JOURNEY TO JERUSALEM
A tale by Johny Noer
"Wherein in time past ye walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that now worketh in the children of disobedience" (Eph.2:2).
In Haarlem, Holland, we had a real bomb thrown into the camp. Real bombs are dangerous; the spiritual, however, may create an even greater havoc. It was ‘spiritual bombs’, which hit us in Nuremberg!
However, God protected us in both instances.
While we were celebrating the Feast of Tabernacles in Haarlem, a wave of fear and uneasiness was sweeping over Europe. It was in the days where a terrible massacre of innocent families had taken place in Lebanon; somehow Israel was made responsible for the bloodshed, and as the words ‘Pilgrims to Jerusalem’ are written on our school caravan with big letters, some haters of the Jews decided that they would throw a petrol-bomb into our camp.
It happened three o’clock in the morning.
I was in such a deep sleep that I neither heard the noise of the people or the bomb or the dogs barking; I woke up by a tremendous drumming of an almost tropic rainstorm on the roof of my caravan. When I rushed out, Poul and Margarethe told me that a bomb had exploded. I never doubted their words, because the air was thick with petrol fumes. "But all fire has quickly been put out by God’s water showers", Poul grinned, while he was raising a dripping wet hand towards heaven. When the day returned, after having chased some dark shadows away, the rain stopped. The heavenly fire brigade had done its job in Haarlem.
In Nuremberg however, we were hit twice. Not by real petrol-bombs, but by spiritual ones. Both were aimed at one target: they would have us to withdraw from the region of Nurnberg.
Until the 29th of September 1984, we were left in peace. Before that time, we had our tent erected in a small place called Neuenkirchen, not far from Nurnberg, and in our meetings many young and old people were seeking the Lord. With tears they were kneeling in front of the tent platform, and the Spirit of God was moving powerfully in many lives.
But after the 29th of September things changed. A few days later there was a prayer meeting in our tabernacle, where the following word of prophecy was given, "The kingdom of darkness has declared war on you!" But on the very last Saturday of September, we were about 150 people gathered between the huge walls of the former ‘Hitler-building’, and in the moment when the beloved and faithful servant of the Lord, Pastor Gottlob Hess from Lauf, after a time of worship quoted the words of Jesus, "Salvation is of the Jews!" (John 4:22), I had the same strange feeling, that an enormous highway of God already was projected, and that one day thousands of Jews coming home from their unjust captivity and exile would walk on that way.
Thereafter the attacks from some powerful realm of the spirit started. It was as if, we had been treading on forbidden ground.
The first ‘bomb’ was a rather official one. It claimed all our 40 vehicles to pass the German MOT. "If this does not happen within a short time, and your vehicles are not up to the German standard, you will have to leave this country immediately", the official letter said. Those from other nations, who would argue, that this is just a normal and easy procedure, just don’t know what German MOT means. Our softer Danish regulations never claim vehicles which are going only 20 m/h to such a test – and to us this letter was a shaking bomb. While our mechanics were working like madmen, money was running out and the pressure from the authorities in creased from day to day, we were gathering as families in the tabernacle for prayer. Sometimes we had 24-hour prayer and fasting sections, in which our needs were brought to the Lord in constant worship and supplications day and night.
The whole situation reminded me of the good old days in Antwerp, in Belgium; we all had to cling to these memories: those were days, where God acted on our behalf!
Antwerp is the ‘Jerusalem’ of Europe. White bearded Jews in long, black clothes are walking in the streets with huge volumes of the Torah and Talmud under their arms. When we entered the Jewish Quarter of the city, small boys with long curls down their cheeks were running in front of us screaming the news on the top of their voices: "Pilgrims to Jerusalem! Jerusalem, Jerusalem!" The tractors drove slowly up along ‘Pelikan Straat’, where people came out of the Hebrew bookshops pointing at the wagons, whispering ‘Yerushalajim’! The convoy turned in on a site beside the big ‘Europe Hotel’, only a few hundred meters from the Diamond Exchange, where millions of dollars change hands every day. When I jumped out of the car and looked at the dusty ground of the big parking-spot, which we had hired for quite a lot of money through a certain Mr. Ballon, I never imagined that our camp would be invaded a few hours later by a 15-men strong police force, led by the chief police commander himself, and that every pilgrim had to step to a table in the school caravan and personally sign a piece of paper, accepting that he or she would leave the country within eight days.
Those who live in houses with firm foundations don’t know what it means to belong to God’s travelling people. They don’t know the free life venturing every day into new regions of no-man’s land; they don’t know the feeling of silent satisfaction when the convoy is moving between the mountains into an enormous red sunset. They don’t know either what it means to be rushed out of the bed after midnight by uniformed men, who in the blue circling light of their petrol car claim to see your identity papers. In some countries – travelling people are only allowed to be stationed 24 hours on a site. "You will have to be away tomorrow morning at 9 o’clock, Sir!"
It was something like that, which happened in Antwerp, and it was something of the same sort, which hit us like a strategic missile in Nuremberg. Some may think that these are events which are just bound to happen, but over the years we have learned to understand one important truth, which is expressed by the apostle Paul, when he explains in his letter to the Ephesians, that Satan is a mighty prince of the power of the air, and that he is working everywhere in the hearts of the ‘children of disobedience’ (2:2). Such ‘children’ may be men in a very smart uniform or persons in high positions in the religious world. They may be people outside the church or within – but in the moments where God is going to work out His plans, these ‘children of disobedience’ will always oppose…
In Antwerp we had the Jews, the Gentiles and the Moslems against us. They all wanted us to have left yesterday. And they all went up to the city authorities and claimed the Pilgrim Convoy out of town.
