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Positive Surprise: Steffi Baltes and Christus-Treff Jerusalem Print E-mail
Sunday, 22 April 2007

In the course of my research, as I was evaluating almost 400 evangelical books dealing with Israel or the end times, every once in a while a positive surprise popped up; when it is about Israel and the Middle East, evangelicals sometimes do get it right. One of these was a small book by Steffi Baltes, „Gebet für das Heilige Land“ (Prayer for the Holy Land), published in 2004 (Verlag der Francke-Buchhandlung).

Steffi and her husband Guido have lived in Jerusalem since 2003, and lead the Johanniter-Hospiz, a small guesthouse in the Old City. It is the Israeli branch of the Christus-Treff in Marburg, Germany, that has existed since 1982 (“Treff” means something like meeting place). The Christus-Treff in Marburg defines itself as a community of Christians, and is involved in a wide array of evangelistic and other activities. The Jerusalem Christus-Treff offers hospitality to visitors of Jerusalem, and cooperates with churches and Christians in the country, with an emphasis on reconciliation.

Steffis book includes prayers for a number of different groups and issues in the “Holy Land”. She does not deal with “the” Israelis and “the” Palestinians, but with people – people who do belong to particular groups, but are nevertheless still seen and portrayed as people. Their pain and suffering are not brushed over, but, well, felt. This evangelical book, although Israel-friendly, stays far away from a typical Christian Zionist agenda.

In its Foreword Elke Werner writes: “Whoever prays cannot stand on one side, whether from a political or a human perspective. Whoever prays senses God’s heartbeat for all people.” Strictly speaking, the first statement is, of course, untrue; it is quite possible to pray one-sidedly, partially, politically etc. One can even pray inhumane prayers: “Lord, do you want us to bid fire come down from heaven and consume them?” (Lk 9:54). This, however, ought not to be, and if one meets God in prayer, such an attitude is likely to change. Jonah, it appears, did come around to God’s point of view regarding Nineveh, rather than vice versa. I expect this is what Elke Werner means, and on this I can only agree with her.

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