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Article about the Zondervan Christian Travelers Guides written for Christian Week, 5 February, 2002, p. Life-3.

Almost a million Canadians visit Europe annually (The Yearbook of Tourism ). Not surprisingly, travel books make up one of the largest sections in major bookstores and libraries. Yet you are unlikely to find a Christian travel book in either place. Instead you will find the big travel series like Baedeker's, Penguin, Fodor's, Berlitz, The Blue Guides, Frommer's Guides, The Real Guide and Insight Guide all of which mention churches as tourist attractions while seriously downplay Christian history by stressing ancient paganism and similar topics.

You will also find speciality guides like Pagan Britain, Alternative England And Wales and The Goddess in Europe that are decidedly cultic. Then there are about a dozen Jewish guides to Europe one of which you are sure to find in a store like Chapters and your local library.What you are unlikely to find are Christian travel guides. This is not to say that they do not exist. The Zondervan's Christian Travelers Guides series includes separate books on Germany, Great Britain, France and Italy with ones on Turkey and other countries in the works. Baker have also produced the Christian Travelers Companion series with overview books on Europe and North America and another on The Bible Lands due shortly.

There is also a Roman Catholic series Bed and Blessings (Paulist Press) and two general Christian travel guides C.J. McNaspy's Guide to Christian Europe (Loyola University Press) and the Mennonite Tourguide to Western Europe (Herald Press) by Jan Gleysteen. Finally, there is a very nice book Touring C.S. Lewis' Ireland and England (Symth and Helwys) by Perry C. Bramlett and Ronald W. Higdon. But, you are unlikely to find any of these in your local bookstore or library. Karl Marx observed "The task of history is to establish the truth of this world". What he meant was that whoever manages to have their interpretation of history accepted as the way things were is well on the way to dominating a culture.

Today Christians have fallen woefully behind in the struggle for history as the travel book market shows. Instead of capitalizing on our rich historical heritage to allow the very stones of European Churches to preach the gospel we have allowed secular writers to put a spin on our history that often shows Christianity in a bad light. Today, more than ever, Christians need to remember that God repeatedly tell his people to remember the things He has done (Deut. 8.2).

One way to do this is by visiting Europe with a Christian travel guide in your hands or even simply reading such a guide to get a feel for the way God worked in history. So if your local bookstore and library doesn't carry any Christian travel guides ask them to order some. These are books that can enrich your Christian experience while acting as wonderful pre-evangelism tools to get your none Christian friends and neighbours excited about rediscovering the Christian roots of our culture.

My earlier article on Germany's "Luther towns" (CW, )ctober 2, 2001) dealt with some of the better known haunts of the great Protestant Reformer Martin Luther (1483-1546) Wittenberg, Eislaben, and Erfurt. Now I want to tell you about some of the lesser known but equally enthralling places associated with him. These are the towns of Halle and Leipzig. Anyone interested in the development of Christian piety or the development of the modern missionary movement must visit Halle. Lying between Wittenberg and Eisleben, the town was initially a stronghold of Catholicism provoking Luther to write his tract Against the Idol in Halle (1521) in protest against the sale of indulgencies in the city.

By 1523, however,Protestant preachers were active in the area led by the preacher George Winkler who was murdered in 1527 probably on the orders of the Bishop of Mainz and by 1531 evangelicals were openly persecuted in the city. The situation changed slowly over the next ten years and by 1545 Luther was able to preach openly in Halle which became a center of the Reformation. uring the next century Halle was to become the birthplace, alongwith Herrnhut, of the modern missionary movement and that great revival known as Pietism that eventually impacted the English speaking world through John Wesley and Methodism. Luther preached in the Market Church in Halle in front of which is a statue of the Handle (1685-1759) whose Messiah is one of the great compositions of Christian music. Today you can visit the Händle Haus where the great composer was born. The Halle Dom, or Cathedral, is where he regularly played. Another place to visit is the Franckesche Stiftungen, or Francke Foundatiion, which is one of Germany's most important libraries that houses a magnificent collection of Christian works most of which are by Pietists.

