On prayer walking

The Dom

We’ve been in Cologne for five days now, but it seems like we’ve been here for ages! It is so easy to become swept up in the culture of this place and its quirks and charms. The public transportation may be an endless maze, but we haven’t gotten lost yet. Learning German has proven difficult for the four of us, and we’re slowly picking up bits and pieces along the way. I can say that one of the main highlights for us all is the abundance of fresh food here. Whether it’s the fruit gelato or the bakeries around every corner, we are thankful for the chance to soak it all in while we can. And it doesn’t hurt that we walk an average of 3-7 miles a day!

So far, one of the biggest parts of our work here has been prayer walking. However, exactly what this means varies drastically, depending on the day, location and guidance from the Spirit. Sometimes we walk around our quiet street or by the fields behind our apartment, praying for the people who live in the houses we pass. There is an abundance of wildflowers along that path, and I’ve enjoyed stopping to pick a bouquet as a physical reminder of God’s grace as I’ve been feeling very inadequate this week. Compared to some of my team members, I feel spiritually immature and less equipped to do work here in Cologne. It’s so easy to compare myself and my feelings of frustration to the seemingly endless joy that others around me appear to possess.

Today’s prayer walking was especially different, as we walked in the busy section of downtown Cologne, around the famous cathedral (called “the Dom”). It’s essentially the main hub of the city, with a massive train station and its location on the Rhine river.  The Dom was originally constructed with the same material as that of other famous European cathedrals (like the Notre Dame), but due to the unique air composition in Cologne, the exterior has turned to an ashy black. It’s a striking symbol for such a broken city. As we walked along the Rhine with two of our missionary contacts, Danny and Fran, we looked for opportunities to meet people and potentially share the Gospel. My group walked for about an hour but spoke to no one. Every person we approached dismissed us when we offered to pray for them. For a city so full of life, most people become instantly guarded when Jesus’s name is brought up.

These prayer walks are actually my first foray into street evangelism, a concept that terrifies me. I’m already reserved when it comes to new people, but it’s a whole new game when you’re approaching someone to talk to them about something so important. I’m a somewhat cynical person, and when I try to imagine what I would think of a stranger coming up to me like this, I grimace. However, it’s become apparent quite quickly that the only way evangelism proves effective is through the power of the Spirit. So as I walk, I pray that the Spirit would be the one who prepares the hearts and minds of those we pass to truly listen to us, as well as to prepare my own heart for whatever may happen. The last thing I want to do is come off as manipulative or shameful. A lot of these people have been damaged by the church and just have too much baggage. Yet, I know that I feel called to be here in Cologne for the time being, so I’m trying my best to remain open.

In closing, I would like to suggest a few ideas for prayer if you are willing to pray for us. Please pray that we would continue to adjust well to a new culture. Please pray that the Spirit would be working in each of us and that we would resist the temptation to compare ourselves to each other. Please pray that there would be harmony amongst our team, who may each be here for different reasons. Please pray for the missionaries that we are working with, who have so graciously opened their lives and hearts to us for the next couple of months. Please pray for peace, for this city and for each one of us. Thank you.

Ciao (they actually say that here)!

-Jess

 

And we’re here!

“Do you speak Russian? How about Chinese?” the immigration officer asks me. It’s hot in this airport after waiting in line for over half an hour and missing my connecting flight. I can feel the sweat seeping through my old travel sweatshirt. It’s not helping that this guy is. . .well, absolutely gorgeous.

“Nope. Just English and some French,” I finally answer, caught in the daze of the heat and hours of cross-atlantic travel. The odd conversation concludes with a thud of the new stamp in my passport and an enthusiastic assurance that, “You have picked the ugliest city in all of Germany to visit.” Thus began my foray into Europe, the place I’ve dreamed of visiting since I was a child. Not even a missed connection flight (and subsequent ride by myself across an unfamiliar country) or the weight of jetlag could drag me down.

The first hours were filled with a cacophony of new and surprisingly familiar experiences. After connecting with my missionary contact, I stood with a host of others in the airport, waiting for the rest of the team to come into sight. I certainly didn’t speak their language(s), but I understood them all the same. Finally united, we journeyed to a Starbucks in the middle of the airport and sipped tea with milk as we caught up on the particulars of the past month spent apart. New place, same old habits. And as we walked through the market near our apartment, we marveled at the tiny strawberries and tried juice that tasted like mint and tomatoes (which I might add is just as disgusting as it sounds). Of course, the chocaholic in me rejoiced as I stumbled upon the chocolate section, filled with bars of the rich German delicacy. We rode a crowded bus to our street, and I silently gave thanks for the little pleasantries that make this place alive with culture and history.

I suppose I could tell you about a million other things that happened today, but part of the transiency of life is accepting that some things are better enjoyed privately while their memory lasts. We are thankful for safe travels and good health as we rest in our lovely little apartment. The picture below is my chosen spot for writing, a window above the fields behind our building.

Until later,

-Jess

Before the Adventures Begin

Hallo meine Freunde!

If you don’t know me, my name is Jess Smith. I’m the appointed blogger for the team, and while we aren’t leaving for another week and a half, I thought it would be a good idea to introduce you to everyone. I am planning on updating the blog on a biweekly basis, so feel free to subscribe using your email if you’d like to stay updated along the way.

Also, in case you aren’t familiar with what it is exactly that we’re doing, here’s a brief refresher. On June 1, my team and I will fly to Cologne, Germany for a two month internship with Greater Europe Mission (GEM). We will have a couple of established contacts with other GEM missionaries in the area. At this time, we don’t have a lot of specifics as far as to what our day to day activities will look like, but we do know that we will be doing a combination of work with refugees living in the area and German speaking people. That being said, here’s my lovely team.

Emily pic.jpeg

Emily Pacchioli

Year: Rising Senior

Major: Viola Performance and Pedagogy

Hopes for the Summer: As part of the Cologne GEM team this summer, I hope to grow in my understanding of how practicing hospitality and sharing musical gifts might send people to Jesus. I am also eager to learn and share as much about languages and food as I am able to!

Prayer Request: Please pray that my team and I would grow in our understanding of Jesus’ perfect love for us, in a way that equips us to turn and love those we are surrounded by. Pray that we would be filled with the Spirit, and strengthened for every good work

sophia

Sophia Lichen

Year: Rising Sophomore

Major: Applied Math/Pre-Law

Hopes for the Summer: I love art especially Monet and Van Gogh, so I would love to see some art if I get the chance!

Prayer Request: My prayer requests for this summer are that I will have a humble and joyful attitude while we are there and that I will be open to sharing the gospel with the people I meet. Danke und bis bald.

anna

Anna Mason

Year: Rising Sophomore

Major: International Relations

Hopes for the Summer: Though I’m sure our time will be filled with triumphs and challenges, I am so grateful for this opportunity to build cross-cultural relationships and share and experience the love of Christ with new friends.

Prayer Request: I would love prayer for patience and grace amidst language differences and culture shock.

me

Jess Smith

Year: Rising Sophomore

Major: Communication and Bible/Theology

Hopes for the Summer: I am really excited for the opportunity to live amongst another culture and learn as much as possible while I’m there! I’ve always loved to travel, but this is my first time in Europe.

Prayer Request: I have a couple of chronic health conditions that can be debilitating, so please pray that I would be strengthened and able to function well.

That’s all for now. Thanks for reading!

-Jess