CHANGE THE WORLD BY EDUCATING GIRLS: THE FILM GIRL RISING By Carina Schiltz & Mytch Dorvilier, 2nd year M.Div. Students

Reviewed by Carina Schiltz and Mytch Dorvilier 2nd year M.Div. Students

 Girl Rising is a film and a global movement to educate girls as a means of breaking cycles of global poverty. The movie was released in March 2013, and Wartburg Seminary recently held a screening, sponsored by the Global Advocacy Committee. Girl Rising, directed by Richard E. Robins, and Academy Award nominated, is a global action campaign for girls’ education as well as a moving and inspiring film to raise awareness about the importance of girls’ education to global prosperity and peace. After the film, the audience engaged in meaningful discussion, lessons, and were encouraged to think about important political, cultural, historical, economic, and geographic issues tied to educating girls — and about their responsibilities to their own communities and their role as global citizens.

The documentary, created in partnership of girls and writers follows the stories of nine girls from Peru, Haiti, Egypt, Sierra Leone, Afghanistan, Ethiopia, India, Nepal, and Cambodia. It highlights the lives of nine young girls striving beyond circumstance and overcoming nearly insurmountable odds to achieve their dreams:  Sukha the Phoenix, Ruksana the Dreamer, Suma the Emancipated, Yasmin the Superhero, Senna the Warrior, Azmera the Courageous, Amina the Hopeful, Wadley the Undaunted,  and Mariama the Catalyst. The film shows challenges they have faced in their daily lives that bar the way to education, safety, and integrity. Some stories end in hope, but not all.

Educating girls is crucial because this results in safety, health, and independence. The  entire world is positively affected: their own children are more likely to be educated and communities thrive. Education helps provide a way to stay out of forced marriage, domestic slavery, human trafficking, and childbirth, which is the number one cause of death for girls ages 15-19.

Access to education is a basic right, however, around the world, 66 million girls are out of school. What are they doing instead? Many do not have a choice. They are working and earning money for their families. Often sons get priority to attend school rather than daughters. The girls may be married very young, already have children to care for, or they have been sold into domestic slavery. Thirteen girls under the age of 18 have been married in the last 30 seconds. In the time it took to read this paragraph, another thirteen girls around the world were married rather than being in school.

Educating girls raises national GDP which will continue to increase because educated people are more likely to send their own children to school, creating a cycle of prosperity and innovation. But the benefits of educating girls are not just in the future: some benefits happen right away. When girls and boys are educated together, studies show that conflict in those countries is reduced.

The film features voice over from Anne Hathaway, Cate Blanchet, Selena Gomez, Liam Neeson, Priyanka Chopra, Chloe Moretz, Freida Pinto, Salma Hayek, Meryl Streep, Alicia Keyes and Kerry Washington. The film could be used for Sunday school, confirmation class, and other groups to introduce students to the issues surrounding girls’ education in the developing world, and it’s transformational power.

Want to change the world? Advocate for girls’ education. Reduce poverty, sexual violence, and increase health and prosperity for girls, their communities, and the world.

 

MYTHS & FACTS ABOUT SEXUAL ASSAULT By Laurel Duncan, 2nd Year MDiv

Men should be ashamed.  Men should be ashamed of the way our culture blames women for rape.  Saying: “she should not have been _____ (wearing that outfit, in that place, having a drink)” is blaming the victim for the crime of the perpetrator, as though it is up to the woman to avoid being raped because it’s natural for a man to rape.  As though men cannot control themselves and must rape a woman whom they find attractive.  Men, stand up for yourselves.  Don’t let our culture spread these negative assumptions.  It is not the natural state of a man to rape.  Put the blame where it belongs.  The one who rapes is the one to blame, not the victim.  Victim-blaming must end.  It is a culturally pervasive myth that rape is the fault of the victim by what they wore or where they were or what they did.  Let’s shatter this myth.  While we are at it here are a few more myths in need of shattering:

Myth: Men are the rapists, women are the victims.

Fact: While the highest number of sexual assault cases are of a man against a woman, women can commit rape and men can be raped.

Myth: Most sexual assaults are committed by a stranger.

Fact: About 80% of rapes are committed by someone known to the victim such as a relative, friend or acquaintance.  Rape can also occur in relationships and marriages–being married does not imply automatic consent.  Each person in a relationship has the right to say “no” to sex at any time and have that no respected by the other person.

