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 😉

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The Art of Losing Myself

Your will above all else;
My purpose remains
The art of losing myself
In bringing you praise

I have always liked this song—and this line in particular (at the 1:40 mark in the video below)—and I think I have figured out why.

There are lots of things in life that need to be “nailed” to the cross. We need to “crucify our old selves.” Our old selves need to die. All that is true, and biblical, and important. But that’s not what this line says. Read it once more, this time written as a sentence:

Your will above all else; my purpose remains the art of losing myself in bringing you praise.

Our purpose is to LOSE OURSELVES in bringing him praise. So much so that it should become an artform!

This doesn’t just refer to music (though it is sung in song). The times in my life when I have had the most satisfying relationship with my King are when I have literally lost myself, getting wrapped up in bringing him glory.

They’re the seasons when I don’t have time to pursue foolish or sinful or fruitless things because I am spending the days serving him.

I used to stress this with our youth: the “secret sauce” of gospel living is not in trying to focus on being better. It’s focusing on serving Christ and pursuing him. All our other struggles will, over time, simply fall away. It’s what Jesus means when he says, “Seek first the Kingdom of God, and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well” (Matthew 6:33). The “these things” Jesus is referring to here (in context) are the worldly things we think we need to provide for ourselves. They are the things that “trap” us.

But rather than focusing on all those things, our purpose is the art of losing ourselves in the act of bringing God praise. I don’t need to worry about not sinning, because in those days I have lost myself—my old self—in the wonderful feeling of meeting the purpose that I was made in his image to fulfill.

We serve an amazing, wonderful, magnificent, powerful God. And he calls us his children, and claims us as his own.

Let’s get lost finding ourselves in that identity.

Mach’s gut!

Nick

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. 

Our first Deutsch-iversary!

We are just going to be super cliché here. Time flies. One year ago, we stepped off of a plane and started our new lives as church planting missionaries in Germany, and it has been a whirlwind ever since.

There is so much to be celebrated from this past year, so we have gathered a collection of things we are proud to have been a part of. Here goes!

  • We knew our lives would be a bit more cosmopolitan here, but we had no idea just how much. Since we arrived in Germany, we have developed relationships with people from Germany, Iran, Australia, Tunisia, Syria, Turkey, Italy, South Korea, Afghanistan, China, Sudan, Portugal, Brazil, Poland, and Kosovo. It is absolutely mind-boggling, and now we really appreciate that “every tribe and tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord.”
  • We have completed four language courses and some private tutoring, and we are all at a pretty high level of fluency, especially considering that we have only been here a year. We are also confident communicating the foundational aspects of Christianity in German, which is leading to more and more conversations about Jesus. Learning German has been a source of fun rather than stress on most occasions.
  • We have quickly planted roots in our local community. Cade has blossomed in the local Kindergarten, Nick is coaching Cade’s soccer team (which is also incredibly international), and Mallorie is part of a mom’s group with Clara.
  • God has blessed us with meaningful friendships with Christians and non-Christians. One of our fears before we came was that we would be lonely and wanting for intimate relationships, especially for Mallorie, the resident extrovert in our marriage. However, God has richly provided wonderful people for us to befriend, and our social calendar is always full.

Now we want to give you a peek into what the next year will look like for us. Some plans are really coming together, and we look forward to more specific vision casting in the future.

  • We will continue working with Christus Gemeinde Laatzen and Christus Gemeinde Hannover in different capacities. With the Laatzen church, we look forward to expanding home groups and working on a curriculum for the groups to study. With the Hannover church, we look forward to serving in different capacities, but especially in a massive community outreach undertaking in the form of a musical comedy production. Nick is leading the choir for the play, and Mallorie will be playing the part of the Queen of England. Yes, there will be pictures and video.
  • We are shoring up on our knowledge of other religions. We are encountering a lot of other religions here, particularly Buddhism/New Age and Islam, and we want to be able to minister to those people more effectively. We anticipate this being a big focus during our next year of ministry, especially considering some of the relationships we have begun to develop.
  • A lot of Christians don’t know how to share the gospel. That’s something that will drive our future here. Be on the lookout for a post about this in the next week!
  • What we have come to learn about life in Germany is that it is very relationally-driven. Your ability to speak candidly about important things is in direct correlation with how close your relationship to someone is. Because of that, we want to focus on the block where we live. We want to grow a community that becomes the core group of people with whom we do life: from grocery shopping to double date nights to going to the park to throw Frisbee.

This is just a glimpse into our year past and our year ahead, and we are so excited to be a part of what God is doing here in Germany.

We want to say a special thank you to everyone who has supported us in the last year (and the year before as we prepared to come here), whether it was through prayer, encouragement, or financial support.

Right now we are still about $400 short of what we really need every month. God has richly blessed us in this area, and since we arrived, almost every month has been covered by unexpected gifts. We are constantly blown away by his goodness. We would like to ask two things of you:

1) Would you give a special Deutsch-inversary gift today? This money will go into our ministry account to be used for things like training and bigger expenses (ministry opportunities, reporting trips, etc.). If you would like to do that, you can click here and donate right now. All donations are tax-deductible through our organization, Kontaktmission.

