We're starting our 1st service this summer
Blog -> Family
It’s been a long time since we have been writing a family update. Quite a bit has happened. So let me try to catch you up on all the major developments.
Let me first talk about Aletheia, then about us:
Things with Aletheia have picked up quite a bit over the last few weeks. Some of you might remember that earlier this year, I felt that God was saying that “we will have our first Sunday Service on Easter Sunday”. But it became obvious in March that that’s not going to happen. And I kind of dreaded Easter Weekend, the emotions I’ll be going through, thinking about “what we thought we would do this weekend”, etc.
Well, God is good. On that very weekend, a family wanted to meet us. We didn’t know what was going on, they just wanted to get together with us. One of those “religious blind dates” with another family. Well, turned out that they had been praying about joining Aletheia. So the purpose of them meeting us was to know more about us, what kind of church God had put on our hearts, etc. Shortly after our conversation, they committed to joining Aletheia. Just the kind of people we were praying for: Mature, stable, committed. And as a bonus: They’re a mixed family as well, with lots of German influence (he grew up in Germany), but both foreigners. So just the right fit.
From there, things just happened. Actually, it wasn’t just them, they had at least one other family that they would bring to us with them. Then we heard that Martin & Vivian (friends we know from Shanghai Alpha) will be moving back to Munich early July.
Then we have finally started our Explorer Group (something similar to Alpha). We have kicked it off with 5 non-Christians who came regularly. Somehow over the last couple of weeks, three other people joined us as well. Most of them are pretty open, some express a strong desire to meet God. On the 15th we will have a whole day together, similar to the Alpha Weekend. We’re very excited about this group. And it’s so different from running Alpha in Shanghai. Having people with predominantly western education, head knowledge about Christianity,… makes things completely different from what we often had in Shanghai.
Then we have more and more people making an indirect commitment to us by giving. When we started in October, people “just came”, but it was basically Ryoko and I doing everything. Well, that’s how most groups start. But by now many members have started giving back in some form. Some offered help with meals, others offered help with the upcoming service. Many have not started giving either their full tithe, or part of their tithe to us (Some told us that they would like to still give the majority of their tithe to the church they are currently attending Sundays, and only give us part of their tithe, until we have our Sunday service as well). It’s not so much about the money Aletheia receives (we have hardly any expenses so far anyways), and it’s not so much that “we are totally overwhelmed and need people’s help”. It’s just that we see how people grow and commit more and more to Aletheia in the way they start giving or offer help. That just shows that we are moving in the right direction.
And then lastly, we are now officially members of the FEIC network. I met Larry, the leader of this network, and Tony (a guy from the Philippines who is pastoring an International church near Frankfurt) last year in Hong Kong at a Pastors’ Conference. When we talked, it was just an obvious divine appointment. I immediately knew that this will be our spiritual home. So after talking some more over the last few months, we have no formalized things and are now an official member. You can find some more details here: https://www.feic.org/aletheia-international-church-munich/
With all these things that happened over the last few months, we will now have our first official service on July 02nd. We probably won’t be ready to have a weekly service yet, since people will be on summer break. But we are in the process of talking with people, checking when they are in town, etc. And then start a weekly service as soon as it makes sense. Our goal is to start “as soon as possible after July 02nd”, but definitely by early September the very latest.
We are excited. A bit scared about the responsibilities that are coming with it, but definitely very excited. The months earlier this year were hard. We knew why we came to Munich, and things just seemed stuck, and we had no idea how to move forward,… But somehow, since Easter Weekend, things are “just happening”.
Guess I wasn’t completely wrong about “Easter Sunday”. When I thought I heard this word from God, I thought He’s talking about the first service that weekend. Now looking back, I guess I got the date right, but the message slightly wrong. He wasn’t telling us that “we’ll have the first service on that day”. But instead He was telling us that “from that day onwards, He will open the doors to reach more and more people”. And that’s exactly what has been happening over the last 2 months,…
As for my work and our personal finances: Things are going quite well these days. I have been working on three separate projects in the last couple of months, and they all pay quite well. It keeps me quite busy, but financially we are in pretty good shape right now. Of course, as a freelance, things can go up and down quite quickly, we don’t have the same stable income that we would have as an employee. So 2 months from now, I might be crying out for more projects again. But compared to where we were early this year, we are currently doing quite well.
