As yoyo man, I’ve been to Canada once, Australia twice, and England four times. While I always traveled there with other people, I was also always by myself throughout the day. Getting along in Canada (BC) is just like getting along in America. England and Australia are different enough from the US that it feels like you are in a foreign country. The sights and sounds are different. The people are different. The culture is different. But we all speak a version of the same language. The signs are in English. After a couple of days, it’s pretty easy to get along.
This morning, at 9:15, I was dropped off at a train station in Leipzig with a ticket in my hand to Berlin. I’m in Germany. The signs are all in German. Everyone speaks German. I felt something I had never felt before; isolation. I didn’t know where I was, really. I really didn’t know where I was going. It was only a 90 minute train ride, but the whole experience was just creepy. The conductor on the train said something to me. I smiled, handed him my ticket, he stamped it and gave it back. I have no idea what he said and I know it doesn’t take 30 seconds to say, “Ticket please” in any language. A woman on the train tried to ask me a question. I listened, smiled, and said in English, “I’m sorry, I don’t speak German.” She got this confused look on her face and sat down again. The train got to Berlin where there are three stations. I had I on ticket which one I was supposed to get off at (the last one), but I was still paranoid that I might miss the sign for it. So when the conductor came by I stopped him and pointed to the destination on my ticket, to which he responded IN FRENCH, “Next station.” Thank God I took a year of French in collage because right then and there that’s all the French I could remember. Well, almost all of it anyway.
I got off at the next station where my host, Paul Rostig (who is from CC South East Portland ironically enough) met me. I felt like I came upon dry land after being at sea. It’s amazing how stupid you can feel when you don’t know how to communicate with someone. I felt dumb and unintelligent. (We all know that my intelligence is always in question, so lets just assume I have some for the sake of this story, shall we?) I could talk to someone again which, for me, is a big deal. Paul is the pastor of CC Berlin. He has been here for almost three years now as a missionary. At the moment, a guy named Luke from the States is staying with him helping Paul. Luke is/was a Bible college student in Siegen and is trying to decide what the Lord wants him to do. So I had two red-blooded Amuricans to be around. We had lunch, a traditional German broccoli, potato, and sausage soup. It was leftovers from a lady in the church. Jess makes something similar so I liked it. The church here rents from a Bretheren Church so they meet in the evenings. We headed over at about three and Paul showed me the space next door that they recently rented for themselves and are renovating. The church is in a particularly rough part of town. Most of the people are poor Turkish immigrants. This space used to be a Turkish men’s club. That doesn’t mean the same thing as it does in the US. Here, its basically the place where the Turkish men get out of the house, talk, and smoke. Much smoke. So the church is ripping everything out. Floor tiles, ceiling panels, wall paper, carpet, all the way down to bare concrete. (See pictures below). When it’s done they will be able to meet whenever they want, of which I am jealous.
It’s small church with a lot of potential. They get about 6-10 neighborhood kids every week. Not families, just the kids. Blacks and Turks. So there is some great outreach potential there, especially when the new space is ready. They had worship, some songs in German, some songs in English. They were all familiar songs, some just sing in German. With the overheads I could kind of sing along, but not really. Then I taught something I had taught before, but I thought would be good for these guys. I also wanted to do something familiar because Paul was going to be translating. Let me tell you, that is weird. Having to start and stop and maintain your train of thought. I can’t do that very well normally, so this was definitely a new and weird experience. But it went ok. About half the people there had some English skills so it wasn’t too bad. There was one girl there from Ukraine who is a professional translator and she said she appreciated how I tried to speak in short and clear sentences, and that that makes it easier on the translator. That felt good.
They had some cake, some sandwiches and drinks afterward. Paul invited people to come and meet me and offered to translate if needed. Right away a girl came up who had some English, enough where we could get by. She was a new Christian (a year old I think) and was faced with a difficult decision. I had talked about how God tests those He loves to make them stronger, how He wants us to pass those tests, and gives us His Holy Spirit to give us the ability to pass. The choice she was facing was one where her old self, the flesh, would have chosen one thing, and the Spirit would have chosen the opposite for her. She was wondering why we had to do things God’s way when our ways can seem so much simpler and convenient. On the one hand it seems like a no-brainer thing. We do things God’s way because we are God’s people and we love Him. On the other hand, the choice isn’t always that easy to up and make, especially when it costs us what we can’t foresee. I tried to encourage her with Jesus’ example. He didn’t want to go to the cross, but he surrendered His will to His Father’s will, and look at the results. I also tried to encourage her with Joseph’s story, how he could have thrown in the towel several times and bailed on God all together, yet he chose God’s way above his own, and many people were saved alive. When we choose to do things God’s way, it may be miserable for a time, but God always has a good end in mind. We can’t see that end so it makes it all that much more difficult. That’s where faith comes into play. That’s what I tried to help her understand. Because of some stuff in my past, I was able to identify with her (to a point) and relay this message.
I think that conversation was the reason God had me come to Germany. Until that moment, I had no idea why I was here. I wasn’t learning or seeing anything in particular. I was meeting new people, getting some different perspectives on things, but that was about it. During and after my talk with this girl, I believe I really felt the Lord saying, “This is why I have you here.” That felt good. That made the jet lag, the unusual sleeping conditions, altered diet, and no mochas all worth it. I really pray she chooses God’s way in her situation, and that she will remember this day when the pay off comes, which could be years or decades from now.
Something else I have learned, especially tonight as I interacted with people from a church in a foreign country, is that people face the same struggles. What I mean is, they face the same choices, though the circumstances that bring them to these choices may be radically different. The kinds of choices and struggles we all face are things like, do I trust God in this situation, whose wisdom am I going to listen to, is God really my God, do I really believe He loves me has has what’s best for me? Our source of joy, hope, peace, justice, all of it comes from the same place; Jesus. We tend to think that our struggle, our situation is unique and special. It isn’t. Countless people have been there, done that, and come to the same conclusion (hopefully), which is that Jesus is the only answer. German, British, Ukrainian, Albanian, American, it doesn’t matter. Those who are in Him are all a part of the same family. We are all brothers and sister with the same Heavenly Father who loves all of us, even if it doesn’t feel like it at the moment.
Tomorrow is my first and only day where I don’t have to travel anywhere. Since last Wednesday its been
drive, sleep, fly, sleep, drive, sleep, train, and sleep tonight. I don’t have to be “on” tomorrow. So here I am, in Berlin, with all of its WWII history, and its supposed to rain all day tomorrow, and all of the museums are closed on Mondays. That sucketh. We shall see. Below are my picts from today. The first is a pic of the outside of the place I stayed in Leipzig. The next two are the train station in Leipzig. The picts don’t do it justice. There is a full mall on the lower level, so it’s obviously a major hub. Then there are a coupe of picts of me teaching at the church, some of the people and neighborhood kids, then some picts from the church here doing some remodeling. Enjoy!