Ali* and her husband Richard are pastoring a church in north Berlin, Germany, where they live with their four children and serve with European Christian Mission (ECM). Richard and Ali minister in both German and English, reflecting the diversity of Berlin, which is a global hub for artists and musicians, and a key migrant destination.
God continues to take us on a path full of strange twists and turns here in Berlin. In the weeks leading up to Christmas, we were thrilled to have more people join us for church and this time, more German speakers. It seems clear that we need to continue to work hard at this language, seeing there are so many mother-tongue speakers wanting to join us. It does feel like running with a sprained ankle, pastoring in a language not your own. It’s a constantly humbling experience.
We have been working through the Book of Mark and seeing the unfolding plan and purpose of the Father in sending his Son for us. Our Welsh friend was especially impacted. After a Sunday service talking about God inviting us into his family, he headed to the pub for a beer (some things in life are just common across cultures!). He welled up with tears as the song ‘We are a family’ came from the speakers and he said that “I just started crying and I felt like my tears were diluting my beer.” Please pray for more diluted beer in Berlin!
We’ve also been joined by a family who had become Christians a few months earlier, through a martial arts instructor and a Christian midwife!
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We continued to hope for a favourable outcome to use the shop front that is located across the road from our apartment as a meeting space for our church, but sadly through bureaucratic obstacles, we were unable to secure it. This was a huge disappointment for us. However, we press on and continue to scout out locations to meet in our area. We wonder if it was really suitable anyway. If a church doesn’t have at least a small space for kids to run around in, can you really call it a church? We are now looking into either dance studios or school halls.
As our second COVID Christmas came closer and we were still meeting in our lounge room, we decided that we shouldn’t let the opportunity of a Christmas service slip by. We realised that many people we knew who probably wouldn’t come to church normally would potentially come to a Christmas service. And they did! We were squashed in our lounge room; our little dog got dressed as a reindeer and brought in presents; we sang German carols and taught some Aussie ones. The number of kids grew suddenly from three to ten, which thrilled our eight-year-old to bits.
As soon as Christmas was over, a new host of lockdowns was brought into effect. Here we go again! We were permitted a maximum of ten people in our lounge room and we were averaging 20. So half of us are tuning in online and half are present. It’s complicated but we are going with it. Sadly, it has made it difficult to invite those back who came to the Christmas service. Already, members of the church have offered their lounge rooms to tune-in online and create little micro gatherings. At least they can have fellowship and pray with others. I wonder how many other gatherings of only 20 members have suddenly become multi-site churches?
As we settle into the new year, we feel full of anticipation for what God is doing …
As for the people, our Arts student and the Puerto-Rican mum have become part of the core leadership group and we pray for the church regularly together. We’ve also been joined by a family who had become Christians a few months earlier, through a martial arts instructor and a Christian midwife! They had been on the search for a church and we are looking forward to them being baptised soon (once it gets warmer).
So as we settle into the new year, we feel full of anticipation for what God is doing and continue to remember to look to him to give us everything we need.
*Surname withheld for security reasons