Saturday, July 18, 2009

Vacation or Crash Course in 20th c. History?

I took this photo on July 13, 2009, at a still-standing portion of the Berlin Wall that faces the former Eastern Zone. Although the inscription was a recent addition to the colorful graffiti, I found its simple message appropriate and moving.

Esther and I spent 13 days in Northern Europe. Our vacation turned into a crash course in 20th century European and Russian history. In addition to having the privilege of touching the Wall, we also stood at the shipyard gates in Gdansk, Poland, where Lech Walesa and his brave coworkers, founded the Solidarity movement and demanded justice for dock workers and their families. The Communist authorities severely persecuted the strikers. What the regime didn't know in the late 1970s was that their punitive response marked the beginning of the end for a brutal system of government that expected to impose its will into the future, without end.

Although I'm still processing the thoughts and emotions experienced in our travels, I can say that I learned three important truths:

1. Ordinary, seemingly powerless people can change the world by standing up for what they believe.

2. Leaders who use power to oppress their people are nothing more than paper tigers. Their "absolute power" is a fiction. They can oppress only until people wake up and say they've had enough.

3. The human spirit cannot be crushed for long. Good will overcome evil in the end. Just not soon enough to prevent untold suffering. Sadly, someone needs to put his or her life on the line--as Jesus did--to expose the emptiness of evil.

Nov. 9, 2009, will mark the 20th anniversary of the fall of the Wall and reunification of Germany. There will be a mammoth celebration in Berlin. My heart will be there, too, celebrating the triumph of freedom and praying for all in the world who still suffer under oppressive regimes. May they find courage to expose the paper tigers cowering beneath the use of savage force.


  1. Thanks for this great message of hope, Al. How wonderful that you chose this pilgrimage and shared it with us.

  2. What a lovely post, Al. Thank you for giving us your insights. I always appreciated your talks at church and this reminded me of those. I'll continue to visit your site for more! Liz

  3. This is so strong and positive, Al. I appreciate that "the human spirit cannot be crushed for long." Thanks so much for sharing this.

    Author of You Want Me to Do What? Journaling for Caregivers