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Isuzu truck carries Christian message in Germany

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Pastors lead a procession through Marzahn, a borough of East Berlin, for the consecration of a truck.

BERLIN — Members of a Lutheran congregation in Berlin, Germany raised the profile of their congregation and its food bank, recently, by consecrating a new truck.

The congregation, part of the Independent Evangelical Lutheran Church (Selbständig Evangelisch-Lutherische Kirche - SELK), a partner church of Lutheran Church–Canada, was forced to buy the Isuzu after arsonists torched an older vehicle used in a popular food distribution program last fall.

On April 10, four pastors in full vestments accompanied by brass choir led a procession of 150-175 people through the streets of Marzahn, a borough of East Berlin, to the consecration service in a small square.

“For the ‘consecration’ of a truck, there is no liturgical [rite],” said Pastor Wilhelm Torgerson, formerly of Medicine Hat, Alta., in an email to the Canadian Lutheran. “But we wanted to cause a stir on Saturday morning in that part of town.”

A stir is what the congregation caused.

Residents in the community’s large housing projects opened their windows to watch the procession, and of its participants two thirds were not SELK members or members of any other church, said Torgerson.

Media provided “excellent” coverage, he added, and even a federal politician ran coverage of the event on her website.

Torgerson said the incident also raised the profile of the food bank, and during the following weeks even more people showed up for groceries.

For the past 10 years, SELK has performed missionary work in Marzahn, a community that Torgerson said is grappling with high unemployment, divorce, dysfunctional families and alcoholism. He said few know the Christian message or are baptized.

SELK also distributes food to the area’s needy through a program called Laib und Seele (LUS), or loaf and soul.

Every Wednesday it distributes food to the needy.

Last year, it served about 8,000 families.
In October 2009, however, arsonists destroyed the program’s old truck.

The insurance company paid €22,000, but SELK members, local residents and federal politicians had to pick up the rest of the tab.

In the meantime, LUS was forced to rent trucks to continue the program.“The few months without the use of a truck were most difficult,” said
Torgerson. “We had to rent pickups to get groceries from the stores, ask individuals with cars to go to some supermarkets and pick them up, and none of them could cool or refrigerate.

“I did not know that God was in the truck-sales business, but this truck was God's gift to us, and since Lutherans insist that God works through means, the many donors and supporters were the means by which God blessed this ministry.”

Torgerson said the new truck cost €71,000 and bears the name of the congregation and its address.

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