With our time here in Berlin quickly coming to an end, we want to give you all a much-needed update on how things are going here. Sincere apologies for not sending an update sooner, but we have and still do appreciate your continual support and prayer. Without your prayers, and the grace and power of God, we could not have done many of the things we were able to during our time here in Berlin.
James has been doing really well in his job and has had many opportunities to share his faith with his colleagues. There have been many occasions where colleagues have come up to him saying they have stumbled upon his personal blog all about our journey of serving God here in Berlin. These people were very interested and some said they could not stop reading it. This has lead to some great conversations between James and some of his colleagues. We believe God is paving the way in these people's lives. The respect James has had in his workplace has lead to many conversations where people would be genuinely interested in why a senior software engineer would move to the other side of the world to help plant a new church. Praise God that he has used James in his job, as well as in his personal blogging to be a witness of God. The numerous times James would come home and share stories of the conversations he had with people at work and the ease at which he felt he could do it has simply been the powerful work of God. Thankyou for those who have been praying specifically for this. James has gradually built up some friendships at work, however it has taken almost a full year to develop these friendships. The German culture makes it even harder to make solid friendships at work, as the German people tend to be more private and to separate work and home life a lot more than Australians. Despite this however, God has still enabled James to build relationships that have the potential to continue to grow once he returns to Australia, with a few of his colleagues. In the meantime, James has enjoyed his job and has enjoyed working here in Berlin. It has been made clear that if we were to return to Berlin, he could easily return to his current job. Praise God for this offer as it keeps doors open for us here if we were to decide to return to Berlin in the future.
James has also been an active member of the music team during his time here in Mavuno Berlin. His presence in the band has been a true encouragement and blessing as he has been able to use his musical giftings regularly in this ministry. Despite some challenges in the music team, James has continually shared how he has been learning humility and meekness, being a valuable lesson learnt and one he can use in ministry in the future. The church have certainly appreciated hearing James' music each Sunday, whether they were in the forms of guitar, bass or keyboard.
We have also been able to enjoy and be fed spiritually in the regular Thursday night prayer meetings. The meetings involve meeting at Dan and Nancy's house with a small group of people who have moved to Berlin specifically for the church plant. Being able to share openly, be fed through the Bible and through fellowship has been a continual support for us both.
Beth has been very busy this year as a full-time intern at the church here. Her role mostly involved working for the children's program in helping come up with creative ideas for the program and outreach events. This opportunity to work as an intern came up after Beth was in conversation one day with Daniel, whilst nannying his son Ferdinand. Beth was sharing her ideas for the kids program and her desire to see it grow and develop. Daniel and Nancy then thought and prayed about the opportunity for Beth to join the Mavuno Berlin staff team as a full-time children's worker. Beth was then officially invited to join them on staff. This was very exciting and a natural progression as Beth had previously been taking care of Ferdinand for the previous 2 months and had given her many opportunities to share her thoughts and ideas with Dan and Nancy whilst being in their home. Her role would involve travelling to Dan and Nancy's (pastors of Mavuno Berlin) house each weekday and working under the supervision of Nancy, in their home. Beth was given the same intern requirements as the Mavuno Kenya interns, and since she had travelled to Kenya in January of this year to see the church, Beth had quickly discovered how exciting it was to join the staff team in the overall mission of the Mavuno church.
Beth's role as an intern was quickly put into practice as she later developed a 12- week Sunday school program called "Mission Possible-step by step with Jesus". It had a secret agents theme and focused on discipling the kids by reminding them of the basics of what having a relationship with God involved. Topics throughout the program included: choosing the right path, perseverance, living through the spirit, understanding your purpose and having a servant heart. Praise be to God who worked in the hearts of the kids during the program, as 4 kids gave their lives to God after being given the opportunity during on one of the weeks. This was a huge answer to prayer and a great encouragement for Beth and the children's leadership team. Beth also ran a 3 day English camp which was a practice run for further English camps to be run by the church in the future. 12 kids attended, and 1 child gave their life to Jesus and another recommitted their life through an alter call. Praise God for working in these children's lives. Each day consisted of worship and a Bible talk, English lessons and games. It was a great time for Beth to get to know the kids and despite it only being a practice run, it has paved the way for future English camps that will be run by the young American missionaries who have recently joined the church plant.
