From Abroad

Welcoming Generosity

I found myself sitting on the floor at a low table, eating a dish of lightly spiced chicken and rice.

I was enjoying the hospitality of a family who had been total strangers to me until I walked through their door. This offering of generous hospitality to an unknown guest is something that is common across much of the Middle East and Asia. But I was not in North Africa, the Gulf or Central Asia. I was in a small provincial town in southern Germany and my hosts were recently arrived Syrian refugees. There were three generations of them, sharing two rooms in a building quickly converted and fitted out to house refugee families. Bunk beds lined the walls and the building was full of children. Mostly they looked happy. Their current home was temporary but relatively safe and secure. Still, I am sure that behind those smiles were stories of horror and loss that no one should have to experience, let alone a small child.

This provincial town of 5000 permanent inhabitants was a regional centre for incoming refugees – 1700 of them. Reports of the influx of migrants into Europe inevitably quickly turn to numbers. Large numbers. But it is only when you are in Germany that you begin to get a real feel for what the sudden arrival of hundreds of thousands of immigrants looks like in practice. Aside from the scale, the other thing that struck me was the openness of many of these people. Sitting nearby in a café run by Christians that has become more like an Arabic teahouse, I got into a conversation with two brothers from Damascus. One was a teacher, the other a civil servant. I was amazed as they quickly opened up and started to share at a deep level. They, like so many others, had experienced terrible things and lost almost everything. And like so many others, they were searching for answers, answers that they could not find in their current religion. Until they get to Europe, many of these people have never met a Christian. Patrick Johnstone, in his book Serving God in a Migrant Crisis, makes the observation that “immigrants are typically most open to change in the first years after their arrival in new places”.

There is an amazing opportunity to reach out to these people right now. Some in the German churches see this opportunity and many churches are engaged – befriending migrants, providing practical help to navigate the administrative complexities of getting established in a new country, or teaching German. But the need far outweighs what is currently being offered. All of these interactions provide opportunities to share the love of Christ and witness to the hope of the Gospel. Interserve works with a partner organisation called DMG in Germany. For many years, DMG has been sending German workers to join Interserve teams across Asia and the Arab World. But now DMG is inviting Interserve to send foreign workers to Germany, to help German churches understand how to reach out to their newly arrived neighbours. We have responded to that invitation and have agreed to recruit people for this wonderful harvest field. Could you be a part of what God is doing in Germany, either short-term or long-term? Do you have skills in cross-cultural ministry that you could offer to the German church? The opportunities are great but this season will not last forever. If you sense the prompting of God’s Spirit to get involved, we would love to have a conversation with you! And whether you can go or not, pray that the Lord would raise up workers for this wonderful harvest field and that God’s wonderful work of transformation would continue in the lives of many.

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