A Walk in the City
Back in June 2019, I had the privilege of leading a group of Hispanic young adults on a missions trip to Berlin, Germany. I have led quite a few short-term trips, but this one was different.
Who Would We Encounter?
Our primary objective was to make contacts for the Alliance international workers (IWs) who live here. We had a supply of contact cards to give people, listing phone numbers and an invitation to visit the Spanish-language Alliance church in Berlin. We were to walk city streets, attempting to locate Hispanics among the millions of people living in Berlin, the second most populated city in the European Union. We thought the odds of meeting a Hispanic person were near to none.
We were also warned that if we did make contacts, there was a possibility that we would face skepticism. Our team members were instructed to enter department stores, grocery stores, pharmacies, coffee shops, etc., and speak Spanish to each other. The IWs said we would know when someone was Hispanic because they would make eye contact with us, acknowledging that they understood what we were saying—we wanted to see this happen!
After two hours of walking throughout the city, we had made 13 contacts! It was amazing to see how our spiritual eyes and ears were opened and how the Lord coordinated these divine appointments.
Each person we met had never set foot in an evangelical church. All 13 received an invitation to visit our church.
Here are testimonies from some of those divine encounters:
- One team member challenged another to enter a barbershop and ask if anyone spoke Spanish. When asked, “Why?” she replied, “Because every time my dad goes on vacation, his first stop is the barbershop.” To the team’s surprise, there was a Spanish speaker in the shop—the barber!
- Another team reported how two women began a conversation with them when team members were speaking Spanish on a street corner. One of the ladies became quite interested in their mission. Noticing her sense of hopelessness, team members began sharing words of encouragement and hope with her; they reported that she expressed feeling a sense of peace when their conversation concluded.
- During my team’s walk through the city we entered a small convenience store to buy soap. While we were speaking Spanish in the store, I noticed a woman making eye contact with me. But I continued walking. The Holy Spirit kept drawing me back to her, but I didn’t take the initiative to speak to her in Spanish. After we had purchased the soap and were making our way out of the store, the Holy Spirit stopped me. I wish I had the right words to describe that powerful moment—His voice was so clear! “You need to go back in!” So, I grabbed an umbrella on display outside the store and yelled to my team, “I need to buy this!” As I made my way to the cash register, a German woman began talking to me. When I told her I didn’t speak German, she answered, “I’m sorry; I thought you worked here!” We both laughed. As I turned around, I noticed that the lady who had previously made eye contact with me was smiling. I smiled in return, saying, “Eso estuvo gracioso!” (That was funny!). She laughed and replied, “Si!” We introduced ourselves to each other, and I invited her to the church. She said she’d never visited a church but a friend in Mexico had for years insisted she attend. She said that in Germany there’s no place to go for Hispanics like her who have gone through difficult times. Realizing I was offering what her friend had in the past, she became interested and expressed that what our team has is probably what she’s been looking for. I gave her the church information, and she said she would consider attending in the next few weeks.
- After two hours of walking the city, our teams got on a bus to go to an IW’s home. One of our members asked someone in our group a question in Spanish; a young man sitting next to them responded, thinking she was talking to him. Four of our team members started conversing with this young man and invited him to a soccer game later that week. To our surprise, he showed up and then attended church on Sunday! He has not missed one Sunday service since and says he plans to bring his mom as well. We learned later that he had taken the wrong bus when we’d met him!
Allow Him to Lead
During our nine days in Berlin, we could feel a sense of darkness and hopelessness as we walked the streets, but we also experienced firsthand the Holy Spirit at work. We learned that when we allow Him to lead us, focusing on what He has commanded us to do, our spiritual eyes see and hear the need—and He makes divine encounters possible.
Our Alliance congregation’s potential to impact and bring hope to the Spanish-speaking community in Berlin is tremendous. Can we count on you to intercede for them and the Hispanic people we met? Pray that they will have a sense of urgency to use the contact cards we gave them and call the IWs or visit the church.
Check out “When God Says ‘Help Me!,'” a related story from Berlin.
Placed with a Purpose – in Berlin!
Our story begins quite simply. We had just moved to Berlin. Being fluent in English and Spanish, we thought that God had something Spanish-oriented in mind. But we were absolutely sure of the call to Berlin. We dove into German language school. It was hard. Really hard. They say learning a third language is easy, but that’s not actually true. We lived it. And in the midst of it, we were dying to the dream we had of ministering in Spanish, having a deep love for the people, culture and language.
Fast forward five years. Enter our new friend, CK. He is Colombian. CK, by way of his grandfather, carries German citizenship. He finds himself in Berlin, allowed to be there, but feeling out of place. Displaced. Through a series of divine appointments, José met CK at a Spanish-speaking men’s cooking event. CK was lonely, in culture shock, looking for something familiar, even his own heart language. We invited CK to our home for a meal, and heard his story – one of wanting to make a better life for his family and wanting to raise his children in a safe and stable society. For CK, there was a certain comfort in knowing someone who had walked the path a bit longer, who spoke the same language, who had grown to call Berlin home. He became our friend. He shared rather quickly that he was an atheist. José shared that he was a Professor of the Bible.
Two weeks later, CK’s wife and children were able to join him in Berlin on Christmas Eve, just in time for the holidays. The four of them joined us for New Year’s Eve. We got to know the family and celebrated all that 2017 would bring. We agreed to have brunch the following Sunday. To our surprise, J, CK’s wife, shared that she believes in God, believes that He exists, but is neither Catholic nor Evangelical. She just believes there is a God. She asked if we had church services and Bible studies and Sunday School, because she wanted to raise her children with the practice of having religion in their lives. CK then told us that he didn’t grow up with any religious background, and that was what made him an atheist. But he was open. We took a huge risk of faith and gave them both a Spanish Bible.
We planned to meet for Bible study the following Sunday, but CK found himself severely ill and hospitalized. J let us know and José was able to visit him in the hospital. CK shared that he brought the Bible with him because he didn’t want to be bored and that he had begun reading the Bible from the very beginning. We thought he meant Genesis. But no. CK had begun with the Table of Contents and the explanation of how the Bible was interpreted from original manuscripts. CK now found himself in the explanation of Application and Interpretation. He asked José, who also happens to teach Hermeneutics, the study of Biblical interpretation and application, if he could help him understand and apply the Bible to his life. If he was going to read the Bible, he wanted to do it right. Hallelujah!
José agreed. We were able to meet last week with both CK and J to study the first chapter of the Gospel of John together. They had so many questions, and God is most certainly at work.
Pray for CK and his family. As we discuss Nicodemus together in a few weeks, pray that God would show them their own need to be born again. We are asking God to bring salvation to the whole family!
We give thanks to God for how He is at work. We cannot help but marvel at how He brought us to Berlin, having a love for Spanish speakers. After language school and adjustment to a new city, we now are grateful to call Berlin home. God makes no mistakes. He wastes no experience. And He is so good. He loves us so much that He will pursue us.
My own family immigrated from Germany to the US three generations ago during times of war and, as a result, we came to know Jesus. God has seen fit to have us return to Germany to share Jesus with others. We have come full circle and are seeing God place people in different countries in order to encounter Jesus, even using wars and crises in their home countries. Like many places around the globe, God is bringing the nations to Berlin. And, as a result of being ‘displaced’, they are often more open to the Gospel than they would be or could be in their home country.
Melanie and José have lived and served in Berlin since January 2012. They are International Workers serving Spanish speakers through Project Cherry Tree, a multi-cultural church planting project. They are grateful to share space at the Lighthouse, an Alliance Community Center in the heart of Berlin. They have two boys.