"Check your expectations. We may end up having amazing conversations and seeing the Lord move in the lives of refugees. But we also may end up doing service the whole time and having very little encounters with the refugees themselves. Either way, what we do there will be a powerful witness."
That's what I told the team before we left for Berlin. I told them this because I had heard a story about a short-term team that went to Greece to help with those arriving from their journey across the Mediterranean Sea. But when this team arrived they were told there was a bigger need—shoveling and burying human excrement. So, they picked up the shovels and that's what they did for a week. When people—refugees and Greek citizens alike—saw this team, who had travel across the world, humbling themselves and doing this act of service, they were amazed. And this gave them a chance to witness about the name of Jesus. That story moved me.
Day one in Berlin my team was not able to get into the refugee center we were sent to. So, we went to a local park instead. There at this park we encountered many people, including a few migrants. But no refugees.
I felt a twinge of disappointment. And I heard my own words echoing in my ears: "Check your expectations."
Day two my team was assigned to help an anti-trafficking group hand out flyers to various merchants in the Mall of Berlin—flyers that could be seen by victims of human trafficking so that they could seek help. Due to the influx of refugees and migrants in Berlin, this has become an increasing problem. Those flyers and the prayers we prayed over these merchants and over that mall could have great impact and even save lives by the hand of our mighty Savior.
But I felt a twinge of disappointment. I still hadn't met any refugees—the ones I had come to love, to hear, to know. I wanted to look into their eyes and let them know they were not forgotten, to tell them there was hope.
Day three we were assigned to a refugee center where the Engage the Crisis Berlin base staff had seen much fruit already. Discovery Bible Studies had started here. Many refugees were open, had been dreaming dreams, had even given their lives over to Jesus. "Finally!" I thought to myself, "This will be the day!" But it wasn't. While the rest of my team was off engaging with refugees, I was in the sewing room. Sorting yarn. For hours.
I wish I could say that I used that time well, praying for those within the building and beyond. But I didn't. I spent most of the time wishing I was somewhere else, doing something else—being disappointed.
Backing up to January of this year, the Lord began teaching me about this thing called "waiting on Him." At the time I naïvely thought the lesson was for the month of January. I'd get that lesson and then move on to the next lesson in February, or something to that effect. Here it is almost July and the Lord is continuing to teach me this same lesson. Interestingly enough it is repeated many times throughout the Bible. I must not be the only hard-headed follower God has ever had. And Berlin was yet another opportunity to teach me this lesson.
Later in the day, while I continued to sort that yarn, I heard a whisper in my soul. "Wait," He said. After that came a sense of contentment. And I determined that I was going to be the best yarn sorter there was, because that would glorify my King.
And then came Thursday—day 4 of our ministry in Berlin.
God, in His good pleasure, decided to reward my waiting. Not because I was particularly good at it—because He knows I wasn't—but because He enjoys rewarding His children.
Day 4 was the day I met Mina (name has been changed)—a remarkable young woman with kind eyes and freckles that hide the troubles she has endured. She is from Syria, a land she loves, a land where her 2-year-old daughter is buried, a "casualty of war" as the media would coldly describe it. Mina and I spoke to each other through Google Translate on my iPhone and shared stories together and pictures of our "other lives." I prayed with her. I spent time over the next few days with her family and friends. I saw her openness to the ways of Jesus—both her and her husband. I saw the respect that everyone had for this family. This is a family of peace.
It is amazing to imagine a bond so deep growing over a period of three short days. But in many ways I had spent months and months—nay, years—growing that bond. I just didn't know who the bond was with.
The moment I began to hear of the trouble being caused by ISIS, that bond began to grow. The Spirit living in my heart told me that God was shaking the nations for His glory and growing His kingdom among peoples once too hardened for life to spring forth. But a window had opened! My heart was stirred. My eyes turned in expectation to these troubled nations. It was out of this confidence and stirring in my heart that I jumped at the opportunity to go to Europe and be with these pilgrims who didn't know they were on a pilgrimage.
Part of me wishes I could say that Mina and her whole family turned their lives over to Jesus the Messiah before I left. But I also feel like that would be a premature end to a story that God is writing as an epic. What I do know is seeds have been planted and my love for them has not ended—and I expect to hear more of this epic in the weeks, months, and years to come.
Will you pray with me for Mina and her family, that the seeds of truth would blossom into hearts full of grace and freedom? That God would use them as people of peace to reach their community in Berlin and beyond? Pray also for my new friend, Alisa (name changed), who I introduced to this family—that she and her friends would be a sustained witness for Jesus in their lives?