A couple of weeks ago I sat with our teen group and listened as our guest speakers talked over what it means to be a Third Culture Kid (TCK). For those of you not familiar with that term, a TCK is someone whose parents are from a culture that is different from the culture they are currently living in. It’s tough to be a TCK, because many times you find yourself not fitting in anywhere. You are not fully one thing, but a mixture of both that makes you odd in both cultures.
Many times it becomes hard for TCK’s to understand their identity, because they feel like foreigners wherever they go. In a sense they are exiles and many times feel they don’t have a true home in this world.
As I have reflected on this over the past couple weeks, my first response was that this is a sad state. One of our greatest desires is to feel the comfort and security of a home. A place where we can feel safe and feel like we belong, but as I began to think deeper I realized that this is a lie.
As our speakers that evening reminded us, our hope is not found in belonging to this world. It is also not found in fitting into the cultures of our citizenship or new lands that we currently call home. No, we are made to be part of a greater citizenship. A citizenship that seeks to be the best citizens we can right now where God has placed us, but is not so deeply rooted that we forget that ultimately we are all foreigners to this world.
One of the early church fathers Diognetus explained this well when he said,
“Christians are not marked out from the rest of mankind by their country or their speech or their customs … They dwell in cities both Greek and barbarian, each as his lot is cast, following the customs of the region in clothing and in food and in the outward things of life generally; yet they manifest the wonderful and openly paradoxical character of their own state. They inhabit the lands of their birth, but as temporary residents thereof; they take their share of all responsibilities as citizens, and endure all disabilities as aliens. Every foreign land is their native land, and every native land a foreign land … They pass their days upon earth, but their citizenship is in heaven.”
Those that follow Jesus recognize that they are exiles in this world. The first thirty-five years of my life I struggled to understand this, because God blessed me with the comfort and security of living in a place that I considered home. It wasn’t until our family moved to Berlin that I realized what it means to be an exile. Finding yourself separated from what is normal and comfortable helps you recognize that even the safety of your earthly home is not as secure as one might think. Wandering from home brings a sense that even the places in this world that we feel most secure are temporary residences. The early church called these places paroikos (our word for parish, or a temporary home).
Helen Howarth Lemmel wrote so well on this perspective in her hymn Turn Your Eyes Upon Jesus. Her words ring true in the heart of the exile.
“Turn your eyes upon Jesus,
Look full in His wonderful face,
The things of earth will grow strangely dim,
In the light of his glory and grace.”
Helen was a Third Culture Kid herself, having moved from England to the United States when she was twelve years old. Her life was spent wandering this world serving Jesus and in this perspective she penned this beloved hymn. As we look deeper into the face of Christ we must recognize that as children of the King we are all TCK’s. Regardless of whether God has planted us more firmly in one place or chosen a life of wandering for us we must identify ourselves with the exiled Christ, the One who gave up the safety and security of heaven to wander this earth so we could have life.
So we etch the words of Peter to the exiled on our hearts and we hold fast in the testing because it is producing a genuineness of faith that will not perish with the paroikos God has placed us in.
“So that the tested genuineness of your faith – more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire – may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ.”
1 Peter 1:7
May our identity and citizenship be found in the glorious hope of the coming Christ and His kingdom.
This is why we are in Germany. To identify with the exiles that God has placed in this land and share with them of the One who chose to identify with them. The message of Jesus is good news to exiled ears and it is our hope that we will continue to have opportunities to share this good news with those who have not heard. We continue to meet weekly in Reinickendorf with the boys and girls we have been discipling over the past year and a half. As we talk through the stories of the Bible they are beginning to show interest in understanding who God is. Pray that God would open their eyes to who He is.
We have started a new outreach into a refugee camp near our home. We meet with the men in the camp weekly for Coffee and Cake (Kaffee and Kuchen) and this has opened doors for good conversations. I am thankful for fellow workers Abed, Rob, and Brian that I have been working with on this project. Rob has been talking with a Muslim man from Lebanon. He is open to talking about faith and has requested a Bible. Please pray for N. from Lebanon and his family. Both N. and another man (N. from Afghanistan) plan to come to our Open Table tomorrow. Through this monthly event we are seeking to transfer personal relationships to redemptive relationships through discipleship.
We are working on entering a new community this spring with a soccer tournament for men that will seek to bring refugees from different camps from all over the city. We hope this will be a stepping-stone to a weekly outreach in this area. Please pray for relationships with key people that would help us make this happen at Templehof airport. The largest refugee camp in Berlin is located here and it is a central and strategic location for refugees in the city.
Our church community continues to see growth by God’s grace. We have a number of workers who are using their talents to support this ministry. We received a new intern last week. Erin is an incredible artist and has a heart for children. Combined with our current youth director Caleb and our co-worker Kristi who will be returning to lead our youth ministry in April we have a tremendous team in place to reach the youth of our city. Our youth program continues to be a rallying point to engaging families in this city. We are seeing new bridges to families that are cold to the gospel as they see our community love their children. Pray that our continued work in this area would continue to produce good fruit for God’s glory.
Pray also for our church as our pastor’s family (Dye Family) returns to the States for a year of residency this July. They are not only tremendous shepherds, but some of our closest friends. We are excited to see that God is raising up leaders within our community. Our community is in good hands with our German pastor Martin and fellow co-workers, but we pray for God’s wisdom in this transition over the next six months.
Finally, it is encouraging to see God raising up godly men in our city. One of our close friends and co-workers, Franz Martens, is leading the charge to encourage and exhort men from across our city to follow after Christ. Pray that our band of brothers will continue to grow and God would do a great work through the men in this city.
January is a dark and cold month in Berlin. We have been fighting through some sickness as a family, but seem to be coming through the colds, aches and pains over the past couple of weeks. We had a friend send us a box and others that have sent cards. It is an encouragement to know that people are thinking of us!
A highlight from the past month was the opportunity to get away with some of our church staff this past week for winter break. We made our way through Poland (with a quick stop for the ladies to a Polish pottery village and snow ball fight for the dads and kids) to the Czech Republic for two days of skiing. From there, our family headed to Prague for two days to explore the city. Highlights of the trip were seeing Quinn ski for the first time, spending time with close friends and learning new things about the region we live in.
The girls received their progress reports at school last week. They both are doing well and we are proud of their hard work and improvement in areas they were struggling with at the beginning of the year.
Thank you for your prayers and for remembering the ongoing work here in Berlin.
Pray for our church as we transition with our leadership over the next six months.
Pray for new projects to come together and that they will give us new influence into communities to build relationships.
Pray for our continued weekly outreaches that we would be like-minded with those who we are pursuing ministry with and that we would maintain favor with leaders in the communities we are working in.