Germans are understandably in a state of utter shock and disbelief about the Germanwings plane that crashed in the French Alps March 24. This tragedy is not just some anonymous event, but intimate and personal.
There is a fruit stand/gourmet deli in Düsseldorf, Germany. The owner, Frank, and his girlfriend died in the crash along with 64 other victims from that area of Germany. Two sets of parents who lived just a few miles away also died, leaving behind two and four children respectively. One of Frank’s regular customers said, “Normally these catastrophes happen far away, but now death has a face whom we all knew.”
This tragedy has shaken many Germans to the core. Germans crave security just like we all do. There is nothing wrong with wanting to feel secure – it is a built-in, God-given desire. The impressive thing about Germans is that they have managed to create a highly secure society with a thriving economy and a highly socialized welfare system that can pretty much handle any crisis that comes their way. Life in Germany is pretty good. People drive Porsches and Audis, live in luxury apartments, own every possible insurance policy, and have millions of euros in the bank for retirement. They have managed, as much as is humanly possible, to create heaven on earth.
Therefore, when a tragedy happens like the Germanwings plane crashing in the Alps, Germans are vividly reminded that life is fragile and insecure. No matter how hard they work or how hard they try to create structures of security around them, this world cannot give us ultimate security. Only God, Jesus and the gospel can make us – and Germans – truly secure forever.
While 150 people dying in a plane crash is tragic, the greater tragedy is that 98.5 percent of Germans have absolutely no idea about the security that God offers in Jesus Christ. Yes, in this land with a rich Christian history and staggeringly beautiful churches, more than 98 percent of Germans have rejected (or have not heard) the good news that God saves sinners by grace through faith in Christ alone.
Most Germans are religious traditionalists, functional atheists or postmodern spiritualists and are without a saving knowledge of God. So, when tragedy strikes in Germany, the only response – apart from hope in Christ – is to try to ignore the reality of death and to build more structures of security. These structures do not ultimately satisfy and do not reconcile sinners with a holy God. That is the greatest tragedy.
That is why the International Mission Board (IMB) has missionaries in Germany and the rest of Europe. In the region of Düsseldorf and North Rhine Westphalia, which has been shocked and devastated by the plane crash, IMB missionaries are planting six churches in seven different cities. They are sharing with hundreds of Germans the hope and security that can be found only in Christ.
In one church plant, two women have recently received Christ, and now they are sharing Christ with others. One has started a Bible study in her home. At another church planting project in Duisburg, 100 people were in attendance last Sunday, 60 of whom are in multiplying discipleship groups. In yet another church plant in Solingen, families of disabled children are ministered to with a soccer team for special needs kids. The soccer team has now grown to 35 special needs children, and the parents recently asked if their children could learn about the Bible.
God is on the move and at work in this area of northwest Germany. Please pray that, in the wake of this tragedy, Germans will turn their eyes to the eternal hope and security that can be found only in Christ. Please pray that God will draw Germans to Himself and that they will embrace Jesus Christ for peace, security, significance and happiness.
For more stories about Germanic peoples and the church-planting work being done among them, visit germanicpeoples.com.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Carl Neumann is an IMB missionary in Germany.)