November of 2015 marked our two year anniversary of being in Dresden Germany, and as of January, 2016, we have officially ended the “opening phase” of our ministry here. We had a wonderful time visiting many of you in the Napa area over Christmas and New Years, and to all those in the Springfield area or around the country, we are sorry we weren't able to make it there this time. For all those who we were not able to talk with, we'd love to share an overview of what we have been up to these past two years, how God has lead and guided us in this time, and what our plans are for the coming years. And, if you'd like to get even more info, just let us know and we can send your our full two-year report. It has been a whirlwind couple of years, but we can say without a doubt that Dresden is now our home! We love the city; we love the people we’ve been able to meet and work with; and we feel more strongly than ever that this is a place where God wants us and can use us!
As you probably know, when we arrived in Dresden, we started working with an established church that has been here in Dresden for over 100 years. Forum Hoffnung - or, "Forum of Hope" - has turned out to be a wonderful place for us to grow and learn. Over the past two years, we've been able to gradually take on more responsibility as we become more comfortable with the language and culture. We've been involved in the music ministry, youth group, summer camps, parent-baby groups, and just the general life of the church, and we have made so many great friendships here. When we came to Dresden, we knew that wanted to stay here long-term, and that our ultimate goal after the first two years was to branch out from the existing church and reach new parts of the city and population. We’ve always known that we want to do this work with a team of people, so throughout these past two years, we’ve kept our eyes and ears open for what people and opportunities God might bring into our lives. Through this process of exploring what God might have for us for the future of our ministry, we and our leaders at Kontaktmission have come to the decision to stay in the Forum Hoffnung church as members. This will be our “church home,” but we will be pulling back from much of the leadership of church-specific activities and focusing our efforts on new areas outside of the church, such as...
Work with Refugees
News of the refugee crisis in Syria and throughout the Middle East has reached around the world. The numbers are hard to pin down, of course, and we have not heard an official word yet on the final status for the year 2015, but as of November, about 900,000 refugees had come to Germany in 2015, with 500,000 coming just in the months of September through November. No matter what one makes of this incredibly complex political situation, the fact is, the people are already here, and they will continue coming in the same or even greater numbers for the foreseeable future, and it is absolutely our duty and privilege as Christians to be a friend to our neighbors in need. We feel very strongly that part of why God has placed us here is to help meet these needs.
Elyse has already been involved in some large projects with a camp outside of Dresden. She and her group of international ladies heard about a camp that had a lot of families and young children and few volunteers or staff from the Red Cross. They decided to put together some care packages for the families — boxes with blankets, toys, crayons, flashlights, backpacks for the older kids, etc. One of the ladies decided to ask the local IKEA if they would donate some cardboard boxes. Instead, they donated nice big plastic boxes and €3,000 worth of IKEA products to fill them! The Dr. Bronner soap company has also been very generous in donating items and offering to pay for medical care for all the expectant mothers in the camp!
The ladies also helped to set up a special women's center at the camp, and hope to keep doing similar projects at other camps in town. These projects have all been through the international ladies group, but there are many different opportunities and a variety of ways we can help in the future. For about a month, Ryan has been going to a camp to teach guitar and drum lessons to kids and young people there. There's a chance to teach free German lessons to the refugees to give them a jump start on what they will eventually have to learn in order to make a life in Germany. There is a camp opening up close to the church sometime this year, and another one opening very soon on the grounds of a Christian school. Members of our church will be involved in helping at these camps, providing entertainment for the kids, programs for the adults, and basically anything we or they might think of. We will continue to explore ways that we can be more involved with the refugees, to work alongside both our church and the greater community in the city, to meet the needs of these refugees and to show them God’s love. Thank you thank you to all those who have donated specifically to help the refugees in need!!
...and Café Ministry
Since before we moved to Germany, one vision we’ve had was to open or be involved with a Cafe ministry. What if church could be held in a more neutral, third space, where people can more easily come and go? A place where conversation between people of different faiths and backgrounds can be encouraged. A place where music, arts, coffee, and food can draw people in and create an atmosphere where relationships can be made and deepened. As it turns out, there is already such a Cafe project in Dresden! The place is called “A30,” named after it’s address, Alaunstraße 30, and the location is right on one of the busiest streets in the New Town part of Dresden. There are already a lot of different events happening throughout the month, like open mic nights, literature readings, Sunday brunch, and concerts. We’ve already been able to be a part of prayer meetings, planning and vision sessions, a little renovation, and also a few of the events, but we’re really excited to have more time this year to invest into this project. It’s a wonderful space, and an inspiring group of people who are already well on their way to establishing something great. As we write this, there are some open questions about whether or not the current group will be able to continue renting the space, but even if that falls through, there are still opportunities with this group in a new location or possibly with the new renters coming in, so that's definitely something to pray about!
Waiting for baby...
Of course, the main thing at the very front of our minds at the moment is, when is this baby going to come?!? It's the evening of March 15th as we write this, and so far, no major signs of the baby coming any time soon. But, we are less than a week away from the due date, so anything could happen! We are so excited to be able to welcome this new little guy into the world soon. And Oliver is very excited to meet his little brother too!! We appreciate all your prayers for Elyse, for the birth, and for our whole family as we prepare for this big change!! Thanks for reading!