Myth: Rapes are committed in dark alleyways.

Fact: According to the FBI database 70% of sexual assaults reported to law enforcement happen in the home of the victim, offender, or another individual.

Myth: Only homosexual men rape boys.

Fact: Most men who abuse boys define themselves as heterosexual.

Myth: Sexual assault is something that happens to pretty, young women

Fact: Sexual assault is about power and control.  Offenders look for people who are the most vulnerable to attack or who they believe they can have power over.  Victims can range from very young to very old.  61% of rape victims were assaulted before 18 years of age. 34% of sexual assault victims are age 12 or younger.

We live in a rape culture.  Women are told to dress attractively for men but if they get raped it’s their fault.  Jokes about rape and degradation of women are common place.  Our society holds up the “boys will be boys” mentality allowing men to abuse with little consequence.  Many of our swear words have a sexual nature; most of those speak specifically to sexual violation.  In movies, TV shows, and video games the idea of sexual assault has become so common place that in some video games a player can be rewarded for raping the enemy.  The myths this society believes about rape, the blame that mostly lands on the victim and the trivialization of rape all work to perpetuate the occurrence of sexual assaults in our world.

To borrow from the Alcohols Anonymous 12 step program, first we must admit we have a problem.  Awareness is the first step towards a better future.  Each person can become more aware of the areas in our society that trivialize and normalize sexual assault.  The first step is seeing: seeing how sexuality is portrayed in the media.  Being aware of the images you see on a daily basis can help you to take a step back and recognize what messages are healthy and what messages are harmful.  Next listen to the way sexual is spoken of both in the media and in daily life.  This can help you become more aware of your own language.  It seems like a minor thing but using sexually violent language trivializes sexual violence.  Using sexually violent language perpetuates sexual violence in our culture by turning it into a joke.  We may not be able to make the world perfect but we can certainly make it a safer place for our children by bringing awareness to issues like sexual assault.

The statistics in this article come from the Riverview Center which is a crisis center for victims of sexual assault in Dubuque, IA.  For more information visit www.riverviewcenter.org.

WOMEN CALLED TO CONNECT, BOND, AND HEAL IN A BROKEN WORLD By Tammy Barthels, M.Div Intern

I had the privilege to hear Edwina Gateley speak at the Women of the ELCA Wisconsin River Valley Conference Spring Event. Edwina founded the Genesis House – a house of hospitality and nurturing for women involved in prostitution in Chicago IL. The Genesis House until 2006 became a model program for women recovering from prostitution in the Midwest. Sophia’s Circle, an offshoot of Genesis House, provides ongoing support to help the women sustain their recovery through retreats, counseling, small emergency loans and sisterhood. Edwina is also the founder of The Voluntary Missionary Movement which sends missionaries to work in the developing world. She has authored 14 books, 3 CD’s and a DVD. Edwina has also been featured on CBS’s “60 Minutes” and “48 Hours.”

Edwina explored with enthusiasm and awe how God as lover and healer invites people to new possibilities and to believe in their potential to make a difference in our world.

She began the event by giving statistics such as:
7 million children go hungry everyday in the USA
1 in 3 girls will be abused before the age of 18
2% of the world’s population hold all its wealth

Edwina then said that she believed the definition for sin is “being out of balance.”

“We are the Mothers, Birth Wives, Daughters called to do what we can to balance things. Compassion and Love are the fundamental messages of the Gospel. Our call is to keep going and to never give up.

“God is inviting us to wholeness, to new possibilities and to open up and take action. We need to stand up and look fear in the face. We as women need to do what we think we cannot do. We are blessed at this time to speak the wisdom from deep within. Faith can’t be taught but only caught by the fire within us that God has given us. Our light must shine.

“Now is the time to speak our truth and to stand up for injustice. We are not to be the cheerleaders but the doers. The ones who will reach out with compassion; 96% of change and transformation happens with compassion. Change does not happen with war or legislation but with love. How hot is your love for justice? How will you fan the fire and make a change today?

“We are all called to be Mothers of God, to give birth to something new. It requires courage to be passionate and to go against the status quo. Ralph Waldo Emerson once said: ‘Courage in women is often mistaken in women for insanity.’

