A Letter from Ryan and Alethia White, serving in the Iranian Presbyterian Church in Berlin
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Although Germany is again in strict lockdown mode since before Christmas, we have been no less busy in the last weeks. The new year began at full speed as Ryan helped prepare with a partner organization, Gemeinsam für Berlin (Together for Berlin), to hold a prayer event to mirror similar events held by churches throughout Germany and Europe. A week of “Prayer for Christian Unity” has been a yearly event backed by the World Council of Churches since the 1980s and this year seemed especially important as churches around the world are working hard to maintain a sense of community amidst the isolation of the pandemic and also are reaching out in innovative ways to help people facing mass migration, poverty, and injustice. A pause for prayer in the midst of these challenges was and is still needed. The program here in Berlin was originally going to be in person at the famed Berliner Dom church, but because of the current restrictions was moved to a digital format with Ryan in charge of the technicalities. Only a small group facilitated the event inside the Dom and the participants joined virtually. Overall, it went well!
Alethia recently took part in a PC(USA) webinar on the subject of the migration crisis in southern Europe. The webinar was hosted by Presbyterian Disaster Assistance, World Mission, and the Office of Public Witness and featured three presenters from Italy and Greece. Efi Latsoudi from Lesvos Solidarity in Greece was someone whose insight we were quite impressed by when we participated in the Europe and Middle East regional gathering in Lesvos, Greece in 2019 so it was a pleasure to hear an update from her about the current situation on the island. There were great resources given by PC(USA) on ways you and your congregation or community can get involved in support of refugees. You can find the “Choose Welcome” guide online here.
Speaking of migration and travel restrictions, our family finally had our own visa appointment recently. The original appointment had been postponed for almost a year due to COVID-19 office limitations. We woke up before the sun rose, made the chilly trek to the Landesamt für Einwanderung (Immigration Office), and joined the masses of others waiting in the security line. We always experience mixed emotions in this situation, knowing that we are in a position of privilege because we have an employment letter, letters of reference from German partners, and the ability to communicate in German. Everyone in our church community has to go through a similar experience and there is a lot of nervous energy in that line of people, waiting anxiously for their chance to receive permission to remain in the country. Nonetheless, it is rarely a fun experience for us and on this occasion we waited for an hour while our visa extensions were granted. We all arrived home some hours later, physically and mentally tired, but with permission to stay.
Your continued support for our family and for our efforts here in Berlin are invaluable and especially appreciated in this past year as life has become so uncertain for so many. We look forward to connecting creatively in this new year!
With love from Berlin,
Ryan and Alethia
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Tags: Confronti magazine, Efi Latsoudi, Gemeinsam für Berlin (Together for Berlin), Lesvos Solidarity, Office of Public Witness, PC(USA) webinar on the migration crisis in southern Europe, Prayer for Christian Unity, Presbyterian Disaster Assistance, World Council of Churches, World Mission
Tags: Ryan and Alethia White
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