Reflections of our time in Kiel, Germany

We wanted to let you know more about our time in Kiel.  As you can see from the above photo, the city is beautiful.  It’s fairly modern – we were told it was partially destroyed in WWII; hence a lot of newer buildings.  We lived on the 2nd floor of a “walk up flat”.  It was different living for us; we have never lived in an apartment building in an urban setting.

Bicycles are everywhere!  There are special bike lanes set aside, and NEVER walk in them without fearing for your life.  Bicycles have 1st right of way, then pedestrians, then vehicles.  Everyone has a dog, and dogs are allowed everywhere – including in the malls & restaurants.

Food is fairly inexpensive.  Since we didn’t have a car (which was a blessing!), we walked to the store often, only buying as much as would fit in our backpack or carry bags.  We did go out to eat several times, as eating out was also inexpensive.  We had a hard time finding real German food!  We asked why, and we were told that German food is in the Southern part of Germany.  Kiel is more Scandinavian & European.  We ate delicious food from Thailand, Greece, Turkey, China, Italy.  We did find German food twice!

This is Linda on the balcony of our apartment.

Finding furnishings when you first move into a new apartment can be as easy as walking down the street.  On week-ends, people pile their discards on the sidewalk for folks to take.  We’ve seen books, toys, vacuum cleaners, and this desk & chairs.  They are usually in really good condition.

 

Speaking of things on the sidewalk, here is a photo of a car on the sidewalk.  Being in a urban environment, parking is at a premium (that’s why it was a blessing to NOT have a car!).  Sometimes the folks just did what needed to be done to find a parking place!  Our apartment is just down the road on the left side of this sidewalk.  The car is parked in front of an elementary school.

Since we walked everywhere we went, we saw lots of interesting things.  Below are just a few of the sites we came across:

On the last Sunday of our time with Kiel Church, 39 countries had been represented in the congregation.  We had a political refugee from Syria; a Christian from Iraq; a medical doctor from Kenya; a graduate student studying the cultivation of wheat from Switzerland; a woodworker who made furniture from New Zealand; an optician from Russia; a professor of international criminal law from U.K.; students from Albania, India, U.S., Thailand to name a few; a professor of international economics from Nigeria by way of Italy; a Christian journalist from Sweden; 2 business men from Singapore who were only in town for 3 weeks.  We enjoyed several people at church who were from Germany, as well as a person from Romania, and someone from Peru (we got to practice our Spanish).  These are just a few of the people we met.  What is amazing is that these folks found the church on the Internet.  Pastor Nico has done an excellent job of creating an Internet presence for the church.  These people come because they have sought out the church – they walk, ride a bike, ride a bus or train.  Some with cars drive over 1 hour on Sunday afternoons.  All who want to attend an English speaking church.

Our time in Kiel came to an end on Tuesday, October 9, 2018.  On Monday night, we were invited to spend the night in Hamburg with Pastor Hartmut & his wife Irene.  Both are pastors for the Methodist Church of Germany.  Pastor Irene made cheese fondue, using cheese she had brought from Switzerland, her home country; it was amazing!  It was a pleasure to spend our last night talking about Kiel Church and the many wonderful things that’s happening in the lives of the congregants.  We are often asked what was our favorite part of Germany.  We have to say the people.  Everyone we met was warm, engaging, and inviting.  We were invited into homes, and to have tea or coffee at small pastry shops.

This is a place we’ve worked that we would definitely consider working again!

We hope you’ve enjoyed reading our blog about our time in Germany.  If you have any questions or comments, please drop us an email, or respond at the end of this section.  We look forward to hearing from you!

 

Day Trips from Kiel

We were able to take occasional day trips from Kiel.  The bus, train, & ferry systems are very convenient, inexpensive, and easy to use – even for us that don’t speak German.  We mentioned in an earlier post about our trip to Laboe.  After that trip, we were encouraged with the success of getting there & back without problems.  A similar beach town to Laboe was Strande.  It is just across the bay from Laboe, and was equally charming with great seafood.  Laboe was accessible by ferry, and Strande was accessible by our local city bus.

We were invited to lunch by some of our new friends at Kiel Church.  They live in Flensburg, North of Kiel.  This was only a 1 hour train ride for us.  This family drives to Kiel every Sunday for church, just to find an English speaking congregation.  Jonathan is from Kenya, Miriam is from the Philippines, and their daughter Mara was born in the Philippines.  Flensburg is about a 10 minute drive to Denmark.  We took a quick trip to Denmark, even though it was a rainy day.

Lubeck was a great day trip we took by train.  The old part of the city is on an island enclosed by the river Trave.  Lubeck is a UNESCO World Heritage site, and we spent our day just walking the streets and looking at the beautiful architecture.  The city is also know as the home of marzipan.  One of the locals told us that the city was closed off during the war, and the only food stuff they had was almonds and sugar; thus came the invention of marzipan.

