European retreats restored . . . and restoring

Retreats for WELS service men and women (and civilians) are a big deal for our brothers and sisters scattered across Europe. In the early 1970s the European chaplains wanted to find a way to get their people all together in the same place—people living in many different locations across Germany and Europe. They started with an annual retreat at Easter. This was so popular that Fall retreats were added and even Spring retreats in the U.K. The retreats had a 50-year history when they were interrupted by the COVID pandemic. Because of government restrictions on travel and large group meetings, no retreats were held in the years 2020 and 2021. Then in 2022 when we scheduled our first retreat for Easter, the chaplain and his wife both came down with COVID, and the retreat had to be cancelled. But, we thank God, the retreats have been restored!

WELS has a civilian chaplain living in Germany to provide spiritual support to members of the military and their families while they’re away from home as well as civilian WELS members who moved to Europe.

This past Easter service men and women who are WELS and living in Europe met in Würzburg where, once again, all areas of our current ministry were well represented—servicemen and women from Ramstein Air Base—part of the Kaiserslautern Military Community (the largest American community outside of the United States), from the U.S. Army Garrison Bavaria in Grafenwöhr, from the U.S. Army Garrison Italy in Vicenza, a Navy family from the joint service military community in Stuttgart, as well as civilians from various places in Switzerland and Germany, including German friends from the Evangelical Lutheran Free Church (our sister synod in Germany), and even a couple visiting from the States.

Everyone enjoyed themselves, from the oldest to the youngest. Our oldest participant, Marilyn Galow, has been attending retreats since they began. She is the widow of a serviceman who stayed on in Germany after retiring from the military. She still works at the U.S. Army Garrison in Wiesbaden. And our youngest, one-year-old Otto Waldschmidt, especially liked the Easter egg hunt. His family is finishing up their tour at Ramstein and will be heading to Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam in Hawaii in June. The three Waldschmidt children were baptized during their stay at Ramstein and mom Tana was also baptized and confirmed.

Do you, or does someone you know, serve in the Military? Whether stateside or oversees, you can sign up to receive spiritual support and be put in contact with a WELS pastors near where you’re stationed.

The retreats are restored, but more importantly they are restoring. In Würzburg we enjoyed special worship on Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, and Easter, made even more special by being together with fellow believers from all over Europe. We grew together studying the Word, and the kids had the chance to grow in their faith and friendship as they learned and played together.  It is a treat and a privilege to share our faith and our lives in this way. We want to thank our WELS brothers and sisters for supporting this ministry, which is so important for all of us.

Learn more about WELS Military Services.

Chaplain John Hartwig, pastor, civilian chaplaincy in Germany