Samstag, März 21, 2020

march update

Dear Friends,
I'm sure many of you have Corona stories to share. Here is ours. In light of the acute and constantly changing situation in Germany, we decided last week to cancel our church services effective immediately until further notice. The very next day, the mayor of Cologne prohibited all non-essential public gatherings - including church services. We quickly arranged to have an online gathering which went really well. I was also scheduled to preach at another church that same Sunday and they asked me to send them a video of my sermon so they could incorporate it in their online service, which I gladly did: Genesis 12:1-4a. A very appropriate look at the totally new and uncertain future that God asked Abram to enter into in faith and obedience. The sermon is of course in German, but if you’re interested you can see it here. My sermon starts at 3.55 minutes.


We have all entered into a totally new and uncertain future. In my shop window I currently have these words: “the corona-break is a chance to reflect and search for God. He promised to let us find Him.” Many of the folks who pass by and read this may not be believers, and I hope that the earnestness of the situation will cause them to really seek the Lord. But I think that many believers are finding themselves looking to the Lord in a whole new way as we try to make sense of things and look for what God is up to in the midst of the fear, anxiety and uncertainty.

Each day brings new restrictions on public life and stories of illness and hardship. The streets of Cologne are extremely quiet. The tourists are gone. Shops and restaurants are closed down. Sue and I are staying home or in my case, hunkering down at the Atelier and avoiding physical human contact with anyone but each other. But we are staying in close touch with our church family and our missionary colleagues and of course, our own family. At the time of writing, we are both still corona symptom free. The number of infected continues to grow exponentially, but we feel safe and confident in the excellent German health system.

“Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” Phil. 4:6-7

In Christ alone,
Jason and Sue


New Color: Corona Green 😊

Sonntag, Juli 14, 2019

July update

Dear Friends,
Last year we threw a typical German 60th birthday party bash for Jason, inviting friends, neighbors, colleagues, our church family and volunteers who help us teach German to the refugees. Instead of gifts he asked everyone to donate toward a special outing with the refugees. Having postponed because of bad weather, we finally were able to take them all to the zoo for the day. We had a wonderful day admiring God’s creation, meeting new people and deepening relationships with our refugees.
Baaaaaah! The sound of bleating sheep was heard many times over the course of our annual church retreat where our theme was SHEEP! There are hundreds of references to sheep and shepherds in the Bible, so that we had plenty to talk about. We played sheep games, made little sheep out of clothespins, cardboard and yarn, sang sheep songs and dug into the scriptures to learn more about how we are like sheep and what a great shepherd we have in Jesus.
We are indeed sheep in need of our Shepherd  Our church family recently went through two difficult challenges as two of our members were considering ending their lives. C has been in poor health for a long time as a result of decades of smoking. Her lungs were already in bad shape when she came down with a bad case of pneumonia - leaving her gasping for every breath. It finally got so bad that she called us, and we immediately called for an ambulance. After days in intensive care - with little improvement - she decided she wanted to end her life and refused all further medical care, food and water. She removed the tubes, monitors and oxygen mask. She didn’t want anyone to visit her - including her own daughter. She finally agreed to let Jason see her. It was one of the most difficult hospital visits he has ever made. While he was there the church family was praying for the Lord to intervene. He pleaded with her to not end her life this way (without medical care). As he was leaving, he thought it would be the last time he would see her and that she probably had just hours to live. Our time is truly in God’s hands, so that we are now rejoicing that God did intervene and C turned the corner. We are thankful to the Lord for his mercy and grace.

Discipling E has been a roller coaster. He has many problems that are a challenge and easily drag him down.  When we see him, we know immediately by his face and demeanor if he is up or down.  He was extremely down a few weeks ago and started to talk about taking his own life. We spent hours counseling and praying with him, trying to persuade him to check into a local hospital for professional help. He refused but finally agreed to see a psychologist that he has met with before and is now in an out-patient therapy close to his home. In the meantime, he is doing much better.

We are thankful for how the Lord in His mercy intervened in these two lives. It was also gratifying to see our little church family rally together in prayer for their sister and brother. We are reminded of Paul’s encouragement for the believers in Ephesus: “Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.”

