Gospel Fellowship Association Missions
By Brad McKenzie

Gisela's Geschichte

Two friends, four family members, and a preacher watched as the casket was lowered into the cold ground. That’s it? That’s the end of “the life of the party”? Of the one interviewed on Germany’s talk shows? Of “Germany’s oldest DJ”?” No, it is not the end but a new beginning.

Born in Germany after World War I, by the time WWII broke out, Gisela was a vibrant young lady who loved to sing and dance. And because one’s life could be snuffed out in an instant, she lived very much according to the words of Isaiah 22:13 quoted by Paul, “And behold joy and gladness, … and drinking wine: let us eat and drink; for tomorrow we shall die” (KJV). And so, one night as she and a girlfriend were dancing in a “Gasthaus” in Magdeburg, Germany, the sirens began howling, warning of an approaching air raid. That night Magdeburg would be devastated—again. Over the centuries Magdeburg had so often been destroyed that “to Magdeburgerize” meant “to devastate.”

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GG Ruined city

When the sirens sounded, the tavern emptied immediately as everyone fled to the bunkers. Gisela and her girlfriend began running to the shelter. But then Gisela remembered the sweater her mother had knit for her. She had left it on a chair in the bar. In such situations, impulses sometimes win out over reason. The delay was not long, but it was too long. With sweater now in hand, Gisela raced to the bunker, but to her dismay, the heavy doors had been closed and she could not get in.

Now the drone of planes, the whistle of falling bombs, and thunderous explosions filled the air. Yes, the air. As it happened, the fires depleted the oxygen in the air to such an extent that everyone in the bunker suffocated to death while Gisela, who couldn’t get in, now escaped with her life, staggering around phosphorous fires and stepping over smoldering debris and worse. Miles away in Hundisburg, her mother had heard the planes, had heard the explosions and seen the glow of the once beautiful city, which that night sustained 90% destruction. Sick with worry for her daughter, her eyes scanned the south until amazingly, around sunrise her daughter approached, physically unharmed.

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Fast forward six decades. Germany had for 45 years been divided between Russia and the western allies. The Marshall Plan had rebuilt West Germany, but behind the “Iron Curtain” Russia had excised high war reparations from the GDR, the German ‘Democratic’ Republic. Gisela lived in the West, but she pined for the East where she grew up. When in 1989 “the Wall” between the two Germanies and surrounding West Berlin fell, Gisela returned to her beloved Magdeburg. A pink CD with the title song “Magdeburg, I Love You” and the face of Gisela, the now 83-year-old novelty, decorated the aisles of department stores. In her own apartment, pictures with Germany’s celebrities decorated her walls. One Sunday a month she emceed a dance at a hotel located in the upper level of a building with a Bible-believing church on the main floor.

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That’s when Gisela’s path began to intersect with mine. After church, my teen children told me that an interesting, elderly woman had invited them to a dance. Over the next months I also met her and began to anticipate her arrival and engage her in conversation. Then, one day, as I opened the door for her, something was different. “Is something wrong?” I asked.

“O, something terrible has happened!” she related. Her son near Berlin had slipped on the ice and impaled himself on a short picket fence where he bled to death. I invited Gisela to a restaurant near the church to talk. There she confided: “I know why God did this to me. Years ago I didn’t want the life He gave me, so now He took the life I kept.” For six decades the guilt of abortion had plagued her conscience, and now she was sure she was being punished. I said to her, “Gisela, God would forgive even this sin.”

“Do you think He would?” she asked.

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I confidently answered, “I know He would.” And so I began to explain the Gospel to her over the next weeks. Soon she moved to the nursing home where we have ministered for decades. It was there that Gisela came to faith in Christ and enthusiastically supported the singing at our monthly devotionals.

A few days before she passed away, I asked Gisela if she would want her testimony of salvation shared with others. She said she would like nothing better than that. And so, just in time, she authorized the account of her conversion to Jesus Christ, a story I related to only a few at her funeral, but which has since been distributed across East Germany in tens of thousands of booklets.

GG Nursing home