Living What Our Forefathers Died For
Written by: Linda Maendel on Monday, January 27th, 2014
I read the email twice, to make sure I understood this right. Yes, this really is a scholarship opportunity in Germany. I could either let it go or Carpe Diem. I decided to seize the day and soon realized, sometimes when you walk through an open door, God has even more blessings in store!
Thus, Carpe Diem led to a colleague and me receiving a scholarship for a teaching methods course, offered by the Lower Saxony Ministry of Education. We’d be studying in Hannover, Germany for ten days, with hotel, food and local transportation included in the scholarship!
This in itself was worth celebrating, but when I found out that we’d be doing a Hutterite History tour through several European countries, prior to our course, the excitement doubled. Strong supporters of education, our community leaders gave their blessing for the trip. August found five of us, my sister and three friends, flying to Zurich, Switzerland, as we’d be starting our tour where the Reformation was born in the early 1500’s. This eventually led to the Anabaptist movement and the start of Christian community, as described in Acts 2: 42-47.
Having heard and read the heart-wrenching stories about our history many times since childhood, instilled in me a longing to visit the land of our forefather. However, I never imagined that the opportunity would come so unexpectedly, without any plans on my part.
The tour took us to six countries; Switzerland, Austria, Italy, Slovakia, the Czech Republic, then finally Germany for our course. “We’re taking an intensive church history course,” someone in our group remarked. A fact, the rest of us wholeheartedly agreed with. Packed into eleven days were visits to the places connected to the Reformation, some of which evoked strong emotions: Anabaptist beginnings, early Hutterite settlements, severe persecution, lengthy imprisonments and brutal deaths. This ultimately led to all Hutterites fleeing from one European country to another, till settling in Russia in 1762. Hundred years later, they were once again forced to leave their home, this time to America and eventually Canada.
We met two different committees, one in Tirol, and the other in Vienna, Austria, who work diligently to ensure that the Anabaptist story is not forgotten. With government grants the Vienna committee set up two museums in Lower Austria, one at the Ruins of the Falkenstein Castle, and the other in the Sulz Weinviertel. Next year the Tirol committee is hoping to open the Hutterer Park in Innsbruck, Austria, to commemorate Anabaptists who died for their faith. The park is right along the Inn River, where many believers were drowned. The members of these committees also graciously host Hutterites who come to Europe, taking them to the historic sites in the area. I was deeply touched when visiting these places as our hosts read to us, the stories from our Chronicle of the Hutterian Brethren.
As I reflect on the bygone year, I’m reminded that three memorable weeks this summer is a gift that will never break or lie forgotten on a shelf. Besides making our history come alive, this tour has deepened my gratitude for the legacy our forefathers left us and the religious freedom we enjoy today. I’ve also come away blessed with many special friends in Europe. We’re connected through history and live what our forefathers died for – all of us from various churches, serving the same God!
One of our new friends recently said it best, “These visits are a blessing. Not only do they allow us to establish beautiful friendships, but also, little by little, heal the deep wounds of our country’s history.”
(To learn more about this trip, visit my blog: hutt-writevoice.blogspot.com and click on Europe Trip in the tabs.)