Walk of Faith
Yeah, I’m Benedikt. I’m from Germany. I’ve been in America for a little over a year. As a German as I’m supposed to, I’m very passionate about soccer. But also, I think the main thing about myself is that I’m trying to shepherd people. I think that’s something that God has put on my heart and that affects everything that I am, everything that I do.
I think we probably could start this story just by an analogy that a friend and I, his name is Sam, we talked about a lot when I was hiking in Spain. – I’ll come to that later.– We said life is like baseball. I mean, especially in America, that analogy makes sense. Because once that first pitch is thrown, like the whole game changes by the way this pitch is thrown and by the way the ball is hit, by the way all the players move on the field. There’s just such an interdependency in life of actions that we make and decisions that we make, next steps we take.
So I grew up in the Christian Church in Germany, very traditional. And the church in Germany’s weirdly connected with our government, which is a blessing to see in America how that is not the case. So that is very new. I never heard really of the Holy Spirit. All these things weren’t touched on. We sang our songs with the organ, which is not bad at all, I played the organ myself even for a little bit. But that was kind of the vibe the church was going for. And my brother and I, when we were 14-15, started a youth service, which was pretty modern. We kind of oriented ourselves [like] Hillsong, and all those things, and we got rid of all the old wooden benches in the church, cleaned it all out, and tried to make it like very modern, which was not welcomed in the church. Ultimately, we ended up leaving because of that, so did my parents. We left, we left the faith.
So being 14 and being in that old traditional church, I did not have a very real picture of what being a Christian looks like, how you live it out. I don’t want to speak badly about the church that I was in. That’s not my intention. But it was not portrayed to me how that can look like and what you can do for that, so being a Christian was more of a doing word, than it was a being word. And that’s what normally makes Christianity so special. Every other worldview gives you something to think, to feel, or to do and Christianity is something to be. But that distinction wasn’t really made clear to me. So it was more religious, religious acting, that I did, also back there and starting a youth program, it was more religious. It was more born out of excitement, and less out of true passion and love for Christ.
Then after I finished high school, I ended up going to Peru to this missionary hospital that some Germans, a German couple had started. Myself, not being a Christian, I went to a hospital that was founded by missionaries and I helped a couple from Australia that had eight kids. I just went and helped. I did their dishes, I taught piano to the children, I taught them all the things in school, in their Australian school system. I lived in this poor village in the Andes, with cold water with parasites that I got over and over again. It was a crazy experience. After three months though, I was kind of done. I was like, Oh, I experienced the culture. I learned Spanish there. I was like, I may as well go home now. I’ve kind of experienced what I wanted to experience. But I looked at the missionaries, and it may sound very standard, but they were just different. And I was wondering how they managed to just stay here and be so faithful over years and years with eight children, where sometimes you don’t even have water to do the dishes or it’s just so inconvenient. And I was like, What are they doing? How do they manage to stay in this inconvenient situation for such a long period of time where nothing goes right, ever? This dependency that all the missionaries had working in the hospital or school and that poor village, that just blew my mind. Especially all the people, the Peruvians living there. If you do not believe in miracles it’s going to be very hard to live there. God provided for those missionaries.
We were going through some rough circumstances, like, we had two weeks without water and there you have eight children that use the restroom. You need to do dishes for it, because you don’t have a dishwasher. Even the dishwasher wouldn’t work, like nothing worked. You got to do laundry, and you’re 10 people, and they all live in the same house. And they were so happy with it. It was the smile and saying it’s all okay, that did not make any sense to me. This dependency on God and this joy in suffering. All these things just spoke to me so profoundly and made me question myself and my own values. There was nothing that was said to me. Nothing that I was able to say to somebody else, it was just watching them be a Christian. Because so often, like we make Christian a doing word or something to feel or what…But often, Christian is just to be and that’s exactly what they did and that just got to my heart. I ended up reading the Bible every day and praying every second and minute that I was able to. I just couldn’t help myself. In every situation I was in, it just was what I needed to do. I got baptized in Peru, in the cold water straight from the mountains, which was pretty awesome.
