There’s no place like home(ish)

After a whirlwind 5 1/2 weeks, we came back to Germany and hurried to settle back into a routine before our son started back to school (less than a week later!) and our busy schedule resumed. Our first visit home was a wonderful, busy, fun-filled time, but even though we were technically going “home”, there is still no place like home (as in the place where your bed resides, your clothes hang, your kitchen is your wonderland, etc.). We have taken a little communication break the past couple of months to get our heads back in the game, and now that a bit of time has past, we want to share some reflections on some of the major differences between living in America and living in Germany.

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Here we are! In this picture, we had just arrived after 20 long hours of travel to greet our families at 2:00 am.

Round 1: Transportation

If you’ve never traveled to Europe before, you’ve never had the pleasure of enjoying real, effective public transportation in its finest form. Sure, there are cities in America with train systems and cities where you can ride a bike, but they just don’t do it like the Europeans, especially not like Germany.

In America, we were once more dependent upon cars (big shout out to my parents who leant us a car for the whole trip!!!), which is shockingly hard to do after living in Germany for awhile. The kids weren’t too excited about being hauled around in a car all the time. They missed hopping on the train or riding their bikes (very safely with perfectly marked bike lanes, I might add) to get around, and so did we.

That being said, we miss the SUPER low prices of American gasoline. In case you are curious, we pay around $6 per gallon here in Germany.

Round 1 Winner: Germany

Left: Nick and our friend Jake enjoy a train ride in Hannover. Right: Clara is all strapped in for a bike ride, equipped with plenty of safety and Clara humor. 

Round 2: Food

I might catch some flack for this, but I am not a huge lover of German cuisine. There are a lot of yummy German foods, but since I am not much of a meat eater and can’t eat gluten, a lot of German food just isn’t my thing. Nick, on the other hand, is a huge fan. Sign him up for a currywurst and brötchen any day!

When people ask us what we miss most about America, we say (other than the people we love) the food. Here is a short list: Mexican food, barbecue, salad places, and healthy food stores (Trader Joe’s, Lucky’s). Even Aldi in America is better with a lot more organic and healthy choices, despite being a German company. I will say that gluten free options in stores here in Germany tend to be tastier, but the gluten free options in American restaurants (particularly in Louisville) are abundant and totally delicious. Sigh, dreaming of all the yummy food now.

Round 2 Winner: America

Pic 1: All the delight of Halo Top ice cream. Pic 2: A gluten free, dairy free cupcake from Annie May’s in Louisville. Pic 3: A pizza from Pieology. Pic 4: Drool. Real Mexican food.

Round 3: Language

We are more than two years into our life here in Germany, and we are all fluent at this point. Still, there is nothing like being able to speak and think in your mother tongue without worrying about mistakes or sounding unnatural. Nick loved being able to preach again in English (click here if you want to hear his sermon from our time in America, episode: Who wears your crown?), and I loved hearing him.

However, coming back to Germany was equally as nice in terms of language. It was so reassuring to come back to Hannover and ease right back into speaking German, rather than feeling like our 5 weeks of English immersion took away from German ability. Nick preached shortly after returning, and he reported feeling more comfortable than ever speaking German in that context.

Round 3 Winner: TIE!

Our reporting trip this summer really solidified what we already felt to be true: we have two homes now, and God is moving in both of them and using us whenever and wherever we open ourselves to being used.

Thank you to everyone who opened their homes and lives up to us this summer. We enjoyed the food, the coffee, the hugs, and the laughs. See you again in 2021 (or when you come to visit us)!

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Two Year Deutsch-iversary!

We are a couple of weeks late in posting this, but… we are celebrating TWO YEARS of being on the field as missionaries in Germany! Time has flown by, and we couldn’t be more excited with where we are and how God is using us. March 17, 2018 was our official second Deutsch-iversary, so we wanted to share a few reflections to mark the occasion.

When you first start serving in a country that speaks a different language, things move soooo slowly. Until they don’t. 

