It's hard to believe we've been back in Germany for over five weeks. Time has flown by but we have definitely seen God at work already.
The first prayer request we had upon our return was for Chloe's immersion into Kindergarten. We prayed hard for understanding and patient teachers that would be kind to her and that she would make sweet friends she would love seeing every day. We prayed that it wouldn't be so hard on her (and us) to say good-bye when we dropped her off each day and we prayed for opportunities to get to know the parents of Chloe's school friends so we could build friendships ourselves.
God has answered our prayers in so many ways. The drop-off's are still a bit difficult but her teachers have a great way of just scooping her up into their arms and telling her, "let's go wave bye bye to mommy!" (in German of course). Then I run downstairs and go outside and wave like mad, blow kisses and disappear quick so she can get on with her day. By the time I pick her up in the afternoon she doesn't want to go home. Praise God! :) Her teachers seem very nice and understanding and they say Chloe is doing great. She has also met a little friend Lena who she loves to play with. Lena is four and lives right down the road from us. Her mom Kirsten is very nice and took the time to introduce me to a friend of hers who just happened to live in Atlanta for 9 years. She speaks very good English. Last night we had our first "Eltern-abend" which is when all the parents get together at the kindergarten with the teachers and hear all the news, what's upcoming, how they can get involved, what their children's days are like, how they celebrate birthday's, etc. Alan stayed home with Chloe so I could go and I really enjoyed the time. Unfortunately I didn't understand more than about 60% of what was said but I left having several questions answered and meeting lots of other parents which was my goal.
The second prayer request was for a new bible study we wanted to start in our home. We wanted it to be a multi-generational, multi-church, weekly get-together and from all accounts this is what we are already beginning to see. Since we started three weeks ago, we have had 6-8 consistently each week which has been nice. Three different churches are represented and the ages range from the low 20's to the mid 50's. We have lots of discussion (and sometimes strong debate!) over the topics raised in the book, "More Than a Carpenter" and then enjoy a time of prayer and fellowship after. We speak equally in German and in English. New people continue to come each week and that is exciting.
Thirdly I prayed for Gods direction as to how to spend my time once Chloe enrolled in Kindergarten. Monday's are taken up with cleaning, laundry, cooking at the prep for the bible study. Tuesday's and Friday's I was attending MOPS but didn't feel this was the direction God was taking me this year so I decided to research the German class at the refugee camp taught by an older German gentleman from our church who I admire greatly. He was thrilled with the possibility of me helping as he'd been doing it alone for some time. I told him I would come and check things out and see how it went. Apparently my bad German translated to him that I would be there every time they met for the foreseeable! :) At least this is what he tells anyone who asks now.
Initially I will admit to being a bit fearful as I walked into the grounds of the refugee camp housing more than 500 refugees. I was alone and most of the people housed at the camp are trafficked into the country in one form or another. The conditions are not good and the frustration from the residents with the crowded conditions and endless waiting is evident. Still, I eventually found where I needed to go and met up with the teacher to get instructions. He warned me to not share about my faith or beliefs because they wanted to keep the German class strictly about teaching German. They do this because so many Muslims attend and they don't want them to be frightened off from attending. I completely understood this concern and assured him it wouldn't be an issue. That first class the room was full - seven men from Gambia, a mother and her two young teenagers from Syria, two other Syrians and 3 Iraq refugees attended. I worked solely with the Gambians and continue with them each week. They are precious. So willing to try to learn. I have met one who is especially nice - his name is Musa. Please pray he can grasp the language and that by doing so it would help to improve his life. I know little to nothing about each of the refugees and hope that stronger relationships will be built in the weeks ahead.
As I was walking to my car I remembered I had some blankets and some stuffed animals I was going to take to the Frei Evangelical Gemeinde in Heidelberg ear-marked for refugees. Since I was already at a camp I thought that I might as well take them into the administration offices and leave them there. When I was unpacking the trunk a little girl who was 2 1/2 approached me at the car. In my hand I held a plastic bag full of Chloe's stuffed animals - most in new or nearly new condition. I fished out a small dog and then looked to find the little girls mom to see if I could give it to her. She smiled and nodded and the little girls eyes just lit up. When her older sister (maybe 6) saw this, she came running to the car and also wanted a stuffed animal. I asked her which was her favorite and she said, "all!". I said, do you have friends you could share them with? Her mother then replied, "I have eight children." I said, well then, take the whole bag. I asked her if she could use the blankets and she said yes so I left them with her. She then asked me if I had a rug or if I could look for one for her. I said I would. Her name was Stella and her daughter's name was Sorga. Please pray I can build a relationship with their family and help them in whatever small way I can. By the way, I found a rug in our cellar that we weren't using that I plan to take tomorrow. Praise God for that! :)
Alan's work at the CVJM and the missions loft continues but I can tell he needs encouragement and wonders often if all his blood, sweat and tears will be worth it in the end. I try to tell him it will but it's still hard sometimes. His goal is to get the loft finished in time for Nicole to move in next summer.
I guess the biggest thing we've encountered in the last week was an email from the Pioneers finance department in the UK telling us we were in deficit nearly 14,000 pounds. That is nearly 22,000!! My initial response was a combination of horror and frustration as I could pull up at least a dozen emails asking for a financial statement showing monies paid to us versus monies coming in over the last 4 years. Higher priority items always trumped this request and now they hit us with this deficit which from all accounts seems insurmountable on human terms. Fortunately for us we don't work on human terms. Our boss owns the cattle on a thousand hills and promises to provide for all our needs. That's the good news! The bad news is I have to do what I haven't had to do in the last four years and that is go out and ask for funds. I hate asking for money. Hate it. Horrid. I think there should be an organization that closely monitors missionaries work and then fund raises for them (sort of like the International mission board). Still, I've written the letters and now have to send out the cards to our faithful supporters asking that they dig deep to try to keep us here. I can already see the stress from knowing this deficit is hanging over our heads between Alan and I but really either we trust God or we don't. That's the bottom line. I choose to trust.
Thank you for your continued interest, partnership with us and especially your prayers. We need them every hour of every day!