The Wall Fell

I’ve been thinking a lot about freedom lately, but not for the reasons you might think.  Today is November 9, 2009, the 20th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall.

In the summer of 1989, I was 16.  I watched with great interest the massacre of Tianamen Square.  All those people wanted was freedom; and I prayed for that man that stood defiantly in front of the column of tanks.  In Europe thousands of East Germans, under the hope of Perestroika and Glasnost began to flood in to the West German embassies in Hungary and Czechoslovakia with the hope of gaining admission to West Germany, and their freedom.  It was an eventful summer; I wondered what would be the eventual outcome.  I prayed for all of those people.  I prayed that somehow they would be free.

Then school started and I sat in my German class every day conjugating verbs, learning to say the weather and tell the time in German and European geography.  The one sentence from our geography drills that stood out in my mind was, “Die Hauptstad von Bulgarien ist Sofia.” The capitol of Bulgaria is Sofia.  More on that in a minute.

Then November started, and despite their best (or maybe worst) efforts the Communist leaders of East Germany lost control.  On November 9th, they issued a badly worded pronouncement that anyone wishing to travel to the West would be granted immediate passage.  The aparatcik that made this announcement didn’t really know what he was saying, and announced that even West Berlin would be accessible to East Berliners.

People flooded to the Wall.  This wall that had made a city two countries, this wall which had separated families, friends, neighborhoods, political ideologies and the world, was coming down.  The pictures and video taken on that night show frustrated and jubilant East Berliners waiting in their two stroke Trabies to get into the West.  Finally the guards started to let people thru the gates without checking documents.  The East Berliners literally ran into freedom.  They ran, they danced, they jumped for joy, they were free!

And we watched it all unfold on the Nightly News in our living room, dumbfounded and wonderstruck to say the least.

The Wall came tumbling down.

My parents just kept saying that they never thought they would see this happen in their lifetime.  The next day in German our teacher, Herr Bordwell, could barely contain his tears.  It was a happy day for the whole world.

I didn’t realize what this would mean for me personally though.  A year later I had the chance to live in Berlin as and exchange student.  I stood in the wide swaths of land where the wall had stood and saw the devastation it created,  devistaion that it had wrought on Berlin and the rest of the world.  I chipped a piece of that wall out as a reminder of what it was.  I cried when I went to Checkpoint Charlie and saw the pictures of people who had died trying to cross that wall into freedom.  How much did I cherish my own freedoms?  Did I really appreciate what blessings I had as an American and as a member of the Church?  I decided that I didn’t appreciate them enough and that I needed to do better at that.

Six years later a big white envelope was put into the mailbox at my house.  In it was a mission call.  I had ideas of where I wanted to go, but no idea where I would be sent.  I opened the letter and read its contents: “You have been called to serve in the Bulgaria, Sofia mission.”  Quickly my mind flashed back to my high school German class, “Die Hauptstad von  Bulgarien ist Sofia”.  At least I knew the capitol city of where I was going!

I have to admit I was a bit scared to be going to Bulgaria, after all they had a backwards alphabet and I’d heard rumors that it was kind of violent there.  But I accepted the call, and served a mission behind that Iron Curtain, the curtain that no longer existed because a Wall fell.

One day on a cold February in Sofia, the capitol of Bulgaria, we met an old gentleman on the street.  We stopped to talk to him and asked him if he believed in Christ.  Tears welled up in his eyes, and he could barely get a ‘yes’ out.  Then he grabbed my companion and I by the shoulders and said, “We are free to believe in Christ now”.

Free to believe in Christ because a wall fell down.  Free to share the Gospel with millions of lost sheep because a wall fell down.  Robert Frost once said that walls make good neighbors.  I have to disagree with Mr. Frost today.  The absence of walls makes for good neighbors, nations and for freedom – the freedom to do what we want, be who we want and to believe in Christ.

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About Joyce Anderson

Joyce is a mother, wife, sister, school teacher, Bulgarian speaker, conservative, lover of good music, social media junky and sometimes a whole lot of trouble. She and the family reside in a remote mountain community where great discoveries have been made. When not changing the world, she enjoys the occasional bowl of chips and salsa.

24 thoughts on “The Wall Fell

  1. A touching post, Joyce. When we look at the narrative of the Berlin Wall coming down from a perspective of religious freedom for those behind the Iron Curtain, the story seems so much more important than the political narratives that most people ascribe to the event.

    What a blessing it is to have the freedom to believe in Christ!

  2. Joyce, this is a great post, and it is a shame that the anniversary of the Berlin Wall falling is not getting more attention worldwide. I think we all need reminding that totalitarian ideologies are exactly the opposite of what Heavenly Father would want for us. I feel we must always be on the lookout for new attempts to limit our freedom, because we can lose it quite quickly.

    One other point to add some spice to this discussion. In our gospel doctrine class yesterday, a German immigrant who has lived in the US for 30 years (and is a US citizen) said: “Ronald Reagan did not cause the wall to fall — God caused the wall to fall.” And the Gospel doctrine teacher said: “You’re right — God is behind everything, but I like to think he was whispering in Ronald Reagan’s ear.”

    Either way, it was a great day when that wall came down. I remember very clearly the incredible optimism of 1989. Would that we had such optimism today.

  3. The Lord’s hand was evident in all the events that lead up to the fall. I’d like to think that His Holiness, Pope John Paul II was inspired to help the Poles and other Catholics behind the wall as well, and all of the other nameless people who risked their lives to protest and to speak out.

    And yes it is a shame that this is not getting more press here. This is one time I would not mind Barak Obama flying to Europe.