Upon arrival, our lives were basically just a series of filling out paperwork, visiting offices with insanely limited hours, and struggling to figure out things like how to pay our bills or install lights. Immediately following, we embarked upon our language learning journeys. We quickly learned that fluency is not a finish line, but it was still challenging not to be able to express ourselves (Ich kann mich nicht ausdrücken!).

Once we started settling into using German everyday, we had to figure out what it looked like to, you know, live here.  Before we knew it, we were celebrating our FIRST Deutsch-iversary, we sent Cade off to first grade in a German school, and we just generally breathed a sight of relief. Alles hat gut geklappt (everything worked out well)!

After we announced our plans for 2018, things accelerated very quickly. Our first home group is thriving, and we are so blessed to be a part of that. It took a long time and a lot of learning to get to this point, but things are happening! We are just along for the ride the holy spirit has us on in Germany.

Here are some things we look forward during our third trip around the sun in Germany:

  • Nick co-preached with our teammate, Eide Schwing, today at a church about an hour away. They will preach again together next week.
  • On May 6, we will have our second quarterly service with Christus-Gemeinde Laatzen. Nick will preach, and Mallorie will lead the children’s program.
  • We will continue being involved with Christus-Gemeinde Hannover.
  • In May,  a good friend of ours who is praying about God’s calling for him in Germany will visit. He will stay with us for most of May, and although we are hoping and praying that he will join our team, our real hope is that God would reveal himself clearly to our friend during his time with us.
  • At the end of May, we will help lead a workshop on acculturation in a foreign context at Kontaktmission’s Crash Weekend, a weekend designed to prepare and send short-term workers. We will also lead worship that weekend. This is part of a larger role we have taken on with KM this year as the European coordinators (or something quasi-official sounding like that) of GoConnect, the short-term branch of the organization.
  • Speaking of that role, we will work to coordinate several short-term visits for prospective missionaries and expand our relationships with missionaries across Europe to better develop those opportunities.
  • In the middle of June, we have an awesome couple coming to stay with us on part of a global tour. The husband was one of our youth (How cool is that?! Also, how old are we?!), and he and his awesome wife are making this trip to better understand where God wants them to serve. We would love for them to serve in Europe, but regardless of where they land, we are THRILLED to see where he leads them.
  • At the end of June, we will fly to Louisville for our first reporting trip. We won’t have all been in Kentucky together for almost 2 1/2 years, so this is exciting. We look forward to catching up with our family, friends, and supporting churches.
  • The fall holds two more quarterly services, more meetings for our home group, and who knows how many other new ministry opportunities. We will keep you in the loop!

Thank you so much to all of you who have prayed for us, encouraged us, and supported us financially over these last two years. You are such a blessing in our lives and enable us to do what we do each day. Thank you from the bottom of our hearts. Please keep praying that our friends and neighbors will see Jesus through us and will want to know him for themselves.

If you would like to join our support team by giving a one-time or monthly gift, please click here.

Here’s to many more!

Nick and Mallorie

The Gift of Opportunity

I really love the Christmas season. Any of you who know me (Mallorie) well know that I grew up in what basically equates to Kentucky’s local version of Santa’s workshop, including a head elf (aka my mom). Christmas just brings something special with it: a sense or excitement and renewal. It is impossible to duplicate the feeling any other time of the year. In the last few years though, I have acquired a strong new feeling as well: a sense of purpose.

Germany has a lot of traditions that are founded in Christian faith, yet faith in the Christ child born to save us from our sins has gotten lost over time. For example, every single German I know has an advent wreath (Adventskranz) in their home and lights it faithfully each week. I received no fewer than five texts from girlfriends wishing me a happy (1st, 2nd, 3rd, etc.) advent because it such a big deal here. However, it is no longer a way of reflecting on the role of Christ in the Christmas season for most. I think we are all guilty of losing Christ in the Christmas season, regardless of how much “Jesus is the reason for the season” type of decorating we do.

