Tuesday, December 1, 2009

100 Ways to Live the Word

How do we put into practice the Word of God? Let us count the ways. There are "100 Ways to Live the Word", at least initially, according to Philippine Bible Society (PBS). PBS recently launched a coffee table book bearing that title. The book is about the lives of men and women who believed in God and in His Word--how their lives have never been the same. They have become influential in their respective fields, touching lives and making things happen.

Read about how biblical verses influenced the likes of former Pres. Corazon Aquino, Sen. Jovito Salonga, Chief Justice Reynaldo Puno, Ambassador Henrietta de Villa, Bishop Eddie Villanueva, Atty. Alex Lacson, Piolo Pascual, Dulce, Dr. Luis Gatmaitan, Nora Lucero and many others--all adding up to 100 personalities. I interviewed 15 of these 100 people and wrote their inspiring stories.

You may get a copy of 100 Ways to Live the Word at PBS Bookstores along U.N. Ave. and Sta. Mesa at a discounted price. Call (63.2)521-57-92 or visit http://www.bible.org.ph/about-us/contact-us for details.

Monday, November 23, 2009

LittWorld Video

Bestselling author Robin Jones Gunn made a video of her interviews with some of the participants of LittWorld in Kenya. I was one of those she interviewed. To view the video, visit http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eB7Ml5CPoMg.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

More LittWorld Stories

For more LittWorld stories, please visit http://www.littworld2009.blogspot.com. 

Thursday, November 12, 2009

LittWorld 2009 Report

From November 1 to 6, close to 150 men and women involved in publishing from more than 30 countries gathered in the hills of Limuru, Kenya for LittWorld 2009. God enabled me to attend this world conference on Christian publishing. Let me share with you our experiences during the said conference.

The cold weather in the conference center (it was 15°C on the first day of the conference) was made warmer with the fellowship of brothers and sisters from around the world eager to learn and share with each other. There were general sessions, roundtable discussion, and panel discussion complemented by devotion time, elective workshops, and professional consultation with experts. I attended the workshops on writing; combining fact, fiction, fun and fantasy in children’s books; maximizing training; teaching writing; ghost writing; and using social media. I also had the chance to have a one-on-one consultation with Robin Pippin of Upper Room Magazine. This was such a wonderful experience for me not only because I received professional advice from her regarding expanding opportunities for writing, but also because I used to write for Upper Room and this was the first time for me to meet in the flesh one of the magazine’s editors.

Participants also had the chance to relax, banter, and discuss things during coffee breaks, lunch, and dinner. We were treated to Kenyan hospitality and local staples ugali (mashed corn), fresh fruits and vegetables, lamb, fish, and chicken. Of course, Kenyan tea and coffee were overflowing. As a treat to the participants, we also had a day trip to the Great Rift Valley and Lake Naivasha where we saw some giraffes, zebras, deer, sheep, and goats roaming wildly as well as a couple of hippopotamus dipping in the lake. We also saw some birds wading in the lake like the beautiful pink flamingos and cormorants. And a mischievous monkey too!

Attending this year’s LittWorld had me thinking about God’s direction for me for writing in the next months. I was not only encouraged but I also tried to encourage my peers (I hope they were). I came out of LittWorld refreshed and recharged once again to tackle the numerous writing and training assignments God has for me. At the conference, two of the speakers said, “Every Christian book is a missionary.” Please pray that God will continue to use me to write books and to train those who write books. On November 21, I will be facilitating a writeshop for devotional writers of Scripture Union Philippines. I am also working on another Bible curriculum for a Grade 2 textbook for Glad Tidings Publishing. Thank you for your partnership in Christian publishing!

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

More Powerful Than Typhoons

Typhoon Ketsana (locally known as Ondoy) devastated a large part of Metro Manila and nearby provinces with the worst flooding in more than forty years. Typhoon Parma (Pepeng) followed right after Ketsana and threatened to unleash its fury particularly in Northern Luzon. In spite of the aftermath of Ondoy and the brewing of another typhoon, 12 writers and editors decided to brave the storm and camped at Bayview Park Hotel in Manila to attend the writing conference of Magazine Training International.

