In March, the City of Leipzig hosted the biggest Buchmesse (book and reading fair) in all of Germany. During the fair, numerous readings are given by authors throughout the city. Last year, Die Brücke petitioned to host a reading. Die Brücke is the meetinghouse of partner church body The Selbständige Evangelisch—Lutherische Kirche (SELK) in Volkmarsdorf, Leipzig which is run by Rev. Hugo Gevers and supported by The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod (LCMS). Rev. Gevers and the meetinghouse, in concert with the SELK congregation in Leipzig, work to serve the poor and especially migrants in the Volkmarsdorf area. Given the focus of the work on migrants, especially children, Rev. Gevers requested that an author with a similar theme be sent to read at Die Brücke.
The migrant children served by Rev. Gevers and his staff have often seen their lives torn apart in a matter of a few days or a few hours. They leave everything behind due to the political or religious persecution their families are under, and flee to a new country. Sometimes the families wish to come to Germany, but sometimes the families are tricked. Many know English, and so they ask and pay to be taken to the United Kingdom, but are dropped in Germany instead. They have no or little knowledge of the German language. They bring with them very few belongings. They have no ability to take a job and must live in homes for asylum seekers. Eventually, they may be allowed to take one Euro an hour jobs. However, they are not allowed to take full jobs until they receive resident and work visas, which can take up to 15 years. Says Rev. Gevers, “Recently, the restrictions on work for Asylum seekers have been streamlined in accordance with European Union (EU) directives. Accordingly, Asylum seekers may work after one year, if they do not take a job that cannot also be done by a citizen of the EU. After four years, this latter restriction is also taken away.” To the native Germans of the congregation, this life and these circumstances seem at first very foreign to their own. They may have trouble relating to the migrants and their difficult experiences.
That is where Matthias Prangel, a secular author, actually served as a point of making contact. Mr. Prangel read excerpts from his newest novel Casa Sabina. Rev. Gevers explains:
This book reflects on refugees after the Second World War and on the subsequent German history. Many of the older people in Leipzig knew all about this part of their own life’s history and could relate it to the plight of the present day refugees and also to the needs of children in our society of today.
The reading from Prangel’s book helped the German members to make this connection more clearly. This will hopefully aid in creating further understanding and empathy between the migrants and the native Germans, as well as help the congregational members realize that they can be of more help than they may have realized!
Mr. Prangel read to a full room at Die Brücke for about an hour. Those in attendance included native Germans, South Africans, Iranians and an American. Listeners often nodded, chuckled or reacted in other ways. Mr. Prangel’s reading was done with carefulness and his tone reflected the moments. He read from a variety of passages from the book about a man who looks back on his young childhood when he and others witnessed the murder of an entire family toward the end of World War II. He tries to process and understand what happened on that day. Matthias Prangel took questions afterwards and introduced a few of his other books, including one he wrote concerning the death of his 29 year-old daughter. Several attendees bought copies of his books, and all three copies of Casa Sabina that the author had brought were bought. Some intend to share the books, while others will purchase them in the future.
When the reading and question time was finished, Rev. Gevers presented Matthias Prangel with a gift of some chocolates (he has a sweet tooth) as a thank you. Then, volunteers from the congregation brought out a cheese and bread plate, as well as white and red wine. Everyone had time to mingle and talk with one another, as well as with the author.
Although the book had a “secular” theme, the reading and the book itself were helpful to the Life Together of the congregation by creating an intersection of understanding in differing, but similar experiences. Rev. Gevers further explains:
In a very moving part of the book Matthias Prangel illustrated a family murder, which was witnessed by a large group of people. All of such people allowed the multiple murder of a family without intervening. Matthias Prangel writes.
“Then something happened. And what happened was that nothing happened”
Sometimes the worst crimes in history are possible because people do nothing. That is why our missionary project “Die Brücke” is there. We cannot allow evil to continue unabated and unstopped. In our immediate context here and today the evil is that children are being criminally neglected.
- Pray for the members of St. Trinitatisgemeinde to be strengthened in service to those around them, especially the migrants of the Volkmarsdorf area.
- Pray for continued fruitful discussion and thoughtfulness from the reading.
- Pray that the Gospel would continue to be proclaimed in all that the congregation and Die Brücke do.
- Learn more about the children of Die Brücke.
- To support this project, you can give to: The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod, P.O. Box 790089, St. Louis, MO 6310-79-0089. Note that it is for the Germany Leipzig Church Plant.