As I was reading Romans 1 today, I was convicted of not allowing Christmas to be a great opportunity for to talk about Jesus as often as I should. In our home, we are really intentional about Jesus being the focus over presents and Santa, but I’m dissatisfied with myself when it comes to using that opportunity to share the gospel outside of our home. Romans 1:14-17 says:

God, whom I serve in my spirit in preaching the gospel of his Son, is my witness how constantly I remember you in my prayers at all times; and I pray that now at last by God’s will the way may be opened for me to come to you.

I am obligated both to Greeks and non-Greeks, both to the wise and the foolish. That is why I am so eager to preach the gospel also to you who are in Rome. For I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God that brings salvation to everyone who believes: first to the Jew, then to the Gentile. For in the gospel the righteousness of God is revealed—a righteousness that is by faith from first to last, just as it is written: “The righteous will live by faith.”

This passage is so convicting for me. God has opened the way for us to share the love of Christ with those around us during the Christmas season. There is no other time in the year, in my experience at least, where people’s hearts are more open to Christianity and the word of God, and we need to seize the moment and share the good news. The savior of the world was born on Christmas to a virgin mother. He grew to be a sinless man, a bold leader, a healer, a prophet like the world had ever seen. He was convicted of nothing, yet sentenced to death by people who days before has praised him. He was betrayed by those he loved, both before and after his death. He was killed in a horrific way: death on the cross.

But. But. But. The story doesn’t end. You know it. I know it. Now let’s get excited about it. Let the love of Christ and a personal relationship with him be the greatest thing in your life this Christmas. Crack open your bible for the first time in awhile. Give yourself the gift of prayer time alone with your Heavenly Father. Share the good news of a risen savior with your friends and family who need his love and mercy. I know I need it. Merry Christmas, friends!

Breathing a sigh of relief 

You know that feeling you get when things are really, really surreal? It’s that feeling that you’re a bit outside of your body. You might even wake up not really sure where you are. Before we arrived in Germany, I experienced that feeling a lot when we would travel to different places, and I loved that feeling. Being on the mission field provides this feeling a LOT in the beginning (and sometimes much later as well), but it isn’t always a feeling you love having. As we celebrated being here in Hannover for a year and a half this week, I thought I’d share with you some of the surreal feelings we had upon arriving and how they have taken shape over time.

1. Holy moly, Batman. How will I ever speak this language?

Anyone who has ever tried to learn German will tell you that it isn’t easy. A lot of Germans will even tell you that it isn’t an easy language. Compound the difficulty with the fact that German has several very distinct dialects, and you might realize that you have surmounted a seemingly insurmountable task. But then, something changes. Nick has written before that fluency isn’t a finish line, and it really isn’t. Both of us hit points where, after tons of hard work, we climb over another obstacle and suddenly can just… understand. It’s really weird how this happens, but man, it is so encouraging. Words, sentence structure, and idioms just start sticking, and suddenly you can say to other people, “As a matter of fact, I do speak German!”

Being unable to communicate well was one of our biggest discouragements in the beginning, so I thought I’d share some of our tricks to learning a language quicker:

  • Eat, sleep, and breathe that language. Don’t make excuses for it either. Watch TV, read the news, and listen to music in your new language.
  • Ask people to correct you. Accept the correction humbly and don’t be afraid to just keep speaking.
  • Work harder than you ever have to learn something, and then do something to step it up another notch. For me, that meant doing everything in German and writing down words I didn’t know. I literally had a list on my phone that I would add to as women in my daughter’s play group said things I didn’t know. And I told them what I was doing, which meant I got even more help.
  • Don’t try to translate everyday sayings directly from English. Instead, ask someone to help you express the same idea using the structure your new language uses.

We can’t express the relief that comes with finally speaking your newlanguage, but it is a BIG, BIG relief!

2. Will my kids have friends here, or will they be outsiders? Will we have friends here, or will we be outsiders?!

In 2012, we moved to Muncie, Indiana where Nick pastored a great congregation for a year. Any of you who know me personally know that I am extremely extroverted, so when we moved from the city to a smaller town, it was a very hard adjustment for me. I was fiercely lonely. Eventually we made some fantastic friends, but that time was really difficult for me.