We had a great day taking a “cruise” on the Kiel Canal (Nord Ostsee Kanal in German).  This canal dates back to 1895 and provides a short cut passage for ships from the Baltic Sea to the North Sea.  The Baltic Sea end of the canal is in Kiel and it ends in Brunsbuttel on the River Elbe.  From Brunsbuttel, ships can pass to the port of Hamburg or go out to the North Sea and beyond.  The day included a great buffet lunch, and an afternoon cake/coffee buffet.  For our trip, we took a bus to Brunsbuttel, then boarded the paddle steamer Freya for our “cruise” back to Kiel.  It was a long day, but relaxing.

 

Wednesday Night Bible Study Comes To An End

Our Wednesday Night Bible Study has come to a close for us for this trip.  We’ve enjoyed the interaction with a group smaller than what we have on Sunday afternoon worship service.  We had about 8-13 folks attending, all eager to go deeper into their Faith Walk.

Our first 4 Wednesdays we continued with the video series Nico and Natacha had started.  After finishing the series, our last session we used the Discovery Bible Study format.  We worked through 1 Corinthians 12:12-31a.  We discussed how each member of this small congregation is important for the health of the entire Church.

We pray each member will find their way to contribute to the whole, as they find their special gift and use this gift to the Glory of God.

Countries represented in the photo above are:  Back row-Syria, Iraq, Germany, USA, New Zealand, Russia, Germany.  Front row-Germany, Peru, USA, Philippines, Philippines.

 

 

Trip to Berlin

We had 1 full day and 2 half days, so off to Berlin we went.  We must say, we are now very familiar and comfortable riding the subway trains and buses in Berlin!  We even asked someone at an information booth for directions.  We thought the directions were wrong, and sure enough, we had to change them mid-transit and didn’t get lost.  Berlin was busier than normal last week while we were there.  The President of Turkey was visiting, so most of the major downtown monuments were closed.  However, the Berlin police were very friendly and helpful, directing folks around barricades so we could still experience Berlin.  Below are a few of the sites we visited – if only from the outside.

Walking around Berlin is an adventure!  We would pass a “small” park and in an alcove would be this beautiful statue.  The “Lady Reading on Top of my Phoenix” above was part of a great statue we discovered on our way to Tiegarten Park.  The “Corner Clock” was just on a corner in one of the neighborhoods.

We finally had a meal of wiener schnitzel!  It was fantastic!  It’s veal, cooked very similar to milanesa.  Milanesa was one of our favorite foods in Paraguay.  The potato salad served with the wiener schnitzel was also wonderful.  However, we did find something unusual that we did not eat – an octopus tentacle hot dog!!  It was billed as the “new definition of hot dogs”.

Actually, all the food here in Germany has been a real delight.  We’ve been very surprised at the foods available.  We’ve had food from Turkey, Greece, China, Thailand, Italy, to name a few, and they have all been wonderful.

 

Study of the Book of James

As the “Substitute Pastor” at Kiel International Church, I (Ed) have been preaching Sunday afternoons.  After prayer and study, I decided to do a 4 part sermon series on the Book of James.  Of course you could preach far more than 4 sermons from this rich book, but we only had 4 weeks left in Kiel!

Week 1 – Trials, Temptations and Maturity

Week 2 – Faith and Deeds

Week 3 – Taming the Tongue

Week 4 (next Sunday) – Submitting to God

We have an amazing group of folks in the congregation here – I think Pastor Nico said that he has counted 34 different countries represented thus far, with as many as 18 at any one Sunday service.  Germany is like much of Europe, full of beautiful churches that function as museums in a spiritual wasteland.  So most of those who attend the church search us out and are serious about their faith.  Nico and Natacha have a very good presence on social media and Google for the Kiel International Church.  But most of them are “twenty something” college students who may not have grown up in Christian homes and have not been surrounded by Christianity the way we have in the Bible Belt of the southern USA.  A German church member said that someone at their company told a co-worker that they would pray for them – and a harassment charge was lodged against them!!  As Dorothy told Toto “we are not in Kansas anymore”.

Coffee time
We always have wonderful fellowship after the service

However, there are some “older” members (30 something) of the group as well.  One is from Kenya, married to a lady from the Philippines and is a Medical Doctor.  Another is a Professor at the Christian Albrechts University in Criminal Law from the UK.  We are definitely the “grandparents” of the group!  However, God has truly prepared us for this assignment by sending us all over the world so that we are able to relate to this diverse group of believers.

L-R From Germany, Romania, Albania, Sweden and Nigeria/Italy

The one thing that has truly inspired Linda and I is the depth of questions and conversations that come from the group.  Deep questions about battling Satan, being a believer in a society of non-believers, what is the relationship between us and Angels and more.  It is a wonderful group of believers and we are privileged to be here among them.

