It was dark when we traveled through East Berlin. The street lights were dim and the road rough. We went through Check Point Charley very late at night and really hadn’t slept much since arriving in West Berlin two days prior. There was virtually no one on the streets. We had a ways to go to get to our final destination so I laid my head back to get some much needed rest.
When I woke up the sun was peaking over the horizon throwing shafts of light everywhere. Dawn was breaking and we hadn‘t arrived. Towering pine trees lined the road we were on for several miles until we turned off the autobahn onto single lane paved roads that curved through the country side. It seemed like every little town had a fortress in it. A castle type of structure that was visible before we got to the villages.
People were stirring, opening their shops and riding their bikes. There were very few cars on the road. The only cars there were in the east was a state made car called a Trabant. They were very small, and for the most part unreliable. The man who picked us up just inside the Berlin wall told us that his father had a Trabant in storage for the winter and the rats ate the body off of it. He said the body was made of pressed cardboard. I didn’t know whether to believe him or not. But I could understand because that was what we were riding in. It seemed very unstable compared to western cars.
We drove up to the gate of the compound where we were staying, our driver sounded his horn and the gates opened. We drove in and parked beside the Pastor’s house. The combination of a large house, a church, some dormitories, and several out buildings looked like a movie set.
It was set up to house and train several seminary students about ministry in their country. The communist’s were anti church and anti religion. Although freedom had started taking hold in East Germany, the people were still hesitant to speak out about their faith. The Berlin wall hadn’t come down yet but there were rumblings of liberty.
We met the pastor and his wife spending the day with them and learning what we would be doing. We were there to teach the students and do church services, children‘s ministry and teach the Bible. There were very few Bibles so they were hungry to hear. The Pastor showed us around, we ate our meals in a make shift dining hall and fellowshipped with everyone. There were about 25 students attending the seminary.
They told us that the secret police knew of their existence and what they were doing but had chosen to stay away because of the emerging attitude toward freedom. They, however were in every public meeting the church held. When we got ready to do a church service the pastor would say, “Remember there will be secret police here.” There was always the possibility of arrest. We could feel the restraint but we also perceived the coming freedom.
The first night we spent in the pastors home, singing and praying with them. We were encouraged to keep our voices down, which we were glad to do. It wasn’t like the U.S. Everything was still kept under wraps. We stayed with them about 10 days, teaching them, eating with them and getting familiar with the way of life behind the Iron Curtain.
We went back several times with groups of people eager to help. The East Germans were gracious to us, always treating us with respect. The restraints of the communists were visibly falling off. We saw many smiles and happy greetings on the streets. People act differently when they are free.