Chapter 2 – The World Championships in Athletics

The World Championships in Athletics

Jonathan Fischer was planning his summer holidays and went to a travel agency located in the shopping area Stuttgarter Königsbau (Kings building). He got hold of information about Tanzania and Kenya, to study the catalogues at home. The ambitious athlete wanted to climb the highest mountain in Africa, Mount Kilimanjaro. In the main centre of the Stuttgarter Schlossplatz (Palace square), he met a group of singing Christians whose songs he liked to listen to. A not unattractive girl approached him and gave an invitation to an open evening of the YMCA. As a Catholic, Jonathan avoided all contact with Protestant worship services, because he never could imagine to change the faith camp, as his Aunt Gertrude Elisabetha did. One way ore the other, this Martin Luther gave him an unpleasant feeling, every time he was calling upon saints, like in the “Hail Mary” prayer. The official invitation was offering a multivision show about the beauty of the landscape of Kenya, followed by a mission report of the Lutheran pastor George Müller. Jonathan was speechless with amazement. The eagerly interested Africa sightseer intended to attend the event on the same evening, but to leave before the second religious part. The beauty of the images that were projected on a big screen was indescribable and exceeded his manifold impressions from television by far. In his fantasy, he saw himself climbing in the morning twilight on Mount Kenya, to observe from the top, the breathtaking view of the sensational Kenyan landscape. Later he would go into one of the many fishing boats on Lake Victoria, to document with his camera the flamingo swarms which were shimmering orange in the water. While he was dreaming he forgot completely that the time had arrived to take flight. The sympathetic voice which carried into effect the magnificent slide show started to witness about many miracles that happened on the mission field with the tribal group of the Maasai. Due to other reports, Jonathan guessed it is better to leave the proud and nomadic herdsmen with their own belief in nature, but through the positive events he was readily convinced of the contrary.

What followed then changed Jonathan’s life completely. Pastor Müller began to preach about Golgotha, asking the audience, who would be ready to consecrate his life to Jesus. Jonathan never heard a man speak in the way of George Müller about the death on the cross. He sensed, as if every word of the speech was deeply ingrained in the interior of his heart, and even years later he could remember details of the discourse. Jonathan felt very uncomfortable. His narrow upper body shuddered, when the priest walked straight to him at the end of the talk and asked if he could pray for him. They went into an adjoining room of the building, owned by the Protestant Church, and took seat on two chairs. George, the pastor, put his arm around Jonathan’s shoulder, requesting tenderly what would be his biggest heart’s desire. Jonathan talked about his plans with the Kenya trip and how much the show had impressed him. Müller appraised the smart idea. He was interested to know if he was married or wanted to take a friendly companion with him. That hit the nail on the head. In spite of numerous friends, Jonathan felt very lonely and was about to take the journey as a single backpacker. Yes, his greatest desire was to find a wife. Spiritual director Müller reassured that God has provided just the right partner for Jonathan, and he should trust him to meet her at exactly the right time. It would be very important to ask for God’s will and plans in everything that he is doing, and always to seek the Kingdom of God first. The new Jesus-disciple wanted to follow this advice unconditionally. Jonathan was thrilled to receive a New Testament, which was presented with the dismissal. Every evening he read several chapters of the paperback, reaching the end after one month with the Book of Revelation. Much in the book of books appeared to him strange. Then Jonathan also got an inexplicable sudden unrest over the already booked travel. This feeling left him only, when he cancelled the flight to Kenya with financial disadvantages. Now, he looked crestfallen, with a two weeks vacation that he had registered at his bank, which he would soon spend at home.

