A Better View :: Gospel Fellowship Association Missions

A Better View

Asa Cropsey
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Three young men on bikes charged down a thrillingly narrow walking path in the Thüringen Forest, roots below and branches above threatening to throw us to the ground. At the crest of a ridge, the trees thinned. Long shadows scattered before the blinding rays of a rapidly descending sun. We came to a halt, dismounted, and walked to the brink to admire the view. Below lay a German town nestled among the deep green of the forest—its red roofs and white walls now dyed orange by the sunset.

Two of the bike riders, Thomas and David, were Germans. I, thoroughly American, was the other, several weeks into my first internship under GFA’s Strategic Internship Program. Thomas and David were also working at Camp Impact that summer and had adopted me as a little brother, following missionary Kevin Matthia’s directive, “You must speak German with Asa whenever possible.” The three of us had become good friends quickly, despite my slow, stumbling German. That evening we met to enjoy the view and to read a counseling book in preparation for teens’ and kids’ camps later that summer.

As the shadows began to fall in the town below, David pointed out to me several looming concrete structures. “Those are remnants from the Soviet era, just like the ones at camp.” I knew from my research of Germany that far more than concrete had been left by the Soviets. As a result of the Soviet regime after World War II, over seventy percent of East Germans claim to be atheist or agnostic, and statistics for the younger generations aren’t looking any better than for those who had lived through the regime. Of all the buildings in the town below, few, if any, housed professing Christians. Below dwelt so many people without God and, therefore, without hope. It occurred to me that black was the predominant color of clothing I had noticed on the streets. What David and Thomas knew from everyday experience, I had only known from statistics. I was beginning to see dimly the plight of this subset of the world’s great riotous throng. They cavort on the brink of death, so distracted by their selfish desires that they are blind to their true need. “Is there any hope for these bold-faced, nihilistic men and women?” was my first thought.

A glimpse of a grand landscape ought to make us feel small and overwhelmed by its beauty. A glimpse of a great God ought to have the same effect, but our corrupted flesh juts out with arrogance and defiance instead. The picture of Christ on the cross comes with an offense to each person. One says, “I can’t be that bad. If I were, God should have told me so I could reform myself. But let His Son die? That sounds like He hated His Son. Who would want to serve a God like that? And what’s more, that was the only possible way? God doesn’t seem very powerful to me. God must be neither powerful, nor good.” In such a manner, the evil flesh and the old serpent’s tongue corrupt the image of God in a hardened heart. Delivering a seemingly impossible message to seemingly impossible people is, of course, a seemingly impossible task. But is it not written, “such were some of you”? The strength of the Almighty is not diminished by man’s evil. God loved us, chose us, and redeemed us from the same muck in which these poor people are drowning. David, Thomas, and I were each eyewitnesses to the power of God’s love in our own lives. That evening I was struck with the beauty of the work God is able to do even in such a place.

The sun had set over Thüringen Forest, and we needed to get back up to camp before it got too dark to see the way. The thrill of a swift downhill bike ride was replaced with an uphill test of endurance. That evening as the sun set, God kindled a new fire in my heart which still burns today: “These East Germans need the Gospel. These are my people—I must come back again, if only to get a better look at the beautiful work of Christ to save sinners.” Dear reader, have you seen the loveliness of Christ? Have you seen “the feet of him that bringeth good tidings,” as Isaiah 52:7 describes? If not, then go. Go and see!

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