A message from a friend with some thoughts that stood out to her from a recent conversation with our team leader about moving to Germany:
I was struck by the inescapable overlay of a non-Christian influenced society on all parts of your lives. I knew you guys were facing the challenge of integrating into life with an entirely new language, but I assumed that challenge was going to fade away throughout the next year as you guys ramp up your language skills. I hadn’t focused at all on the culture shock of living in a society where you don’t bump into Christian values in day-to-day life.
As Mike was discussing, you won’t come across ten Christians on your morning errands whom you can identify by the way they treated you with grace and kindness. My husband and I were reflecting on this point and how it’s hard to even process the difference that would make in daily life because it is so natural here. (Of course, part of that is southern culture; life in New York City and other major American cities is much less influenced by Christian values.) We were discussing someone of great influence that we know who is not a Christian. However, that person has a church with which he identifies for Christian holidays and public perception, and could almost certainly recite the gospel at a minimum. So, the baseline with which you begin faith discussions is so different in Germany.
I was reflecting on this as I drove to Bible Study Fellowship (BSF) last week. I was heading to a non-denominational Bible study that conducts at least five meetings a week in Knoxville alone, with hundreds of participants in each one. As Denise and I texted about last week, Germany has no BSF classes at all. On my drive, I listened to two Christian radio stations. I passed countless evangelical churches and cars with CAK, CCS and Shoreline bumper stickers. Tonight, I am meeting with my small group at my local church, where on Wednesday nights they conduct multiple services for adults and youth in addition to Sunday worship and many extracurricular activities. The way you all will get spiritually fed is so vastly different. So much more like the Acts church. You will have much less organized opportunities for growth, but will probably see God’s hand so much more readily as He meets you in your need and shows you how He will provide for your spiritual growth and all your other needs in new and exciting ways.
I also had the realization that the kids will be integrating into public German schools. The other family I know that has recently moved abroad (for work, not missionary purposes) have their kids in private schools for expats. I guess I had sort of automatically assumed that sort of education for your kids. I was thinking about how I stress about making sure my kids have as much exposure as possible to Christian influences, and how those pillars don’t exist where you are headed. Of course, this is just like the above realization regarding your church experience – your children will see such powerful and undeniable work of the Spirit through your small neighborhood church and His work in your lives through this major life change that you will have far more teaching tools than I do here, but it will be vastly different from a cultural perspective. I can’t wait to see how He grows the faith of each person in your family and uses you to reach others in Germany.