“In a world of fear and imbalance we as women, midwives, and daughters must not give up. We must speak to the young and offer them alternatives to war and hatred. We must not be part of the diminishment but be part of the change. Blessed are they who never compromise their faith or their integrity. We must be so connected to the Gospel that we will not be compromised.”

The ongoing violence against women continues, the cycle of anger and violence continues because there is no love. The Church must be a holding room of intense love and compassion. We cannot fix it all, but we can be an intense place of light and love. How will we as women of the church fan the fire of love and compassion today? It is a conscious journey. How will we respond?

GOOD-BYE AND HELLO – TRUSTING GOD’S CALL By Michelle Kanzaki, Final Year M.Div.

Yes this is about my call and how God uses us in strange and unique ways.  I am not the typical seminary student. I am a 3rd or 4th career seminarian (depending on whose counting). I am old enough to be the grandmother of a 21-year-old and young enough to be the grandmother of children 4 and 6 years old. Since the beginning of this journey I knew the day would come when I would have to leave the safety of my home community. The place where I was born, grew-up, worked, had a child, enjoyed sisters and a brother, as well as cousins, aunts, uncles, and of course friends. I think you get the picture. This is the place where at my age, I thought I might finish my life, but God has other plans for me. Beautiful plans, glorious plans, but these plans were not chosen by me. Yet I am excited and delighted to look forward to new adventures and following God’s will for my life.

Yet at the same time, it is with a heavy heart I say “so long” to all those I love. It is not good-bye because you will always be treasured by me. We can still communicate via cell phones, skype, e-mails, letters, cards and in so many other ways. I can come back and visit and better still, you can come and visit me. Yes indeed, that would make my new home more like my old home. You know that in my warped sense of thinking I always thought that my daughter (my only child) would be the one to move away. And, had this been the case, although, it would have been hard for me, it would have been the natural order of things. But, no, God is sending me away from my child. Granted, if she is old enough to be the mother of a 21-year-old and a four and a six-year-old, she is plenty mature enough to live without her mom in a radius of less than 2 miles.

Now I want to say “Hello” to new friends. I look forward to getting to know you. I believe you have been praying for me and I know I am praying for you. I am trusting that you will tell me your cares, your fears, and joys. I am hoping you will allow me to be me and know that I am excited to be here. I want this change to be a long term change and I hope you do too. I am thanking God for giving me to you. May God’s will be done today tomorrow and forever.

SHACKLED By Jean Peterson, WTS Archives Volunteer

When he was here, “Uncle Bob” named a bit of history:

Centuries ago the insane were shackled, chained to institutional walls – jails, dungeons, oversized crib rails or beds.   Centuries ago?   Did it stop then?

Not so long ago.   Still,  now, in our lifetime!

II   Two centuries ago you could be shackled to a tree and whipped… for no good reason, just because your skin is darker than mine.   Yours, clean, shines, but us dirty folks of my hue thought we should dehumanize, torture, and humiliate you.

Then Good Abe said,   “STOP!”   “Let them go!”   150 years ago.     Did it stop then?     Good Abe said, “Let them go!”   Some were set free, but they did not escape  the misery of slavery. They “owed their souls to the company store,” just a different kind of bondage and   Many were set free only to encounter the Lynching Tree.

III- Confined   A lifetime ago (within mine) you could be herded into a train – a cattle car, withnospacetomoveorfreshairtobreathe untilthetrainstopped,then pushedproddeddowncattleramp intostockyardsconfinedbybarbedwireelectrified toopenairputrifiedbypollutedstenchfrom smokingchimneysofgasfurnaces, queuedinspectedlikemeatselectedby wavingrodpointingtoleftortoright toshowersortemporarysurvivalslavelabor identitystrippedsoulsstolen shovedsqueezedintobarrackstosleep? oncrowdedhardbunkboardslabs shelvesinrowssharedwithstrangers fourorfivebodiesinonebox, somedeadsomelikeyoubarelyalive, nightmareshiftssharedbynamelesslabormates… upatdawntorollcallshoutyournumberor startoveragainstandingatattention,thenlaborallday inrockquarryorbeforcedtoshovethecorpsesof peopleyouonceknewfriendskinyourownmother fathergrandmothergrandfatherssisterbrother babiestoo intotheovens burntheirsoulless emptiedbodies turningtoashes yourfellowhumancattle beaten objectified dehumanized de-souled,   just   because   you were   a Jew.

