February 2017

Greetings from Dresden!

For the first time really since we've been here, we had a "real" winter this year. Lots of cold days, and lots of snow so we could get some good sledding in with Oliver! We enjoyed the winter - and as you can see in the video below, downtown Dresden looks beautiful in the snow! - but we are also not *too* sad that things are thawing out now :-)

Papa Rocco bringing Ollie to school.

And here's the sled parking at Ollie's school!

Speaking of downtown Dresden, just last week, February 13th marked the 72nd anniversary of the bombing of the city in WWII. If you want to know a little bit more about that, you can read our blog post from several years ago. This year, the events around the anniversary were a bit different than usual. For one, it was the first time that one of us has gone downtown on the night of the 13th to participate in the "human chain." After a small ceremony with a few speeches, people fan out around downtown, even across two bridges over the river, and form a chain that circles the area downtown that was completely destroyed in the bombing. At 7:00pm, all the church bells ring, the people join hands, and there are about 10 minutes of silence in remembrance of the night. We've heard the church bells before, and we knew about the human chain, but being there in person was a completely different and meaningful experience. It's so hard to imagine what it might have been like to be there, but in certain moments, the weight of that history really does come alive! Later in the evening - when the church bells ring again to mark what was the actual start of the raid - Elyse and I were reflecting on how the people in our building must have been hiding in our basement at that exact time 72 years ago. We live about 2 miles from the very center of downtown, and our building itself survived, but the bombing did extend out to our neighborhood, and many of the buildings right next door to us were destroyed.

The section of the chain where I was standing.

Candles lit in the center of downtown, in the square by the Church of Our Lady.

The second thing that was very different about this year, was the presence of two temporary exhibits in downtown Dresden, coinciding with the anniversary of the bombing, both of them having to do with the ongoing refugee crisis. The first was right in the center of it all, in front of the Church of Our Lady. Three huge buses were stood on end, a sculpture recreating a scene from Aleppo, where civilians erected three burned out buses as a barricade against sniper fire. The sculpture itself was done by a Syrian-German artist who currently lives in Dresden.

The Dresden installation, called "Monument," on the left. On the right, the inspiration, an image from the civil war in Syria.

The buses were certainly an imposing sight, and a sober reminder of the ongoing conflict in Syria, but for me, the second exhibit was even more moving. On the square outside the Dresden Opera house, Semperoper, 90 large print photographs were laid out in a big circle. On those photos, were images of the graves of refugees who had drowned in the Mediterranean Sea. Most of those graves are located on the Sicilian Island of Lampedusa. In 2016 alone, more than 5000 people drowned trying to make their way across the sea and into Europe. The exhibit is meant to be a reminder of the human cost of wars, and also as a way to honor the Sicilian people who - for over 20 years - have had to face such an influx of refugees, and in the face of so much sadness and death, have even at times opened up their own family graves to those who have lost their lives at sea.

The "Lampedusa 361" exhibit.

These installations were very controversial for Dresden - for taking away the focus on the bombing remembrance, or for having a too left-leaning/liberal perspective, for example. We can certainly understand that some would feel hurt, that these things overshadowed the history of Dresden, especially for those who lost someone in the bombing or lived through it. But, we also completely understand why the artists and the city decided to show these exhibits precisely at the time of the bombing anniversary. It's exactly the time when people remember that, even though Dresden is rebuilt and doing well now, it was not always that way. This city and its people have also seen the tremendous cost of war and conflict. We are doing ok here now, but other places in the world are most definitely not.

The entire topic of refugees is, of course, a very current and *very* hot-button issue in American politics right now as well. While we don't necessarily shy away from getting political in other contexts, or in face to face conversation, that's not the point of this post! We just wanted to share about what we've been seeing here in Dresden this month, and most importantly to just say THANK YOU! to everyone who has given to support our work with refugees here! You've been very generous the past few years, in fact, so generous that we still have money left to use specifically for refugees. Elyse is continuing to do a few projects with her mommies/ladies group, like knit blankets for refugee babies and distribute them in the hospital. Ryan is also still giving music lessons in one of the camps in town, and is working with the director to keep finding ways to best use the money we have to support these families and individuals who are in such need.

Thank you, God bless, and until next time!

- The Dillons

Fall 2016 Update

What's New with the Dillons

We truly cannot even believe it, but we have been in Dresden for almost three whole years! The time has flown by, and it just seems to keep going faster and faster. Our little Felix is now almost six months old! We try to keep everyone updated in smaller bits and pieces through Facebook or other contacts, but since we haven't sent out an email in awhile, we wanted to give an overview update of 2016 so far. It's safe to say there's been a lot of changes, and a lot about this year that hasn't gone quite like we'd imagined, but it's still been a wonderful year, and we are getting more and more excited about what is still coming too!

