A letter from Ryan and Alethia White, serving in Germany
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The fall season has been upon us in full force since we landed in Berlin a few weeks ago. We spent the summer traveling through seven states, visiting churches and supporting partners along the way. We have been blessed to revisit congregations we last saw as we were preparing to move to Berlin. We have learned so much in the past four years, and it was a pleasure to reconnect and share some of those learning processes. We enjoyed hearing from congregations about their lives during that time. We were also privileged to meet congregations who were new to us and who were so welcoming in hosting our family for a visit.
Thank you to all of you who were so generous in contributing to our family’s needs this summer. We are deeply appreciative for the contributions of transportation, suggestions of family activities, food, stories, financial support, lodging, and friendship that we have received in our travels this summer. You have been especially welcoming to our daughters, who have been surprised with treats along the way, easing their homesickness for Berlin. We thank you for that. Our hope in the future is to keep in good contact with each of you as we enter this next phase of ministry.
This summer, we agreed to a second four-year term with PC(USA) World Mission. We are excited to dig into the next phase of life in Berlin, given that the “settling in” phase is largely in the past. In some ways, one is always settling into a new culture and language, but after nearly four years of living in Berlin, we can find aspects of it that provide comfort and familiarity. Our goals for the next phase include cultivating more leadership from within the Iranian Presbyterian Church and more joint relations with the German congregation who hosts the Iranian congregation.
Our family will also be anticipating the next phase of our life together as we apply for schools for Ariella to attend next year. We still have much to learn about this seemingly complicated process (a reminder that we always have something to learn in our host culture) and will spend time this fall visiting schools and working through the steps required. Laila will start her own integration in the kinderladen (kindergarten, but for ages one through six) in our neighborhood. Please join us in prayer for our daughters and for our family in these next steps. In the meantime, we have been happy reconnecting with friends in Berlin, enjoying the parks and playgrounds in our neighborhood before the cold weather arrives, going around the city by bike after lots of time in a car this summer, and eating a yummy German breakfast of rolls, cheese, and fruit in one of our favorite cafes.
When we were planning our summer travel schedule this past winter, we had no idea what our absence would mean for the church. The culture of the church is such that group collaboration is difficult, the preference being for one person as leader. Before we left, Ryan met regularly with a small group of people who had expressed interest in working together to provide leadership for the church while we were away. Before we departed for the States, two people left the group, leaving another couple and a man who often helps with the worship services. Soon after we arrived in the States, we heard from the couple that they had received their rejection notice on their asylum application and were being sent back to another European country they had previously traveled through on their way to Germany. They are still here in Berlin and are hoping to challenge the decision. Throughout the summer, this man was consistent in his availability for the church, and we are very thankful. During our absence, he and Ryan were in regular contact through texts and phone calls, and Alethia and his wife stayed in touch through texts. Before we returned to Germany, we asked him to share a bit of what he was experiencing.
Vahid: “When I heard that Pastor Ryan would be gone for the whole summer, I was worried that people might stop coming to church. We had discussed that the summer would be a time to show who is genuine in their faith and not just coming to receive a letter for their asylum case. But the church is full, and many people are coming to the Bible study. Some of the people coming have been asking really good questions and are interested in studying the Bible more. From the things they are saying, I can tell that it is not for show, but they are coming because they find peace in the church. There are some new people who have come, some who have been meeting for a Bible study at a nearby home. They have brought a refreshing perspective. The people say thank you and are very appreciative that the church has remained open. Everything is so normal and regular. There have been some difficult things that have happened, but we were able to talk with the pastor of the German church and Pastor Ryan to get advice to help us. Overall it is a good situation in the church, but we also are waiting for Pastor Ryan and his family to return to us in Berlin.”
We are thankful for the reports we have heard from the congregation in Berlin and for the group that has been faithful in helping organize the worship services and Bible studies. And while our time in the U.S. was good, we have been happy to return to Berlin and look forward to the next four years. We are thankful for the time to visit with each of you we have seen this summer and for the hospitality you have shown us.
When we returned to Berlin, we brought back the message that there are many congregations and individuals in the U.S. who care for and pray for the people of the Iranian Presbyterian Church. We thank each of you who is faithful in praying for the congregation and for our family, and for each of you who gives financial support to the ministry. Your gifts make this ministry to Iranian and Afghan migrants possible, and it is through your support that we are all joined together in God’s mission.
One thing that we learned in our visit with World Mission staff is the importance of your partnership and support. In the past, there have been more sources of funding available to augment our support. Now your gifts and support are more essential than ever. Please see the enclosed letter from World Mission Director Jose Luis Casal for ways to give to this ministry.
Peace be with you,
Ryan, Alethia, Ariella, and Laila
Please read this important message from Jose Luis Casal, Director, Presbyterian World Mission
Dear Friend of Presbyterian Mission,
What a joy to send this letter! As Presbyterian World Mission’s new director, I thank God for your faithful support of our mission co-workers. The enclosed newsletter celebrates the work you made possible by your prayers, engagement, and generous financial gifts. We can’t thank you enough.
After I began in April, I met with mission co-workers and global partners and was blessed to see firsthand the mighty ways God is working through them! Our global partners are asking us to help them move forward with life-changing ministries. Because of your support, we can say “yes” to these creative and exciting initiatives.
I write to invite you to make an even deeper commitment to this work. First, would you make a year-end gift for the sending and support of our mission co-workers? We need your gifts to end the year strong. With your help, we filled two new mission co-worker positions and plan to recruit for others. The needs in the world are great, and World Mission is poised to answer the call to serve.
Second, would you ask your session to add our mission co-workers to your congregation’s mission budget for 2018 and beyond? Our mission co-workers serve three-year or four-year terms. Your multi-year commitment will encourage them greatly.
Our mission co-workers are funded entirely from the special gifts of individuals and congregations like yours. Now more than ever, we need your financial support.
In faith, our mission co-workers accepted a call to mission service. In faith, World Mission sent them to work with our global partners. In faith, will you also commit to support this work with your prayers and financial gifts?
Jose Luis Casal
P.S. Your gift will help meet critical needs of our global partners. Thank you!
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