By the time the next monthly open evening was held, George Müller had hired a Kenyan Olympic champion as speaker. In his African way the lanky endurance runner temperamentally started to talk about the supernatural intervention of God in his life. Apparently, the miracle runner Fixson Rudolph had polio at a young age and could not walk at all. In addition to his sporting achievements, Rudolph started a fund raising campaign for the orphan children in the Agape Academy in Kosele and Agape School in Awendo. The personal history of Fixson was hard to believe for Jonathan. All the more he got impressed and touched about a film of aids orphans, who were clapping in their hands and singing full of joy, so that the German hat to empty his wallet. In his opinion this meeting was as overwhelming as the last. The newcomer loved it to sing the worship songs thrown onto a screen. There he remembered that as child he always had nice feelings, when in the church “Great God, we praise you” was chanted.
At the end of the event, a driver for the upcoming World Championships in Athletics was searched for. The period coincided with Jonathan’s vacation and an indescribable feeling of joy spread through him. There was no other person who was willing to help apart from him. A private minibus, offered by a doctor of the church, was made available for him, to chauffeur a team from the USA called “Athletes for Jesus”.

The first trip took him to a former military barracks in Scharnhauser Park, which was converted into the athletes village. As a participant of international chess tournaments, Jonathan spoke English well, so he followed every word that was spoken in the minibus. The passengers were discussing a television event where famous athletes should report about their faith. The reason for the visit was, to invite as many as possible other athletes, for the event taking place at the convention centre. They formed two by two groups with the aim to distribute invitation letters at the strictly guarded athletes village. At first it was hard for Fischer to participate in this distribution campaign, for a strong feeling of anxiety overcame him. Hera Torch, the fellow American at his side, noticed this immediately and said he should only carry a heavy bag with brochures and make himself available as interpreter. Small in stature the female messenger of the gods was like a fiery torch which seemed to ignite their surroundings in no time. After three hours five hundred invitations to athletes and coaches of the various nations were distributed. Jonathan got really excited when Heike, the German series champion in long jump, willingly took his last invitation. As a reward for his courage, he received a pomegranate from Hera. In the meantime other team members met in the provisory chapel with athletes from various countries who were professing Christians. They prepared a visit to a hospital. The next day Jonathan helped to install a mixer with speakers in the auditorium of the Paracelsus Hospital in Ostfildern-Ruit. The newly formed band of the international athletes had only a short time to sample, but at the concert demonstrated such great joy, which soon spread throughout the hospital. In like manner, the colourful looking athletes swarmed out at the end of the gospel songs into the rooms of the four-winged building. They told from which countries they came from, and what sport they practised, sharing with many grateful patients company.

At one of the following evenings the American team met with Pastor Müller and members of YMCA in a park in central Stuttgart. They sang English songs of praise and worship accompanied with the guitar. After that the Protestant clergy interpreted the head of the oversea mission work who was called Samuel Lay and his best friend. The matter was again that people should give their life to Jesus. Another member of the American team was translated into German by Jonathan. Suddenly, about two hundred people came to listen. The speaker, Richy Hammer, was a kind of Arnold Schwarzenegger, for his muscle mass hardly fitted in an available T-shirt. He was the former U.S. national champion in discus throwing who gave an incredible confession. After his sports career he apparently had smuggled drugs and landed on a death row in Thailand. At the end of this very exciting story twenty people wanted to give their lives in God’s hands. It was getting dark and the meeting broke up. Jonathan’s last job was to give the bodybuilder and fitness trainer Hammer a ride to his host family. He was walking with his passenger through the park to the car and told him, they were passing through a dangerous area, wherein recently a drug dealer was shot. Richy looked straight in the eye of his new friend and argued that he was not afraid of his former colleagues, for where great darkness is, Christians would shine even brighter. Jonathan got a queasy feeling again, which developed many times stronger, when Hammer after a short announcement, sat down at a park bench, beside a depressed looking man, to share with him the love of God. The German translator was even more dismayed, when he noticed that the sinister looking figure had been abusing uproariously the open air meeting and once more started to curse. Suddenly the events were overturning. The furious counterpart pulled out a gun and said he would blow out the brains of Richy’s head, if he would still speak one sound about Jesus or even see him again preaching to a crowd. Richy Hammer began to pray in English: “No weapon formed against me shall prosper.” Jonathan had long ceased to translate, since he was scared to death. But his bold friend wanted exactly the opposite spoken out in German, in particular that they both have no fear of death. For they would immediately go to heaven, and that would be just the place where the terrorizing gun owner belongs in eternity as well. All at once, the threatener began to weep bitterly, asking if God takes even murderers with him. The atmosphere had changed completely. The three men were holding hands and prayed for forgiveness. Home in bed, Jonathan confessed to God that he will not travel to chess tournaments in future holidays, if and when life as a Christian is always as exciting. A few days later at breakfast he could not believe his eyes, when he saw an image of the oppressor from the park bench in the Stuttgarter Nachrichten (newspaper). It was the park-murderer who had voluntarily delivered himself up to the police.

