NEC Pathfinder Reformation Tour 2018
14th September 2018
Patience Chiketero and Helderberg Jackson share a day by day account of the North England Conference (NEC) Reformation Tour that took place from 6-15 August 2018.
Monday 6 August‒ The day dawned bright and early for over 150 tour passengers. From as far north as Newcastle and south as Greenwich they came, some stayed overnight close to the airport not wanting to miss their flight. Others left early the night before and came by coach and some left early Monday morning to travel to Heathrow terminal 5, for the first flight at 07:15hrs. To accommodate the passengers there were four flights departing, at various times throughout the day, to Berlin airport. The first flight included the North England Conference Pathfinder director, Pastor Ikwisa Mwasumbi, and most of his staff as a kind of advanced party. On arrival at the airport coaches were laid on to take the groups to Friedensau Adventist University, in Möckern. There we were allocated our tents, our home for the next 4 days. After supper we had our first meal and worship session and settled down for the night.
Tuesday 7 August‒ We arose this morning to bright sunshine, a hearty breakfast, worship session and instructions for the trip we were to take. Our first visit was to Wittenberg, where we visited the Luther House Museum 360 and had a flashback into the 16thcentury and a glimpse of how things were back in 1517 during Martin Luther, Frederick the Wise and Lucas Cranach's day. This made the history relivable as we visualised these times in 3D. From there we crossed over to the house where Luther lived, and we learned how Katherine said she would only marry a noble or Luther; and of course, she chose Luther.
They got married in 1525; went on to have his six children. From there we proceeded to Wittenberg Castle Church where we gathered around the doors where Luther posted his 95 Theses, in October 1517, which spearheaded the Protestant Reformation and it's 500-year anniversary was celebrated last year. We also had a chance to tour St Mary's church where Martin Luther preached showing how inclusive the gospel should be for all, including children and men from all classes.
The Adventist Church in Wittenberg offered us a place to have our lunch and we were hosted generously by our fellow brethren showing that we are at home wherever God's children are. We headed back to our base at Friedensau University and rested after a nice supper.
Wednesday 8 August ‒ After an early breakfast we headed to Weimar, fast track to the 20thcentury, we visited Buchenwald, a Nazi concentration camp; established in 1937+. It was one of the first and largest camps on German soil with prisoners from all over Europe and the Soviet Union: Jews, Poles and Slavs, mentally ill and physically disabled from birth defects, religious and political prisoners, Roma and Sinti, Freemasons, Jehovah's Witnesses, criminals and prisoners of war. They worked primarily as forced labourers in local factories until they were freed by the Americans in 1945. We had a chance to see the grounds where the atrocities took place as well as the visual narrative from an inmate. We had our lunch outside the Buchenwald camp before proceeding to our next reformation site, Wartburg Castle.
At Wartburg we learnt how Frederick the Wise staged a fake kidnapping of his friend Luther where he took refuge in the castle for a year. Here is where he translated the whole New Testament into the German language in twelve weeks.
Thursday 9 August ‒ We had an early start as we left the university after our breakfast we headed out to Berlin for a tour of the city. Here we had time to see the Holocaust memorial for all the murdered Jews during the Nazi era and also caught a glimpse of the Berlin Wall that used to divide East and West Germany. The country has a rich Reformation history, but also has a dark past, which surprisingly some are ignorant of or simply aren't ready to accept.
Friday 10 August ‒ The day started early as we had to leave our campsite, before dawn, bags were loaded onto our coaches as we bade farewell to Friedensau University Campus and all our hosts and guides. What should have been a 15-hour journey to our next home at the Adventist University of France, near Collonges, turned out to be over 20 hours, due to various delays encountered as we travelled across Germany.
We had to welcome the Sabbath on the coach and could not help but notice that the coach driver was enjoying the song service led by the Pathfinders, to the point where he recorded the singing.
On arrival at our destination we were shown to our accommodation where we settled down and prepared for Sabbath.
Sabbath 11 August‒ Many were tired after the long journey from Germany to the Adventist University of France, situated near Collonges, and a 20-minute coach ride from the Swiss city of Geneva. However, that did not deter us from preparing for a Sabbath day blessing. Sabbath School started promptly at 09:00 in the church which is on the site of the university. After Sabbath School the programme continued as you would expect in any Adventist church. After a few introductions and a lively song service the pastor delivered a lively sermon; we were fortunate to have an interpreter who translated the service for us. After the sermon, the recently formed (Sabbath morning) 'Reformation' Choir gave a special item, 'What a wonderful Saviour' which was rendered as if they had been practising for a long while.
After lunch the group went on a hike up Mont Salève, which is the mountain in the Alps where the university is situated. After a talk from one of the guides, Claude, and some advice on how to stay safe and avoid injuries the group made its way up the mountain. Due to time constraints and some not being as fit as they thought, the summit was not quite reached; however the challenge was a personal achievement for quite a few people.
Sunday 12 August‒ After breakfast and worship we prepared ourselves for our journey to the city of Geneva and the Reformation Wall. It is in the grounds of the University of Geneva, which was founded by John Calvin, and built to commemorate the 400th anniversary of Calvin's birth and the 350th anniversary of the university's establishment. It is built into the old city walls of Geneva, and the monument's location there is designed to represent the city of Geneva's importance to the Reformation.
The monument itself did not disappoint, it is truly a magnificent work and showcases just what fantastic creative minds our heavenly Father has endowed us with.
Monday 13-14 August– Visit to Italy and the Waldensian Valley. On these two days the group was divided into two as it would have been too much to take the whole group on the tour of the Angrogna Valley, one of the most picturesque valleys of the region and the site of the Waldenses' adhesion to the Reformation. One group went on the Monday and the other group went on the Tuesday.
We visited the Collegio dei Barbi (the barba 'college'), where itinerant Waldensian ministers gathered to study the Bible during the Middle Ages, the 'Guieiza d'la Tana', the church of the cave where, according to tradition, Waldenses could take refuge in times of persecution.
This visit was a truly humbling experience not only to be able to see places that we had read about but also to be able to get a feel for what those who were being persecuted for their faith went through.
Whilst the Tuesday group were in Italy there was a bridge collapse in Italy and both writers had calls from family back in the UK asking whether we were affected. Fortunately, we were not in that vicinity and would not have known anything but for the concern of our loved ones.
Wednesday 15 August– Today was spent doing some shopping for souvenirs and sightseeing in Geneva.
Thursday 16 August– Another early start for some as we took our leave of the university to travel to Geneva airport for our return home.
A couple of quotes from those who attended:
"I discovered that I am not 'physically fit' when we did the hike. I was touched and humbled to have gone into the cave and I was trying to imagine what I could have done had I been there with those who were killed in there. My faith has definitely been strengthened by this experience, I have learnt and have been encouraged to stand up for what is right no matter what situation I am faced with."
"The Reformation tour was a blessing and it also cemented what l had read and learnt about while l was doing the Master Guide course. As a visual learner l appreciate the vision by the organisers; l believe there were so many visual learners there who benefitted from the tour. A big thank you to the Pathfinder team and Pastor Ikwisa and his family for affording us such an experience."
Pictures by Patience Chiketero, Edward Redona, Prem David, Helderberg Jackson.
[Patience Chiketero and Helderberg Jackson]