2) Would you become a monthly partner in our ongoing ministry here in Germany? No amount is too big or too small, but it adds up to keeping us here on the field. The money our monthly partners give goes directly toward our salary here, pays for all the day-to-day ministry we do, particularly the hospitality ministry that is our focus right now as we build relationships, and helping Kontaktmission manage all the nitty gritty details (i.e. taxes) so that we can focus on the gospel. Again, these donations are tax-deductible, and it is super easy to sign up. Just send in this form with a voided check, and your donations can be automatically deducted each month. If you’d rather not do an automatic deduction, you can click here for other ways to donate.

So as we celebrate today, we want to say, “Thank you! Thank you! Thank you!” We love being here and sharing the good news of the gospel of Jesus Christ, and we couldn’t do that without each of you. Here’s to many more!

A day in the life

When we first began doing research into missionary life, one of the questions we asked missionaries we met most often was: “What does your day actually look like?” We received a wide variety of answers, which was both helpful and unhelpful for our overly-analytical brains. Needless to say, there were two big take-aways that we heard over and over again (and have proven to be true for us): 1) missionaries need to be self-starters, and 2) missionaries need to be flexible. 
Our schedule has been in a constant state of flux since we arrived in Germany, largely because of langauge school and Cade’s activities. Still, we wanted to give you a peek into what our lives look like right now and share some of the things coming up that will need to find their place in our schedule.

Monday mornings: While Cade goes to kindergarten, Mallorie and Clara go to “Spielkreis,” which is a community play group. Nick meets with people and studies German. 

Monday afternoons: Mallorie takes Cade to piano lessons, and Nick goes to langauge school. 

Monday evenings: This is one of the only evenings where we don’t have a lot going on as a family, so we try to take it easy and enjoy each other’s company. 

Tuesday mornings: Cade goes to kindergarten, Mallorie meets a Christian girlfriend for coffee and laughter, and Nick meets with Eide to discuss church planting and the “Hauskreis,” or home group, that will meet later that day in Laatzen, the suburb of Hannover where we live.  

Tuesday afternoons: Nick goes to language school while Mallorie stays with the kids. Soon Mallorie will be teaching English as a second language on Tuesday afternoons to some new friends preparing to move to America. 

Tuesday evenings: We eat dinner together before Nick goes to Hauskreis. Then he is gone, and Mallorie puts both kids to bed, which is like herding cats. 

Wednesday mornings: Cade goes to kindergarten, Mallorie studies German (alone without tiny people… woot!), and Nick hangs with Clara. 

Wednesday afternoons: Nick goes to langauge school, and immediately after it is finished, he picks Cade up so they can go to “Fußball” (soccer) training. Nick is one of the two trainers, and that role has already opened up a lot of doors in our community. 

Wednesday evenings: These are basically a frantic sprint to bedtime! Nick and Cade don’t get home from soccer until around 6:30, so it gets crazy! 

Thursday morning: You guessed it! Cade does, in fact, go to kindergarten. This is the other big study day for Mallorie, which means Nick is hanging with Clara. Oftentimes this day is flexible, and we will meet with people when necessary. 

Thursday afternoons: While Nick is in language school, Mallorie usually plans a play date with one of Cade’s kindergarten friends. We have gotten to know so many families this way! 

Thursday evenings: This is one of the nights where we host people pretty often, but soon it will be the night when the choir Nick is directing meets. More on that later. 

Friday mornings: Cade talks for thirty minutes straight on the commute to kindergarten (we take a train and then walk) about the inner-workings of kindergarten politics. Mallorie goes to Spielkreis with Clara, and Nick almost always meets someone for coffee and conversation. 

Friday afternoons: Nick gets a break from language school on Fridays, but not from soccer! He and Cade train every Friday afternoon. 

Friday evenings: See Wednesday evening. Rinse and repeat. 

Saturdays: Saturdays are usually taken up by either a soccer tournament (did you guys know Germans are super into soccer?) or hosting people, and oftentimes it is both. 

Sundays: We attend church in Hannover, and it is great. The people there and at the Laatzen Hauskreis have become our new church family. Sometimes Nick plays in the band, and he will preach more later this year. Sunday afternoons and evenings are either spent as a family, hosting people, or being hosted by someone. 

As you can see, the bulk of our time is spent learning the langauge or building relationships. That’s the most effective thing we can be doing right now in order to bring people to Jesus in the long-term.

We have mentioned it in other places, but it’s worth mentioning here as well that the church in Hannover is producing a musical comedy in November. Nick is directing the choir, and Mallorie will play the part of the Queen (yes, the one from England). That will start taking up quite a bit more of our time. Other things that are coming up that will impact our schedule include: Mallorie taking another language  course, Nick preaching and leading more in German, people visiting from America, our organization’s yearly meeting, and Cade starting “Grundschule” (elementary school). 

It’s going to be a busy year, but we are thrilled to be part of what God is doing here in Germany!