God showed Himself Faithful, once again
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after exactly 40 days of waiting, frustrations, doubts and confusion, God showed Himself Faithful once again. After signing the contract for our new home 2 days ago, we have now received the keys for the apartment. We have now officially arrived in the city of Munich. All Glory belongs to God and God only!
Many of you have followed us over the last few weeks and know the frustrations we went through. I didn't send out an email for every blog I wrote (Don't want to SPAM you all with too many emails). But feel free to read (or read again) through the last few blog entries. I think you can feel the different stages we went through over the last few weeks. But as of today, that season is over, and it's now a time to celebrate. And to praise God for His faithfulness.
Now let me tell you a bit more about "what happened" since I last wrote.
Last Sunday I wrote to you about the 5 places that we looked at and that we were interested in. Actually, Monday night I looked at another one. So by Monday night we had 6 places that we were waiting to hear from. Tuesday things went crazy: We got 3(!) confirmations within a few hours. For 40 days we applied for so many apartments, and no doors opened at all. (Well, we did get one contract offer, but we didn't have peace about signing that one, because of the lack of integrity of the agent)
And then on Tuesday, totally out of the blue we suddenly had three places to choose from. Abundance after the wilderness experience.
Now things got a bit messy, and I do feel a bit bad about it. One guy who offered us a place was very, very nice to us. Very friendly, very understanding of our difficult situation. I believe part of why he and his family offered us their place was because he had compassion on us, saw in what difficult situation we were in. He was actually the first person to call us and tell us that he offered the place to us. I still had the other places in mind, so I was cautious how I responded. I purposely didn't say "we'll take it". It was more a "Please send me the contract, so I can look through it, etc." So a couple of hours after the call with him, I got the confirmation from our "favorite apartment" (the one I wrote about in the previous blog. More on that in a minute). So I had to make sure that this place is a definite "yes". That took until the following morning. By then, the landlord of the first place had already canceled on all the other people who were interested in his place. So when I called him that we had found another place, he wasn't too happy about it. Actually, he was quite upset and said a few not so nice things to and about me.
I understand his frustrations. I could have been a bit more upfront with him concerning "where we were at". At the same time, I don't think there was a perfect way to handle the situation from my side. One extreme would have been to be so non-committal to him that he would have moved on to someone else, potentially leaving us without any place once again. The other extreme would have been to make a definite verbal agreement, not giving us any room to get out again, in case our favorite place does come through. I tried my best to move forward without giving a definite "yes", but he interpreted my words differently. So we are a bit sad that this relationship didn't end well, esp. since he showed such great care towards us. But at the same time, I tried my best to be fair to him too. And while there were a few things that I could have said differently, I wouldn't say that I mislead him. I didn't give any kind of verbal confirmation, just took things one baby step further as we talked. And other than a few words I said now and then, I really can't think of a way that I should have handled the situation differently.
We're now praying for him that he can still get one of the tenants that he originally said "no" to (after he interpreted our response as a "definite yes") and they will have a good relationship with each other.
Thankfully the other place we are now declining is much easier. That one hasn't gone anywhere yet, since that place isn't available until October anyways. I was upfront with the landlord, told her that "if we find something by September 01st, we'll take that place and not hers". So that was pretty clear from my side, she shouldn't feel surprised by that. Plus she still has enough time to find someone else.
As for the other 3 other places I looked at: We didn't hear anything back from them (even though one of them promised that they'll inform us of the decision, whether we get the place or not). But that doesn't matter anymore.
Now the place God has given us is absolutely wonderful. Remember that a few weeks back we prayed that we would be able to take over our friends' place? The place we stayed in so far is part of a wonderful compound, for 2 reasons:
a) It's very, very, very family friendly (lots of playgrounds and grass area right outside the house, different playgrounds and parks with many, many, many different kids attractions within 5min walk from the house)
b) A lot of families and foreigners, exacly the mission field that God put on our hearts back in Shanghai
So after we lived here for a week or two and saw what awesome environment God put us in, we started praying that God would allow us to take over the place from our friends, and we could just continue living here.