That’s why one of our biggest prayers was that we would make friends fast. Cade and Clara are also super social, so we really hoped that for all of our sakes, meaningful friendships would be easy to come across. Wow, wow, wow… God has really shown off in this area. Not only do our kids have a great little tribe of friends around them, but Nick and I have also found wonderful, caring, funny friends that have become our little tribe here — both Christian and non-Christian. These people have helped Hannover feel like home very quickly, and we are most certainly not lonely.

3. What in the world will our days look like? This life is so unstructured for my structured brain! 

To be honest, this one can be kind of stressful sometimes, but overall, we have found a groove in creating our own schedule. Missionary work doesn’t exactly conform to the traditional 9-5 schedule, and you really need to be disciplined in order to make things happen. At first, we committed our work time to learning German well. Learning the language and culture was our job. Our days are quite a bit different now.

We spend a lot of our time with people, which is fantastic for this family of social butterflies! Nick and I have been very intentional about setting a schedule, which means scheduling time to be with people, time for prayer, time for sermon prep, and time for meetings. We try to protect a couple of nights a week, but a lot of our nights are just not free anymore. Last week we hosted people four nights during the week. Sometimes that can be stressful, but it is worth it to have so many conversations that point toward Jesus.

If you want to know more about our daily life, click here.

4. Will we ever feel at home here?

Two weeks ago we went to a festival called “Brunnenfest” in a part of town close to ours. This festival takes place every year, but last year we had no idea it even existed, despite the fact that it is literally right outside the door of Cade’s old kindergarten. When you first move somewhere, it is hard to discover the traditions that make it feel like home, but if we compare last year to this year, the difference is amazing. Not only do we know what’s going on in our community, but we are actually there when things are happening. The best part is that when we go to these events (or even just to the store or the train station), we see people we know. People know us. While there are a lot of things we miss about Louisville — which is a seriously cool city, by the way — Hannover is also really cool and has a lot to offer. And it is feeling quite homey these days!

Thank you for your support and encouragement over the last year and a half! We are so grateful for the opportunity to represent the body of Christ here. Here’s to many more!

Our son ist “Erstklassig” (First class!)

A lot of people are curious about the cultural differences between the U.S. and Germany, and there are many. One of the biggest cultural differences is the approach to schooling, especially for younger children. While the upper levels of schooling (5th-13th class/grade) are also approached very differently, I wanted to take the opportunity to talk about “Erste Klasse,” or first grade.

In America, kids start school in kindergarten when they are five years old. Before that, they might attend pre-school and start learning some basic skills, such as writing letters or learning to use scissors. Kindergarten here is very different. Kids attend kindergarten from age 3-6, and the focus is largely on play. They will do some arts and crafts, stories, games, etc., but these activities are meant to stimulate imagination and play rather than intentionally improving a certain school skill.

Here in Germany, kids don’t start school until they are six years old, at which time they enter “Erste Klasse,” which literally translates to “First Class” and means in American culture “First Grade.” Unlike America, there is no cut-off birthday for starting school (i.e. August 1, September 1, etc.). Instead, every kiddo born in a certain year is eligible for school. Parents and kindergarten teachers can decide together for a child to stay in kindergarten a year longer to develop more socially and emotionally, which happens sometimes, especially for children born later in a year. Likewise, some kids (like our big guy) will be younger in their year because they have a late birthday.

Probably the best thing about starting school here in Germany is “Einschulung,” which is the first day of school and takes place on a Saturday. Although I’m not sure everything is the same in each German city, I will share what it’s like here in Hannover. The kiddos come into school with their “Schulranzen” (the most legit, awesome backpack style ever) and their “Schultüte,” a giant cone filled with goodies from the parents. For those of you who are curious, Cade’s had some cool school supplies (ruler shaped like a sword, anyone?), a kid-safe pocket knife, a wallet, a space snack container and water bottle, a book, and some of his favorite candies.

