Night Crossing is an older movie (1981), about a time that should never be forgotten but could easily be. It is based on the true story of two families, the Strelzyks and the Wetzels. They lived in Germany when it was divided into east and west and the people in the east (where these families lived), weren’t allowed to leave. As noted in the beginning of the movie, the Berlin Wall wasn’t built to keep others out but to keep their own people in. Every part of the border was barricaded and equipped with silent alarms and guns that fired automatically
The 17 million people of East Germany were denied some of the most basic, fundamental rights by their government. In addition to the restrictions placed upon their movements and travel, freedom of speech and the freedom to associate with others were severely limited. The Stasi (secret police), were notorious for having spies and informants everywhere.
In the movie, the two families are trying to cross from east to west via a balloon they have made. There has already been one failed attempt to cross and as a result the authorities are closing in on them. They hastily construct another balloon and launch it. After less than thirty minutes in the air, the gas being used to heat the air in their balloon runs out. They begin to descend quickly. It’s night and it’s not clear that they’ve traveled far enough to cross the border. In the midst of this uncertainty, Petra Wetzel looks at her husband and says, “I’m glad we tried.”
What kind of speech is this? Failure would mean imprisonment at the least, and probably death. It would surely mean they would be separated from each other and their children.
What would cause a young wife and mother with so much of life ahead of her to say these words? What would cause her to risk everything?
The answer is freedom. For some people life isn’t life without freedom. It’s been that way for many men and women and the rest of us have benefited from their bravery. It was that way for Martin Luther, Harriet Tubman, Elie Wiesel, Ghandi, and many more. It was that way for Petra Wetzel. For them, it was better to try for freedom and fail than to accept their bondage.
There’s a freedom that only faith can bring (Galatians 5:1ff). There’s a freedom in knowing who(se) you are, where you came from, and where you’re going. The Hebrew writer speaks of men and women who refused to suppress their faith:
Others were tortured and refused to be released, so that they might gain a better resurrection. Some faced jeers and flogging, while still others were chained and put in prison. They were stoned; they were sawed in two; they were put to death by the sword. They went about in sheepskins and goatskins, destitute, persecuted and mistreated— the world was not worthy of them, (Hebrews 10:35-38).
Father, thank You for the brave men and women such as these who inspire us to give it a try in our own feeble way!