The point in time of the major television programme had come, when the famous athletes wanted to tell about their faith. The convention hall was packed with World Championships participants and spectators. Jonathan agreed without hesitation to participate as a steward. Before the event, there was a huge buffet with delicious food for the guests of honour and the Athletes for Jesus team. Jonathan was fascinated how many famous people his new friend Richy knew, whom he accompanied. They both wore a red shirt with the imprint of the Sports Mission Organisation and started a small talk with different guests. Little could Jonathan have known, that precisely the most successful U.S. athlete and main attraction of the evening was a close friend of the discus champion Richy Hammer. Many admirers wondered secretly what tasty morsel the international star named Carl would take at the opening of the buffet. Carl was holding a banana in his hands, when he was asked by Richey, if he could take a photo together with Jonathan. He agreed, but first of all wanted to finish eating the tropical fruit. At the very instant an appeal was made over the loudspeakers all stewards should take up their positions. Jonathan was torn between, wondering what to do. He decided to go to his immediate service and was called to help in the parking garage. Based on the thunderous applause, he recognized that the TV show was fully a success. One consolation for him was, that he recorded the programme in his parent’s home on video tape.
Jonathan was an outstanding hifi-freak. Instead of asking for a moped, like his brother, he wished from his parents a stereo system with towering loudspeakers to the sixteenth birthday. Alfred Fischer supported him as a lover of classical music, because he benefited from the high fidelity reproduction of music in the living room himself. Other blind people benefited as well from Jonathan’s passion for technology, when he wired and programmed their audio equipment for a small tip.

The desire of Jonathan, to experience the production and broadcast of a radio show inside a station, was fulfilled in the morning after the athletes television event. First of all, Jonathan was invited from Vera Fischer to breakfast together with her visitor Samuel Lay, the approximately sixty-year-old Sports Minister. They prayed for their brunch and also, that the radio interview will be a blessing. Two hours later, Jonathan was situated in a studio of the Southwest German Radio (SWR) and got all his questions apparently answered about broadcasting. The station wanted to record an interview with Samuel. The interviewer Elmar was about the same age as Samuel and had the warmest voice you could imagine. They discussed the issues. Jonathan started to translate for his English was better than that of the famous radio host. Another amazing life testimony was spread. Lay spoke about the success and the excellent status he had at work, before God’s call directed him and his wife Anni to Kenya. There he made a new start, distributing bibles on a bicycle and preaching initially for one year in a tent in front of a crowd of nine listeners. When he left after twenty years the Nyanca Province, located at the Lake Victoria, towards his native land, together with his wife and seven children, he served as a bishop of one hundred churches. In this moment Jonathan became aware of the fact that the pastors George Müller and Samuel Lay came to know each other in Africa. The growth of the athlete’s missionary work took place in the same way. Starting as a small prayer group in the living room, followed invitations to sports festivals at schools, appearances at athletics meetings of universities, services at U.S. Championships, and recently regular television programmes in Olympic Games and World Championships.

