Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Reflections on Berlin

In reflecting on our time in Berlin - now that we've had some time to process - we've settled to one major conclusion.

We want to be in obedience to God's will for our lives.  Whether that means moving to another continent or serving Him in MN.

There were no light-bulb moments, no voice in the thunder, no dramatic wake-up calls in the middle of the night, just the Truth of His Word which remains constant.  No matter where we are.

"..but you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be My witnesses both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and even to the remotest part of the earth."  (Acts 1:8)

We are His witnesses because of His Spirit dwelling in us and at work in us and through us.  No matter where we are.

So we love with His love.  Even amidst cultural differences, different backgrounds, different scars, different worldviews.  While in Germany, for the most part, it was easy to see people as "just like in America" or "just like us", but working under that assumption can be misconstrued as uncaring or rude. Whether it's bold eye contact, too much familiarity, ignorance of history (the recent history of the wall that divided is huge here - so many stories of pain), or a host of other issues.

And we serve with His hands.  Working to cast aside our own cultural preferences, ingrained ways of doing things, and American sense of entitlement.  The body of believers we got to know in Berlin has a passion for communicating the gospel.  We like to think that we do too.  But so often our passion comes out in $$.  The perfect, colorful sets, the flawless decorations for our programs, the smoothly-running (at least we strive for) sound, lights, service order, you name it.  We want it polished.  And if it's not, well then, we all may be encouraged to dig a bit deeper and honor the Lord with more than 10%.  Without funds or even a desire to understand why all of this could possibly be necessary, somehow the focus stays more firmly on Jesus as the body of Christ joins together to serve wholeheartedly and creatively.

We discovered that there is a cultural "right way" and a biblical "Right Way".  In our Christian culture, we, as Americans, would be appalled to go to an after-church potluck and find bottles of wine and beer available.  Many would "judge" this church, though I haven't found Scriptural backing for doing so.  However, it's not so appalling in a different culture where alcohol is viewed a bit differently.  What other issues are we holding so close to our hearts that love cannot get through them?

Please hear me clearly:  I am NOT referring to anything that is directly spoken against in Scripture; these, we are called to make a judgment within the body of Christ.  (1 Cor. 5:11-12)

We also discovered that we had a very, very full schedule for a family missions trip.  With 5 children along between the two families, we unwisely booked almost every one of our evenings - and after a full day, often didn't get back to the apartment until almost 10.  Looking back, there was definitely not one thing I would say I would rather have skipped, but beforehand, if we had guarded our evenings a bit more carefully, we would have been able to process daily with our children, and they (and we) would have been much more rested.

Also, because of our exhausting pace, I felt very much like one skimming across a body of water in a speedboat when the most breathtaking scenery is under the water.  I know I only caught a hint of this beauty, but much of it is still a mystery to me.  I think it would take a much longer trip for me to feel like I'd really connected and gotten a good feel for the culture and people around me.  Because of  this, some of my comments about Berlin may seem vague, but that's exactly right.  It's vague because I have no right to speak specifically, having only seen the very surface, and that at high speed.

All-in-all, it was a wonderful experience.  I'm glad we took some of our children - they both kept journals and had plenty of experiences they'll never forget.  I pray that they also experienced spiritual changes and growth that may be more evident even years down the road.

Thank you to all who helped to fund our trip!  We so appreciate your generosity and care for us.

To those in Berlin:  We are so privileged to have gotten to know you all in a small way!  You help to color in for us a part of the vastness of the body of Christ.  Your hearts are beautiful.  Thank you for allowing us to come and serve alongside you.      

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Ich weiss nicht vo ich bin.

Saturday was a day to see Berlin.  This is right outside the front door of our flat.

Most of the day was spent doing this.

Riding the trains was one of the boys' favorite parts.

Our first stop was to see the wall remnants.  There were many stories similar to this posted around the site.  

24 years ago, this picture would not have been possible. Caleb stands in West Berlin, Sam stands in "no man's land".  With this kind of dramatic history so recent, it comes into direct play when considering the current spiritual state of Berlin.

Here you can see the guard tower, both sides of the wall, and no-man's land.

TV tower

Berliner Dom

We did not go inside this cathedral because of the expense and the wait.

Wandering the thought-provoking holocaust memorial.  Approximately 2100 concrete blocks, each symbolizing 3,000 Jews killed.  As we wandered through, we felt feelings of disorientation, isolation, coldness, and uncertainty.

Brandenburg Gate
What impressed me most about this feature was that Napoleon and his army marched through here.

Reichstag in the background.


Inside the Reichstag.  Many mirrors help direct solar energy.

Looking up out of the center of the Reichstag - completely open year-round - rain and snow is collected below.

Down the center of the Reichstag, directly below the dome.

As we walked up and up and up, we listened to a recording of significant sights around us - we had a great view of much of the city.

Walking through the Tiergarten

It was a full, full day - we ended it with some good ice cream - our feet were thankful to be home at the end of the day.  
All-in-all, a good ending to our trip.

Stay tuned for trip reflections.

Health update:  The stomach virus that started with Sam has trickled from person to person, one at a time, until almost everyone in each family has gotten sick.  Others in the church also have gotten it, and it has started to spread through family who stayed behind in our home state since we've been home.  Obviously, whatever it is, it is very contagious!  Please pray that this bug will stop!

Location update: As of posting this blog, all are home in the states, although not "home home".  Our family is spending a few days in Kansas, where we needed to go anyway to pick up our younger 3 boys.  It's a treat to be able to recover from jet lag without the typical responsibilities of being in my own home and getting everything back in order.

*Post title translation: "I don't know where I am."  (It was a whirlwind tour - and those who know me know I'm directionally dysfuncional in the best of circumstances)