Peace,

Jason and Sue

Dienstag, April 16, 2019

April update

Dear Friends,
Sue and I recently had the joy of attending the installation service of Gerd Dyck, the new pastor of the Evangelical Free Church in Cologne-Porz, the first church that we were privileged to be a part of starting 26 years ago. After years of good shepherding, Hermann Fritz, my successor felt that God was leading him to move on last year. The Lord then led Gerd and the church together. God has blessed that church so much over the years and it was a joy for us to be there for this special service. In recent years some of their growth has been through refugees who have trusted Christ and been baptized. Integration is a challenge, but Jesus unites and there is a lot of joy in  their fellowship. Please pray for Gerd. He is very young but has an awesome grace-based posture and a desire to be a part of advancing the kingdom of God in Porz and Cologne.

Last Sunday we celebrated our monthly interactive worship service which includes brunch and hands on learning together. This time we did a bibliologue - where the participants assume the role of one of the characters in a bible story.  They are interviewed by the director but also interact with each other in their roles, talking about what they saw, heard, felt and experienced as the story unfolds. We read the Easter account from Luke 24 and then entered into the role of four characters at four different locations:

1.    The women at Jesus’ gravesite, early in the morning; location – a dark street corner under the train tracks just down from the church, which is a memorial site commemorating the execution of teenagers who led a resistance movement against the Nazis.
2.    Two disciples on the road to Emmaus who are joined by Jesus; location – the road to Venlo, i.e. Venloerstrasse, also around the corner from the church.
3.    The two disciples and Jesus in the house in Emmaus:  location – around the laden brunch buffet table in our church.
4.    Peter recalling his denial, running to the grave and finding it empty; location – around the painting of the cross at the front of the meeting room in our church.

Each scene, reflection and discussion were marked by a sadness, hopelessness, remorse and confusion which slowly turned into hope, light, understanding and joy.  No matter who you are or where you are this is the story of Easter, the power of the crucifixion and resurrection.

We had a new guest among us who remained quiet but witnessed our interaction with scripture and with each other. K is a Kurdish Yazidi refugee from Iraq. He is a kind, gentle man who has been attending our German and English classes at the Pastorenatelier. Please pray that what he witnesses will move him toward the Lord. Please pray for the rest of the refugees and German helpers who we see every week. We took time this last week to explain the events and significance of Easter to them.

May you be filled with the joy and hope of Easter!

Jason and Sue

Dienstag, Januar 29, 2019

January Update

Dear Friends,
In December we asked you to pray with us about a place that we were hoping to rent for our church. Unfortunately, the landlord decided to rent to someone else. We’re very disappointed but are accepting it as God’s will and trusting that He has some place even better for us in mind. And so we continue to search. Please keep praying for us in this regard.

Thanks for praying for our Christmas Eve celebration.  The two young refugee men we invited had the courage to come, enter our home and celebrate with us.  We had a wonderful time of dining and sharing, with much conversation about the significance of the Christmas holiday.  They even attended a late Christmas Eve service with us.  Pray for openness to the Spirit’s work in their minds and hearts.

 

Meanwhile, our ministry to refugees in the Pastorenatelier continues to hearten us. Their stories are stirring and their determination to make a new life for themselves here inspires us. On Wednesday afternoons we offer German lessons followed by English instruction. Jeff Imperial, one of our newer GEM colleagues, helps to head up the English group. Last week he posted this to Facebook:
Tonight I had a great opportunity to help a 16 year old young lady from Afghanistan. She is studying English presently and I was able to assist her with a project at our weekly Deutsch/English Nachhilfe session. In our work here, we have come across many types of personalities, good and bad. It's just like you would find anywhere else. This particular young lady moved here with her family in 2015/16. She immediately was plugged into school and began learning German (including the alphabet), and then 6 months later she was learning English. By the way, her spoken English is good enough to live in an English speaking country. She was not allowed to go to school in Afghanistan. She was of course very polite, and seemingly very smart.

But as a teacher, I saw something. She had an excitement and drive to learn. I was really moved by it. It was one of my favourite moments since we have been here. Her project was about serving others because she wants other people to have the opportunities that she has had here. As we work with different people from different cultures, I am regularly moved by their experiences. Many of the people that are here from other countries are driven to succeed and thrive. They understand that there are no guarantees, and want to make the most of the opportunities they have been given. I was thoroughly impressed with this student. It is difficult for them to consider other spiritual paths, because theirs is so engrained culturally, so we work to be the light, we share what we believe, and we pray that the Holy Spirit moves.
This month we celebrate 27 years in Germany. More about that in our next update. Stay tuned!

