It is Friday morning in Berlin, the weather is cold and it is about 4:45AM local time. So many things are on my heart right now that I do not know exactly where to begin. I hope you will allow me to kind of 'free-flow' these thoughts. You would be a tremendous help to me if you would grant that. First off there are some things that are just kind of weighing me down. We have ridden the S-Bahn and U-Bahn for what seems like a million miles. We have seen people of every tribe, tongue and nation. Yet one overwhelming factor that we have seen a a dominating consistency is a lack of smiling in this place. Oh sure there are some smiles but by and large, if you judge by facial expressions, then it is a very very somber place. It became somewhat oppressive the other day and we played a little game of 'who can make some one smile?' Our friend's sweet 7 year old daughter was the winner twice over. Once by creating a "Fat Booth" Image of me on her parent's phone. The second by demonstrating that she was able to touch the tip of her nose with her tongue. I was impressed!
Now I am not so naive as to think that a person has to be giddy smiley all the time to reveal joy in their hearts, but I am convinced that the eyes are the window of the soul. You can smile with your eyes and have nothing showing on your mouth, this much I know. The ones we have seen freely smile are the ones who openly profess Christ. I assure you that this light does shine in the darkness. I do not want to make blanket statements or assume I can see the heart, I am just making an American Centric observation.
Last night a dear brother, Christoph (definite joy on this brother's face) who is the pastor of a church plant in Prenzlauer Berg part of Berlin (www.diekreative.org east Berlin -- extremely difficult area to minister) noted that there are less than 15,000 known born again believers in Berlin. A city of 3.5 million people!
Yet I do not want to paint too bleak of a picture. There is something stirring here, especially among the smaller congregations. According to a dear brother living and laboring here in the city, there is a movement afoot in which Christians are starting to take stock and see that what has been done in the past is not working. Trying to carve out individual territories and being disconnected to the wider body of Christ does not work. Independence and pride have gained nothing. If we have seen anything this week, we have seen these people coming together to worship and pray for their city. Hear me say this, lest you think I am understating this: This is not like anything I have seen in the states! This is not a "we will pray when we think about it." This is not a general desire to seek the good of the city as we so tritely hear in our comfortable churches. This is a desperation of crying out to God on the behalf of the city, walking in repentance and knowing that something has to change. This is encouragement to my soul. We know of European Initiative who are sending multiple short term teams to this city. We ran across First Baptist of McKinney last night who brought a team of 76 people to this city. The Lord is doing something. This is not something that we are doing rather this is something that God is already working. Already.
Wednesday night we had a time of worship with a group of people here at the Gnadenhaus. I can honestly say I have never been so sad to see 2.5 hours end in my life. The worship was just amazing. We sang many songs in English, but even as a non-German speaker I could completely understand the words "Helig, Helig bist du Herr!"
Our team is continuing to grow and for this we are extremely thankful to The Lord. We cannot state in this blog the exact details of this growth due to current security concerns of the ones involved, but this is a sobering and exciting addition to our team and an answer to months and months of intensive prayer.
I think that all of us would agree that the thoughts we had before have been radically altered. What we thought we knew, we now know that we do not know. Our plans are continuing to be re-shaped and altered, but in a very good an positive way.
In Jesus, we believe that the nations (gathered in Berlin and Beyond) will be glad and sing for joy in Berlin. I see Jesus moving in this city. I am so excited to get a front row seat to what He is doing!