IV- (Nisei)   Early in my lifetime, we took your property and kept it despite your 2nd or 3rd generation good citizenship, then put you away with meager jobs and poor schools for your children, just because your grandparents were born in a land which has become our wartime enemy.

V   Four centuries ago Massasoit hosted my pale-faced forebears from across the sea  — hungry after a long sail from a strange land across the ocean.  His hospitality to rude guests uninvited, your home now overrun by land-greedy pale faces pushing ever westward, shoving Native hosts aside, all the way across this continent with no  respect for Native Nations’ sovereignty, disregarding hosts’ good care for woods and soil and animal species; greedy, pushy, selfish pale-face with no respect for Natives’ humanity.

My  ancestors stole your land shackling our Native hosts’ descendants (of many nations) to untillable soil, tearing down forests housing food supplies.   We ingrates pushing, shoving you to ever smaller, reduced barren dry arid land strips, shackling you to areas which cannot sustain life for any tribe and leaving you invisibly shackled to a tiny patch of land in a dry, barren, arid soil worthless for growing any food or sustenance.

VI   Centuries ago?   “Let my people go . . . “   My skin is black. I am a Jew.   I am insane.   My Grandfather was born in Japan.   My native grandfathers welcomed you     Shackle me –   Let me hang.   Force me to burn my own kin.   Confine me to untillable barren land.   Take our property and keep us silent despite our good citizenship.     Centuries ago?   Now!    Has it stopped yet? No!     “Let my people go!”

Let us go free,   Now!.

GOOD FRIDAY By Dr. Beth Leeper, WTS Prof. of Church History

We are in the Easter Season; however the following poem incorporates the darkness of all people every day which we bring to the cross all year long.

Safe home, caring parents,
Jesus had it easy some would say.
Three years of travel, crowds who cheered and jeered;
A fleeting moment in a life of love and comfort.
A nasty week, no doubt – no hymns of pious devotion then.
Flesh torn by whips, thorns, nails;
Betrayed, denied, who needs such friends?
Desolate, forsaken, abandoned by his Father
in his time of need.
But for how long?
Three hours.
Excruciating hours of anguish;
but only three.
How dark could his darkness be?

What was that darkness in which he lingered?
Whose pain, whose suffering, resounded through his frame?
Shrieks of children raped,
screams of soldiers shot,
cries of women beaten, men tortured.
The whimpers of the innocent and the damned
filled those three short hours.

Darkness covered the earth,
But deeper darkness filled our Lord.
The black whirlwind of swirling madness.
The depths of death-craving distress.
Blind, lame, plague-riddled, rotting with disease.
Sunken cheeks, jutting bones, eyes clouded with hopelessness and flies.
The sick and dying, the world’s refuse:
The essence of darkness,
the substance of pain.

A lifetime of torment
multiplied by a billion, a trillion, a quadrillion living creatures.
Countless lives, endless ages,
anguish from the dawn of time.
Overwhelming misery crashes down,
swirls in,
engulfs those three short hours.
Unspeakable darkness crushes the life
of that once-cherished son.

Does Jesus enter into my darkness?
Or I into his?
In the union of human with divine
two are one, forever inseparable.
Locked in swirling blackness, I remain helpless,
unable to escape the pain.
Clothed in eternal light, the Son unlocks the blackness,
enters in,
freely embraces the grief that is mine.
How great the cost, extinguishing life and light.
Three short hours,
but a multitude of lifetimes compressed;
A neutron star of suffering, darkness, and death.

A PSALM: LAMENT FOR CONSOLATION By Wade Brinkopf, Final Year MDiv

A Psalm: Lament for Consolation

In you O Lord, I have put my trust.

My words wash away but yours will stand forever.

There is no one but you O Lord who could feel my despair.

Take this sorrow from my heart, release me from my shame.

Reason stands but for an instance;

yet, your word stands the test of every moment.

Turn me from my pathless way,

in your righteousness I can face the unknown.

Mine is too quickly faded away in morning glare,

but, brightly shines your gleaming stream turning darkness into light.

Ever present, your right hand stands before me.

Your glorious throne to adorn.

Crush this oppressor my Lord, this darkness in which I stand.