Gratefully,
Jason and Sue

Mittwoch, Dezember 12, 2018

December Update

Dear Friends,
ROOM


The vision statement for our church is, “Raum schaffen für Jesus Christus” (Creating room for Jesus Christ).  This  photo is of the entry way to a possible permanent location for the church.  We have been longing for our own “room” – a space where we could expand our ministries with immigrants, children, women, discipleship, etc.  A space where we could meet during the week or in the evening.  A space where we won’t have to sound the clean-up alarm because the next group is coming in at 2:00 – just as the fellowship is sweet around the long row of tables where we are enjoying a bowl of hot soup, coffee and cake.  We are probably not the ideal renters for this landlord, but the leadership has had a strong sense of God leading us to this location.  Would you pray for God’s provision and this possibility, that has us so excited about room.

“Room” also seems to be an issue over the ages – and of the Christmas season.

“So Joseph also went up … to Bethlehem …
He went there to register with Mary,
who was pledged to be married to him
and was expecting a child.
While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born,
and she gave birth to her firstborn,
a son.
She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manager,
because there was no room for them in the inn.
Luke 2:4-7

We are praying that you will be able to pause and take time to reflect, opening up space in your busy life for the Savior this Christmas season.

With the Joy and Peace of Jesus,

Jason and Sue

Mittwoch, November 21, 2018

Thanksgiving update

Dear Friends,

“Here is my servant, whom I uphold, my chosen one in whom I delight;… He will not shout or cry out or raise his voice in the streets.  A bruised reed he will not break and a smoldering wick he will not snuff out.  In faithfulness he will bring forth justice; he will not falter or be discouraged till he establishes justice on earth.  In his law the islands will put their hope…  I will keep you and will make you to be a covenant for the people and a light for the Gentiles, to open eyes that are blind, to free captives from prison and to release from the dungeon those who sit in darkness…  Sing to the Lord a new song, his praise from the ends of the earth, you who go down to the sea, and all that is in it, you islands, and all who live in them.”  Isaiah 42:1-12

Because of their prophetic nature these familiar verses from Isaiah are often quoted or chosen as sermon texts during the Christmas holiday season.  I have always wondered why God chose to emphasize “the islands” instead of the nations or peoples, as is the case in many other Scripture texts.  The islands seem so small and insignificant.  However, since our ministry trip to the refugee camp, Moria, on the small Greek Island of Lesvos, I suddenly have a different opinion of the “the islands”.  As we stood on the shore of Lesvos, we could clearly see the Turkish coast 
towards the east and north.  I wondered what it was like to be standing on that shoreline, gazing at the shoreline of Lesvos.  Longing for safety, freedom, peace and  hope.  Fearfully stepping into a flimsy overloaded rubber boat, praying that the sea would be calm, pushing off, risking everything, risking the lives of your family as they cling to each other, eyes fixed on that distant shoreline.  It is my deepest desire that these hundreds of thousands who continue to set out for that distant coastline, those small Greek islands, will find ultimate peace for their souls.  That they will, indeed, “Sing to the Lord a new song, his praise from the ends of the earth, you who go down to the sea, and all that is in it, you islands, and all who live in them”.

Praise God with us for a number of amazing spiritual conversations with refugees and German acquaintances.  Pray that the Spirit would continue to work and for fruit out of these conversations.  Thank God that E. is recovering well from his emergency surgery.

HAPPY THANKSGIVING to our US friends and we hope that our Canadian friends are still basking in thankfulness.  We are so thankful for you, your faithfulness in prayer and financial support over many years.  And for your friendship.   Without your support and encouragement we could not carry out the ministry that God has called us to.

Unfortunately, the weak Canadian dollar and some who have fallen behind in their giving has led to us taking a cut in salary.  Would you please check to see if your giving is current?  Tuesday, November 27, has become known as giving Tuesday. Maybe God has blessed you this year in such a way that you might increase your support of our ministry or consider a special year-end gift.  Thank you.

Many blessings,

Sue (and Jason)