From October 4 to 7, magazine writers and editors from Japan, Malaysia, India, United Kingdom, and the Philippines listened to us trainers as we shared about the calling of the Christian writer and the craft of writing and editing magazine articles. I particularly shared about the keys to powerful writing and got the participants busy with some writing exercises.

While writing this, I received an email from one of the participants from Japan. She informed me that she and her colleagues will be sharing to their editor-in-chief the things that they’ve learned while in the conference. During the conference also, a Filipina participant asked me if she could save a soft copy of my presentation. She anticipated echoing the seminar to her coworkers in the communication department of their institution.

I have been privileged to coach these brothers and sisters along with trainers Dr. Michael Ray Smith and Kim Snider. Dr. Smith is an award-winning writer, photojournalist, academic and conference speaker, and professor in communications at Campbell University (http://www.maryanndiorio.com/blog/archives/general/000413.php). On the other hand, Kim Snider is the editor of Moms magazine (http://www.apmedia.org/site/moms/) and coordinator of print publishing for Asia Pacific Media Ministries.

I could not have done my part during the conference if God had not empowered me. Typhoons Ondoy and Pepeng showed their destructive force but God is continually building up people’s lives through the powerful writing of those whom He has called.

You may view pictures of the conference by clicking on this link http://www.facebook.com/marlene.legaspi.munar#/album.php?aid=115390&id=684578540

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Magazine Writer

I grew up with an aunt who, even though, she did not finish school, had a great love for reading. She kept stacks of magazines and comic books in her attic. During summer, my hideaway was her attic. Time stood still for me in the attic as I get engrossed in stories and enchanted by behind the scene details about celebrities.

It’s not surprising then that my first writing job was as a staff writer for a lifestyle magazine. It was a short stint, but I really learned a lot of things. Aglow Christian Magazine had just been out in the market for a month or so when I applied as a writer. I was a nervous neophyte but ambivalently, I was also eager to write just about anything. Looking back, I am thankful that I was given the chance to do just that. I interviewed celebrities, wrote cover stories, features, fillers, devotional, how-to-articles, and even restaurant reviews.

Writing for the magazine enabled me to express my God-given creativity and to communicate a Christian perspective. Years later, I would appreciate even more the value of a magazine that communicates the gospel when I saw my ten-year-old daughter reading a magazine. A few minutes later, I saw her crying, still holding the magazine. I asked her why, and she answered, “I just realized…I need Jesus Christ in my life.”

God can use a magazine and its magazine writers to proclaim the good news. As we magazine writers seek to hone our skills, we can be more effective messengers of glad tidings. Magazine Training International will be holding a conference in Manila, Philippines on Writing Effective Magazine Articles from October 4-7. I am privileged to be one of the trainers. For details about this course and inquiries on registration, please visit http://www.magazinetraining.com/UpcomingConferences/mticonf_Writers/. Hope to see you there!

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

20 Years of Writing Ministry

Last Sunday, I was carefully listening to the Adult Sunday school teacher as she shared about John Maxwell’s Law of Process when I was prompted to recall the year I started writing professionally. It was 1989 when I became one of the original staff of Aglow Christian Magazine, the first Christian lifestyle magazine in the Philippines sold in secular newsstands. Quickly, I calculated that it’s been 20 years ago, and that means this year is my 20th anniversary as a Christian writer.

A colleague was wowed when I told her about this realization. I was also caught by surprise. Until last Sunday, I wasn’t counting the years; I was just writing and writing, following God’s leading. Others may be amazed at such staying power, but others in the know are probably wondering how I’ve survived. Writers, like artists, don’t get rich (unless they’re a Stephen King or a local history textbook writer whose textbooks have been used for decades in most public and private schools in the country).

