Praise to you, Oh Christ, Lord of all creation. You have made all things beautiful in their time. When I look at the heavens, the work of Your fingers, what is man that You are mindful of him? But You have searched me and known me. You test my heart and my mind. In Your book were written, every one of them, the days that were formed for me, when as yet there were none of them. Your rod and staff have guided me into the true path. For this I give You thanks and will glorify Your name forever.
How many are Your mercies, Oh Lord. Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity, and in sin did my mother conceive me. Yet upon You was I cast from my birth. I learned to trust You from my mother’s breasts, and from my mother’s womb You have been my God. You choose parents for me who loved Your will, who would lead me in Your truth and teach me. Before I could speak, was I not carried to Your baptism? Yes, already born but yet dead, there I was buried and reborn. There You resurrected me to new life in Your Son. Praise to You oh Christ, the Resurrection and the Life.
You gave me not only a family, but a home at Your altars, Oh Lord of Hosts, my King and my God. Your servant the pastor preached faithfully and taught his flock well. Sharing in Your life there taught me that we are a house of living stones, built for Your own habitation. Many families in the congregation did not send their children to public school, but taught them at home. I also learned at home, and learned much better than I would have elsewhere, for I learned of You. I found friends among Your other children at Luther Memorial Chapel, and You shaped me by their influence instead of the influence of the world, which opposes You.
Oh King of eternal Glory, You do all things well. Even from my youth, You poured Your Holy Spirit upon me, opening my heart to understand Your Scriptures and love Your Word. The youth of Your congregation gathered every Tuesday to learn the catechism. Even after I was confirmed and took Your Holy Supper, Lord, I continued to come. I would not be absent when two or three were gathered in Your name. There You were among us. Thanks be to You for Your Word, Your Spirit, and Your presence. Praise be to You oh Christ, the Truth.
In Your grace, You showed me the full power of Your church on earth. Your house at Lutheran Memorial Chapel contained one hundred members, but what is that compared with all the world? Every summer, the Youth from our church would gather at a university campus. There we worshiped You morning and evening, and there we were taught Your Word in a simple, but by no means superficial way. When more than two thousand youth sing hymns to You with choir and trumpet! When such times inspire so much strength and joy, how much greater joy is ours in heaven? Yes, with unveiled face, there we shall sing before You forever.
Although my family loved Your home in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, You had been strengthening us for other cares. Look, the field is ripe for the harvest, but the laborers are few. You called my father to support the sowers of the seed in Europe. My father was not a pastor, but did financial work, so the thought of the mission field was new to us. I was afraid when I heard the news. Europe seemed as incomprehensible as another world, and I knew that I would grow to be a different person if I grew up in such a different place. Yet I did not trust You to make me a better one. I looked at Your gifts in Milwaukee and mourned, not trusting that You would give me as much more in another place. With this change, You began testing me, purifying my faith as in a refiner’s fire. You tried me as silver is tried. Praise be to You, oh Christ, the Way!
Prague, the Czech Republic, was a city full of lights. I took delight in it, for You have made all things beautiful in their time. The emmensity of its past overwhelmed me and I felt lost in its shadow. I felt that You had put eternity into man’s heart, yet so that he cannot see what God has done from the beginning of a thing to ist end. So man builds a city ever more glorious, that it may outlast him. I saw this written on the stones of Prague: man knows that death is not the end. Yet who in this city knows what God has done from the beginning to the end? So many live in bitter discontent, knowing their life is futile, but too proud to accept from You the eternal life.
Gradually, the bitter loneliness crept into my heart also. Because I was a strange foreigner, none of the girls at the music school would talk to me. Although I visited the English-speaking high school, none welcomed me, but only tolerated my presence. I was welcomed at the Slovak church choir and at the martial arts dojo, but You taught me to rely on You for true friendship. I felt lost and troubled, and I did not bring this to You in prayer.