Push back this dark deception that creeps uneasily near your truth.

Only a breath of your Word and it fades completely away.

Your Word breaks the dark; the bright gleaming stream brings me life where there was none!

FLOSSENBÜRG REFLECTION By Joe Daiker, 2nd Year MDiv

As we woke and left Munich the gray misty morning greeted us once again. It certainly set the mood considering where we were headed. Yet this gloom pales in comparison to anything we were about to see or hear. Many of us read Bonhoeffer’s letters surrounding the July 20th assassination attempt. I had no idea what to expect from myself. Have I been desensitized to these horrors at the hands of Hollywood and America’s glorification of violence? The movies, the video games, the music, and all the other threads used to weave this horrid mask. Would I be numb? Would it cut me down to my core as it should?

Jessica Tannebaum would be our guide. Her heart was sincere, this we could all tell. At times her voice seemed to give and the way she clenched her jaw appeared to be her fighting back emotions that she felt so strongly. Her introduction taught us that Flossenbürg was a work camp only in the sense that there was forced labor. The fact that the forced labor was quarry work without any kind of protective gear or even a simple first aid kit meant one was lucky to last 6 weeks before dying from an array of causes. Becoming deaf from the explosions was a death sentence as you could not hear when your number was called resulting in brutal beatings. Blindness from flying debris was a death sentence. A broken bone, not set or cast. (nor was it accompanied by pain killers) was a death sentence because the guards would not put up with “laziness.” Open wounds quickly becoming infected and diseased were death sentences when even a simple bar of soap was no where to be found. If someone could not extract the precious granite out of the quarry, what good were they to the SS and what mercy did the SS have for these poor souls when hatred and violence coursed through their veins? The lucky ones seemed to be those that were crushed to death by the falling rock. Those who lasted the longest died having worked harder than any of us would be able to fathom, receiving little to nothing as sustenance while living and working in conditions incomprehensible to our minds. Surely a twisted recipe for death at a “work camp”.

The whole “camp” was laced with psychological torture. A sign on the front gate that read “Work renders free.” A hospital that saved no one. Food that brought forth life, yet in portions so little and rotten that it could barely even sustain life. A laundry barracks for hygiene yet there was no soap, towel, or toilet paper. Fear of the SS guards and the regime that deemed them so unworthy of life was eclipsed by fellow inmates given the power and meager rewards to beat and torment their fellow inmates. Many feared these, the Kapos, more than the SS guards for their cruelty surpassed that of the SS guards. To hear what these people went through in a single day was awful, but knowing that that was a base routine and that additional tortures were often dealt that we know nothing about was unthinkable. These poor souls had to rise each morning with full knowledge of the horrors that awaited them.

Even the dreadful thought of suicide, this morbid escape from life’s horrors would be shoved out of their grasp. Dehumanised from the beginning and treated like animals. Worse than animals though. It didn’t take long before they began to believe what the Nazis were saying about them. They are unclean, they smelled, undeserving of the fulfillment of even the most basic needs. They were like unwanted diseased animals. Life gave way to survival and thus many began to act as animals. A survival instinct replaced all the needs and wants that drive human beings. The sad thought of throwing oneself into the electric fence towards a quick death became less important and doing whatever they could to survive and live whatever life this was drove them day to day. Maybe that was hope in it’s most primitive form. It’s amazing that anyone made it out of there with any sliver of emotional and psychological stability.

Entering the camp through the tunnel of the Commander’s station was surreal. The sound of our feet on that pavement, 16 of us, made a considerable sound that echoed through that tunnel. The sounds of hundreds , thousands of people at a time forced through there must have been horrifying. A crowd that far outnumbered the guards yet completely helpless and terrified to do anything. Once through we stood where the original gate that separated the grounds around the commander’s station and the camp itself. On one of the stone columns making up the gate it read, “Work renders free.” We were told a story of one prisoner who asked an SS guard what it meant and he told him “Yes, you work in the quarry over there for 6 weeks and you will be dead. Then we will take your body down to the crematorium and as the smoke from your burning body exits the chimney in to the sky, then you will be free.”

