Germany part 3: willkommenskultur

Don’t let anyone tell you that English and German are close cousins. After four weeks spent in small-town west Germany where the majority of townspeople do not speak English and my German does not go past “Hello” (Thank God we have at least one word in common), I am pretty much at the mercy of hand signals and Google translate to fulfill even the most basic tasks. However, look at the title of this blog post. Can you tell what it says? “Willkommen” sounds a little like “welcome” and “kultur” sounds a lot like “culture”. So there you have it: welcome-culture. In 2015, it was the word of the year in Germany, and it refers to the attitude of welcoming that Germans have adopted towards incoming migrants.

As immigrants continue to flood into Europe and terrorism simultaneously increases across the continent, it’s easy to become a little fearful. I’ve tried to imagine what it would actually be like to be German and to consider the future of my home as the face of the country rapidly changes. I can’t speak for Germans, but I can speak to my friendships with some of these immigrants, and to my knowledge of Arab/Middle-Eastern culture in general. And in my experience, it is the very same people who are forced from their home nations that are themselves warm, hospitable, and welcoming. Continue reading

Germany part 2: hope in the face of horror

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It seems like the world is going crazy. Terrorism, political crises, gun violence, fear and paranoia pepper the news, and it can feel increasingly like we’re in a world ruled by chaos and not control. I’m one country over from France, where a truck driver plowed into a crowd of hundreds on Thursday night, killing 84 people. I’m living in Germany, where one-fifth of the population is from Turkey, a nation where an attempted coup for power unraveled only this weekend. On Sunday afternoon, I ate lunch with a Yazidi family from Iraq, forced to leave their country because of Isis. Certain crises feel a little more immediate this side of the Atlantic, although tragedy is striking the U.S. too. Regardless, I am struck again and again by the seeming impossibility of maintaining one thing in the face of horror: hope. Continue reading

Jesus is dependable, not predictable.

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If I’ve learned anything in the past seven years of following Jesus, it’s that He is dependable. Many, many times, I’ve been in fear about my health, anxious about a situation regarding work, or uncertain of how it’s all going to turn out. And every time He has come through for me by healing me, or giving me peace, or just working out those practical circumstances, I know His presence is something I can depend on for the rest of my life. And there’s no peace like knowing that this Man, who’s this faithful, will be at my side forever.

Jesus is dependable, but He is not predictable. When I first began to follow Jesus, I wanted to cram everything I knew about Him into formulas. And sometimes, formulas work. Example: if I don’t pray in the morning, I usually feel discouraged and grumpy by about 2 p.m. Another example: if I begin to thank Him for what He’s done, instead of complaining about a difficult circumstance, my whole mindset shifts. But I have found that when you follow a God who may have a will apart from your own and who knows you better than you know yourself, life can’t be planned the way you thought. And formulas aren’t going to work the way you thought. Continue reading