I, like Beth Conway, love reading stories about World War 2. I think that’s because it’s close enough to us to still feel a little real (both my grandfather’s worked for the Army during the conflict). As well as the films Beth mentioned, I also love reading books about the war. Band of Brothers and Pegasus Bridge by Stephen Ambrose as well as Agent Zigzag and Operation Mincemeat by Ben MacIntyre have become well worn parts of my book shelves. It was no wonder I was pleased to receive Mission at Nuremberg as a present not so long ago.
The book focusses on Lutheran Pastor, Henry Gerecke. It tells his story of how he became a Chaplain in the US Army during WW2. While two of his three sons are fighting on the frontline in France, Gerecke is ministering to US soldiers who are injured or dying in the Army Hospital. Eventually, as the title of the book alludes, Gerecke is asked to go to Nuremberg and to be Chaplain to the protestants among the Nazi’s who are on trial for war crimes.
It was a shame so little of the book is dedicated to what happened while Gerecke is in Nuremburg. The stories of his time there with the likes of Goebbels and Hess was thrilling and challenging. While some of these men rejected Christ out of hand, a number of them, Gerecke believed, came to know Christ.
While there were parts of the book that dragged out and there were thinks I disagreed with (particularly where author Tim Townsend talks about evil in this world and God’s relationship to it) this book challenged me greatly. I may not be in Nuremberg with the Nazi’s but I am in a place full of people who need Jesus. Pastor Gerecke’s life spoke to me in many ways. Here’s just a couple.
I need a bigger vision of the gospel & it’s power. So often I can doubt that people will be saved. Evidence of this is I don’t tell them about Jesus. I think they’re too bad or they won’t be interested or they’ll think it’s stupid. The reality couldn’t be further from the truth. The gospel is the power of God to salvation. Here were these men, perhaps as evil as any people to have walked the earth but the cross of Christ was powerful enough to save them.
I need to love those I want to share Jesus with. We can engage in the type of evangelism where we run in, drop the gospel bomb and then run out again and hope it makes a difference. Now God can use anything and anyone, but Pastor Gerecke didn’t just preach the gospel to people, he loved them. He understood that often he needed to befriend them and care for them. In terms of these Nazi men, he was the only person who really cared for them. Loving people is costly. Loving people demands our time. If we’re serious about reaching people for Jesus we must love them too.