Wilhelm Busch, a Lutheran pastor, was born in 1897, his father also being a pastor Wilhelm Busch, some of whose life story forms the first part of the present book. The son, who is the author and main subject of the book, served in the German army in the First World War and was converted during that time.
After studying theology he spent some years as an assistant preacher in Bielefeld, then in the Essen Altstadt congregation, and finally from 1929 as Youth Pastor in Essen, in which post he continued till his retirement in 1962. He died in 1966 while returning after preaching in communist East Germany. Wilhelm Busch requested that no biography of him should be written, and this request has been honoured. However, he left a great deal of published autobiographical material, from which this book has been compiled.
Wilhelm Busch was a Lutheran pastor who worked, mostly among young people, in the town of Essen in Germany. His life spans both World Wars (two wrongs don’t make a Reich?). Coming from a Christian home, he was truly converted during the first conflict in a ditch near Verdun having just told a dirty joke to his friend, who didn’t laugh – which was when Busch realised his friend had been killed. This brought him face to face with eternity and with the Saviour. The book is anecdotal and is a compilation of pieces written by Busch and faithfully translated by Christian Puritz, who has done a marvellous job in bringing Busch to our attention. Busch comes across as a very joyful Christian. He is also an extremely gifted storyteller. The book is full of memorable incidents written by a craftsman so as to catch the imagination and inspire faith. Perhaps the most outstanding story concerns the synagogue burnt out in Germany during Kristallnacht, November 9–10, 1938, when the Jews were persecuted. It later became the only safe haven during the fire bombing of the town by the Allies later in the war – a marvellous picture of the cross. He was engaged in evangelistic work in tough neighbourhoods, reaching out to cynical people during the very hard years of the great Depression. Under God he had great success in bringing many to Christ. Even into the years of WWII he continued his work, though often arrested and imprisoned by the Gestapo. There are many wonderful stories of how God can work gloriously in the most difficult of circumstances. It will be a real encouragement to church planters in difficult towns. And the recurring theme is of what can be accomplished through prayer and not trusting in oneself but in God alone. Busch was a member of the Confessing Church, as were people like Bonhoeffer who was executed. Why wasn’t Busch executed? This is not explained in the book and may be a cause of controversy. Did Busch compromise in some way? He gives no hint of compromise. But on the other hand he is honest about his weaknesses. He laments his own silence and failure to speak out when the Jews were taken away to the death camps. ‘I share the guilt of that wrong. If I had properly resisted the wrong, I would not be alive now. I cannot distance myself from the guilt. My people’s guilt is my guilt.’ There is a lovely reality about this book. Readers will find it inspirational.
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