Our eyes got bigger and bigger as Tobias and Katarina, the missionary couple with whom we spent our time in Germany, told us about the ministry that provided their covering while in St. Petersburg. Because of our interest, and because of their relationship with the Harbor (now without a contact person in the wake of Tobias’ and Katarina’s departure from St. Petersburg), they agreed to meet us and show us their operation.
In English they are known as the Reichenburg Foundation. Started in the late 60’s (like every good community!), this one grew and prospered until it had over 100 members who dedicate themselves to each other and to the ministries that the community supports and promotes. No, they don’t live together, but they all live in one town, Reichelshiem, population 6000. The community owns all the property, including the houses, a large guest and conference center, a medieval farmhouse (see picture), and their crown, the town castle, dating back to the 13th century. Members serve in one or more of the various ministries of the community in exchange for free housing and minimal living expenses.
Among their ministries:
- conferences and training on issues related to strengthening and preserving the family
- Jewish/German reconciliation
- Youth outreach and evangelism – cutting edge methods I’d never heard of
- youth work projects the bring together Christian youth worldwide each summer to serve in various places around the world and simultaneously build community
- Legal advocacy about family-related issues
- publishing journals on youth and family issues
- educational materials on biblical counseling
- one year internships for youth
They are THE leading Christian publishing company in German. They are a force for change nationwide, and they are an indispensable voice in their own “city gates” in Reichelsheim.
Let me give you one example of how cutting edge their outreach is to youth: they developed a living exhibit of the life of Moses that had gone on tour around the country. One person at a time goes through the exhibit, wearing clothing representing various stages in Moses’ life. The purpose is not merely to show the life of Moses, but to help the young person wrestle with questions of identity and purpose through living vicariously through Moses. So at one point they are invited to place labels on themselves representing various attitudes towards themselves. Throughout the exhibit are trained workers available to counsel or pray with the participant. People emerge overcome with emotion by what they have experienced, and the lines reach up to three hours to get in.
For my money, the keys to their success are tied to their commitment to each other and their commitment to their vision, all under the banner of seeking God in everything. So why is that so hard to duplicate? Sounds crazy to write it this way, but I think it is really hard to find people who are willing to give up what it takes to really seek God individually and corporately and really work together for a common goal. Can you imagine a 100 member church accomplishing this much?
Synergy, my friends. I am convinced the Body of Christ has not begun to realize its potential impact because of our unwillingness to be built into one another as a collective whole. And yet here I work pretty much on my own. I knew that coming in here, but the tension between my desire to function in community and my conviction that we are called here is pretty large right now.
All I can say is, if God ever closes the doors to Russia, we just may have our next stop.