Wednesday, October 12, 2011

A Special Day

Today is our one year anniversary of living in Hamburg.  Today was a special day, a good day. 

I had made arrangements to meet Harri, an 82-year-old blind man that Jason visits weekly, at a Wednesday morning breakfast held at the local community center.   Jason and Katy are regulars at this breakfast, but they are in America, so I decided that it was a good place to visit with Harri while they are gone. 
I arrived at the appointed time, but Harri was late (he is blind – it takes him a while to get places).  So I sat there – watching people I had heard stories about & trying to work up the courage to strike up a conversation.  One of the women there, Gisela, started talking about Katy.  I decided to listen in and see what she had to say when Katy wasn’t there.  She said to the woman next to her, “Katy and Jason are not here today.  Do you know her?  Katy?  Oh, she is very, very nice.  We are friends.  Yes, I believe she will be back next week.”  She then look around the table & asked if anyone knew when Katy would return.  I took that as my cue to start talking.

Harri arrived and ate quickly.  When he was finished, he asked me to take him home.  However, when we got outside, Harri had other plans.  He wanted to go into town and go shopping.  I had been warned that taking Harri into the city was a rather large ordeal, but I had set aside the time to spend with him, so we went into the city.  We road the S-Bahn; Harri bought a sweater at Karstadt; we prayed together; we ate fish at a fast food restaurant; we told stories about our families and our past; we went grocery shopping.  Going to town with an 82-year-old blind man sounds rather mundane, but it is totally crazy!!  Crazy but good.

After my morning with Harri, I went home.  Laurie was there with the boys waiting for Yke.  Yke is Laurie and my language partner.  We meet with her once a week to spend a couple of hours practicing German.  After a year of meeting, she is much more than a language partner, she is a friend.  The week prior, I had shared that today was our one-year anniversary of living in Germany, so when she arrived, she brought flowers to celebrate.

I had to excuse myself from visiting with Laurie and Yke because I needed to go and meet with Rosa.  Rosa is a member of our Saturday evening housechurch.  She is looking for training as a caretaker’s helper at a nursing home.  We went and visited a local nursing home to ask if they had a training course available.  They didn’t.   We talked about what next steps she needs to take to locate and get the training she needs to work as a caretaker’s helper.

Christopher was coming over for dinner, so Rosa accompanied me to the grocery store to buy food for the evening.  I was planning to make chili and cornbread, and Rosa asked if she could come to dinner because she had never eaten cornbread. 

I went home and cooked dinner.  Rosa arrived early; we talked about some struggles in her life, and she asked if I would pray for her.  She told me that I could pray in English, but I knew that since she didn’t understand English, it would be better for her if I prayed in German.  I took a deep breath and I prayed for my friend in German.

Christopher arrived.  Christopher is a student at the local university; he is a young leader.  He will be leading Bible study at homechurch this coming weekend, so he had come for dinner and to prepare with Ryan for the Bible study. 

Christopher’s English is perfect.  My German is not perfect.  Since Rosa was there, we spoke German.  I said to Christopher, “yesterday, Rosa bought a soda stream.”  He asked me to repeat myself. When I did, he started laughing and said, “oh, I thought you said, ‘yesterday, Rosa cooked a soda stream.”  A few minutes later, I was telling him something else, and he gave me a blank stare.  I asked him if he needed me to translate my German (German is his mother tongue) into English.  He said, “yes.”  We all laughed.

Today is our one year anniversary of living in Hamburg.    Today was a day spent with friends.  Today was a day for flowers and kind words spoken about friends behind their back.  Today was a day of serving.  Today was a day of speaking German.  Today was a day of praying for and walking alongside others.  Today was a day of remembering that we love because Christ first loved us.  Today was a special day, a good day.  

Sincerely, Anne

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Life in Buchholz

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 Hamburg 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...
Next Tuesday marks our sixth week living in Buchholz.  We had hoped to call Tuesday, 'Moving Day', 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 Jason Thompson 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!

Sincerely, Anne

Friday, October 8, 2010

How I Imagine Germany

A few weekends ago, after morning Crucible, I sold my car to David & Shannon Lennon in the parking lot next to Larmon's Furniture on 7th Ave in Ybor City.  After handing over the keys & waving goodbye to the Lennons, I walked back to the HUB to meet up with Ryan & Laurie to catch a ride home.  I was overjoyed ~ selling my car was one of the big milestones I had set in my mind on my path to Hamburg. 
When I met up with Ryan & Laurie, we collectively rejoiced (through high-fiving) over me being able to sell my car, and then Ryan turned to me and said, "you want to learn to drive stick-shift?"  This was an exciting proposition...I had wanted to know how to drive a stick-shift car since I was in high school and my sister drove a Miata, but she had always avoided my request to learn how to drive it because she was concerned that I was going to ruin her clutch.  But now, there was actually a reason & a means for me to learn to drive a stick-shift car ~ I was moving to Europe and Ryan & Laurie had a stick-shift vehicle.
So, Ryan, Laurie, baby Andrew, and I (I was in the driver's seat) got into their PT Cruiser & drove around a parking lot & then to the store.  And I was pretty good.  But as the day went on & I continued to drive around from place to place, I progressively got worse. 
Until finally, we sat 25 feet away from the house, and I could not get the car into first gear to drive it into the driveway to park.  Again & again & again, I tried to advance, and again & again & again, the car stalled out.  This lasted about 10 minutes, until finally I began to weep.  I began to cry because I couldn't get the car into first gear; I cried because I was so embarrassed about doing so poorly & for being so emotional in front of Ryan & Laurie; but mostly, I cried because I realized that this was my new life ~ trying a whole bunch of new things (i.e. moving to a new country, learning a new language, having to make new friends, etc) and I was totally going to fall flat on my face in all of these pursuits.  In that moment, I mourned for my future failures.
All I wanted to do was jump out of the car & run away.  And in between sobs, I kept begging Ryan to please take my place in the driver's seat so that we could get the car home.  But each time to car stalled, he would say, "try again."  Little by little, the car finally pulled into the driveway & I was able to park.  We got out of the car, and they hugged me & told me that they were proud of me.
Over the last several weeks, I have imagined our journey to Germany to be just like this story...a place of joy & excitement, a place for hugs & high-fives, a place of stepping out & trying new things, a place of failure & crying, and a place where friends stand by your side to encourage you & to tell you that they love you and are proud of you.
Please continue to pray...we leave in three days & I still need to learn to drive stick-shift!
Sincerely, Anne

Thursday, September 9, 2010


laurie, ryan and andrew, anne, jason, nathan and katy
this is us. the beginnings of the hamburg underground. we are a simple group. simply following jesus. months ago, he called us to leave our families and friends to move to hamburg, germany. a call that  will remain bitter sweet. but he called us none the less to love and serve the people of hamburg. to tell them of the grace and mercy of jesus. i am in awe of the chance to be with him. to learn from him. to join him in his mission among the countless nations, culture and ethnicities that have gathered in this city. we want you to know what jesus is doing as we see it and experience it in hamburg. thus this blog.
in just a few short weeks we will be on a plane to our new home. all we know that awaits us is the presence of jesus among new friends and family with hearts that beat as our own do with longing for jesus' kingdom coming to hamburg. we are expectant with hope, joy and faith. jesus loves this city. he is doing somethng powerful there and we will get to play a part in that. it's that thought that keeps me up at night staring at my ceiling, praying for my new home and the new friends and family that await me there. jesus is present in hamburg. we are going to discover what he is up to....and get with that.