But I’d like to believe that God is using me to leave behind a “rich” legacy to my present and future readers. A college friend told me that to leave a legacy you have to plant a tree, bear children, and write a book. I am grateful that God has opened the doors for me and enabled me to write a short fiction book (on the theme of finding and receiving love through forgiveness); a Bible-based Values textbook for Grade 3 published by Glad Tidings Publishing (http://www.gtpicomm.com/) used in several private schools for the past 10 years; and another Bible-based Values curriculum for Voice Philippines (http://www.voice-phils.com/) which uses the material in partnership with churches in 115 public schools. The opportunity to shape young minds is an awesome privilege and a serious responsibility. I give all the glory to God for using me as His instrument to write all these and many other devotionals, articles, radio scripts, and translations.

But on the other side of the writer’s legacy is the writer’s process. God led me through many difficult, challenging phases of writing. From a staff writer, I moved on to freelance for both Christian and secular market, for both local and a few international publications. In my earlier days, I would write for free or for a measly honorarium. I would write and rewrite articles. I would imaginatively and diligently craft book proposals that would later be rejected and cause me to doubt my worth as a writer. I’ve battled with pride (especially when a peer was praised and my byline was erased) and impatience (often with the release of a payment). I’ve drunk cups of coffee and stayed up until dawn to beat deadlines. I’ve cried too many times asking for more rewarding projects and prayed almost all the time for wisdom and strength to write every assignment.

Yet, I continue. The words of God have been my comfort, hope, and direction. The God who called me to the ministry of writing reminds me of my calling. As the writer of 1 John says, “We proclaim to you what we have seen and heard, so that you also may have fellowship with us. And our fellowship is with the Father, and with His Son, Jesus Christ. We write this to make our joy complete” (1 John 1:3-4).

Through my writings, I want others to know more about God and His grace through Jesus Christ. I want to encourage them to keep trusting God in their daily lives. I am still in the process of becoming a writer useful to God. So I keep on learning. I scavenge for books on writing from book sales; I browse websites on writing; I network with other writers; I attend seminars and workshops on writing and publishing; and yes, I am still hoping I could attend this year’s LittWorld, a Christian publishing conference to be held in Nairobi, Kenya from November 1-6.
Writers or not, we all are called to serve God in the ministry He has entrusted to us. May we all cooperate with God’s process and become a powerful tool in the hands of a mighty God. And at the end of each day and that final day, may we all say, it’s been a pleasure serving you, Lord.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Sausages, Franks, and the Favor of God

As my husband and I descend the stairs leading to the grocery, a chest freezer welcomes us, inviting us to peek and pick its choicest array of sausages and franks. We saw a variety of European sausages, but I particularly noticed those big, bulging, orange-brown tubes labeled “Hungarian sausages”. It’s been a while since we last had those imported sausages. For a second, my husband and I paused, looked and grinned at each other, then returned our gaze on the wieners. “No, it’s too expensive,” I said. So there, none of the sausages made it to our grocery cart.

Two days later, I decided to visit an old aunt whom I haven’t seen in perhaps a year. She was out of the house when I arrived, but my cousin and his wife were around to welcome me. My cousin, whom I haven’t seen in a while, excitedly told me the good news.

“God is so good! If it were not for Him, we would not have this new business.” I listened with curiosity, because just a year ago, this same cousin was in distress due to financial problems.

“We asked God for help, and one time, when she was praying,” he said, referring to his wife, “she opened the Bible and saw a verse in Deuteronomy 30 saying something about returning to the Lord and obeying Him so we can see our fortunes restored. We believed it and then God suddenly opened the doors for us.”

From fish processing, they diversified into high-end meat products. They are new in the field, but this early, their clients already include five-star hotels and a well-known supermarket. “We just started but how come we were able to get those clients? Only God could open these doors!”

I agreed and rejoiced with them, especially when I remembered how they struggled earlier and how God has rescued them now. “That’s the favor of God!” I exclaimed. God is gracious and merciful. And God’s favor includes opening doors that man can’t open and can’t close either.

Before I went out of their door that day, I also experienced an overflow of God’s favor.

