I was born in 1955 into a family of blue-collar workers. At the time, Germany was in reconstruction mode after the devastation of WW2. “Work hard and grit your teeth” seemed to be my family’s motto. Life was tough, supplies sparse, and my parents both worked, leaving my sister and me to ourselves most afternoons after school. There wasn’t much talk of faith or prayer, or even time for addressing our emotional needs.
Then I was diagnosed with a chronic muscular disease that deformed my back. Alone and emotionally overwhelmed during those days of endless treatment and physiotherapy, I felt small and insecure, like a boat on rough waves being tossed to and fro.
That was also around the time when a spark of faith first brightened my darkness. When I was 12, I noticed that each time we sang Martin Luther’s hymn “Ein feste Burg ist unser Gott” (“A Mighty Fortress Is Our God”) during the religious lesson in school, my heart warmed and my thoughts lifted with renewed courage.
On the day of my confirmation, my faith took another leap. I said the pledge and invited Jesus into my life in the village’s old stone chapel on a rainy autumn day. This experience left an imprint on my heart and brought a measure of peace and renewed confidence.
Later, like so many young people at the time, I left on a “pilgrimage” through the Middle East to India and Nepal, on a search for meaning and purpose. Unfortunately, after nearly two years of traveling with some friends in a beat-up camper, I found myself stranded all alone in a small town in northern India, having just recovered from a severe case of hepatitis. But one dreary foggy morning, a most curious thing happened.
In the shabby motel where I was lodging, I met a group of young missionaries who invited me to stay at their home until I was better. Their kindness, dedication, and simple faith deeply touched me.
During their morning devotions, a Bible passage jumped out at me: “The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field. When a man found it, he hid it again, and then in his joy went and sold all he had and bought that field.”1 I realized that my soul wasn’t hungry for fame, success, or wealth, but for meaning, purpose, and peace.
Life from that point on unfolded in inexplicable patterns, and I’ve experienced many ups and downs, but the treasure of faith I found all those years ago has brought me through each storm with the confidence that God is always with me and has my best interests at heart.
- Matthew 13:44 NIV