A new day at the World Championships in Athletics arrived with the decision in the two hundred metres race. Jonathan would have liked to see the race on television, but his job on that day was to chauffeur Samuel Lay and Richy Hammer in a luxury hotel. Based on their conversations in the car, he learned that they wanted to pray there for two native sprinters who had reached the final. Samuel had a special authorization pass along with a unique charisma, which even the hostel’s staff could not resist. So it happened that the old-fashioned bus got a parking space directly at the entrance of the Inter Continental Hotel, between various luxury limousines from Untertürkheim (headquarters of Mercedes-Benz). Jonathan took place in the hotel lobby and began to read in his pocket bible the Sermon on the Mount. The English-speaking fellow Americans would need no translator in the meeting room prepared for them. After Samuel had announced his arrival on the reception, he mustered out the Bible study baby, who was far away to complete a master of theology, as he did. Unhoped-for he took the young sports fan into the illustrious circle with two world record holders in sprint. As a result of unfamiliar medical terminology Jonathan could not understand everything. Initially the prayer started for the recovery from illness of family members. Jonathan was embarrassed and totally stunned when the world-famous Leroy questioned, if he is married and has a concern for his family. Jonathan would have pronounced each of his sports comrades crazy, predicting before the World Championships in Athletics, that an American Olympic champion will come to Stuttgart and pray in a friendly intercession for a wonderful soon-to-be wife for him. A loving, humorous Father in Heaven would still answer this prayer. Now, the real concern, in particular the upcoming two hundred metres final was brought before God. Jonathan was wondering that the sprinters Leroy and Carl, who were showered with medals, not selfishly begged for the top spot, but rather wanted to be spared from injuries. Richy, who was present all the time, was reminded of the offer to take a picture. Jonathan came in the middle and was embraced by Leroy and Carl, the world record holder in the 100 metres, for the oversize photo that would be developed later. The athletes and trainers then gathered in the hotel lobby. Samuel welcomed in addition the current four hundred meters champion Butch and hugged him warmly. The graduate theologian began openly to bless Butch in the hotel hall and the other one freely retaliated in the same way. The staff observed the two with amazement as they were shouting an Amen and inquired of Jonathan which faith the priest belongs to. Then Jonathan could shortly lay witness for Christ.

Ongoing the convoy moved in direction of the huge stadium which was filled up to the last place. Jonathan was overwhelmed, getting through his friends the permission to take place in the forefront at the press area, without having a ticket. He was cheering on the well-loved actors and noticed how they won the second and third place. The winner from another English-speaking country, posed with his abnormal large biceps before the world press and for all plainly audible shouted out, that his God is greater than the Christian God of his competitors. Boiling with rage, Jonathan had to be corrected by Samuel and Richey, for he loudly called out a faecal word. They explained that God is always in control and a follower of Jesus Christ should behave better. Jonathan was quite amazed, when some time later the blasphemous loudmouth was convicted of doping, so that his career was finished.

The last day of the World Cup came, a Sunday. Jonathan was delegated to pick up the Kenyan Rudolph Fixson, who was healed of polio, from the athletes village, to bring him in a Protestant worship service. This time, the translation for Fixson had to be done simultaneously from German to English, and Jonathan soon got in trouble. His much beloved Minister Müller preached at a pace and with the energy of a steam locomotive in drive, so that the passionate Fixson often trumpeted “Hallelujah” and applauded with clashing hands. The other visitors, many of them dark-skinned athletes, were starting to do the same. The atmosphere of the meeting increasingly heated up and was more similar to the movie “Sister Act” than a Holy Mass. At the end the service spun completely out of control, due to the fact that most of the visitors couldn’t end their tipsy laughter. As soon as the collective laughter calmed down, one of the three pastor’s children bend down to the floor and started to giggle, lest the whole thing started again. Jonathan not only became acquainted with the two daughters Melanie and Jessica plus son Joshua from George Müller, but also his wife Christa, who fondly prepared the lunch. The two weeks full of work off from work came to an end. Never before did Jonathan spend his holidays in such a beautiful way. He enjoyed it to play football with the two Müller-daughters in the domestic garden, while the little boy sat seesawing on the lap of Rudolph. Fixson would soon fly home to Nairobi and be accompanied by the Müller family. The Müller family had still a second house without electricity and running water, but with a unique view to the natural spectacle of the Kenyan heartland. Jonathan could sap in his memories again and again from this supper invitation and this special holiday events. He didn’t suspect, that in future this would be severally necessary.

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