“We’ll give you some of our products,” my cousin and his wife said. Then they took out a chunk of raw pink salmon and several smoked chicken breasts. In the next breath, he brought out sausages and franks and rattled off their names which to me sound foreign, except for cocktail franks. There’s kielbasa, chipolata, and chorizo Mexicano. All mine for free. I didn’t have to buy them from the grocery. Now that’s favor from God!

Whether you’re desperate and at the end of your rope (like my cousin was), or even when you’re not desperate (like we were) and just longing for something you haven’t tasted in a while, or wanting to attend the next LittWorld, God’s grace and favor is available through His Son Jesus Christ. God is gracious .

Friday, May 29, 2009

The Publisher

Who owns the first publishing company?

GOD does, says Pearl during our morning devotion on the third day of Littworld. Pearl is an author and mentor of writers in Trinidad. She puts forth Psalm 68:11 to support her claim. The King James Version of the Bible says it so aptly, “The Lord gave the word: great was the company of those that published it.” The Amplified Bible magnified the thought by saying, “The Lord gives the word [of power]; the women who bear and publish [the news] are a great host.”

I listened intently to Pearl. I was drawn to what the Spirit of God was saying through her. I took down notes as she shared the word of God and her journey as a writer. I scribbled the following on my notebook:

God is the source of our creativity and vision. Wait on God to get vision from God. God sends His Word to us daily, sufficient for each day—not to be hoarded but gathered, distributed to the household. If God offers us fresh manna daily, how dare we serve a stale revelation to others? Gather while it’s still fresh and publish it quickly. If we neglect to promptly deliver the message to others, He will find someone else to do it.

I gathered from Pearl other important things that a writer should remember: that writing is a craft; that writers should write and rewrite; and that as people involved in publishing, we are ambassadors of Christ. But more than that, the Spirit of God etched in my heart the conviction that to be a writer of God I have to be a woman of the Word of God. I have to read it, study it, apply it, proclaim it. I am called by the foremost Publisher to publish His Word, and oh, what a great privilege, what a great calling, what a great responsibility.

All through out the time that Pearl was sharing, tears blurred my eyes, and I could not speak. My head commanded my hand to record quickly the message being proclaimed so that later on, I could go back to the message again and again. It is clear. My heart was captured by God, and my spirit surrendered willingly. The Lord has given His word, and I am among those that publish it.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

A Kindred Soul in LittWorld

One of the pleasant surprises of participating in international gatherings is finding someone who can also speak your language. The following day after I prayed during the opening session in my native Tagalog, I heard a feminine voice greet me from behind. There were only two of us from the Philippines attending this LittWorld, the other one being Mr. Ramon Rocha of OMF Literature. Who then could she be?

I turned around to see a lady beaming, obviously in a merry mood, and seeing and hearing her made me want to hug her. What a delight to find a kindred soul in a foreign land! It turns out that Ms. Miriam Adeney is a board member of Media Associates International and is an anthropologist, author, professor, editor, and mentor of Christian writers. She spent some years in the Philippines as a missionary and that's how she learned how to speak Tagalog.

For the next days, we occasionaly shared meals together and discussed issues in the Philippines like the diaspora of millions of Filipinos working overseas (which we have popularly called OFWs--Overseas Filipino Workers) and its economic and social impact to our society. Attending LittWorld and engaging in conversations with people who have much to share has stimulated me into thinking how I can contribute to my society through writing. This is one of the blessings of attending LittWorld.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Gleaning Ideas

The second day of LittWorld started with a devotion shared by one of the participants. It was wonderful to start the day with a focus on the Word of God. Using John 20:31, the speaker spoke about the power of a new life in Christ and the power of the printed page.

Later, we had a general session on how publishers in difficult places such as Lebanon, Nigeria, Myanmar, and Angola carry on the task of planting hope in their challenging circumstances. This session, as well as the others, was in English, but there were translations in Portuguese and Spanish.

