Nov. 9, 1989, was a long night. I was 11. The details are dim. But I remember the atmosphere in our house being electric. That night the tv blared for hours, spitting out a constant stream of images from a foreign land of a foreign people speaking a foreign language. I hadn’t the foggiest idea of what they were saying. But they were ecstatic.
I remember the giant wall, its gray, pocked face splashed with tattered posters and bright graffiti. It was ugly and unpractical, and needed to go. Men with pickaxes picked; others with sledgehammers slugged. Electric grinders, sparks flying, chewed into the wall like angry mosquitoes attacking an elephant.
Powered by emotion more than muscle, the mob worked fast. Eventually, a large section of the wall began swaying, back and forth, back and forth—like a baby tooth not fully severed from the gum—slow and gentle at first, then more violently. Finally the wall crashed to the ground, giving way to a stampede of rapturous East Germans.
In my house, halfway around the world in Australia, the excitement had overpowered nightly bedtime rituals. Obviously something major was unfolding. But it was happening thousands of miles away on another continent. I didn’t understand. My parents were nearly as excited as those we were watching on tv. By now the phone had jumped into the noisy fray. My parents were darting between the phone and the television. Are you watching this? This is it! they told friends. This is what we’ve been waiting for.
As the wall fell, my parents’ attention didn’t remain solely on Berlin. They also cast an anxious gaze toward Pasadena, California, the location of the headquarters of the Worldwide Church of God. While the collapse of the Berlin Wall was a watershed event for Germany and Europe and the future of international affairs, it came with an added dimension for those in the wcg. For decades, the founder and pastor general, Herbert W. Armstrong, had forecast the unification of Germany.
On Nov. 9, 1989, wcg members watched that forecast come true.
You can imagine what many church members were thinking: What is headquarters going to say about this? Not surprisingly, some outside of the wcg were wondering the same thing. Mr. Armstrong was a global personality. Under his stewardship, the work of the wcg—via television, radio, the printing press, personal appearances and various humanitarian activities—had touched the lives of tens of millions. In terms of world news, the unification of Germany, and eventually Europe, was Mr. Armstrong’s keynote prophecy.
That’s why in hindsight it is strange that church officials were caught off guard when the director of a Seattle-based news program “unexpectedly” contacted them after the fall of the Berlin Wall. Recalling their conversation with the news director, wcg officials wrote: “The news director was well aware of the World Tomorrow program and the fact that for more than 40 years the church [more specifically, Mr. Armstrong] had been predicting the reunification of Europe in some form. He asked for on-air comments about whether the church believed the opening of the wall was the commencement of end-time prophetic events” (Pastor General’s Report, Nov. 21, 1989).
What an opportunity! The world had just witnessed an event of historic importance. And this news director, without solicitation, was requesting that Worldwide officials weigh in on it.
Their response? “We responded that it was premature to make statements like that ….“
It was impotent and deflating. The Berlin Wall had just collapsed, Germany was uniting for the first time since World War ii, the map of Europe was being redrawn and the Soviet Union was on its last legs. The world was entering a new era. And the best Worldwide officials could muster was to say that it was “premature” to comment on the prophetic implications of these events.
Church officials recalled that the news director was “disappointed” by their response. Of course he was! Under Mr. Armstrong, the wcg provided the world with accurate, definitive and clear understanding of world news and Bible prophecy. Now those who inherited his legacy wouldn’t even comment on one of the most important events of the century!
Too bad the news director didn’t have my parents’ number. They might have been tucked 9,000 miles away, but they—like many other wcg members at that time—could have talked for hours about this power-packed, prophetically significant event!
The Berlin Wall was constructed in 1961, after the Berlin crisis between the ussr and Western forces. Here’s what the Plain Truth, the news magazine established and run by Herbert Armstrong, wrote in September 1961: “Americans and Britons do not seem to fathom that Germany is once again a power to be reckoned with! Make no mistake! Nuclear war will not come over the Berlin crisis! But out of it all—in a very short times—a United States of Europe will!”
Impressive, isn’t it? Even as the Berlin Wall was going up, the Plain Truth was forecasting that it would precipitate the emergence of a German-led “United States of Europe.” If you think that’s impressive, consider what Mr. Armstrong wrote in the October 1985 issue: “Do not discount the possibility that this resurrection of the medieval Holy Roman Empire may start by some arrangement to reunite East and West Germanyfirst” (emphasis mine).
Not only did Mr. Armstrong forecast the unification of East and West Germany, he said that event would mark the starting point of the final resurrection of the Holy Roman Empire. No wonder so many in the wcg were electrified the night of Nov. 9, 1989!