A letter from Ryan and Alethia White serving in Germany
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Warm greetings from Berlin! The city is alive and blooming as summer slowly sets in. The warmer weather means more opportunities for the church here to enjoy outings and time together after a long winter of hurrying back from chilly church services to wherever the warmth of indoors may be. Recently we were able to spend one of the German holidays going with the church to the Wannsee, a large lake on the outskirts of the city. We ferried to the other side to enjoy a long afternoon of picnicking and game-playing in the sun. It was a good opportunity to hear more of people’s past stories and opinions of their life here in Berlin. One woman talked about how she missed her family in Iran after not seeing them for several years. She said she had been obligated to leave when her husband was in trouble with authorities there and although she thinks Germany is fine, she cannot forget that she was born in Iran. Her story has similarities to many others here.
Another recent event was the baptism of a young man and a young woman who have recently joined the church. There were quite a few tears and murmurs of appreciation as they recounted their journeys to this point and how they had experienced God and come to know God’s love and care for them through Jesus and the church community.
Besides our church, there are others involved in refugee work among Iranians here in the city. By chance Ryan met a young man from Iran who is now seeking asylum here in Berlin. Because of his particular situation he has to remain on the grounds of another church in the area until his status is cleared with the German authorities. This has been very difficult for him as he initially thought this would be for only a couple of months, but recently he received word from his lawyer that he would need to stay for 11 months! Ryan and other friends have been to visit him several times and talked with him about his experience of the church there, but nonetheless he is feeling isolated and having a hard time during the long waiting period. Church asylum also occurs in the U.S., but this is the first time we’ve experienced it here and it has been eye-opening to see it through the perspective of the refugee.
As we have understood more of the landscape of refugee work in Berlin we have learned of other churches working with Iranian and Afghani people. We hope that we can all come together soon to share our experiences and challenges with one another. Please pray that this will happen and that bridges between these communities might be built to strengthen God’s work with refugees.
Other summer plans include hosting a three-day conference in August for those in the church and those who come to the social work sessions. The theme will be focused on family issues, with time built in also for rest and recreation together. We will hold the event at a conference center on the outskirts of the city that has been a very generous host to our group. The time people experience as refugees brings unique challenges for them and stress in family systems. Please pray for the attendees to experience God’s love and for us all to learn to reflect that love more to our families and one another.
Through our interactions with people here we often wonder how God is working in these situations and have to recognize that we can’t always name that with any clarity. Sometimes it seems quite profound and obvious, but many times we wonder…these are complicated situations people are dealing with and the answers or signs of hope are not often immediately obvious. We do notice how spending time together in the church community seems to offer people peace and respite in their relationships and interactions together. We pray for the church (both our little church and the overall church) to be a place of respite and hope in the midst of struggle and uncertainty. It is easy to be isolated when transplanted to a new culture, new city, new language, new everything. Giving people the chance to talk and play together is life-giving and reassures that one is certainly not alone in this situation. Please join us in prayer that the church here and everywhere will be a place of respite and hope in a world that is troubled.
We thank you all for your continued prayer and financial support for our family and God’s missional work here in Berlin with the Iranian Presbyterian Church. We are also excited to share the news of our second daughter, Laila, and look forward to introducing her and sharing more about our life and work here when we are in the States this fall. Our tentative schedule is as follows:
• Mid-September–October: Pasadena, Calif.
• November 1–14: Seattle, Wash.
• November 15–30: Anchorage, Alaska
Please contact us if you or your congregation is interested in meeting with us. We look forward to reconnecting with you during this time.
Blessings from Berlin,
Ryan, Alethia, Ariella, and Laila
The 2015 Presbyterian Mission Yearbook for Prayer & Study, p. 328
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