Other activities Beth was involved in included a Blessing Day where volunteers from the church came to help revamp the kid's room by painting, decorating, cleaning and tidying. It ended up looking a lot more kid-friendly and colourful-a great result for all. Another activity was a filming day where Beth spent one Saturday with the kids making a secret agent episode series that would be shown weekly throughout the program. This was a big hit amongst the kids and helped them engage a lot more in the Sunday lessons.
Our German speaking skills have continued to increase each month. We are now able to converse easily with German speakers and have good conversations. Beth has especially enjoyed learning the language, so praise God that this interest has made it a lot easier to learn. James continues to learn also, and we are at a point now where learning vocabulary is our focus, now that we have learnt a lot of the grammar and structure. Beth's role as an intern in the church has given her many opportunities to use her German-especially writing emails and speaking in regular meetings. Beth now also prays in German at prayer meetings, being a big milestone in her learning. Being able to connect with the German's through our language has significantly enabled us to form deeper relationships, this being a big answer to prayer.
Moving onto everyday life here in Berlin, we have felt very blessed by how God has given us some solid friendships with people in the church during our time here. Families have been very hospitable and welcoming our entire time here, with the atmosphere in the church being very warm and friendly. Some highlights have been having dinner at people's houses, travelling to Dresden with a lovely couple over Easter and the continual interest in our well being by members of the congregation. Praise God for how he has cared for us in this way.
Despite so many positives, life hasn't always been easy here in Berlin. Around April this year James and I were finally hit with culture shock and a pretty bad bout of homesickness. It meant we found it harder to be motivated; we lacked energy, our awareness of the cultural differences became more heightened and we were really missing home. But God provided for us yet again and we were happy to welcome John Gray to Berlin at the end of April. Seeing a familiar face and having many encouraging conversations with John was a welcomed encouragement for us both. We were so honoured to have John come all the way to Berlin to visit us. Having the minister of our church patiently listen to us and give us well-needed encouragement and advice was a true blessing. We will always be thankful for his visit. Recently we have also had a few friends visit us from church and this was a well timed blessing as we have been in Berlin for almost 11 months now so seeing more friendly, familiar faces was very uplifting.
Beth's friendships with the people she met in her German class at the beginning of her time in Berlin have continued to grow and have been a great help in allowing Beth balance away from church activities. The many fun times spent with this group has been a breath of fresh air away from the German culture, since the group come from various different backgrounds such as England, Spain and America. Beth has been able to have some good conversations with these people, so please pray that God will work in their hearts to bring them to him. James has also befriended this group and enjoyed many a time together with them, as well as spending time with new work friends.
In June, we decided to take a well-earned and needed holiday. We travelled to France where we both have friends. A highlight was reconnecting with friends in the South of France, who are a great Christian family. This was an encouragement to us both as we are constantly blown away by how God works in people all across the world. Coming together with this family was a reminder of how we, as Christians, are united under God's love. The family took us sightseeing, including a trip to a gorgeous French village off the beaten track. Our holiday concluded with a two-night stay on an island off the coast of the south of France. This was a great time for us as a couple to reflect on a big year, and to enjoy each other’s company with no distractions.
The latest update in the church is the arrival of an American team to help with the church plant. The team comes from North Carolina, from a church called Chapel Hill Bible Church (CHBC). This church has similar connections with Nairobi Chapel like St. Paul's Castle Hill. The team is lead by Roddy Dinsmore, the young adult/music pastor from CHBC. The team consists of Roddy, his wife Katie and their 2 kids, as well as 6 university students ranging from 19 to 23 years old. Their presence is very encouraging in Mavuno Berlin church, and the team is very gifted in ways such as musically, artistically and with kids ministry. We have already formed good friendships with people on the team, especially Roddy and Katie, as we spend many a weekend with them and their 2 young boys. If you want to follow their journey, here are links to their blogs:
To end, our final 3 weeks here in Berlin have finally approached. Our last weeks will consist of packing, tieing up loose ends, meeting with people from the church and farewells with friends. It will also be a time of reflection as we look back on a year of joys, challenges, many blessings and lessons. We have felt very blessed by God the entire time here, so praise God that we end our time here so positively. Please continue to pray for us as we bring this chapter of our lives to a close.
Thanks again for continually praying for us, and we thoroughly look forward to reconnecting with you again in person.