The immensely influential Pietist movement resulted from the work of Philipp Jacob Spener (1635-1705) whose book Pia Desideria (1622) called for a return to personal faith and devotion to counter the growth of a dead orthodoxy. Spener helped found the University of Halle in 1694 which was the first university in Europe to use the vanacular and not Latin as the language of instruction. Sepener's disciple, August Hermann Francke (1663-1727) became the leader of the Pietist movement in Halle and throughout German speaking lands. Franke is remembered for his, preaching, very impressive educational work, and the fact that he founded the first modern orphanage where the instruction of poor children was so good that members of the aristocracy soon began to send their own children to Franke's school.

 

 

From Halle it's a short journey to the equally important city of Leipzig where Luther engaged in his famous dispute with John Eck in 1519. Today the old town hall is built on the site of the historic debate and Leipzig is more famous as the birthplace of the 1989 peaceful revolution that led to the fall of the Berlin wall.

Here the place to visit is the Nikolaikirche (Church of St. Nicholas) were a small prayer meeting began in the early 1980's after the communist leader Walter Ulbricht deliberately destroyed the city's historic University Church after seeing a large crowd enter the church to attend a prayer meeting instead of a political rally where he was speaking. Meeting every Monday evening this Nikolaikirche group prayed for the fall of the Berlin Wall and religious freedom. Then in September 25, 1989, inspired by God, the preacher led over 2,000 worshipers out onto the streets to march and sing for freedom. These weekly demonstrations, which were accompanied by the burning of candles, quickly grew until over 200,000 people were marching around the city ring road in early November. The example of the Leipzig demonstrators, which were not shown on North American television, sparked similar marches all of which grew out of Leipzig style prayer meetings, throughout Germany.

The on 9 November the East German authorities lifted the travel ban and opened the borders in Berlin allowing the people to literally tear the hated Wall down. The role of Christians in these events is best summed up in a statement made by the Communist Police Chief in the city of Magdeburg who said "We planned for everything, except candles and prayers." Leipzig is also the town were Johann Sabastian Bach (1685-1750) played the organ at the Thomaskirche (Church of St. Thomas) for 27 years. Today you can visit the excellent Bach museum opposite the church as well as attend wonderful free organ recitals in the church. Another great Christian composer who lived in Leipzig was Felix Mendelssohn (1809-1847) whose great oritorio Paulus vividly captures the wonders of evangelical conversion. The recently opened Mendelssohn museum is a fine compliment to the Bach Museum. Visiting Germany's Luther towns is thus a rich and enriching experience for any Christian interested in history or music.

What you are unlikely to find are Christian travel guides. This is not to say that they do not exist. The Zondervan's Christian Travelers Guides series includes separate books on Germany, Great Britain, France and Italy with ones on Turkey and other countries in the works. Baker have also produced the Christian Travelers Companion series with overview books on Europe and North America and another on The Bible Lands due shortly. There is also a Roman Catholic series Bed and Blessings (Paulist Press) and two general Christian travel guides C.J. McNaspy's Guide to Christian Europe (Loyola University Press) and the Mennonite Tourguide to Western Europe (Herald Press) by Jan Gleysteen. Finally, there is a very nice book Touring C.S. Lewis' Ireland and England (Symth and Helwys) by Perry C. Bramlett and Ronald W. Higdon. But, you are unlikely to find any of these in your local bookstore or library. Karl Marx observed "The task of history is to establish the truth of this world".

What he meant was that whoever manages to have their interpretation of history accepted as the way things were is well on the way to dominating a culture. Today Christians have fallen woefully behind in the struggle for history as the travel book market shows. Instead of capitalizing on our rich historical heritage to allow the very stones of European Churches to preach the gospel we have allowed secular writers to put a spin on our history that often shows Christianity in a bad light. Today, more than ever, Christians need to remember that God repeatedly tell his people to remember the things He has done (Deut. 8.2). One way to do this is by visiting Europe with a Christian travel guide in your hands or even simply reading such a guide to get a feel for the way God worked in history. So if your local bookstore and library doesn't carry any Christian travel guides ask them to order some. These are books that can enrich your Christian experience while acting as wonderful pre-evangelism tools to get your none Christian friends and neighbours excited about rediscovering the Christian roots of our culture.

Permission to republish is being sought from Christian Week