What runs around like all its Christmas' have come at once while everyone else around it is groaning? An Australian when they see it snowing in their city for the first time! On Saturday last week Berlin got 2cm of snow, and another 3cm fell on Thursday night. While everyone else is bemoaning the cold and increased work that the snow presents, we have been running around like tourists, taking photos, having snow fights, kicking up snow and making right royal fools of ourselves. We've learnt a few things over the past week:
- It's actually true that snowflakes are 6 pointed stars with intricate patterns, and can be quite large.
- Snow is not always hard and wet. As long as it's cold enough, it is soft and powdery, and will stay that way on the ground for as long as it stays cold.
- There are magical elves that come and sweep the snow off the paths and road within hours of it snowing. We haven't seen any yet, but that's the only explanation we can think of for how the snow is so promptly cleared after it snows.
- If your ears are hurting, it's not cold. Cold is when you stopped having any feeling in your ears a long time ago, and talking is getting hard because your cheeks are hard and numb.
Of course, the reality of snow is that while it may be beautiful, it is also very cold. This morning we went for a walk in a beautiful forest. It was sunny, but there were just enough clouds for snow to be glittering through the sunlight as it fell, landing on our jackets where we could marvel at the intricate patterns of the flakes. Everything was silent but for the creaking of trees as they swayed slowly back and forth, and the atmosphere was magical. However, we couldn't enjoy it for too long, because it was so cold, -14°C!
This contrast of beauty and hardship is similar to some of the experiences we are having in church at the moment. This Sunday we are starting something new, a course called Mizizi. Mizizi is the Swahili word for roots, the course was developed by Mavuno to show new Christians and to take old Christians back to the roots of what it means to be a disciple. When Mavuno first started, it was done by every member of Mavuno, and since then it has been the first step for everyone to get involved in Mavuno. The course has been translated and adapted to German culture, and it is our hope that this course will help inspire people to get out of the church and into the culture around them, shining as bright lights on tops of hills.
In order to emphasise the importance of this course and ensure that everyone does it, we are doing it on Sundays. Every second Sunday, we do it instead of church, in our homes, and every other Sunday, we do it as part of church. This has been met with considerable resistance. Many people are worried that without a church service every week we will lose our commitment, and others are worried about what will happen if visitors come on the weeks that we don't have church. Most weeks we do get some visitors, but they are always Christians. Jesus said that it's not the healthy that need a doctor, but the sick. If only healthy people visited a doctors surgery, there would be no need for the doctor to be there. Similarly, if only Christians are visiting our church on Sunday, there is no need for us to be there on Sunday. Those Christians that do visit will be more than capable of finding another church, and we consider it no loss that a Christian that might have joined our church didn't — Christians swapping churches does nothing to build the kingdom.
Please pray for our congregation, that they will understand the reasons behind why we are doing what we are doing. Please pray that the Mizizi course would inspire them to engage the society outside the church; we would love nothing more than the result of doing Mizizi to be that our church as one, stops and says "Hang on, why are we spending all our energy running church services when no one is coming to Christ as a result? Let's stop, focus our energy on engaging with people outside the church, and draw them into church, and then start putting energy into doing church services again." If that were to happen, it would be a miracle. Fortunately, God is in the business of miracles, so please pray!
Beth and James in the church carpark.