It had been pre-arranged, prior to our arrival, that our team would live separately with Christian families in a suburban area about 45 minutes outside of called Buchholz for the first six weeks of our lives in Germany. Among these families, we have found genuine hospitality, sacrifice, patience, and hunger for the kingdom of God. They have been our guides as we have been immersed in the language, culture, and cold weather.
I am living with a single mother named Karin, and her 16-year-old daughter, Tabea. On the evening of my first night in Germany, I asked Tabea if it was alright to use something in the house. She turned to me and said, 'Yes, Anne. You can do this because this is your home now.' My heart stopped because it was such a kind and tender thing to say...I had just met this family only several hours earlier, and I realized that they were really opening up their home and their lives to me. And for the past five weeks in Germany, I have found this understanding to be true. Karin and Tabea have treated me like a daughter and a sister. They have invited me into their family celebrations & church community get-togethers; we have prayed together for the hurting & the lost; we have cleaned the house & prepared the garden for winter; we have laughed when barriers in language have limited our ability to communicate; we have danced; we have re-decorated Tabea's room; we have talked about boys & clothes; we have eaten ice cream for lunch because we had worked hard at all the rest...and at the center of it all has been Jesus. I am being loved & embraced by this family because they understand that we are apart of a larger family...that being, the Body of Christ.
One of the primary reasons we (the American Hamburgers) have been living in Buchholz with these families is so that we would have the time to look for a place to live in Hamburg. Our hearts have been stirred by one of the poorest areas of Hamburg called Wilhelmsburg, and it is there that we hope to be able to rent a large house that would accommodate us all to live together in community & begin loving and befriending our neighbors. And over the last five weeks, as Ryan, Laurie, & I have begun studying the language and Katy has helped Nathan begin school, Jason has diligently been looking for a place for us to live. Large houses for rent are unheard of in Wilhelmsburg, so we began to think creatively...maybe rather than a house, we could find two apartments side-by-side or in the same apartment building...maybe rather than having two apartments in the same building, we could get two apartments in Wilhelmsburg...maybe we should begin looking outside of Wilhelmsburg in the surrounding areas for places to live...
marks our sixth week living in Buchholz. We had hoped to call Tuesday, ' ', but, so far, there has been no clear option for housing in Hamburg. This means that we will have to trespass on our host families longer than we had promised; this means that Jason will have to continue to mull over the open housing listings that he has already memorized.
In true fashion, Jason's initial response to this problem was, 'in what way can I/we try harder, work longer, or pray more so that we will have a place to live?' As we pray and seek advice from our German friends, the consensus is that we should try hard, work long, & pray more, but then...we must wait...we must wait on God. As mission-minded Americans, this is a hard pill to swallow. But as we wait, we are reminded that even more than being mission-minded Americans, we are kingdom-minded followers of Jesus. And this brings us great joy, so wait we will!!
In the midst of this cold climate and the closed hearts of so many in this country, we are beginning to understand that one of the greatest weapons we have in fighting the cold is joy. So, as we wait for a home, we will rejoice! As we struggle to understand & learn the language, we will rejoice! As we grow closer together as a community, we will rejoice! And as we begin to make new friends & reach out to the lost & the poor, we will rejoice! Jesus is here; he is with us, and in this, we rejoice the most!