  4. Thanks Geoff….it’s a new realm of blogging for me, becuase I mostly do politcal blogging elsewhere, but I thought, it would be good to get in touch with my churchy side a bit more. :)

  5. What an historic day! I remember it. I was 18 years old. I would turn 19 the following May (6 months later). The iron curtain was going down in eastern Europe. The hands of God were there. Missionaries my age would be going to these former Communist nations. Freedom would be available to them. Wow! Look at the cost of freedom. One doesn’t understand freedom all the way until he or she has had bondadge.

    I was at home. I remember it being an evening. My dad came into the other room where I was and said the Berlin Wall was coming down. I was thinking, right. That isn’t possible. I always had the feeling that the church would be able to go into the U.S.S.R., but I always thought that it would be under the Communist government. Communism was not to last forever. I was shocked and happy. I had to go see it on the TV myself.

    In May 1990, I received my mission call. I thought I would be going to Eastern Europe. I didn’t. My sister received her mission call 6 weeks before me. She was called to the Chile Osorno Mission.

    I was opening my call and I was looking for the place. I saw that it started with a “C”. I didn’t see the rest of it right that second, but I thought I was going to Czechoslovakia. I received my call to the Chile Concepcion Mission (the mission just north of my sister’s). My sister knew I was going to go to Chile. We were at the MTC in Provo for a month together.

    My dad always teased my mom in the 1980s that they would go on a mission to Russia. They were not able to do that as my dad passed away 5 years after the wall came down. Maybe he is teaching the Russian saints in the spirit world.

  6. I remember studding German for three years in High School thinking that one day I would get to go to Germany and see the wall! I just knew I would get a mission call to Germany or Austria or even Switzerland, but I have still never been to Eupope…. but I got to serve a mission for another people who had to fight for their freedoms as well. Unfortunately, for some people in this country, it really may take the loss of freedom to appreciate it. I pray that it never has to come to that to wake our nation up!!!!

  7. Not long after the wall fell, I was in a meeting with a GA. He had been meeting with the East German leaders to get permission for members to go to Switzerland’s temple. The East German government was reticent to allow both husband and wife (and children) to leave the country at the same time, due to defections.

    One day, the German leaders asked the GA why they didn’t just build a temple in East Germany. They were granted special guarantees that the temple would not be invaded by East German police, etc. The East Germans had saved their tithes for decades in a bank account, and the funds were then used to build the temple. Less than 4 1/2 years after it was dedicated, the wall fell.

    I still have my chunk of the Wall. As a retired Air Force Cold War warrior, it is one of my prized possessions.

  8. I believe Frost also said in that same poem “Something there is that doesn’t love a wall.” He read that poem in countries behind the Iron Curtain and was often greeted with stunned silence.

    I was living in Germany when plans were announced for the Friburg temple and was allowed to donate money for the building. It is a blessing I treasure

  9. I was almost seven years old when the wall fell. We were living in Germany at the time; my father was in the army. I honestly don’t remember much about that day, just that everyone was very excited and I didn’t know why. I have a piece of the wall, it is not much more than a pebble and covered in spray paint on one side. It is a powerful reminder that evil can be defeated.

  10. I was in East Berlin on that fateful cold November night. I was part of the Cuban diplomatic mission in the “RDA” or Democratic Republic of Germany (In Spanish). For us the fall season of 1989 was, likely, the most disconcerting and incoherent period in communist political history. For all practical purposes, the lights went out. The STASI (East German Secret Police)disappeared, the phones stopped working and the former lines of communication that together with the infamous wall stood for almost half a century just vanished.

    I experienced an almost total loss of sense of identity. In one evening, we experienced a total shift in ideological paradigms that came without warning. There was absolutely nothing that could have prepared any of us, on the communist side of the Wall, for that event; socially smooth but a psychological earthquake. Life as I knew it no longer existed. The jundra of ideals, goals and expectations that represented not just a political system but a way of life was just swept away over night. The following year and before the winter snow had melted I had made my way to NYC, freedom and a new life in America. The rest is history. For most people, the world changed while they slept and what was formerly protected by intercontinental ballistic missiles for 40 years was done away with a hammer and chisel in one night.

  11. I was only 12 when the wall felt and I don’t remember a lot, but I do remember a profound gratitude for these people’s new freedom and my own freedoms. Thank you for the beautiful reminder.

  12. Thank you very much for this, Joyce. This is the first world political event of which I have personal memory, and I was thinking about it a lot yesterday and trying to remind others who were too young or who have forgotten how the world was before the wall fell. What a miracle.

  13. Thank you Joyce for remembering this important milestone. Growing up in the 60′s and 70′s, most of us did not consider the Wall would fall in our lifetime, especially so quickly and without bloodshed. The event was so miraculous and wonderfully shocking. Every so often, the news would report about an escape from behind the iron curtain. There was a Disney movie called _NIght Crossing_ which told of two families who escaped to the west in a balloon.

    I think Margaret Thatcher, Ronald Reagan, Pope John Paul, the Polish Workers Union, the tenacity of the East Germans, and the LDS church’s Temple in East Germany, all of these people with God’s help and prayers were answered; the walls( similar to the Walls of Jericho in the OT) came a tumbling down. Oh happy day!!! :)

  14. I love Night Crossing. That was the first time I ever new that not everyone in the world was free like me. That movie also really was the spark for my interest in Eastern Europe and communism. The movie is based on a book called ‘With Wind to the West’ by Juergen Petschull. It’s out of print, but worth having in your home library if you can find it.

  15. I need to find that movie and book for my kids. We need to testify to the younger generation the sacrifices that have been made in the name of freedom. Thanks Joyce again for the the reminder.

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