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Easing Fears

A Letter from Ryan and Alethia White, serving in the Iranian Presbyterian Church in Berlin

Fall 2021

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Dear friends,

Having recently watched our daughter face some fears around accomplishment made me think about how we deal with our fears and ask the question, “Where do we get our feeling of safety and security?” Many of us probably enjoy a relatively high level of security, can move through each day with a fair amount of accomplishment and even allow our fears to drive us to do better, perform stronger, and move beyond what was stopping us in the first place. Fear, in this case, is not necessarily a bad thing but rather a tool to get us from one point to the other. In one sense, we can have control over our fear, allowing it to move us forward, not running senselessly away from it.

The other side of this sort of abstract analogy is recognizing that fear doesn’t always have a positive outcome. What do we do with it then? The question is not posed in the hope of getting us to a definitive answer, only to pause for a few minutes to think about it. Many of us may even unconsciously find fear as an opportunity to consider our choices. When one is truly in a life-or-death situation, we might call that fight or flight. In the German language, the verb flüchten means to flee, to escape, to take refuge. The word for “refugee” is Flüchtling, someone who has had to take flight from their situation and is seeking refuge. I think about this word a lot and what it means to flee. Recent events in Afghanistan seemed to have highlighted this word in our minds as we watched the scenes of people crowding the airport near Kabul and heard from those we know here in Berlin who were worried for their families there and who are worried still.

In Afghanistan, it seemed like flight was the last resort for some who felt they had run out of choices, and yet it was not possible for others who may have chosen it if they could. Berlin has received a number of these families and individuals, and more are expected. Many also already landed in the United States and are perhaps still waiting for their more permanent landing place. The process of fleeing is not one quickly accomplished. The process of settling into a new land and new language and new everything, less so. Many carry not only their fear with them but also the emotional burden of having left others behind.

What is our role in all this? Where can we ease fear? Maybe some of us have our own stories or family stories of having to flee. Perhaps some of us struggle to imagine what that really means or would feel like to experience. Let’s think together about how we can welcome our global siblings, how perhaps we can help transform fear into the process of moving forward together.

The opposite of fear is often named hope. One of the events this past season that offered hope for us was the annual concert organized by the International Konvent, a group that Ryan is connected with representing the international congregations in Berlin. Because of the COVID situation last year the concert was canceled completely. This year it was held online in a reduced format, and while Ryan was at the church where it was held as one of the organizers, I had the pleasure of watching it from our living room with our daughters, making observations and comparing singing styles. It was a lovely experience, even from afar. The concert was truly a celebration of cultures, faith and moving forward from a fearful and unsettling pandemic experience. The four choirs represented came from the Ethiopian Orthodox church, the Coptic church, the French-speaking African church, and the Serbian Orthodox church. Each one’s style of singing, dressing and moving was, of course, unique and lovely in those differences. We have included a few pictures with the hope that you enjoy a small taste of an event that we look forward to each year.

As we consider the question of fear, let us not forget hope. We are taught hope in the Bible, and we choose to hold on to hope even in fear, an effort sometimes easier said than done. Our hope for you and ourselves is to choose love over fear of the other, to choose hope, to walk together when the path is rough. We thank you for walking with us, for your support in its many forms, and ask that you continue with us as we move forward.

With hope,

Alethia and Ryan

Please read the following letter from Sara P. Lisherness, the interim director of World Mission:

Dear partners in God’s mission,

I don’t know about you, but daily my heart grows heavier. News about the pandemic, wars, wildfires, gun violence, racism, earthquakes and hurricanes cloud my vision. It’s hard to see hope; our world is in a fog. Yet we trust that God’s light and love transcend the brokenness of this time.

God is at work transforming the world, and you, through your prayers, partnership and encouragement, are helping us share this good news. Thank you for your faithful and gracious support of our mission personnel.

How can we see through the fog? What will the church be after the pandemic? Could it be that God is doing “a new thing” and is inviting us to perceive it? Through all the uncertainty we know that God’s steadfast love and care for all creation will prevail and that God’s Spirit is at work in each of us.

We all have an integral part to play in fulfilling God’s mission. As we seek to grow together in faithfulness there are three important steps I invite you to take in supporting our shared commitments to God’s mission:
Give – Consider making a year-end financial contribution for the sending and support of our mission personnel. Your support helps mission personnel accompany global partners as together they share the light of God’s love and justice around the world. Invite your session to include support for mission personnel in its annual budget planning.
Act – Visit The Mission Yearbook for Prayer and Study to delve deeper into the work God is doing through the PC(USA) and its partners in ministry around the globe:
Pray – Include our mission personnel, our global partners, and our common commitments to share God’s grace, love, mercy and justice in your daily prayers.

Thank you for your faithfulness to God’s mission through the Presbyterian Church. It is my prayer that you will continue to support this work with your prayers, partnership, and financial gifts in the coming year. We hope you will join us and our partners in shining a beacon of hope throughout the world.

In the light of hope,



Sara P. Lisherness, Interim Director
World Mission
Presbyterian Mission Agency
Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)

To give please visit

You are the light of the world. A city built on a hill cannot be hid. No one after lighting a lamp puts it under the bushel basket, but on the lampstand, and it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father in heaven. Matthew 5:14-16

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