Check out that handsome fellow! The Schulranzen (backpack) is large, sturdy, and ergonomic. Plus, it is super cool looking. They are quite expensive, but students use them from 1st-4th grade. The Schultüte is 2-3 feet tall, and most parents make these giant cones themselves based on their child’s interests. Cade’s Schultüte was space themed!

The official ceremony began with all of the “Schulkinder” (school children) in a large space with their families. The 4th grade students presented a skit and a song to open up the ceremony. After that, the principal walked us all through the general expectations and introduced the teachers. Sometimes students know their classes ahead of time, but Cade didn’t know his. The sorting (Come on, fellow HP fans! You know you love the idea of being sorted.) took place at the end. Cade was sorted and left with his class for 45 minutes of “Unterricht” (teaching/lesson). While he was in class with his new classmates, we waited with the other families for our big guy to finish up his first lesson.

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Cade’s class being sorted. Don’t worry! He’s totally a Gryffindor. 

After that official lesson, most families leave and celebrate. We did just that! We had a special lunch with our family and Nick’s parents at the local American style ’50s diner (mmm… milkshakes), then we headed back home to prepare for Cade’s Einschulung Party. We had so much fun!

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Now our big guy is officially a “Schulkind” and is loving it! We hope you enjoyed learning a bit about his Einschulung and this awesome German tradition 🙂

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His first official day in school. IMG_3606

Einschulung got us like… zzzzzzzz 😉

Speaking to the heart

love-313416_1280Throughout my life, my mom has been really good at gift-giving. It wasn’t just the big gift-giving seasons that really showcased her aptitiude; it was also an ability in the small moments. When I was still living at home, I would come home from a regular old Tuesday at high school to find a funky pair of socks or a bag of my favorite candy laying on my bed, and she would always be thrilled to see how excited I’d get. In fact, when I visited the states with the kids in February, she had a little stack of perfectly curated gifts on that same bed awaiting our arrival. Any of you who know her know that this is just a particular, thoughtful talent of hers. She knows how to speak to the hearts of others.

While learning to speak German, there has constantly been a motivation in the back of my mind pushing me to go through flashcards in the wee hours of the night: I want to be able to speak to the hearts of others. I am not necessarily as good at little surprises as my mom is, but I am working on honing the craft in other ways. One of those ways is learning to speak German well enough that I can listen to a friend and really understand her emotional needs. I want to be able to offer prayer and encouragement in my new language that is authentic and shows that I have really heard them.

There are a lot of people in our lives who don’t know the love of Jesus, and it is up to us to start becoming fluent in the language of their hearts. How can we serve them? How can we encourage them? How can we breathe the good news of the gospel into their lives? It has to begin with us desiring to speak to their hearts.

Please pray for one or two people this week whose hearts you’d like to speak to.

Liebe Grüße,

Mallorie

Confused about how to evangelize? Start here.