Yeah, anyway, drilling back to Peru, I came back home to Germany, now being a Christian and my mom already had found this new church that was, in Germany you would call it nondenominational. So not connected to the government, very modern, still had a great sense for tradition, which I value too. And in the matter of two weeks, I was, I was able to lead youth with them, I got my own projects, and I just felt so at home, and had made so many new friendships and deep connections that until this day are going to be friendships till the very end. I was able to start my own Youth Services again, now being 19, and it was just an awesome ride.
I started studying economic engineering though, because I had a, I just was very interested in numbers, logic, business. Also was the thing that my dad studied. But I was so involved in church and people were just so involved in my life from church. Individual people, separately, came to me and told me, “Hey, I just, I just got this picture of you with the Bible, and a sword in your hand.” And, “We think you like, you should think about that. The way we see you in church, it just makes so much sense seeing you like that. We see you being a shepherd and a pastor for other people.” And it was not just one person. They all came to me individually without ever talking to each other. So I was like, Man, this is inconvenient. Like, I had this whole plan, three years bachelor, and then you do this and this. But I was so in love with the church and I’m a 100% or nothing person. I was like, Okay, dude. You fell in love with Jesus, you just got to go for that. So I quit, started an internship at my church, and enrolled to study theology. In Germany, you can’t just switch your courses or anything, you just quit and start at zero.
So I had the summer break until my fall semester started and I ended up hiking 300 miles from France to Spain. It’s a pilgrimage called the Camino de Santiago, which is the pilgrimage of St. James. And for example, Brian Zahnd, I think your people know him, he did that like two weeks after I did. My goal going there was just being in solitude. I didn’t want anybody to go with me or anything. It was just spending time with God, reading the Bible, praying and just walking, very boring. Walking every day, 15 miles daily, and just figuring it out. I had no idea what I was doing. My backpack was way too big, I packed too many things, but I was just ready to just walk every day. Not knowing that the second day I was going to walk into a girl that now is my wife.
I saw her, she was limping, and I just asked her how she was doing, if I was able to do anything for her. We ended up talking every day and walking every day. And I think one of the blessings of the Camino, we just walk, and it’s just such a feeling of every day takes care of itself. We don’t know where you, at what hostel you’re going to end up with, the next day or where you’re going to eat the next day, all these things, but they’re just on the way. And the blessing of that is that you just don’t overthink and the noise that you normally feel every day just becomes so quiet. And you can just feel yourself again, and you just feel in tune with the Spirit and you trust your own decision making again. So we just said, “Hey, we should get married.” And it was like, after a week, and we did that. We just, like if you walk with a person for 10 hours a day, you talk a lot about very, very intimate things. Of course, it seems ridiculous to say you get married after just a short period amount of time. But I got such deep insights and I gave her such deep insights that you would have to go on a lot of dates to ever meet a person that closely. But we met pretty pretty quickly on the Camino. We had a lot of miles to, to walk with each other.
The beauty of the Camino is that it’s supposed to resemble life. You start in France and you have to cross the mountains, the Pyrenees and it’s just exciting. It’s your, you just started, you’re young, like you still have a lot of energy and that’s supposed to resemble your youth. You can climb all these mountains and it doesn’t really affect you. You’ve just had like three or four days under your belt and you can’t feel your feet yet and your back is still okay from the backpack. And then at one point on the Camino, you reach this port, which is called the Maceda, and everything is just straight and boring, and most people try to skip it. The sun is just beating down on you in the summer and that’s supposed to resemble your 30s till you’re 50-60. Where life is a little more steady and maybe you’re asking yourself, “What am I doing?” There’s nothing really going on, or ups and downs, it’s just going straight for a very long time. Then in the end, you come to Finisterre, which is where the sun goes down and you sit at the ocean. You finally reached, like you walk all across Spain and you reach the ocean, and that’s supposed to resemble death where the sun finally goes down and you arrived. I can feel now that these different stages, they also, I mean, they’re for the big picture of life, but they’re also for little things that you do.