Two sets of eight elective workshops on different topics were held simultaneously on the second day. There were so many interesting workshops to choose from: financial management of the publishing house, keeping staff, illustrating children’s books, dealing with problem manuscripts, investigative reporting, technology in publishing, organizing your work, designing, marketing strategy, children’s curriculum, and others. Although I am primarily a writer, I wanted to attend the other workshops so I could also learn about the other fields of publishing. But due to some conflicts in time and my immediate interest, I decided to attend the workshops on writing the personal experience story and cross-cultural issues in translation.

Before the day was over, participants were given the chance to have a personal consultation with their preferred resource person. I had the privilege of meeting fiction author Robin Jones Gunn and so I didn't lose time to ask her about refining my focus of writing and dealing with editors. She was very kind and very encouraging. Workshops and consultations like this in LittWorld conferences enable me to glean ideas for improving my ministry. I wish others in the publishing and writing ministry would also be able to attend the next LittWorld in Kenya.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

The First Day

LittWorld 2006 opened on November 12 with four simultaneous two-part sessions. Since LittWorld was being held in Latin America, there was a meeting of ASEC and Letra Viva Member Publishers. The other three sessions concern editors, writers, and marketing strategists. Naturally, being a writer, I attended the session on "Disciplines and Habits of the Effective Writer" by Lawrence Darmani of Ghana and US best-selling author Robin Jones Gunn.

I was excited to meet Robin because I had earlier read a Tagalog translation of one of her fiction books titled Secrets. I spent much of my high school years reading secular romance novels, so when I became a Christian and discovered Robin's romantic novel, I was delighted. I must admit I was star-struck seeing author Robin Jones Gunn. I couldn't believe I was sitting in the room listening to her and Lawrence's valuable writing tips. If it had not been for God who brought me half-around the world to Brazil, I wouldn't be here learning from the pro. Let me share some of the nuggets of wisdom that Lawrence Darmani and Robin Jones Gunn shared in that session for writers:

"Great books have been born out of a tiny idea that was captured and not forgotten."
"Effective writers don't abandon their manuscripts. They finish them."
"Success is the ability to go from one failure to another with no loss of enthusiasm (Churchill)."
"We are Christians before we are writers."

Another highlight for me for the day was the privilege to be one of the two participants to lead in the opening prayer during the opening night program. Sirima Githinji of Kenya prayed in his native Swahili while I prayed in Tagalog. Before the 200 or so participants in that room, I uttered a thanksgiving to God and asked for God's grace, wisdom, and strength to sustain us in the next days to come, and for Him to enlarge our vision to publish for His glory.

Monday, February 9, 2009

Looking Forward to the Conference

Marlene, Dawn, and Sawsan

Littworld 2006 doesn't officially start until after lunch of November 12, so those of us who were already at the conference hotel decided to go to the nearest shopping area to buy some souvenirs. My roommate Sawsan and I, as well as people from MAI--John Maust and his wife Elsa, Dawn Herzog Jewell, and a few others went together.

Since Brazil is well-known for its coffee, I bought some packs to bring home to my friends and donors. I also bought several biscuits. And since I collect key chains, I bought a few chains too with the flag or map of Brazil engraved on them. It took me a while to make calculations as I do the purchase because this was my first time to deal with real, Brazil's currency. Actually, my mind was making calculations in three currencies- in real, in dollars, and in pesos (my country's currency)! With a few items and souvenirs on hand, we went back to Atibaia.

More participants from other countries have started arriving--others exhausted but relieved to be at the hotel, others happy to find familiar faces from previous Littworlds, others perhaps a bit nervous for being in a new place surrounded by people who speak a different language--yet all, I believe, look forward to a refreshing week of publishing conference.

Sunday, February 1, 2009

Setting Foot in Sao Paulo

After a week’s stay in Germany, I flew to Charles de Gaulle Airport in Paris where I took a connecting flight to Sao Paulo, Brazil. The ride was bumpy and made me dizzy all throughout the trip. It was a relief to finally land and enter another continent, another country, another airport. I was finally in Guarulhos International Airport in Sao Paulo, Brazil and about a day away from attending Littworld 2006.