Please pray for the Kiel International Church, for Pastor Nico and his wife, Natacha, and for us as we finish our time here.

 

Visit to Hamburg

We recently had an opportunity to visit Hamburg with Pastor Hartmut Kraft who leads the German congregation of the Methodist Church here in Kiel.  Pastor Kraft gladly offered the church to Nico and Natacha as a place to start the International Church of Kiel last year.  We have been attending the German service each Sunday morning (the International Church meets in the evening).  Pastor Kraft and his wife Irene live in Hamburg and he offered to show us around.  What a blessing it was to have a local “tour guide”.

Us & Krafts3

Here we are inside the Kiel Church.  Pastor Harmut’s wife is also a Pastor.  Pastor Irene is the District Superintendent for this district in Germany.  She is the 2nd female to hold this office.  There has only been 1 female Bishop.

Hamburg is the second largest city in Germany and is located on the Elbe River.  It is truly a city of boats, canals and bridges.  There are two really spectacular lakes in the middle of the city – the Inner Alster and the Outer Alster.  Here we are standing in front of the smaller lake, the Inner Alster.  The Outer Alster is past the bridge behind us.

Us by Alster

One really neat thing about Hamburg is the beautiful churches.  The most famous is St. Michael’s Lutheran Church which is amazing, both inside and out.  All over Hamburg we saw some beautiful sites.  Here are a few of the places we visited.

 

The most fascinating part of our trip to Hamburg was the discovery of the Stolpersteine (you can review these at http://www.stolpersteine.eu/en/home/).  We found these as we entered Hamburg.

This stone was installed by the artist Gunter Deming.  They are in over 610 places in Germany as well as in Austria, Hungary, the Netherlands, Belgium, the Czech Republic, Norway and Ukraine.  Deming cites the Talmud saying that “a person is only forgotten when his or her name is forgotten”. The Stolpersteine in front of the buildings bring back to memory the people who once lived here. Each “stone” begins with HERE LIVED… One “stone”. One name. One person.  The above translates:

“Here lived Johann Heinrich Dudda.  He was born 1885.  He was arrested and was sent to death in February , 1936.”

We found these “stones” all over Hamburg, again in Kiel, and hopefully all over the area where Jewish people were persecuted.  It is humbling to walk in their steps.

 

Kiel Church Ladies Tea

The women of Kiel Church decided to have a monthly Ladies Tea.  This past Saturday was this month’s Ladies Tea, and I (Linda) was lucky to be invited and involved.  In the past, the ladies just had tea, but this month the organizer of the event, a woman from the UK, asked me to provide a short devotion.

Five ladies came on Saturday afternoon.  Represented was the US (me), UK, Germany, Russia, and another young woman from the US.  We enjoyed British tea, good tarts (as you can see from the picture), and great conversation.  I led a short devotion about the Woman at the Well.  Ed had preached about this woman at church the previous Sunday, so this was a good chance to follow up.  I spoke about the fact that the widows of that time who were alone had 3 options – become a beggar, become a prostitute, or live under the protection of another man.  The Woman at the Well chose to live under the protection of another man; even though the man was not her husband.  God used this woman, as she opened her heart, to become one of God’s leaders and one of the first evangelists.  She was definitely a Woman in Leadership as the devotion was titled.

But the conversations in the room were some of the deepest, most moving conversations in which I have ever been involved.  It began with a discussion about the Harry Potter book & movie series.  One person was explaining how this series can be read in a religious context.  Some view the books as a Christian allegory, similar to the C. S. Lewis Narnia series.  However, many disagree with this idea, and thus started our interesting conversation.  We had women on both sides of this issue, but the differences were based on the individual’s cultural context, and their religious faith, or lack thereof, within their childhood home.

The conversation continued after the Tea, as we spoke about culture & backgrounds.  I have never met persons who were exposed to real witchcraft as children – by their mothers – as was expressed to me on Saturday.  I began to think that we need to be careful when we are discussing issues of the “world of the unknown” with others.  Some people are trying hard to disengage themselves from various upbringings & addictions, and are asking God to step in and take control.  They do not have the time or energy or need to be introduced to “innocent magic”, especially when it’s introduced in a “childlike” manner.  I think it would be similar to a recovering alcoholic offered just a little alcoholic toast for a special occasion.  Magic and alcohol can both be introduced innocently, but can lead to a life long addiction.

Much to learn in a Ladies Afternoon Tea.  I hope to remember my lessons & to be mindful of the women in my group with different cultures, upbringings, and our needs of the Cross.  My take away is to not support books or movies without first knowing the full extent of the theology behind the writings, and knowing the audience in which these works are being presented.

Paul, in Romans 14:21, gives us this message (taken from The Message): “When you sit down to a meal, your primary concern should not be to feed your own face but to share the life of Jesus. So be sensitive and courteous to the others who are eating. Don’t eat or say or do things that might interfere with the free exchange of love.”