What does it mean to evangelize? I hear a lot of people talk about planting seeds in the hearts of non-believers. We do this in a lot of ways: the ministry of living a Christian life out loud, the ministry of service, the ministry of hospitality. These things can go a long way in providing testimony of a changed life through Christ, and they can certainly plant seeds in the hearts of those who don’t yet know the love of Christ, making them curious about what a life following Jesus really means.
But at what point do those people turn curiosity into commitment?
In John 4:34-38, Jesus says, “My food is to do the will of him who sent me and to finish his work. Don’t you have a saying, ‘It’s still four months until harvest’? I tell you, open your eyes and look at the fields! They are ripe for harvest. Even now the one who reaps draws a wage and harvests a crop for eternal life, so that the sower and the reaper may be glad together. Thus the saying ‘One sows and another reaps’ is true. I sent you to reap what you have not worked for. Others have done the hard work, and you have reaped the benefits of their labor.”
This mini-lesson in evangelism doesn’t just come out of the blue. Jesus had been speaking to the woman at the well, and he planted seeds in her heart to change her attitude toward him right away:
1. He spoke to her, even though she was a Samaritan, which was practically unheard of for a Jewish person to do.
“The Samaritan woman said to him, ‘You are a Jew and I am a Samaritan woman. How can you ask me for a drink?’ (For Jews do not associate with Samaritans.)” John 4:9
2. He offered a testimony of the fullness of a Christian life.
“‘Sir,’ the woman said, ‘you have nothing to draw with and the well is deep. Where can you get this living water? Are you greater than our father Jacob, who gave us the well and drank from it himself, as did also his sons and his livestock?’ Jesus answered, ‘Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks the water I give them will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give them will become in them a spring of water welling up to eternal life.'”
‭‭John‬ ‭4:11-14‬ ‭
3. He lovingly, but clearly, addressed the ways her life and her sins were failing to give her an abundant life.
“The woman said to him, ‘Sir, give me this water so that I won’t get thirsty and have to keep coming here to draw water.’ He told her, ‘Go, call your husband and come back.’ ‘I have no husband,’ she replied. Jesus said to her, ‘You are right when you say you have no husband. The fact is, you have had five husbands, and the man you now have is not your husband. What you have just said is quite true.'”
‭‭John‬ ‭4:15-18‬ ‭
I actually think most Christians can do one — or even all– of these things really well. But what we miss is what comes next in this exchange: we actually have to say out loud that you must believe in Jesus to have eternal life.
“‘Woman,’ Jesus replied, ‘believe me, a time is coming when you will worship the Father neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem. You Samaritans worship what you do not know; we worship what we do know, for salvation is from the Jews. Yet a time is coming and has now come when the true worshipers will worship the Father in the Spirit and in truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks. God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in the Spirit and in truth.’ The woman said, ‘I know that Messiah’ (called Christ) ‘is coming. When he comes, he will explain everything to us.’ Then Jesus declared, ‘I, the one speaking to you—I am he.'”
‭‭John‬ ‭4:21-26‬
Jesus boldly declares that he is the Messiah. He is the one sent from God. And better yet, she believes him and goes and tells other people what she discovered through Jesus Christ! She wouldn’t have done that had she not been told directly that Jesus was, in fact, the answer.
So how does that translate into your daily life as someone who wants to reach others for Christ? I have some practical tips for your consideration.
1. Don’t count on others to be the ones reaping the harvest. I know a lot of people who will depend on “seed planting” because the don’t fancy themselves an evangelist. But we are all called to make disciples, not just our pastors or bolder Christians. The reality is that you have access to many non-believers in your circle, ones that your pastors will never meet, which means that God has brought them into your life to give them an opportunity not just to see Christ through you, but to know him and meet him through you.
2. Stop being ashamed of the gospel of Jesus Christ. I think a lot of us are hesitant to take that last step of evangelism and actually lead someone to the Lord because they are embarrassed that they will be seen as a “bible beater” or “Jesus freak.” I get it. It can be tough and feel a little silly at first. But the reality is that if we want to see those people in heaven one day, the gospel must be shared with them, and if we are too embarrassed to share the good news with them, we are accountable for their salvation (or lack thereof).
3. Know what the Bible says about salvation through Christ. There is so much to say about what the Bible says about Jesus’ death and resurrection as an eternal atonement for our sins (literally a whole book’s worth!), and if you are going to lead people to this realization, you need to know what Jesus’ sacrifice means. The way to learn is to read your Bible, study what it says, and understand what its promises entail. If you don’t know where to start, ask your pastor or another mature Christian to help you. Allow yourself to be discipled. This will not only help you understand what Jesus did for us, but it will equip you to one day disciple other believers. Nobody should stay a baby Christian for long, so don’t excuse away your spiritual immaturity by neglecting God’s word.
4. Pray for the Holy Spirit to give you courage. A lot of people wonder about the role of the Holy Spirit in our lives (which is another blog in and of itself), but we can pray for God to send his spirit to give us the strength and the words to communicate the message of Christ to others. Let’s not just pray for so-and-so to come to know Christ; rather, let’s pray that we would have the courage, opportunity, and right words to tell those we love that they need the saving grace of Jesus.
We are praying for you to start seeing yourself as an evangelist and seizing new opportunities to not only plant seeds, but to reap the harvest.