Our flight was a bit delayed that’s why it was already around 9:00 p.m. when I arrived at the airport. I had earlier informed the Littworld organizers of my expected arrival time so that they could arrange someone to meet me at the airport. Every one of the participants would be welcomed by someone from the local host and bring them to Atibaia Resort Hotel, the conference venue. I scanned the arrival area for someone carrying a “LITTWORLD” sign, but found no one. I thought maybe the one who was supposed to fetch me left for a while when I did not arrive as scheduled. But I was confident they would look for me.

After a few more minutes of waiting and searching, I decided to scribble the words “LITTWORLD” in my notebook. I lifted up my hurriedly made sign, hoping someone from the welcoming committee would spot me. As I turned around, I saw a lady, holding up a “LITTWORLD” sign as well, with a luggage in tow just like me.

Our eyes met, and almost simultaneously we asked each other, “Littworld? Are you attending Littworld?” We both nodded, happy to find each other. It felt good to find another participant to the conference, especially since we’re both, at that moment, finding our way through. After exchanging names, Sawsan (from Lebanon) and I decided to call the telephone number that was given to us earlier by the organizers. With the help of a Portuguese-speaking airport staff, we were able to talk to someone from Littworld and in a few minutes we were warmly met and escorted by a very tall, curly-haired gentleman to the lounge on the next floor. There we met other participants Lizzie Sotola from Argentina and speaker Lawrence Darmani from Ghana. The four us were the ones expected to arrive that night of November 10. We were so glad to have finally reached Sao Paulo, and relieved to be on our way to Atibaia Residence Hotel, our conference venue.

Monday, January 19, 2009

A Stop Over to the Past

Aside from the historical and cultural trips to Lutherstadt Wittenberg and Wartburg Castle in Eisenach, we also traversed several cities aboard a train to see the Rhine River, Germany’s biggest river. Lutherstadt Wittenberg, Wartburg Castle, and a portion of the Rhine River called the Rhine Gorge, are all listed in the UNESCO World Heritage Site, meaning they are sites of outstanding historical, cultural, and geological importance to humanity. I feel greatly blessed that I was given the chance to see these wonderful places.

Tito Friedrich and Tita Glen brought me to other equally impressive parts of Germany, but I’d like to think that God favored me to visit this country to somehow connect me to a portion of the past in the area of writing, translating, and publishing. After visi
ting the church in Lutherstadt where Martin Luther posted his 95 theses, I stepped into Luther’s room in Wartburg Castle where he translated the New Testament into German. I also passed by Mainz (birthplace of Johannes Gutenberg, inventor of the modern printing press with movable type) and the busy city of Frankfurt where the biggest book fair in the world is held every October. I find this stop over in Germany truly a fitting prelude to my journey to Brazil to attend Littworld, an international Christian publishing conference.

Gutenberg's monument in Mainz

The Old Opera House in Frankfurt

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Translating with Martin Luther

After our memorable tour of Wittenburg, Tito Friedrich, Tita Glen and I traveled again by ICE to Eisenach on the east side of Germany. Eisenach is well known for Schloss Wartburg or Wartburg Castle which was named in 1991 as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO. It is an important site because it is here where Martin Luther translated the New Testament in German while on exile.

As soon as we reached Eisenach, Tita Glen decided I should not miss the chance to savor Germany’s favorite, Thuringian bratwurst. After all, the famous bratwurst originated in this region, Thuringia, of which Eisenach is a part of.

A view of Eisenach from the Wartburg Castle

We took a taxi to reach Wartburg Castle which is nestled on top of the hill. A tall German and English-speaking lady led us to a tour of the castle into the knights’ hall, the dining hall, chapel, the women’s quarter called Elizabeth’s bower (after St. Elizabeth of Hungary who married the landgrave of Thuringia Ludwig IV), and the banquet hall.

Outside Wartburg Castle

Elizabeth's bower

After our stroll in the palace, we roamed freely in the museum of the castle which showcases artifacts from the Reformation, including weapons, furniture, and writings of Luther. From there we went to the Lutherstube, the room where Martin Luther stayed while translating the New Testament. While laboring over the translation, Luther remarked, “I battle against the devil with the ink.” As a Christian writer and translator on my way to Littworld, an international publishing conference, I find that remark significant. Every attempt to write and translate the message of truth and grace (and have it published) is a warfare against the dark, evil forces.

