Listen to this:
“…there is but one God, the Father, from whom are all things and we exist for Him; and one Lord, Jesus Christ, by whom are all things, and we exist through Him.” (1 Corinthians 8:6)
These days, this is all I can still claim to know – and hallelujah, amen! Every other reality, every system of believing is too small now. The world is wide, and how my heart must stretch wide and grow strong in imitation of Christ’s love for all people.
In interacting with so many of Koln’s international population, I keep arriving at how different they are. Could I say anything more self evident? But it’s beautiful, and bewildering. How does God love the whole world? How does he do it? I believe it to be true, for I have glimpsed his common grace revealed in blue eyes and brown hands; in German engineering and Persian hospitality. God is in it all, and these lives cry “Glory! Glory!”
How do we, “those American interns,” fit in? Let me explain:
The diversity of work here is difficult to summarize – certainly impossible to quantify, because it is a ministry of relationships.
The work of this Greater Europe Mission team consists of developing friendships with those they meet in the grocery store, at an English conversation group, during a board game night, a book club meet-up, a street evangelism follow-up, or after handing someone a cup of hot coffee, “umsonst.”
Initially, this is simple enough to join. Everyone needs friends, and everyone can be a friend. The international representation here is endlessly fascinating, and there are many stories to be told.
Segways into the story of Jesus – as it has impacted our own lives, but also every aspect of our surroundings – pop up in the most unexpected places during a conversation. These occurences remind me of Paul’s words to his apprentice-evangelist Timothy that, in season and out of season, he must “…always be sober minded…doing the work of an evangelist, fulfilling [his] ministry.” (2 Timothy 4:5)
This work, however, is also perplexing. Many of the refugee communities we hoped to work with in our preparation are completely inaccessible to us, both because we were denied the government clearance to visit them in the heims, and because when they travel out of the heims, they speak dialects of Arabic that we cannot understand (some also speak beginning German).
As a team of women, we want to make connections with the Muslim women that are taking refuge in the city of Koln. However, for many reasons (familiar cultural rhythms, traumatic experiences in fleeing their homes, etc.), they rarely leave their assigned rooms, or meet us outside of the heims. This is deeply discouraging. In our prayers, we lift these situations up to a God who loved them enough to die for them.
In German contexts, conversation is often shut down immediately upon entering into topics of Christianity, the church, or religion. It is a truly creative work to speak the truth of God’s word in vocabulary that will be received by this post-Christian culture. Thus far, Germans do not hesitate to tell you what they think, which is helpful for living with them, but incredibly difficult when trying to communicate a new consideration of an old, old story.
We recognize that, since our time here is short, we cannot dive into a full-time missionary’s portion, zealous though we might be. Rather, we are finding ways to do little things with great love. Often, this simply means washing dishes, or dancing and reading with a GEM member’s kiddos. Always, it means staying flexible, and praying without ceasing.
It means traveling with a deaf Muslim woman through the maze of Köln’s trains to make sure she finds her German language class safely. It means cleaning and organizing a pastor potter’s studio. It means writing out the truth of God’s love 100 times in five different languages and tying it to bottles of shampoo to deliver to every door in one of Europe’s largest brothels – a legal business in Germany.
It means sitting across a rickety café table from someone who wants to learn English and correcting their grammar while asking them questions about their life. It means walking and walking and walking through each of Koln’s nine districts, asking God that his kingdom might come in every situation we encounter on these streets.
It means rising early to seek God’s face, questioning endlessly and hopefully what all of it might mean, and listening faithfully for what he shows us. It’s nothing dramatic, but I believe it to be water and sunlight on a garden of eternal proportions:
“In the garden of our Savior,
no flower grows unseen
His kindness rains like water
on every humble seed.
No simple act of mercy
escapes His watchful eye
For there is One who loves me
His hand is over mine.”
[Porter’s Gate, Little Things with Great Love]
If you are reading this, it is because you care about us and about God’s name being known in all the earth. This city is truly an intersection of every nation of the world. In light of that, please pray with us:
- Pray for God’s kingdom to come in this city. Pray for healing, pray for justice, pray for the truth to prevail in overwhelmingly evil circumstances. Pray that hearts would be opened and lives would be transformed by the power of the Holy Spirit.
- Pray that our team and the GEM team we work with here would grow in a knowledge of God’s love and in an understanding of what it means to fear and obey the Lord.
- Pray that God would continue to, even in this last week, give us opportunities to share the story of Jesus, and successfully bring our own relationships into contact with the GEM team who will be here when we depart.
Because of Christ Jesus,