49. Global mission possible
If there is one thing I miss most since living in Australia, it is the proximity to the European Alps. My fondest childhood memories are from church camps and holidays amongst the majesty of snow capped peaks and lush, green meadows. From Esslingen, my birthplace 13 km from Stuttgart, it takes less than two hours by car to reach the Alpine Region.
Soon after Munich the panorama of the Alps came into view. The train travelled towards Salzburg; we changed just prior at Freilassing, to reach the famous holiday destination of Berchtesgaden. I had searched for a hotel on the internet and phoned them from Munich. It sounded suitable and three guests were no problem. The host gave clear directions: Exit the railway station, turn right, at the next traffic lights turn right again; Number 6 Fruehling Strasse is just around the corner.
The train was right on time, but the directions I had been given seemed all wrong. On exiting the station I asked a passer-by, if there were any traffic lights along the road to the right. It certainly did not look like it. Of course, she said no. I asked if she knew Fruehlings Strasse. “There is no street with that name here”. After a short pause and quizzical look, she said: “There is one in Freilassing.” Now I realized my mistake. The hotel I had enquired was in Freilassing. I felt silly and tried to phone the operator, yet without success. We decided to find something in Berchtesgaden; a good move.
Luckily the Tourist Bureau was still open and we were given two addresses of available places. We chose the first one, at Eberweinweg 1. I was allocated room No. 5, while Jon and Ben took room No. 4, enjoying fabulous views of the surrounding mountains. In the foyer of the Pension I noticed a large, antique grandfather clock. The time stood still at five minutes to twelve. I knew then the hosts were Christians. But what I did not know was who had arranged for me to have booked into No. 1 Eberweinweg, Room 5?
There were three possibilities. One, it was God to fulfil whatever purpose He had in mind. Two, somehow we were being watched and channelled into places or three; it was all a co-incidence. What did it matter? I enjoyed my own room; it gave me a chance to send my regular knee-mail every morning. The views from our rooms were superb. Breakfasts were a highlight, top gourmet meats, crispy bread rolls and real coffee. We took it in the dining room downstairs, while watching the mountains change colour as the sun rose.
On the second morning before breakfast I took my bible and hiked through the narrow, steep mountain road a little further up. I sat on the road leaning against a stone wall and looked up to the snow-capped peak of the Watzmann, Germany’s second highest. Psalm 121 sprung to mind: “I will lift up mine eyes to the hills from whence comes my help.” Oh yes, how I needed God’s help continuously, even when everything seemed to be well.
As I sat in the crisp autumn air admiring God’s majesty I wished time would stand still. I marvelled at the miracle of this magic moment. Was I not supposed to have an incurable mental illness? Was I not a hated man in South Australia for opposing a Government system and befriending a convicted paedophile? Had I not blown the whistle on a Government bungle and accuse the authorities of a cover up? Was I the one that claimed to speak out in the name of God? Had God really arranged a police motor cyclist to be killed and chosen peculiar names surrounding a car crash just to show himself? It all seemed so far removed.
Yet here I was, admiring God’s creation thousands of miles away, feeling perfectly happy and safe. I opened my bible to the book of Psalms sitting by that stone wall. I was lead to Psalm 105. The verse that stood out that morning was Verse 15: “Do not touch my anointed one, and do my prophets no harm.” I had virtually called myself a prophet after delivering the ‘prophet’s mug’ to MLC Mr. T. at Parliament House, Adelaide months earlier. God had given me the assurance of safety by trusting in HIM. I thanked HIM for showing me this scripture, one featuring my numbers. What better place to feast my eyes on the majesty of God, than amongst the backdrop of the snow-capped peaks of the Berchtesgaden Alps?
We spent a wonderful three nights at Berchtesgaden. The next day we took a short bus ride on what must be one of the most scenic alpine roads in the world to Kehlstein Mountain, which was originally built by the Nazis and served as Hitler’s retreat. Jon got off the bus and walked straight over to a patch of snow. I quickly took a photo, because it was his very first time touching snow. We walked along a track for ½ hours or so and spent a lovely three hours in perfect weather, soaking up the sun. Ben laid on a bench, most likely dreaming of his girlfriend back in Sydney. Jon found a larger patch of snow and soon complained how cold his hands were.
On the way down we visited the Obersalzberg Holocaust Museum. As we viewed the atrocities and tragedies I felt ashamed being of German ancestry. Ben is a teacher of history. I never asked him, but wondered, how he felt about such barbarism not that long ago. In hindsight, walking around this museum, as the mind ponders the images of horror and man’s capabilities for evil, was not a good idea. Seeing all the documentation of Germany in its darkest era in history, in a way, spoiled an otherwise perfect day in the sun. The last section back into Berchtesgaden we went on foot, a most pleasant walk.