Soon we found ourselves standing on the Roll Call grounds. It was cold and wet; I hunkered over trying to cover any bare skin from the top of my head to the bottom of my toes. I was still cold. It was no where near the coldest time of year and I was shivering. I had a hat on and I was shivering. I had a coat and I was shivering. I had gloves and I was shivering. Yet this was a cold that no layer of fabric was going to remedy. There in that place I saw flashes of people. They lacked anything of color. They all looked the same. Every one of them a child of God, stripped of all their dignity and security. Out there in a cold and wet winter night fully exposed to these harsh elements without any power to do anything about it. I don’t know if these were images from one of the many movies I have seen or genuine experience of some sort. But at times during the tour they were there.

Walking through the barber and shower room was enough to make me tremble when the stories created all too vivid of an image for me. Those who survived the long, over-crowded, inhumane, filthy, painful trip to this work camp were then stripped of their clothes and any possessions they had on them. They were forced to stand at attention to be counted for hours. “Not only did we lose our clothing here, but our souls.” (will properly site once I have a name A book or what? ) Those who did not die here were lead into the barber room. Razors hung from the ceiling. They were neither sharp nor dull. One or the other may have been better, but instead these were one of the first tools of torture used on people at the camp. A full body shave with semi-sharp razors guided by hurried and careless hands. Often it would gnaw away flesh as they were shaved. If it had been the SS that did this, that would be one thing, but this was performed by the Kapos, fellow prisoners. Then they were forced into the showers. Five minutes or five hours crammed in that overcrowded room naked, bleeding, terrified, and waiting for either the ice cold or boiling hot water and if not that, then the fire hose. Without a hair on their body nor a thread of clothing they were marched into the Roll Call area once again to be counted. There they would wait for clothes according to the SS’s watch. That wait would commonly last a whole night. Not all of them would live past this. The process of turning that person into a number and nothing more was quick and effective. Suddenly all of my shivering seemed extremely trivial and the evil that had manifested itself in that place seemed very real.

The building had been torn down, but the account of the children’s barrack was more than enough for me to tear up. Toddlers, children the age of both my daughters, up to young adults. The thought of my own children being ripped away from me shakes me to my core, but to shove them into those conditions is unfathomable. Young children, like both of my daughters. Like the child who gave me communion on Epiphany Sunday the day before in Munich. A young child like the one who clung to Shannon Johnson and laid his head down in her lap at church when she offered him a hand to give her “five.” Young children whom Christ declared as a model of faith and warned us against leading  astray.

We walked up the cobblestone road to the prison barracks where Bonhoeffer spent his last night on this earth. Looking back amidst the gloom of the weather and the work camp, there was a full rainbow arching over it. I don’t know what to do with that. Part of me wants to say that as a symbol of God’s promise, it was a way of telling us this evil is conquered. Part of me wants to leave it an obscure paradox for me to dwell on.

The prison barracks were mostly torn down but a portion of it was preserved. The outline of the walls of the small cells were visible with two cells being in tact. These cells had the ability to block out sunlight creating one more level of psychological torture to its victims. That was the type of cell Bonhoeffer spent his last night in. He would then go to a trial where the verdict and sentence had already been decided. He was quickly sentenced to death by hanging and in that courtyard outside the prison barracks Dietrich Bonhoeffer gasped for his last breath. On the cross in the courtyard was an inscription that read 2 Timothy 1:7. “for God did not give us a spirit of cowardice, but rather a spirit of power and of love and of self-discipline”.

As we began to move to another spot, our guide pointed out where a missing barracks once stood. This was the brothel barracks. Women were promised freedom after 6 months if they volunteered but were returned to the camps they came from after a year. There was no torture, humiliation, degradation, or unjust act that was deemed too vile towards these people. To say that they were not treated as humans is an understatement of mammoth proportions. The imagination can paint a vivid experience when a free person walks these grounds, but that surely does not even break the surface of this abyss.
Walking on the cobblestone paths, made from the granite in the quarry, caused the plantar fasciitis that I have been battling in my left foot to flare up. I thank God for that. In some small, insignificant, self-centered way I was grateful to feel some sort of physical pain in that place. Again, I am struck by the realization that I had a nice pair of shoes on my feet. A luxury one of these people would not dare to dream of.