I came home from that, went to church camp where a lot of miracles happened. And where – I’m still pondering on it, if that had anything to do with me spending so much time in solitude. – But it was just beautiful to come back from such an experience. But before that, I was able to come visit my girlfriend, Sarah, in America for just a week or two. I flew back, studied, she came, we flew to London, our parents met, and then it was March last year and everything got a little crazy, for all of us. Trump just announced that he was going to close the borders on Europe. I had my flight booked for the day that the borders were supposed to be closed. I called my dad and asked him, “Hey, what do you think I should do? I have this flight booked. But I do not know what’s going to happen if I jump on it.” And he gave me two options, two outcomes. He said, “You either gonna be packing your suitcase and you’re gonna come back home very quickly. Or you’re packing your suitcase right now and you’re not going to come back home.”
After that phone call, I went on a long walk and was just reflecting on whether love is supposed to be safe or not. Because in life, I think we get moments where we get to decide who we want to be. Of course, we do that in our daily life with everything that we decide, but it was that moment in the baseball game where I had the ball in my hand and I was the pitcher and I was able to decide, ‘Am I gonna throw this and the game just takes a completely different turn? Or do I just keep it with me and the game just stays the same? I stay on my turf. Stay in Germany and the game gets a lot safer. But is love supposed to be safe? I don’t think so.
I was pondering a lot about how Jesus must have felt deciding to come down to us and to leave His, to leave a safe place, to leave everything that He knows, to leave His loved ones and to come to us. I think I felt very encouraged just by Jesus’s example to, to just go and to leave behind security and to embrace, to embrace chaos. So I jumped on the plane. I arrived in March, five hours before Trump closed the border. Half an hour before he announced a national emergency state, I picked up my suitcase and walked towards my fiancee, back at the time. We hugged, and we got our coffee, and everything seemed to be fine until, like a day after, of course. Lockdown was announced, my flight got canceled, everything got a little bit more crazy. But as we can see it in the Bible a lot and in Scripture, and maybe in our daily lives, things with God go from chaos to structure. He has a beautiful way of getting a hold of all these things that are flying around mid air, and He puts them in the right places. I think the beauty of my story, what I’m experiencing right now, is things being put back into the right places.
Now, after having this passion in the beginning for economic engineering and business, but ministry, and back then for me, it was a dualism, you can either do one or the other. Now I’m doing an internship with my pastor, and I get to do business and ministry at the same time. The thing that was chaotic before, now is being made one. I get to see my family again, the thing that hurt for over 12 months after my wife and I got married. My parents weren’t there, my friends weren’t, like there’s so much pain and suffering in that. I now finally get to, that gets to be made whole again and I get to see my family again. There’s so much beauty in the way that God has steered my story and the way He shepherded it. And I think the moral of it, probably the thing that I want to emphasize the most, is dependency on God became so miraculous for me, and so important for me, because God has just proved Himself to be so utterly reliable, but also so utterly unpredictable.
I’ve had so many prayers, and I never had these where just I was able to whisper, “Help.” Before I was super energized and climbing all these mountains and my prayers were so eloquent and with such a strong voice. All of a sudden I came here and I cried a lot. I felt misplaced. I felt like a stranger. There wasn’t a lot of joy. There was spiritual tastelessness. I didn’t know where, I wasn’t able to feel God anymore. But ultimately, I was always able to just whisper, “Help.” That sometimes was the strongest prayer, probably I ever prayed and that is how spiritual life is sometimes. We sometimes just, God as the mother puts us, as a baby down, and we have to take the first steps, and it just, we lose that taste that we get from the mother and we’re not nourished by it anymore. We get dried out and we ask ourselves, “Gosh, what am I doing wrong? Did my spiritual life change? Or did I make the wrong pitch in my baseball game?”
It’s just this dependency that I can explore looking back of God just being so utterly dependent and steering my story and just telling me at this moment, like right now, where I am at this moment, that things are going to be okay. And that He is helping me and that I am at the right place. And these put that He’s putting things back into the right place. And I think it just also shows me that we’re all just here for a certain period amount of time and we can make it count or we don’t. We can participate in the game of baseball and we take a risk and we throw a ball that we don’t know how that’s gonna go. But right, we can just use our time that we have here.