After spending one month working in the refugee camps in Lesvos, Greece with our team (which you can read about here), we traveled to Berlin for the last month of our outreach. We stayed at the YWAM Berlin base where we were warmly welcomed and even given a city tour by the base director. In just one afternoon, we went to the Brandenburg Gate, Checkpoint Charlie, Holocaust Memorial, Reichstag Parliament Building, Sony Center, and many different sections of the Berlin Wall. We were in awe of how much important history the city has tucked in between its rows of rebuilt 1950’s apartment buildings, and how it continues to be a focal point in world events. Some of the most important things in modern history have happened in Berlin! Today, it is host to an unmatched mixing of Christians and Muslims as many refugees end their journey here.
Once we settled in we began praying and brainstorming about what ministries we wanted to focus on during our four weeks. By the end of our time in Berlin, we had done a large list of ministries that included opportunities like “Encounter Night”, Chai & English, game/movie night, women’s painting night, speaking at a local church, volunteering at the homeless shelter, refugee house visits, a flash mob, prayer walks, street evangelism, and more. Whew!
It’s been said, “If you build it, they will come,” but we actually had to do a lot of reaching out to refugees in order to make these ministries effective. To do this, nearly every morning we would go to LAGeSo (lah-gey-zo) where the refugees wait to receive their monthly benefits from the German government. This one-city-block area was a perfect place to meet different refugees every day, and since it is the only camp to serve the city’s 100,000+ refugees, there are extremely long lines and people waiting everywhere, which made them easy to approach and open to conversation. They are some of the most friendly, warm, and welcoming people, and it was a privilege to hear their stories. Sometimes we would pray for them; other times we would just listen to them talk about their life back home before war and what they went through to get to Germany. We would invite many of them to come to one of our ministries – mainly Encounter Night and Chai & English. One day in LAGeSo that stood out was when we met a refugee who we served tea to in the Moria camp in Greece! It was so good to see that he and his family of fourteen had made it safely. He surprised us, though, when he thanked us so much for all that we did for him, his family, and his fellow Afghanis during their journeys. This was very confirming of the path that God had put us on for outreach.
These daily jaunts into LAGeSo were vital in order to fuel our weekly ministries with as many people as possible. The Encounter Night is an evening of food, community, worship, and talks about Jesus, specifically geared towards Muslim refugees. It was run by YWAM Berlin, our team, and other outreach teams from Brisbane, London, and Kona. On average, 20-30 Muslims from Syria, Afghanistan, Iraq, and elsewhere came to Encounter Night each week and got to see how Christians worship and hear exactly who Jesus is. We got to pray for Muslims, answer many probing questions about our “religion” versus theirs, and even see physical/emotional healings and salvations! Praise God for this historic opportunity. Our main focus was to show that Jesus is a relational, loving, caring God, not a legalistic, far off ruler. I believe we mainly accomplished that by showing the refugees that we, as Christians, wanted to have a relationship with them, that we love them, and that we care about them, their families, their stories, and their struggles, just like Jesus.
The second main ministry we did was a free English class for refugees called Chai & English, which YWAM Berlin wanted our team to pioneer for them to continue when we left. At first we were skeptical that refugees, who are already required to learn German, would want to spend their extra time learning English as well. But this ministry was surely a gift from God because our first class had 18 students! Many came back each week, and we got to not only improve their English skills, but offer them community and conversation on a personal level.
We did so many things during our 4 weeks in Berlin, it’s hard to tell all the stories, but here are a few more highlights. We went to church each Sunday at Reset Berlin, a small cafe-style church led by a Californian pastor, which offered translation between German and English for our team. This church was a huge blessing to our team, and we were also able to bless it as well. A Christian refugee from Syria is in charge of the church’s refugee ministry. He organizes a game/dance/movie night every Friday for refugees that our team attended, translated our Encounter Night talks into Arabic, and set up our team’s house visits to refugee families. Not to mention he cooked our team a huge Middle Eastern dinner before we left! He was seriously such a huge blessing to us. Our team was also able to share 4 testimonies during Reset’s services, and Connor and Tommy helped the church start its renovations.
One of our favorite ministry nights was serving at the homeless shelter. We liked this night because it was much like serving in the refugee camps: although there was a language barrier, it was so good just to be able to serve these peoples’ physical needs before pouring into them emotionally and spiritually. After dinnertime, our team held worship and spoke a quick sermon before sitting down individually with the tables of people. A few of them really opened up during this time. You could see their struggle in their eyes and simple gestures like a firm handshake or hug. One woman got healed emotionally and recommitted her life to Jesus. It was an amazing night where each member of our team was able to use his/her gifts to the fullest.
We did so much more each day, but you will just have to catch up with us over coffee sometime to hear every detail! We will leave you with some pictures of our time in Berlin, mostly from our days off when we explored the city. We saw a castle, toured the city’s coffee scene, ate amazing German and Italian foods, visited the Berlin Wall museum, and took a bazillion trains, subways, trams, and busses everywhere!
Berlin was the culmination of our outreach, and it also marked the terminus of the refugees’ journey across Europe. We met their physical needs in the Greek camps, and once those were met as they settled in Berlin, the refugees were so empty emotionally and open spiritually. This is truly a historic time for the mixing of Muslims and Christians, and God is clearly using it to bring His truth and love to so many of His children that previously weren’t able to receive it. We are thankful and blessed to be included in the refugees’ journeys and in God’s will during this season. We pray that our journey through DTS and Outreach may open your heart and mind to not only receive more of what God has planned for your life, but also to be seeking and recognizing God’s will for the Syrian Refugee Opportunity (not crisis).
Thank you for following along, and an extra big thank you to everyone that supported us on this journey and made it possible! We are forever grateful.
Our team at the Brandenburg Gate
The dream team at the Reichstag Parliament building
Our setup for our Chai & English classes
Teaching English to two Syrian teenagers and one Iraqi man. I look really tired and unhappy haha but I promise I wasn’t! This ministry was one of my favorites!
One of our teammates giving a short sermon during Encounter Night
A Syrian refugee family that had us over for dinner at their house one night. One of our best experiences was getting to know them!
Another ministry we organized was a women’s painting/cupcake decorating night which ended up being exactly the rest that our team needed!
Visiting remnants of the Berlin Wall all around Berlin
One preserved section of the Wall with a “no man’s land” in between
This portion was the first section of the Wall that was built, and the first to be torn down.
We toured Charlottenburg Palace on our day off and it was beautiful!
Inside of the palace. That’s the ceiling painting reflected in a mirror.
The gardens outside of the palace
Valentine’s Day date at an old crematorium turned coffee shop. It sounds creepy, but it’s symbolic of Berlin’s effort to move on from its troubled past.
Found a cafe named after my initials!
Pretty excited about it!
Apricot baum cakes are the BOMB.
Outreach was amazing. I never want to forget any part of it – good or bad. God has been faithful and good through it all!