We do not change the world; the world changes us.– Sign from the Reformation site
The world changes people through environment, friends, church, family, technology, government, prosperity, poverty. We cannot hope to reach the world, the people around us, by isolating ourselves, and hoping someone else will do “the job”; we reach people by interacting with a foreign culture—geographically and spiritually. We are, after all, all foreigners here: It’s not our permanent home.
But the question really is how. How are we able? It is most certainly not about us empowering ourselves to do these things, but allowing God to convict us of giving up our summer vacation to spend time and love across the ocean or even our backyard.
This summer, it was about God softening our hearts by walking the beautiful streets of Potsdam, Wittenberg, and Berlin. God loosened us by showing us and helping us understand their rich history and dropped the weight of the world upon our shoulders and broke our comfortable hearts. A mission trip is all about surrendering our agenda to make way for the will of the King.
Learning lessons through being flexible
Our team’s theme for this trip was flexibility. The many delays leaving Newark and the many delays leaving Germany, and just as many inconveniences during our time tugged for the groans to escape our mouths, or the dismayed facial expressions. Bad weather, miscommunication, sore feet, and tiredness were all ways in which Satan attempted to throw us off of our mission. That was an important lesson the team experienced together: When Satan sees that God is doing something awesome, he tries to throw in small inconveniences on hectic days to distract us from our missions in his controlled land.
The tricky thing is that we don’t always catch that Satan is distracting us, and even more alarming that we don’t always catch that God is planning to do something amazing either. Take, for instance, a German “daycare”, The Arche. Our main purpose was to go to this children’s sanctuary to play with and encourage the kids and share a Bible study; it seemed simple enough. However, these kids were in desperate need for a reliant source of love and care. So, they come to the Arche to receive fun social time, nutritious meals, and a Bible study.
Now, our view of encouragement as Americans looks different than how it was played out. We picture sitting down in a room, reassuring them that God has it covered. Sure, there was some of that, but it looked more like throwing a basketball with a child who may or may not speak the same language as you. The Arche is a small puzzle piece, only one, but it completes the puzzle, allowing a way for an avenue for the gospel. It was only one visit in the plan, but God touched lives through that one experience, and left imprints on both lives. We went in with a flexible plan. Did we accomplish it? Perhaps, but it was less about checking the box of teaching the kids what the Bible says and more about living it.
“God is already in this land”
It was a blessing to serve in the beautiful city of Potsdam, where the city was in full bloom with colorful flowers and a quiet buzz of the city. However, there was a solemn mood lingering underneath our first impressions. Roughly ninety percent of the German population is either agnostic or atheist. Here in the south, almost everyone you meet is somewhat religious. In Germany, generations and generations of atheism have been passed down, and now, the peoples’ hearts have hardened.
Church planters are faced with a mound of bricks, and only able to use a tiny, toy hammer to inch their way in. That’s why connections and building relationships were so important! However, despite these intimidating odds, God had a different approach to a new and completely different culture: “fear is not an option.” He has gone before us. Our mission was to be faithful and true to what God had in store for both the German and the American. “God is already in this land; it’s just the land needs to remember God” (Pastor Steffen).
A new normal
The 2017 Germany trip was an eye-opening, heart-blessing, and soul changing experience. Why? It was exposure to a new society, new way of life, and both unimaginable shock and welcome, and that’s why people should consider joining a mission team. After you return, your normal routine is not so normal anymore. The simple act of picking up a bottle cap and placing it on your dresser can remind you to pray for all the wonderful people you met back in that country, or praying for your own city and peers. Now what? How will you choose to influence your world?
To learn more about Fellowship’s work in Germany and how you can get involved, contact Jimmy Thomas ( ).