Museum of Reformation artifacts

Luther's room

I may be going ahead of my story, but days later, at the Littworld conference in Sao Paulo, Brazil, I made sure I attended the workshop on the topic of translating. Also, as I walked from our villa to the auditorium and conference rooms where plenary sessions and workshops are conducted, I realized that the organizers have named the alleys where the villas of the participants are located. They named the alleys after famous Christian personalities who were somehow involved in publishing. I noticed the alley names about two days into the conference already. The name of my alley? Martin Luther.

Thursday, January 1, 2009

In Wittenberg, Germany

I arrived in Gross Gerau, Germany at around 10:00 P.M. on Nov. 2, 2006. Because I would be staying with them for only a week, my Tito Friedrich and Tita Glen planned ahead of time our itinerary. On top of the list was a trip to Wittenberg.

Even before coming to Germany, Tito Friedrich telephoned overseas to ask me what places in Germany I would like to visit. Wittenberg quickly came to my mind. I learned from church history class that it was in a church in Wittenberg that Martin Luther nailed his 95 theses against the granting of indulgences. I had no idea that Wittenberg was in central East Germany, but my dear German uncle, who live on the west side, was too willing to accommodate me. He also happens to have a niece who lives right in Lutherstadt, the city of Luther in Wittenberg.

Inside the high speed train ICE with a stewardess

From the south west side of Germany where my aunt and uncle are based, we took the Inter- City Express (ICE), Germany's network of trains that travels at a speed of 200 miles per hour. We went to Leipzig Main Station first and from there we took another train to get to Lutherstadt. On the way, I saw spotted cows grazing on rolling hills, barns, and giant wind mills in wind parks. The pastoral landscape changed into quiet towns with old brick buildings, some obviously abandoned, perhaps waiting demolition. The sight before me caused an eerie feeling and I remembered scenes from Hollywood movies and TV series set in the period of the Holocaust. Add to this, we also passed by what used to be the border of East Germany and West Germany from Second World War until September 1989.

The cobbled streets of Lutherstadt

It was windy, showering, and about 12C when we reached Lutherstadt, Wittenberg. Tito Friedrich's niece, Beata and her husband Roland, took us to town. I thought it strange that the streets were empty and that the stores were closed. At one time, it was only my aunt, uncle, my uncle’s niece and her husband, and myself, who were on the street. The next people we saw came far and few in between. When I asked why it was so, they told me it was a Sunday and so shops are closed and people are usually at home. It was a completely different sight from the land where I came from where people come in throngs to the malls on weekends!

The Rathaus (Cityhall); Right in front is Luther's monument

Martin Luther's monument

In front of the city hall (Rathaus) was a monument of Luther. Nearby is the Schlosskirche (Castle Church) on the door of which Martin Luther nailed his 95 theses against the granting of the indulgences. I quickly took a picture of the theses now etched in metal, one at the door, and another inside the church. It was here also that Luther and another German religious reformer Philip Melanchton was laid to rest. Then we went to another church dating from 14th century where Luther preached.

Luther's 95 theses

I am at a loss for words to describe how I felt as I walked through these great historical places. It was a rare opportunity to be in the very place where God moved at a critical time in the development of the church. It was here in Wittenburg, Germany in the 16th century where God stirred up Martin Luther with the revelation that salvation is by grace through faith alone. I was grateful and privileged, but beyond this, I know I have to keep in mind of the danger of building monuments while refusing to flow with the movement of the Spirit of God.

When I saw the pulpit from where Martin Luther preached his sermons on Sundays, I asked our local tour guides Beata and Roland to pose with me under the pulpit. I wanted to be reminded by this picture of the call of God—of the Great Commission Jesus gave to His disciples: to go to all nations, baptize them, and teach them to obey all that Jesus commanded.