Ferdinand III is my given name. I grew up hearing Freddy at home. But most people call me Fred. So take your choice.
The name that’s most precious to me is being called a child of God. Though I was physically born in 1963, my life was given meaning and purpose when I was spiritually born in 1977. I enjoy sports, reading (others would say, collecting books), watching films, and manual labor at times. And I could eat pizza, Jaegerschnitzel, milk chocolate with nuts, and watermelon every day. And I especially love to spend quality time with my family. But, my greatest pursuit, as Paul puts it, is to “do all to the glory of God” (1 Cor 10:31). If you are one of God’s children, I hope that you’re also striving to glorify Him.
The reason I’m serving the Lord in Germany is the result of a number of factors. Naturally, the most obvious reason is that it is God’s will. He is my Savior, my Father, and my Guide. But in addition, German is in my genes. Since my parents are from a German background, I grew up (in Maryland and Minnesota) hearing German, eating German foods, and learning the many German customs. I still have relatives here in Germany and Austria.
After high school, I enlisted in the US Army and requested European duty. They stationed me in the small town of Fischbach (bei Dahn) in western Germany near the French border. Upon being honorably discharged, I decided to enroll at Bob Jones University as a Missions major. And my prayer was: Lord, if You want me to serve You, then where?
My sophomore year was an important turning point in my life. I began studying German formally, since it seemed logical to me to minister in a German speaking country because of my background. In March of that year (1985), I sat in a combined Mission Prayer Band meeting, listening to Dr. Mark Minnick challenge his listeners to consider full-time missionary service. During the invitation to stand at our seat, I was amongst others who publically testified of our decision. I had peace about continuing in my Missions major. That summer I joined the BJU German Mission Team, led by Frau Long. We worked with various missionaries and ministries for 8 weeks. One of our stops was in Hamburg, helping Ray and Marleen Virtue. (And as many of you know, this is how I met my sexy wife, Ruth. You can ask her for more info about how we hitched up.) The Lord used the mission trip to give me peace about returning to the land of my ancestors as a missionary.
After finishing my degree, Ruth and I became one on June 6, 1987. We moved to Greenville, SC (more specifically, Taylors) so that I could do grad work at BJ in Pastoral Studies. We prayed much about our future and eventually made 2 important decisions. We chose Gospel Fellowship Association as our mission board, and we decided to help my in-laws with their church plant (at least for the first 4 years). January of 1990 is when we began deputation. We could write a book about the God-lead experiences on the road, in various homes, and in the 252 churches we visited to raise support. Anyway, we stepped on German soil four and a half years later to begin our first term. Well, 4 years turned into 14 exciting years. We saw the church in Hamburg grow significantly, and we wondered when it was time for us to move on. Our heart’s desire was always to begin a church ourselves. The opportunity arose, when a young German and his wife (Volker and Becky Weise) agreed to also help in the church. This was our cue to leave the Bibel Baptisten Gemeinde in Hamburg and to plant the Freie Bibelgemeinde in Barmstedt (the town where we have lived since we arrived in Germany). We are amazed to see how the Lord is blessing His ministry, and we anticipate great and mighty things that He will yet do (Jer 33:3). We would appreciate your prayers.
Perhaps a side note: I have been diagnosed with primary sclerosing cholangitis (PSC). It is “a disease of the liver that causes inflammation and narrowing of the bile ducts inside and outside of liver. It’s not certain what causes PSC, although it is most likely autoimmune.” I’ve been on the transplant list in a Hamburg hospital for a number of years now. My disease has been a wonderful opportunity to share with others how God sustains us and gives us peace. He is certainly good, gracious, and sufficient (2 Cor 12:9-10)!