In 1989, Markus, Karen, and their three-year-old son were granted permission to leave their home in East Germany to go on a holiday to Hungary. While they were there, Hungary opened its border to Austria, providing thousands of East German refugees a way to freedom. Markus and Karen recognized their unique opportunity. They could also leave.

Leslie Nilsson, photographer

Markus and Karen Tilgner family

I said, “Let’s leave for Austria.”

“Oh no, you can’t,” Karen said. “Your parents are left in Germany and my parents as well.”

“They will understand,” I replied.

“We’ve already started to build a house,” Karen told me. “Let’s finish that.”

“No, let’s start again,” I said, “somewhere else, in western Germany.”

Again I tried to tell her we should leave. She said, “No, because you have just been called as bishop and you said yes, you would serve.”

This is why we did not leave Germany. Some weeks later the Berlin Wall was falling. We were blessed for staying. This was Heavenly Father’s way for us.

Tilgner family

A friend (center) visits with Karen and Markus Tilgner. The Tilgners make everyone feel welcome in their home and consider it a blessing to serve those around them.

Tilgner family

The Tilgners’ daughter-in-law tenderly caresses her baby. The new grandchild brings joy to Markus and Karen, who say that remaining in their native land has helped them stay close as a family.

Tilgner family

Sister missionaries help Markus put the finishing touches on a dish that’s about to go in the oven.