This time of year reminds me that I am a country boy at heart. There is something about God’s creation that brings peace to our hearts. When the trees start blooming and flowers spring from their winter’s rest there is something inside of me that wants to head for wide-open spaces. Life slows down and seems to be simpler the farther you run from the city. In fact, talking with Cherry the other night we laughed about how we always thought one day we would find ourselves raising our family on a farm in the country, not a bustling European city. After all, kids are made to run free, right?
We struggle with this sometimes. It’s one thing to change your own lives, but to see these costs lived out in the lives of your children can be a tough thing. We left a life of back yards and own rooms for balconies and tight spaces. Helping your child understand why we moved from a place of familiarity and comfort to a place of unknowns and harshness can be a challenge. Children, like us, long for open spaces and fresh air.
So what is it that makes people want to live in cities? They are dark, overcrowded and depressed places, but still our world is rapidly urbanising. I read a book recently that mentioned our world was on pace to hold 86.2 percent of the worlds population in developed regions by 2050 (Um & Buzzard). The book went on to say that regardless of cities being tough places they have played a central role in human history predominately for three reasons. They offer hope, refuge and new beginnings. Cities are magnets for the hopeless, the refugee and those seeking a new life.
So while God does not call everyone to the city, He has called our family. Not to search for hope, a refuge or a new beginning, but because we know where these things can be found. When we recognise the life-giving power of the gospel we run to hopeless places. We give up our own rights and privileges so that others may find new life that is only found in Christ. And as for our kids, we lead them to understand that our lives are more about Christ and less about their own rooms and a backyard. We point them to Christ and show them that our best life is found in looking to the gracious gift that He has provided to us if we will take hold of a life found in Him.
Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped. Philippians 2:5-6
New life has been the theme of our ministry over the past month. The Easter holiday presents opportunities in Germany to share the gospel in ways that are not possible other times of the year. Germany is still considered a Christian nation culturally and the vast majority of national holidays are based around Christian traditions. This gave us the opportunity to organise an Easter Festival in the local refugee camp our church is working in. We had over 20 people from our church take part in this festival and we provided programs for the men, women and children based on the theme of new life. It thrilled my heart to see my brothers and sisters loving refugees with joyful hearts. They were examples of Christ and cool water to thirsty souls. We gave the gospel through explaining the origin of the Easter Egg in German culture and were able to invite families to our Easter service and dinner. One family we have become friends with attended our service and dinner. Please pray for N. and his family as they establish a new life here in Germany and that they would hear the call to new life in Christ.
Cherry and Jeannie did a tremendous job organising our Easter dinner with our church family. It is a blessing to be a part of a growing community and was exciting to see people from so many places come together to celebrate Resurrection day together.
The Easter break also presented a new opportunity to use the bridge of soccer to connect refugees with the church. I helped organise a mini-soccer tournament in the refugee camp we are working in and I met many new men through this event (Pray for D. from Eritrea).
Over the past couple months I have been working with some close friends to establish a platform to organise football tournaments for refugees with the purpose of connecting them with churches here in the city. Our inaugural tournament took place on April 13th and we are excited at the potential of using this platform to connect with refugee communities and to create a greater influence in the city for the gospel. Good conversations have come out of the tournament and this has created the opportunity to meet further with refugees individually.
Our hope is to continue to connect with men from across the city on a monthly basis for soccer and food. We plan to hold larger tournaments like the one we organised in April twice a year. By continuing to develop community in this way, we hope to graciously share Christ with those we encounter and start down a road of discipleship.
This includes drawing men into monthly fellowship through our Open Table. We had a great meeting this past month with food and fellowship. We had a number of men return and some new men as well. Our conversation centered in small groups around the vast differences in culture we see in Berlin and how we can find truth in our current world. This opened up opportunities to talk deeper about spiritual things.
Continue to pray for our boys and girls in Reinickendorf. We are battling hard for hearts with these kids. Their lives are filled with struggle, hardship and influence that would lead them away from God, but we know that these chains of sin and addiction can be broken with the gospel. Pray for our team (Tabea, Cherry, Jeannie, Caleb, Erin, Quinn and Gracie) as we seek to share Christ weekly and shepherd the children that God has called and those who He is knocking on the door of their heart.
Finally, I am grateful for the opportunity to speak at our men’s church retreat this past weekend. The sessions were on shepherding and I taught a session on shepherding in the workplace and in the home. Our main speaker was fellow missionary from the Czech Republic and he communicated well the need for us as men to shepherd those God has entrusted to us. The weekend was a valuable time for our men. I am thankful for three men, Martin, Franz and John, from our church that organised the weekend. They were true examples of godly shepherding.
Our family had a rewarding month, but an exhausting month. We did have a couple opportunities to get away. During Easter break we went to one of our favorite places, Karl’s Strawberry Village, just outside Berlin with some close friends. We also have enjoyed riding our bikes together as a family. Gracie just started riding her bike on her own and she has been puttering along right behind me on our bike rides. Cherry and I met some friends at Five Guys that opened a couple months ago in the city. It was a taste from home:)
Cherry is continuing with her German course four days a week. This is a full-time job in itself and she continues to do it with grace. I continue to meet with a tutor once a week and am speaking regularly in camps and running outreach in German weekly, although I still need a lot of work in getting to a deeper level of fluency! Quinn and Gracie are working hard in school. We are doing our best to support Quinn with some reading deficiencies. Please pray for us as we have wisdom in getting her effective help in this area.
Finally, Thank you for your continued support. We are so thankful for those of you who stand with us. Every now and then a need presents itself and before we even have time to ask, God provides by sending someone to step in the gap. Whether it is providing in a deficiency in our budget or providing a covering of prayer, we recognise there is no coincidence with your financial and prayerful giving that helps us in our time of need. May the Lord bless you for your ministry to our family.
Pray for relationships that are being built and moving toward opportunities to share new life. (Nabil, Pablo, Daniel, Ahmed and many more).
Pray for our boys and girls in Reinickendorf. Specifically, two young men (Daniel and Leonart) that have made professions over the past two years and will be moving to a new school next year.
Cherry and Jeannie are helping to plan our church ladies retreat next weekend. Pray for it to be a profitable time for the ladies in our church.
Pray for God’s will in our housing. Our contract is up in July and we are actively looking at other options. Pray for God’s leading in helping us find the best place where we can see both our ministry and family flourish, whether this is staying where we are or moving to a new location.