both of these churches are radiant and growing.
Meanwhile, God has been working powerfully in Munich. The Munich Church of Christ, planted from Boston, began renting the building that the “mainline” Church of Christ owned. Through a long process, the two leaderships began talking of unity and working together. With the conviction that they must be united in doctrine and life to bring God glory in the church, they studied and shared together for several years. With great love and humility, the two churches began worshipping and working together and are now one church—seeking to grow in the grace and knowledge of the Lord and to reach out to those around them. God has blessed the church with a consistent growth in their campus ministry, and they are also reaching out to the many refugees arriving in Munich by the hundreds on a daily basis. They have faith that God can use this outreach to take the good news of Jesus to places now closed to Christianity.
On Sunday, October 25, Micha Brück, the evangelist in the Munich church, appointed two elders—Stephan Kallus (Reiner’s son) and Steve Krater. Stephan and his wife, Martina, had served for many years in the “mainline” church in Munich.
Steve was converted in Boston in 1985. Claudia, his German wife, was converted in 1973 in Abilene, Texas, during her high school exchange year. At the time she was living in Paraguay, South America. She moved to Berlin to study dentistry and there met some disciples from Boston. She eventually moved to Boston to be part of the church. There she met Steve, who later became her husband. They went on the Berlin mission team in 1991 and moved to Munich in 2007.The love and unity between the leadership in Munich is felt throughout the church. Tears of joy filled our eyes as we worshipped God together (see video below) and witnessed these new elders appointed. Together, we thanked God as many of the other European elders stood by their side and prayed for the future of the Munich church. We praise God for his powerful hand at work in the churches throughout Europe.
As we learn from the faith of others such as Antoinette and Reiner, let us never underestimate the power of our God. As we scatter the seed of God’s word, we may never know the eternal effect it has on those around us in this generation and in the generations to come.
From one man he made every nation of men, that they should inhabit the whole earth; and he determined the times set for them and the exact places where they should live. God did this so that men would seek him and perhaps reach out for him and find him, though he is not far from each one of us. — Acts 17:26-27
“My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me. — John 17:20-21
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