Now the challenge will of course be how to balance Aletheia and work. Once we have a weekly service, things will get quite a bit busier. Does that mean I should scale down my work hours a bit? We don’t know yet how to balance all that. But that will be a challenge we will be facing in the months to come. A good challenge, but nevertheless, a challenge.
As for the rest of the family: I think we can now say that the kids have fully arrived here. Their language is now pretty much there, they have adjusted to the school system and culture here. They can enjoy the things that are available here now that we couldn’t have in Shanghai. Parks and playgrounds just outside our door for free, huge indoor and outdoor family friendly swimming pools where a day ticket only costs ~25 Euro for the whole family (In Shanghai we would have had to pay that amount per person for 2h, when it’s just one pool that is too deep for the kids,…). Noah loves his football team where he plays once a week. They go to the library once a week where they can borrow books and games,… And they love having people over for Aletheia. There are just a lot of opportunities here that they didn’t have in Shanghai. And they really, really, really enjoy it. Last week I asked them if they prefer Shanghai or here. Noah gave us a very emphatic “It’s WAY better here.” Anna said something like “I like it better here, but I do miss my friends from Shanghai”. (Thankfully she’s having some really good friends here by now as well) So I think we can say that they have really arrived here now. And they feel at home here.
As for the future of the kids: Anna will stay in her elementary school for 2 more years. After 4th grade, she will then have to switch school for secondary school (That’s how the German system works). Noah will start 1st grade in the same school in September this year, and he might actually get Anna’s current teaching team (which would be awesome, they’re great teachers). And Abigail will start kindergarten in September as well, she just got a spot in Noah’ kindergarten (which is not a given in Munich, the principle told us to apply for other places as well, because she might not be allowed to give her a spot). She can also express herself in German very well, understanding pretty much anything that is being said. So she won’t have much problems with the language (It was more difficult for Anna and Noah, being thrown into that kind of setting after being here for 2 1/2 months). Anna is now big enough and familiar enough with the environment to go to/come back from school by herself, which makes things a lot easier. And Noah and Abi will probably stay in kindergarten/school until 2pm next year. That would give us a lot more flexibility in the mornings and more time for work, studies and church.
Ryoko still needs a bit longer to arrive here, but that should probably be expected. She will have her German Test in August, as part of the Integration Course. German language is just hard. If she passes, she can then move on to the “culture, history and law” part of the Integration Course. And then finish everything some time in the fall. By passing these two tests, she can then get a permanent residence permit in Germany. (Her current one is valid until Oct. 2019, to extend that one, she’ll have to have passed these 2 tests. Thankfully, other than passing these, there are no further requirements, other than not getting in trouble with the law, etc.)
After this course, she is currently leaning towards working with children. Volkshochschule (the organization that provides her Integration Course) also offers other courses for adults in all areas of life (language, cooking, office management, etc. Pretty much anything that can be educated, they provide). Right now she would like to take a course with them that would give her a certificate as a “Kinderpfleger” (caregiver for children). That certificate would allow her to work in institutions that provide childcare (e.g. a kindergarten). Not 100% decided yet. But that’s what she is leaning towards right now. That would take her another year to complete. And then after that, look for a job here in Munich.
So as you can see, things are moving forward. We’re definitely much more stable and much more comfortable than we were 4 months ago, and we are very thankful for that. And it’s also very exciting that Aletheia seems to be reaching a major milestone in the near future, with regular (and hopefully soon weekly) Sunday Services.
It looks like this is a season of blessings. A season of waiting is coming to an end. We needed that time to adjust, needed the extra time to be able to support each other in the transition, etc. If it had been up to us, we probably would have wanted to start services in September last year. But God knew that we couldn’t cope with that. Now that we have pretty much settled down, God is releasing us to do what He called us to do in the first place: Start His church here.
That’s all the updates we have for today. Thank you very much for all the encouragement, prayers and support we still receive from many of you. We’re fully aware that everything that is happening here is really an overflow of what we have received in and through SCF. And we will be eternally grateful for all the prayers, advice, correction and investments we have received from hundreds of people at SCF. And are still receiving today.
In Christ’s love,
Bernd, Ryoko, Anna, Noah and Abigail
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