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Standing Hand in Hand

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

March 2020

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Dear friends,

It happens nearly every year here in Berlin. We struggle and fight our way through the deepening darkness of winter until, for a short while, the lack of daylight wins and the flame of hope is snuffed out. To be honest, even when we think we are prepared for it, every year it’s a little different, and always catches us off guard. For a few weeks this January we really felt a bit lost and very much alone. Our inspiration for our work was simply missing. Perhaps you’ve had a similar experience. In those dark days, literally and figuratively, we were very thankful to have honest conversations with our PC(USA) regional liaison here in Berlin and with friends who all offered light just by listening. Have you experienced that as well, the lightening of the spirit after a conversation with someone you trust? In those dark days, we tried to let ourselves enjoy some warm meals together and attempted to reimagine our presence here. Maybe you have also felt the renewing energy of dreaming up something new.

Thankfully, it is February.

Time moves on and the light shifts. The imagination and the soul shift. Hope returns. Thanks be to God!

So here we are. It is February. We have reached out further to our partner here at the German church that hosts the Iranian congregation and have committed to spending this year meeting regularly together (we and the pastor of the German church) to work toward building an even closer working partnership between ourselves and the two communities. A carefully built partnership could potentially strengthen both groups. Because, as the saying goes, we are better together. Not alone. From the darkness comes light.

From all of this soul-searching and reflecting, we find ourselves excited that, like PC(USA) as a whole, we are further engaged in the big questions of purpose and function within the church community and our relation to the greater Berlin community. The Matthew 25 initiative is something that is being talked about a lot by PC(USA) within the national and regional church circles these days, but we are also asking about what it means for the community here. And this year, we intend to dive in deeper as we search for those connections. But not alone. We are thankful for our relationships and partners here who can help us navigate this particular context and who also are seeking ways to build a sustainable church community.

Speaking of what’s going on in the U.S., we are planning to be on the West Coast this coming summer for our annual Interpretation Assignment travels and are already excited to reconnect with church communities and friends there. Our schedule is not yet fully set, but will be roughly as follows:

June 26-July 15: Southern California, staying in Pasadena
July 16-20: Seattle, lodging to be determined
July 21-August 3: Alaska, staying in Anchorage

We welcome your invitation or input into our schedule as we will be making more solid plans in the coming month. If you would like to host us for a visit with your congregation or any other event, please contact us. In the past, we have preached during worship services, prepared a Minute for Mission, spoken with youth groups, met with mission committees, joined a congregational community for dinner or an information session, and spent time visiting one on one with supporters. Maybe you have another interesting idea. We are also happy to meet with combined church communities if there are interested churches near each other. Our summer travels are a bit compressed due to the school schedule here in Berlin.

Please continue to pray for the people here, both in our little community as well as for those who are still settling into a new culture and understanding themselves in relationship to that culture. Please pray for those who are facing the decision of whether to willingly leave their homes or who are forced to do so by circumstances beyond their control. Please pray as well for the relationship between the U.S. and Iran to improve and for peacemaking between global neighbors to be successful. Finally, please pray for those who are affected by the darkness of life’s seasons and literal seasons. Lord, hear our prayers.

We thank you for standing with us as we share the highs and lows of life here in Berlin. In the darker times, we very much rejoice in your emails and prayers and from these bright sparks our motivation is reignited. It is also important for us to know what is going on in your communities and we appreciate the communication and updates, thank you! Meanwhile, may we be light to each other.

With thanks,
Ryan, Alethia, Ariella, and Laila

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