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The Rhythms of Fall

A Letter from Ryan and Alethia White, serving in Germany

October 2018

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Living in Berlin, we are always struck by the seasonal rhythm. This may seem simplistic, but as many of you already know, we moved to Berlin after a number of years in Southern California. Of course, there is a seasonal rhythm there as well, but for us the rhythm has become more distinct in Berlin. For one, there are four seasons here, and since winter is especially long and dark, the arrival of spring and summer feels jubilant as the mood shifts across the city, the cafes set up on the sidewalks and parks blossom and fill with people again. At the moment, fall is setting in, and unlike many places in the United States where almost all foods are available year-round, berries have been noticeably absent since August, and squashes are available in abundance. In many small grocery markets here, most produce is seasonal, so we learn to put aside our longing for fresh berries until early summer. For us, the seasonal rhythm here means we really appreciate when lovely weather arrives or when certain foods are in season. In a way, we are forced to live more in each day rather than mentally skipping ahead.

Fall also brings lots of festivals in celebration of potatoes, pumpkins, harvest, and kites, and individual neighborhoods across the city often have their own little fest in celebration of that unique corner of Berlin. We enjoy these fests a lot as they add to the rhythm of life here and are fun for us as a family. The Iranian Presbyterian Church recently participated in and contributed to a very large festival held in Alexanderplatz, which is the center of what was East Berlin. The church community cooked large amounts of ash reshte (traditional Iranian soup) and set up a booth for the Fest der Kirchen (Festival of Churches) alongside many of the migrant and international church communities in Berlin.

Members of the church community were eager to help cook and serve what is often described as the national Iranian dish. The pride of being able to share something from their homeland that was new for many was evident at our booth. It was also a great time of practicing and putting to use the German language. It is one thing for the people of our community to study German in a classroom, and another for them to be able to speak with interested customers.

One of the primary goals of the Fest der Kirchen is to show a presence of the Church in a city that is so often thought of as secularized. This year’s Fest in the center of the old East had a particularly poignant effect. And this idea of sharing our presence was also significant for our community. One of the common questions was, “Is there really an Iranian church in Berlin?” Followed up by, “And they are Christian?” The presence of our church, along with the other migrant churches of Berlin, was also a way to give a positive picture of those who are seeking to make Germany their new home, allowing for small conversation and positive interactions between both old and new residents of Berlin. It was also interesting, and noted by people, that we were assigned a stand with the American Church in Berlin, so that on that day the American and Iranian Churches in Berlin stood next to one another as we served our own regional cuisine.

Recently, we were also blessed to spend some time with a family from the church whose parents were visiting from Iran. With the imposition of sanctions from the U.S. on Iran, the local currency has become extremely devalued, which has in turn disrupted travel plans as people find their travel costs skyrocketing along with day-to-day basics and medications. This family was very thankful to have time together, and we were in turn thankful to spend some time with them as the parents visited the church on a Sunday and we joined their family for a day-long picnic at the Wannsee lake near Berlin. We continue to pray that the United States and Iran will be able to enjoy a friendly relationship again someday, and in the meantime celebrate our little community here in Berlin and rejoice when family members can visit.

As we settle back in the rhythms of fall, the start of a new school routine, and new challenges and experiences with the church, we are reminded of the support we receive from each of you, through prayer, financial gifts, visits, and emails. We are so grateful for each of these signs that we are here with a collective strength and commitment. Your support sustains us and gives us energy, and we thank you.

We hope that as the year progresses and rhythms shift, that wherever you find yourself, it is in a place of peace for this new season. We hope you perhaps also have the opportunity to welcome visitors, or try new food, or enjoy the simplicity in day-to-day life. We are currently enjoying very early and increasingly dark mornings as we make the school commute with our oldest daughter and are thankful that she seems quite happy in her new environment. We are enjoying the new music group that has formed at church and are still finding out how best to support that endeavor. We are also working to help the church form a session and communicate a sense of trust among the people. So fall brings many new endeavors here in Berlin. May we each try to appreciate the simple things each season brings and may we each bring energy and hope to the tasks of this particular season.

With thankfulness,

Ryan, Alethia, Ariella, and Laila

Please read this important message from José Luis Casal, Director, Presbyterian World Mission

Dear partners in God’s mission,

We near the close of 2018 inspired by the hope of Christ. God is transforming the world, and you are helping to make it happen.

Thank you very much for your support of our mission co-workers. The prayers and financial gifts of people like you enable them to work alongside global partners to address poverty, hopelessness, violence and other pressing problems in the name of Jesus Christ.

Every day, Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) mission co-workers are blessed to be able to walk alongside their brothers and sisters across the globe. Listening to each other in faith and in friendship, they learn from each other how to work towards a world in which everyone flourishes. Acting upon what they discover together, PC(USA) mission co-workers and our global partners strengthen the body of Christ.

Because you are an integral part of God’s mission, I invite you to become more deeply committed to Presbyterian World Mission. First, would you make a year-end gift for the sending and support of our mission co-workers? The needs in the world are great, and World Mission is poised to answer God’s call to serve others.

I also invite you to ask your session to add our mission co-workers to your congregation’s prayer list and mission budget for 2019 and beyond. Your multi-year commitment will make a great difference in our involvement with our partners. The majority of our mission co-workers’ funding comes from the special gifts of individuals and congregations like yours, for God’s mission is a responsibility of the whole church, not a particular area of the church. Now more than ever, we need your financial support!

In faith, our mission co-workers accept a call to mission service. In faith, World Mission, representing the whole church and you, sends them to work with our global partners. In faith, will you also commit to support this work with your prayers and financial gifts? With hope and faith, I await your positive response!

At God’s service and at your service!

José Luis Casal

P.S. Your gift will help meet critical needs of our global partners. Thank you!

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