I also saw how few attended Your Table at the English-speaking Lutheran congregation in Prague. I began to forget the two and a half thousand youth who worship You in spirit and truth. I did not thank You for the Czech and Slovak brothers and sisters. I looked only to compare with my childhood congregation. I saw only troubled relationships and few numbers, and I accused You. How long, Oh Lord? Praise to You for those that are! Give them strength and heart to bring others to You.
My Father often traveled to see the work done in Your church in Europe. Once he took me with him, and I visited Trinity Lutheran Church in Berlin. Farsi-speaking believers from the Middle East fled there, and I listened during interviews. I watched a man tell how he and his wife attended a secret house church and lived in terror of being shot dead as they exited the church door. He was betrayed by his father, a member of the secret police. They had owned no Bible and were unbaptised. They clung to a mere rumor of You. That, oh Lord, was enough for them. They gave up their secure lives and middle-class jobs, left their car in its place and their house as it stood. Lord, as I watched him cry while reliving his fear, deep shame took hold of me. Praise be to You, Oh Lord, the highest good! You cared for him and his wife, delivered their souls from death and placed them in the safety for which they longed. Then, Oh Lord, you used their sufferings to cause me to repent and turn to You. I was ashamed, for at once I saw how deeply You had blessed me. On my shelf stood three Bibles and many books about Your love, and how often did I ever look into them? I live in peace and security, and how often have I complained against You? I ask Your forgiveness and blessing. I resolved to read Your Word half an hour every morning and the Book of Concord one half hour every afternoon. This I did, with Your help.
I soon finished High School and applied to Charles University in Prague, Faculty of the Humanities. As I prepared for the future, You heard me pray to You, “Lord, here I am, send me, send me.“ You gave me courage to deliberately say controversial, unpopular, but not necessarily openly Christian things in class. Students enjoyed this and continued talking long after class. Then, in private, I could speak about You. You were with me and opened my mouth in hour after hour of deep conversation. I thank You, Oh Holy Spirit, Lord of Wisdom, for teaching me in that very hour what to speak and what to say.
Oh Lord, be not far from me, for trouble is near, and there is none to help. You know where my heart now turns. During that first year, I invited a young woman to visit Your Divine Service, a friend I loved for her striking personality. You know how I spoke Your forgiveness and love to her when she acknowledged her sin to You. You watched me support her through two long years of struggling faith. Through me, You reached out Your hand to her again and again, longing for her in love, but she loved the glory of man more than the glory of the only Son of God.
Have mercy on her, Oh Lord, according to Your unfailing love! According to Your abundant mercy, blot out her transgressions. Hers and mine. You saw how as her faith crumbled, mine became infected by the same doubt. I loved her so truly, and she seemed in no way inferior to me. How could You love her less than me? How could You be just, saving the one and condemning the other? Lord, You heard my prayers for her, but it pleased You not to let me see them granted. But this was to make me trust in You with my whole heart, to trust that Your judgment and Your time are infinitely wiser than my own. With shame I confess that I rebelled against You. Like Job, I justify myself and my friend rather than You. Forgive me for this sin and strengthen my faith. Lord, to whom shall I go? You have the words of eternal life, and I have seen, and have come to know, that You are the Christ, the Son of the living God. Lord, I believe! Help my unbelief.
Dear Lord, my life is but half begun, but already it is rich in blessing. Thanks be to You for Your unfailing love, for guiding my path. Help me entrust my future to You, casting all my anxieties on You, because You care for me. Lord, I beg you, let suffering not divide me from You, but bring me closer. Take my life before I deny You. In any and all circumstances, teach me the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. You are my vine; I can do all things through You, who strengthens me.
I pray You also, use my weakness to show Your strength to others. Bless those who read these words. Lead them to realize that it is You who directs their feet. Fill them with Your Holy Spirit and guide them to eternal life. Let Your blessing be with us always. In the name of Christ the crucified, Amen.