Entering the valley of death we took the stairs. For many, their entrance into this valley was to be dropped down a hole onto rail cars which carried their corpse down to the crematorium in the name of efficiency. Along these stairs were the support poles of the 20,000 volt electric fence that surrounded the camp. Some of the ceramic spindles had burn or more so melted marks on them, signs of them having been activated causing instant death. The doors to the crematorium were locked, so we did not go inside, but Jessica showed us pictures of the “dissection” table and the crematory that burned to ash some 13,000 or more people. Even in doing this the Nazis found a way to torture the deceased once more. For the Jews and Muslims, the burning of their bodies means that there is no hope for them entering the afterlife. Even in their death these people were not free.

In the valley we encountered the outline of an execution yard used to shoot prisoners of war from Poland and Russia. The guards were rewarded for their deadly aim with 3 days vacation, a bottle of expensive liquor, and a package of smokes for each shot.

Immediately after that was a pyramid shaped mound, which was the gathering place of all the ashes that they were able to find in the area. The size of the mound divided by what a single urn of ashes holds is an equation too horrible to think about rationally. This was the result of the crematorium unable to keep up with the atrocities. So they piled the bodies and doused it with gasoline then lit it. Once more a psychological torment swept through as the smell smothered the camp.

As we passed these we came  to the Square of the Nations. Memorials for the nationalities of those that had been killed there. Each nationality had a number representing those who were killed from that country. The numbers, startling as they were, were less than the actual numbers as they learned in the years after it’s construction.

If you raise your eyes from the Valley of Death you will find on a hill a small chapel built from those watchtowers that were torn down. The chapel is named Jesus in the Dungeon. How appropriate that name is. So where do we find Christ in something such as this? I don’t even know how to answer that and maybe I never truly will. But I think that Christ is right there in the midst of it all, weeping. As Dietrich Bonhoeffer saw it, “We are summoned to share in God’s sufferings at the hands of a godless world”

A JOURNEY TO HONESTY By Carina Schiltz, 2nd Year MDiv

A Journey to Honesty

The psalmists are so honest
With the state of their hearts.
Why am I so ashamed of mine?
Why do I run away
And not allow myself to say:
Yes,
I
Hurt.
Instead I slog along,
the road covered with cracks
and I realize: so is my heart.
But I cover it up with ‘fine’ and ‘ok’
until the wound gapes open,
an ugly gash of pride and shame
that I continue to cover with denial.

I stumble up the road, a winding path,
My dreams slowly leaking out of me,
Losing sight of what used to give me energy and life.

I’m searching for who I’m supposed to be,
Or avoiding who I really am—
I can’t tell which.
They say I am loved
But I struggle to believe it.

I end up at the foot
of this mountain of
obstacles,
But I’m at the foot
of something else, too.
A structure of some sort—
a cross.
Maybe if I sit here awhile.
Maybe if I rest…

Maybe this wound will be
stitched up.

I can’t do it on my own.

There’s a healing that happens
When I name the brokenness: I am
in pieces.

I
reject
myself.

But I am drawn to this
Structure
That reconnects me and says
“no, you’re not a mistake”
And the weight lightens a little.
Enough so I stand up again,
but not by my own power.
My bent back straightens
I flex my fingers, and finally
feel a breeze on
my face again.
I see.
Reflecting on the structure—
the cross—
are the broken pieces,
a kaleidoscope of colors;
and I behold the beauty of forgiveness.
There’s nothing I did—
I just sat here to rest.
Now I feel accompanied. My head held high.
And I journey onward.

I look back over the next hill
and still see it—
a cross at the foot
Of the mountain of obstacles—
and somehow
it overcomes them.

The next traveler is there
at its foot.
I am drawn onward.

Purpose.
Peace.

BOOK REVIEW By Donna Runge, Final Year MDiv

Book Review of When God Was a Little Girl by David R.Weiss, WTS 1986 and illustrated by Joan Lindeman:

This is a children’s book published by Beaver’s Pond Press     7108 Ohms Lane     Edina, MN  55439-2129     www.BeaversPondPress.com

What a delightful book!  As I started reading, I was immediately drawn into the conversation between the father and the daughter.  So much so, that I found myself reading it aloud.  The story of how God, who is a little girl, creates the world progresses as the father begins the story and builds on the questions and comments of his daughter.

It is an old story with a new twist!  The book engages the reader’s own imagination in anticipation as the questions are answered.  And as I read it I could also imagine myself reading the book to my own grandchildren and answering their questions.  It is a book that engages young and old.  Its message is simple yet profound in its creativity.