Friday, July 20, 2012

What I Learned in Germany

Earlier this month my family made a 10-day trek to Cologne, Germany and back.  We have some missionary friends there who invited us to stay with them and work alongside them as they strive to touch people there with Christ’s love.  Taking our entire family on this trip was an eye-opening experience for all of us, and I would like to share a little bit about what God taught me.

  1. Patience.  Unfortunately, the first thing I learned in Germany is that public restrooms are not free.  They are not always clean, or supplied with toilet paper.  And they are definitely not always easy to find.  Traveling with children, we naturally needed access to a bathroom many times.  Needless to say, we had many interesting, frustrating, and creative bathroom experiences.  So the Lord brought His Word to mind:  “Be completely humble and gentle; be patient …”  (Ephesians 4:2)
  2. Blind faith.  Cologne’s Cathedral (Kölner Dom) was awe-inspiring.  Its construction began in the 1200s and wasn’t officially completed until 1880.  That’s over 600 years!  This means that the men who designed and began building the cathedral never saw their work completed.  Countless men poured their lives into the building of this masterpiece, knowing that they would never get to see the finished product.  This reminded me of Abraham, Moses, and all the others in the Bible who did not get to see the end result of what they were moving toward.  “All these people were still living by faith when they died. They did not receive the things promised; they only saw them and welcomed them from a distance, admitting that they were foreigners and strangers on earth.”  (Hebrews 11:13)
  3. Trust.  This was the first time I’d been to another country where they speak a language other than English.  It’s a hard feeling to conceive of unless you’ve experienced it, but it can be quite frustrating!  Imagine you’re wandering the streets, trying to find your way, but you can’t read any of the signs.  You try to ask for help, but the people’s words sound like gibberish.  Or imagine that you’re a child trying to join a friendly game of soccer with some other children.  You want to make friends and joke with them while you play, but you can’t understand a word they’re saying.  A language barrier can feel like you’re trapped behind a wall or inside a bubble – you can see what’s happening on the other side of the barrier, but you can’t join in.  It was in these moments that I turned to God the most on our trip.  Because I know that our God can speak any language, I talked to Him whenever I felt frustrated with the communication obstacles.  I found myself relying on the Lord more and more, which is something I know He wants me to do all the time anyway!
  4. Love is a verb.  However, volleyball can be played in any language!  Our missionary friends     hosted a 4th of July/German outreach event while we were there, held in their neighborhood park.  An American mission team from Georgia was on-hand to perform American music     and lead some line dancing.  I attempted the line dancing for one song, but when I saw that there was a group of young people playing volleyball, I opted for that instead.  I bet we played for over an hour, and it was a lot of fun.  It was a friendly game where we didn’t keep score, so there were a lot of laughs.  And even though I couldn’t verbally share Jesus with those kids, I prayed that He would shine through me anyway.  “You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden.  Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house.”  (Matthew 5:14)
  5. Passionate compassion.  God is moving in Germany, and He has a great compassion for the lost there (just as He does for all of His lost sheep everywhere)!  Honestly, for a long time the first thing that came to mind when I thought about Germany was Adolf Hitler and his horrible holocaust of World War 2.  And naturally, that thought does not exactly spring up a well of compassion in me for the Germans.  But through the experience of this family mission trip, God opened my eyes and my heart to a people who are not that different from me.      Immersing yourself in another culture reveals a new world that exists and functions thousands of miles away – but is filled with regular people who do ordinary things every day, and who go through pain and hard times just like everyone else.  As I sat in the train station one night praying for Jeromy and the missionaries who were trying to engage passersby with free coffee and tea, I was suddenly overwhelmed with compassion for everyone I saw.  The God of the universe gave me a glimpse of His unconditional love and steadfast longing for the precious     souls of this world.  “The Lord . . . is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.”  (2 Peter 3:9)
This trip wasn’t your typical mission trip, with lots of pre-scheduled activities.  We were simply one family joining another family for a week, walking alongside them as they live a missional life in the everyday things.  We got to experience grocery shopping there, life without a car in the city, an end-of-the-year school program, along with several trips to some unique playgrounds.  We focused on prayer a lot, tilling and preparing the soil for seeds to be planted. We are so thankful that God gave us this experience, and I know that it opened our eyes to a whole new world of people and opportunities.

1 comment:

  1. Jessica, I enjoyed your journey with you as you sent pictures home...and now I read your blog and feel so blessed that you have shared with us.
    Seems like you truly learned and shared your love for the Lord with the people you met along the way. How lucky for all of you! Blessings and my love are with you.