The Jews said that we had come to destroy their religion. The Gentiles said that they didn’t want these ‘gypsies’ to be placed near the Hotel Europe. And the Moslems said that they planned to build a mosque on that parking spot, and they didn’t want the ground to be polluted by such travelling preachers.
In the end the thing went to the newspapers, and every hour we were mentioned on the radio news-bulletin: Are they pilgrims going to stay or to leave?
One morning we got the answer from God. It came from a side I had never expected. Two elegantly dressed gentlemen entered the camp. They came from the Hotel Europe. They were Jewish businessmen.
"Problems?" they asked with a big smile.
"Well", I answered, "We have some problems."
One of the Jewish businessmen looked at me seriously. "Had you expected anything else?" he said with a strange authority.
I looked surprised at him as he continued, "Listen! You know that you are sent here by God, don’t you?"
I nodded silently.
"All right then. Don’t loose courage or faith. Go on with your work. You are not going to be moved away. What can man do, when God is for you?"
The two men stood up and greeted again with a big smile. When they left, they pressed some big money bills into my hand. "Don’t be afraid", they repeated, "when God is for you, who then can be against you!"
It was memories like these, which we liked to think of in Nuremberg. Especially in moments when the official pressure to get us away from the town with the monumental ‘Hitler-building’ increased.
When we thought however to have gained the victory in prayer, the second ‘bomb’ exploded. The detonation was even more shocking because it came from within, and we ‘lost’ 22 or our people by this ‘explosion’.
The small ‘ticking’ thing, which was to cause so much damage, didn’t look dangerous at all. Nobody could imagine that it was timed to tear up our camp and whirl some of the pilgrim-families out in the whole of the Nurnberger region and back over the continent to the isles of Great Britain. In the beginning it was just a few innocent words. Rather a question: "Do you really think that it is the will of God that we are here in the Nurnberg area? Wouldn’t it be better for us to go to Austria?"
But shortly after the ‘ticking’ became louder and more steadfast: "We are not in the will of God. We better go to Austria!"
A smaller group of English and German families who were accepted in the convoy for a testing time of one year took the lead; they were not content with some of the strict rules in camp concerning the young people. Others were evidently scared of the future prospects of the pilgrim life. Which way would we have to go towards Jerusalem? There is an old pilgrim-path crossing the East-European countries. Would we have to go there?
The ‘ticking’ was now sharp and threatening: "Since we have not gone to Austria, everything is going wrong. We have come out of the blessing of God!"
Other matters of conflict were thrown into the dangerous fire, and while I was preparing our May-conference in France, one of the elders started to preach openly against our presence in Nuremberg… This initiated the blowing up of the whole thing, and as soon as I had returned from France, the ‘bomb’ went off. 22 people left the camp. Some of them would have been very qualified for the battle, which was in front of us, yes; some were especially equipped for it. That day I wept with King David and sang his song:
"Oh Israel, your pride and joy lies dead upon the hills, mighty heroes have fallen… in the midst of the battle. How I weep for you, my brother, how much I loved you. The mighty ones have fallen, stripped of their weapons, and dead (2.Samuel 1:19-27).
I think I would have become rather depressed by these events, if it had not been for that prophetic vision of Anton Jäger from Walsrode/Germany. During our Feast of Tabernacle in October 1984 in the 500-year old beautiful monastery church in Langenzenn, Anton Jäger suddenly stood up in his pew. "For some time before my spiritual eyes, I have been seeing a remarkable picture", he started. Some of the ordinary church people who were present at our meeting that night looked suspicious at the little man with spectacles who said, that he had seen something ‘with his spiritual eyes’. Something like that had probably never been said in that old church before.
"There are people, who are walking a definite way", continued Anton Jäger. "In front of them walks a wonderful figure… and now suddenly I see a border post. It presents a hindrance, but it can be overcome. But after this barrier the path climbs steeply upwards. And the crowd stops in front of this barrier, and it is as if the figure wishes to persuade these people, "You won’t make it. Go back to your country, because the path in front of you is too steep for many of you. It will be very difficult to walk on this way. Return to your country… now the path becomes too hard."
Some of the pilgrims were at this stage listening with great attention. It was evident that the Lord was speaking through old Anton Jäger, and that He was referring to the pilgrimage towards Jerusalem.
"I now see how sad these people are", continued the voice form the old monastery pew. "One after the other turns around. They return weeping. However, some remain standing. They are looking at this figure as if they want to say: "And even if the path is steep, if You are with us, then we shall be able to traverse this path also.
And now the figure turns, goes through the barrier… and some go with Him."
I looked at the faces of the congregation. Who was going to leave the convoy? Who was going to stay? That night I understood that something would have to happen. But when these predicted events really took place, I was nevertheless taken by surprise. Perhaps because I was paying too much attention to that part of the vision, which spoke about ‘the border post’.
"And now suddenly I see a border post", Anton Jäger had said. "It presents a hindrance, but it can be overcome."
What sort of border post was that? Where was it? What was it leading to? I had my own thoughts about these words – and I was especially taken up by the promise: "It presents a hindrance, but it can be overcome!"