This past spring, in an unusual move, the Servants of the Word household in Belfast accepted an invitation to join the Munich YMCA for their Easter retreat in Bechtesgaden, Gemany. The YMCA has been a long-standing friend of The Sword of the Spirit and, thanks to many mutual visits and to Martin Steinbereithner’s work in Germany, the relationship has flourished especially over the last few years. In contrast to most other YMCAs, Munich is somewhat extraordinary in that the predominantly Protestant group lives a community life that is very similar to community life in the Sword of the Spirit.
The retreat itself was a four-day event, beginning on the morning of Good Friday and finishing on Easter Monday. It was attended by about 500 members of the YMCA and the seven brothers from Belfast. However, had one not known those numbers, one could have though there were as many brother present as people from the YMCA, such was the welcome and time on or beside the stage we were offered. Martin Steinbereithner and Bruce Yocum gave talks, Dave Quintana and Doug Smith offered brief reflections, and everybody was interviewed at least once on stage. In addition, we were able to offer a workshop about living single for the Lord, which was attended by more than 20 men. Between sessions, of course, there were plenty of opportunities to meet with new or old friends over good Bavarian food and drink.
All in all, the time in Bechtesgaden was quite anointed. First, we were blessed by the tremendous hospitality of the YMCA and by the fervor with which they live a call very similar to our own. Then it was a time to witness to the life God has given us in our brotherhood, especially the aspect of living single for the sake of the Lord. And finally, it was a chance to renew and deepen friendships in Christ and to experience something of a spiritual kinship with our brothers and sisters in Munich.
The anointing on our relationship with the YMCA can also be seen in what initially might have seemed a rather unhelpful development for me as an affiliate in the Servants of the Word household in Belfast, namely my being drafted at the last minute into Zivildienst (nine months of social service required of young men in Germany who choose not to serve in the army). The YMCA has recognized place for young men to fulfill their service requirement, and one of these places was offered to me. Thus, I have been living in Munich since February, working for the YMCA, building relationships, getting to know another community, and hopefully giving witness to what God has given us as Servants of the Word.
In July, David Quintana came to visit – yet another chance to continue building on the good relationships. “Q” was able to meet with some of the leaders of the YMCA, speak to a core group of members as well as to the young adults group, and lead an evening with members of my household. The reception was once again extraordinary and the time blessed. It will be exciting to see what the future will bring.
This article is from the Fall 2008 Newsletter View Entire Newsletter (requires Acrobat Reader)