Well, God said "no" to that prayer. We asked the landlord of this place, but he clearly didn't think it's a good idea for a family of 5 to live here. So we tried a few more things, finding a bigger place in this area. But nothing materialized, and eventually we kind of gave up on the idea of living in this compound.
Well, now we can see what God was doing. He answered that prayer. But He gave us a much, much more suitable place. This new place is spacious, gives us 3 bedrooms (For now I will use one of them as study room, but soon Noah will not be able to sleep in the same room with the girls any longer, then he'll use the third room as his own bedroom). It's WAY more suitable for us as a family. It has a kitchen, but other than that it's completely empty. It's exactly what we wanted, it's the first time we can really make a place "our home", the way we want. (Ryoko has been studying the IKEA website for months and has lots of ideas of what kind of furniture to get and how to decorate the house,...)
AND: It's right next to the compound we lived in so far. So God honored our hearts and desires to live here. We can still enjoy the playrounds and the environment here. And we can now truly build relationships with people long term and reach out to them. But God didn't answer our prayer the way we expected Him to (by giving us our friends' place). Instead, He gave us something better. He's awesome!
We're locked in by contract to this place for at least two years (neither side can get out of it for the next 24 months). But we do expect to stay in this place much longer than that. Maybe even until the kids leave our home.
So with this place, our primary mission field has also become clear. God wants us to be a witness to the people right here. Loving them, inviting them to our home, building relationships,... And then at the right time talking to them about Jesus as well. So our Outreach focus to start the church with is clear. I've started prayerwalking the area regularly in the evenings. And will continue to do so for now, until God gives us the go ahead to reach out to people in person.
What God spoke to me about the "Place A" that He didn't give us
If you have followed us over the last few weeks, you know that two weeks ago, we had an absolute alltime low. I felt that God was telling me that He will give us that place, I felt like giving up several times, He always lifted me back up again and encouraged me to continue pursuing the place. Just for things to fall through with a simple email from the agent. I felt like falling from Cloud 9 right unto the Shanghai Yanan Highway during rush hour: I felt hurt, alone and without protection. For a while I was really down. REALLY down. (If you don' t believe me, read my blog from that day again)
Thankfully God lifted me back up within 24h or so. And even though I don't fully understand yet what happened, He enabled me to never questioned my Faith.
Now to be honest, last Sunday I felt similar again. I felt God was telling me that "this place is yours". But when I heard that voice again, the frustration and the confusion of the previous place came back with it as well. "What if the same thing happens again? Is this really God this time? ". As you can read in my last blog, I was A LOT more cautious. Cause I didn't want to crash again.
But now that this place DID come through, I started comparing the two situations. Cause I still don't really understand "what went wrong" the first time. I've been wrong about "hearing from God" before, but I've never experienced such an extreme situation: I surrender over and over and over again, I feel like giving up several times, God encourages me to come back and pursue it again and again and again,... This happened consistently over many days, many times, Just for it all to fall through in the end. It was devastating.
I haven't been able to figure this out completely yet. But I can now see one difference between the "old place" we didn't get and this new place that we did get: The place we didn't get didn't really fit into the bigger picture. We looked at that place, we looked at the hobby room in the basement. And suddenly this idea came up: "Why don't we have church here?" But that was not something that really fitted with the bigger picture. We didn't know anything about the environment, whether that place even has any foreigners nearby who might be interested in the church. All we saw there was "a room that would be ideal to start the church in". And suddenly, we had a NEW idea for our church. A good idea. But maybe not God's idea.
Now this place was different. Because we already had a vision of reaching out to the community here. We had already prayed that God would allow us to stay here. And so this place was a CONFIRMATION of something that God had already put in our hearts. The other place was a NEW IDEA that was simply human wisdom.
