An involuntary listener

Gymnasium Petrinum

Reflections of a High School Teacher from Brilon

I received the e-mail the evening before: the headmaster asked me to cancel my Advanced Level Course to allow the students to attend a presentation in our assembly hall. My reaction: anger! That was typical of him:  he hardly ever supported plans to go on excursions or any other proposals made by the teachers, but once he had taken something into his head, it had to be done, no matter how unjust it might look to us.

I was itching to boycott the meeting, because as early as half a year before he had written a report about Dr. John in the school magazine and had closed his article with the words; “In November Dr. John will visit us again. Then our students are going to meet him!” That was nearly enough to make me oppose his plan. Then he would have to try himself to get the students to attend the meeting.

I am ashamed to admit it, but the headmaster was proved right: my students did attend the meeting (the main reason being that I wasn’t in the mood to hold classes). And then events followed in rapid succession:

After the headmaster had officially opened the meeting, someone addressed us in a pleasant voice. I couldn’t see who was speaking, as I was sitting too far away at the back. But after two sentences my resistance was broken and I knew at once what kind of person the speaker was. The name “Paul White” had been mentioned, which conjured up childhood memories, the books from the  R. Brockhaus publishing house, The Jungle Doctor Series – and I knew that was no trickster, but someone who wasn’t given to using hollow phrases.

In a matter-of-fact style he talked about his project. It reminded me of the orphanages Georg Muller had once built in Bristol. With nothing but his faith and his trust in God he had opened an orphanage, often not knowing how to feed the children entrusted to him. And yet in some miraculous way he had been able to do it. Dr. John and his wife had built a hospital in Peru without any money – trusting God! And what then happened to them was no figment of the imagination, but gave them the absolute certainty that the living God is at work here. I fancied myself back in the time when, as a young boy, I had listened to the reports of the missionaries from the Liebenzeller of Marburger missionary societies.

Being in the habit of critically questioning myself, I had pulled myself together and sought refuge in a theologically and scientifically based cynicism. Hadn’t the preachers by not practicing themselves what they preached given proof that believing in God made little sense? In my thoughts I kept discussing with all those who had already handed me over to Satan. …

But nothing of what I feared happened: no fiery sermon, no call to conversion, no psychological pressure. Of course, I was affected by what I heard about this project: “Diospi Suyana” – “We trust in God!” What a motto, plain, simple, but everybody knows what it is all about. Not St. Francis or J. Comenius or anybody else, but God!

In short: Resistance was futile! Several times I tried furtively (so that the students couldn’t see it) to wipe the tears from my eyes.

The angels in the mountains! That day angels had been on the way, not only in the mountains of Peru, but also to me in my town. The hospital in Peru does not only provide physical healing, and not only in Peru, but also in Germany. Since that Tuesday I again take the time – wherever I can – to read the Bible and to pray. Old wounds heal! I thank God and I thank you – and also our headmaster.

Yours,  Thomas Albrecht

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