Because Ben and Jon only spoke English we watched CNN News fairly regularly. That evening we heard Adelaide mentioned. It was Thursday, October 24th, 2002. A train had collided with a bus at a level crossing, killing a number of people. I phoned Isobel and found out that the crash happened in Salisbury, the council district where we lived, about 5 kilometres from our house. Four people were confirmed dead. I knew the crossing very well. Had I known the names of some of those killed, I would immediately have linked my story to this tragedy. At the time it never entered my head that God again was pointing his finger towards Adelaide. Not until January 19th 03 would I become aware of this fact.
In the newspaper an interesting article caught my eye. I had known that the German Foreign Minister was called Joschke Fischer. In Germany I saw his name printed as Joseph Fischer, a member of the Green Party. How funny, that their leader was called “Roth” (red).
While contemplating names on the Friday I thought of all the Bob’s I knew and decided to have some fun with them. One translates his German name into ‘humility’; another is called ‘Green’. Years ago I knew a Robert Allen (All en), but he never liked being called Bob. In Adelaide in February 2002 I had briefly worked with a Bob, whose surname could be transformed into ‘son of Joseph’.
I had not left my thinking, linking mind back home. It was very active. The colours of my home town Esslingen are red and green. I knew that green would become more prominent in my mind as time went by.
From Berchtesgaden we moved across Southern Germany towards Lake Constance to stay with Paul, one of my early mentors after becoming a Christian. He was a Psychologist. I felt I could open up to him about my ‘outside the square’ thinking. Unfortunately, travelling with my sons, there was not much time and opportunity to really explain what had been happening in my life. Still I wrote in my diary, that I reached a level of openness with Paul in a weekend that I had not achieved with anyone in Australia. I would have loved to stay longer and have had an in-depth talk with Paul.
We visited two more of my friends from my youth in the Black Forest. Everyone treated us like kings, driving us everywhere and insisting on paying for everything. Jokingly, I made a deal with them: “When you come to visit us in Australia, I insist that we have the same arrangement – the Germans pay for everything.” Often in the evenings we would sit and just talk. Jon wanted me to tell my latest joke. He enjoyed his dad letting down his hair away from the stress of normal home life. Jon seldom saw the social, funny side of me back home.
In early November we visited my older brother Roland in the Ruhr Region. He had made a name for himself as chief of a huge Department Store in Essen and with voluntary work in the business community. The year before he had received the “Bundesverdienstkreuz” (Medal for Civic Services) issued by the German President. Roland was very modest about the fact. He was very generous to us and paid our hotel bill and car hire to return to the south.
Before travelling back to Stuttgart, however, I wanted to pay a visit to the northern Holland town of Groningen. My friend John’s sister and her husband had invited us. John was the one that had died early that year of cancer. We travelled all day to get there, paying a flying visit to Amsterdam on the way. Their house was hard to find and we only stayed one night.
I had a special reason for travelling this far just for one night. I was going to ask straight out, if the doctors had assisted in John’s peaceful death that Monday morning, hours after visiting his bedside. I was too frightened to bring up the subject and to ask such personal question on such joyous occasion. Later, back in Australia, I would receive an email, which put my mind at ease.
The actual purpose of this overseas trip was to attend the celebration of my mother’s 90th birthday. She looked rather well on Saturday 9/11 as my two brothers and my sister dined at the Canoe-Club Restaurant by the River Neckar. Anita, my stepsister, had flown in from the US State of Alabama. It was the first time the family had been together in more than 30 years. Later in my mother’s flat, to mark the excitement of the occasion, I had insisted to have a photo taken of us four children and my mother. Just as the photographer was to press the button, the doorbell rang. A photo of the five of us was never taken.
Saying good-bye to my mother was a sad occasion. We were both aware that it could be the last time we saw each other. Yet, the same sentiment was expressed on the previous visits in 1996 and 1988. The weather in Germany had been very unsettled by November 11th, the day we flew out of Frankfurt. Ben and Jon had seen many things and experienced much fun in those 5 weeks. We all looked forward to see Isobel and Tim again and to the warmth and sunshine of Adelaide.
The summer of 2002/03 would be one of the hottest and driest on record. However, the heat was on in areas other than the weather. I was about to see God’s hand working again in extra-ordinary circumstances. Sadly, it again had spelled tragedy, not for one, not for two; this time for four people.
Autobiography - Dieter Fischer
1. More in number 2. A sound mind 3. Now I'm found 4. Candle and the Wind
5. Realm of Nature 6. All in his Hand 7. The Wonder of it All 8. To Think God loves