Now I'm not saying that God never guides us through our circumstances. Of course He does. Sometimes He drops something unexpected in our lives, and by doing so He's telling us "this is your calling". So please don't think that I'm saying to not pay attention to "sudden new opportunities you see to reach people for Christ".
But what I am saying is: In our specific situation, the idea of holding the church in that room in the basement was human wisdom. And so it was really a distraction.
This place that we got now was different: It was a confirmation of something that was already in our hearts. And so it became a confirmation of something we felt God was already doing in us. So in our unique situation, part of the problem was that I allowed human wisdom of "how to do ministry" to cloud God's will for my life and His personal calling for me and my family.
Now I know this doesn't answer all the questions. I still wonder how I could have been SOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO wrong about hearing from God. But it's a start. And I trust that He will give me more revelations in the weeks to come.
Visit us anytime. (Well, maybe not "anytime")
We know that many of you have prayed for/with us over the last few months. Some of you have reached out to us regularly, and we know how hard some of you have interceded for our situation. This place is really in many ways a result of your prayers. Without your love, care and prayers, we wouldn't have made it this far, let alone now live in this wonderful place.
With this being said, we want you all to know that this is God's house, not ours. That also means that you are very welcome to visit us. There'll always be an open door for friends. Obviously, you can't all come at the same time. But if you are in or around Munich, or you are thinking about taking a trip to visit us,... Our door is open!
Just let us know a few days or weeks in advance. And if you need a place to stay over for a night or two,... There's a place where you are very, very welcome.
Now these are the reasons why we want to praise God
With all this being said, I don't want to finish this blog without praising God for His amazing Faithfulness. Here are a few things we need to say.
- God, you are never late. We were anxious and worried about our future, where we would sleep a couple of weeks from now,... But you always provide, in time! Not in our time, the time we think is right. But in your time!
- God, you prepared this place for us for years. When our friends moved to their apartment three years ago, you already had in mind that we would follow them, live in this place for a few weeks, and by doing so, you would show us our mission field right outside our door. If we hadn't stayed in this place for these 6-7 weeks, we wouldn't have known that this compound is what you have prepared for us as our mission field. And we wouldn't have seen this new home as the fulfillment of our prayers a few weeks back, to be able to stay here in this compound. From eternity you wanted Aletheia International Church to start right here. And you have set this plan into motion many years ago, have put together detail after detail. And now we can see how your plan unfolds.
- God, our friends have helped us tremendously. And now you are allowing us to help them by emptying their apartment and storing some of their stuff at our new place. Your timing in all this for both families is absolutely stunning!
- God, you know our needs. When we prayed to take over our friends' place, you knew that it would be too tight for us long term. So you gave us something bigger and better instead, while still allowing us to stay in this area, where you want us to be.
- God, humbling us for 40 days, waiting for an apartment, was a difficult experience. But you have drawn us nearer to you through this time. And we praise you for it.
- God, you know our needs better than we know our own. And you know how to answer our prayers perfectly, beyond what we could ask or imagine.
- God, you sustained us. We had so many lows in this journey. But you always gave us just what we needed to just hang on for just one more day.
- God, you knew how difficult it is (worldly speaking) to find a place in Munich. But you shielded us from that reality. Even today someone told me again that many people look for places for 6 months or longer. You knew that wasn't possible for us. So you provided long before that. And you didn't allow such "negative comments" to come to our ears until we have our own place and can cope with such information.
- God, help us to never forget what you have done in us and for us in this season. We want to tell many people about your Faithfulness, and how you led us to this place to start this new church.
- God, all Glory is yours. Help us to praise you always for what you have done. Help us to testify of your provisions and your faithfulness to as many people as possible. And help us to rest in your Faithfulness even more in the future, because of what you have done throughout these 40 days.
We thank you all for journeying through this difficult season with us. God knows all the care you have shown towards and the prayers you have prayed for us. We want to be the kind of faithful friends to all of you like many of you have been to us these last few weeks.
With thankful hearts,
Ryoko & Bernd, with Anna, Noah and Abigail
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