As an ELCA pastor, Marlan Johnson knew about the notable ministry of theologian and Nazi resistance organizer Dietrich Bonhoeffer. But it wasn't until 1993 that he learned about Bonhoeffer, the man — knowledge that changed him forever.
That's when Johnson and his wife, Sharon, went to Germany and Poland to meet Bonhoeffer's relatives and visit the Flossenberg concentration camp, where the theologian was killed April 9, 1945 — just weeks before the end of World War II.
Overwhelmed with emotion for the powerful life and tragic death of Bonhoeffer, the Johnsons, who live in Villard, Minn., were inspired to form DB Ministry and Travel Service Inc.
"It's a losing proposition for us business-wise, but this is our calling," Marlan Johnson said.
The couple travels the country giving lectures and slide-show presentations about Bonhoeffer. And each year, they lead a tour through Germany and Poland, visiting the sites integral to Bonhoeffer's life. The next tour is scheduled for June 1-16.
The ministry also sells a dozen books about Bonhoeffer.
"It's important that people know all sides to [Bonhoeffer], both the man and his work," Marlan Johnson said.
Although they never want to underestimate Bonhoeffer's ministry, the Johnsons also try to enlighten people that there were many Germans in Germany who opposed Adolf Hitler and died for their beliefs.
"It took a lot of courage to stand up against the Nazis," he said. "It's easy to say from here how you would have responded, but it was quite different to have you and your family threatened.
"That's why it's important that we keep telling these stories, so no one will forget."
For more information about DB Ministry, call (320) 554-2422, or visit www.dbmintrav.com.
© 2016 Augsburg Fortress, Publishers