Refugee Work

As we entered into 2016, the refugee crisis was in full swing. Germany and much of Europe was truly overwhelmed by the flooding in of people who were forced from their homes in the Middle East and Africa. We saw the needs of the people and the opportunity we had just by being here and being available, and we wanted to jump on it. Elyse helped set up a women's center and get funding for the medical needs of moms and families. Ryan taught music lessons for kids and adults, and was looking into helping them learn German. A new refugee home was opening close to the church. And, you guys, our team back in the States jumped in and sent money and donations like clothing to us, and we were able to distribute it so you could help people with what they needed most! And then, it all kind of slowed *way* down. It's not that there's no one coming anymore, or that the people need less help, or even that the situations in these countries have gotten that much better. But, many European countries tightened their borders, which made it harder for people to make it to Germany, and once those already here started getting processed and placed, the camps got emptier and emptier. The one where they built the women's center is basically shut down. The camp by our church did open, but it may not be around much longer. The camp where Ryan helps and does music lessons went from having over 1000 people to just about 300-400. Now, there's still much to do, and we are getting involved where we can - like still doing music lesson - but, it's looking like for the rest of 2016 and into 2017, this is not going to be as big of a focus of our ministry as it had been. Thank you for all your prayers and all your donations - we even still have some money that we need to find the best use for! - and please keep praying for these people, for their countries and governments, and when you see all the sadness on the news, remember that you were a part of making things better for a few of these people, and that you can continue to do that in many ways even from home in the States!

 

Café

The second major focus for 2016 that we mentioned in our last big report, was that we would be getting more involved in a Café project in the restaurant and club district of town. This Café is owned by a Christian man and rented by several different churches who work together and provide various events for the people of Dresden, like open mic nights, or weekend brunches, or discussion evenings. This type of project was something that we have dreamed of for a long time, and we were so excited to get more involved. And then (yep, another "and then") throughout the year a few things happened. One, was that the building was going to be rented out to a different group, so that the existing renters would not be able to continue holding their events. This has actually been postponed, but there's also another thing...one of the groups that works there has been having a lot of contact with refugees. Some Christians looking for a community, some Muslims looking for something new, and out of these small events at the beginning, a new church has formed at the Café! And, what's also really amazing, they are turning the space - which was sort of a Cafe but sort of more just an event space - into a full blown Iranian restaurant, when some of the refugees will be working and doing the cooking!! It's amazing to see how much has happened in a short time, and we are so excited for this church and their restaurant! But, since the project has taken a bit of a turn from the vision that we feel God has given us, for reaching out to German people and not just specifically for refugees...we are in the beginning stages of finding our own space to rent and starting up something brand new! It's crazy! It's a lot of work! And we're so excited to finally get on the path to seeing our own vision come to life. We'll need a lot of prayer, a lot of strength, and a lot of good ideas - and hopefully some new team members for the church here or from Kontaktmission - but we would like to find a space and get it up and running by some time early next year. We think it will be a great way to meet people, to create a safe, neutral space where people can discuss spiritual things, not matter they believe or don't believe, and that it will be a great place for us to let our own talents and interests flow into the community as well. So, like I said, even though 2016 is shaping up to be a little different than what we had planned, it's still been amazing, and we can't wait to see what happens the rest of the year! Thank you all, as always, for all your prayers and support, for thinking of us and sending care packages, and emails, and Facebook messages. We appreciate you so much, and we can't wait to share more about how this new project is shaping up!

Our First Short Term Missions Group!

 The whole gang

The whole gang

In the beginning of June we had a group of university students from Appalachian State University come for a week on a short term missions trip. It was our first time hosting a real group like that so we were a bit nervous, but it all went really well!

 They got to play at an open mic night at the cafe that Ryan helps out at

They got to play at an open mic night at the cafe that Ryan helps out at

 The group outside of the refugee camp. No photos are allowed inside.

The group outside of the refugee camp. No photos are allowed inside.

 Very excited to be putting flyers in mailboxes! 

Very excited to be putting flyers in mailboxes! 

They did a lot of work in a local refugee camp helping with the kids and also doing some music lessons. They also did some jobs to help out at our church, like go all around the neighborhood putting flyers in mailboxes to help promote an event that the church was hosting. They got to meet with two older men from the church who lived in Dresden during the GDR times and ask them all sorts of questions. This was (maybe selfishly) actually my most favorite part of the week because we got to hear the personal accounts of these two men who we see every week at church but never knew any of the crazy the stories that they've lived. Ryan and I have a major fascination with what life was like in Eastern Germany during the GDR period, so this was a really cool meeting that Ryan set up! The students seemed to really appreciate it as well. 

Of course, working in the refugee camp was the main work that the students were involved in, and hopefully very eye opening. We did mini tours of the Dresden's history Old City, ate some sausage and pretzels, got caught in a few good rain storms, and talked a lot about history, culture, atheism, and eastern Germany's desperate need for more Christians. We hope that God opened their eyes and hearts to what the spiritual situation is here, and maybe some of them will come back to do long term ministry! :-) We can hope, anyway. 

They were here for a Sunday morning service and a few of them played with Ryan on the worship team! One of the young men gave a testimony about their time in Dresden and some things that they have learned. The minister introduced all of them to the congregation, and you could tell that everyone loved having them there! 

 Snuggling Felix was also a favorite activity :-)

Snuggling Felix was also a favorite activity :-)

All in all it was a very busy, exciting, and packed to the brim week! It was definitely a learning process for us but we definitely feel more prepared to host a group again if the event arises. We hope and pray that the group goes back to their university campus full of excitement about what God is doing here in Germany and in Europe. We hope that their experiences with the refugees helps them to be armed with hearts full of love instead of fear and hate, and that they can promote that love to the people around them. We also hope and pray that some of them come mack to Germany someday to help with ministry here. Thank you to those of you who were praying for us leading up to and during their time here! 

In Him, The Dillons