Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Zwei und Zwo

We didn't have a memory card on day two so we have no pictures to show. I have to admit, it's a blessing in disguise when I have no camera around my neck...

I think, in general, day two went better than day one at KIBA. Not that day one was bad. It' just that, on Tuesday, we knew what to expect and were better prepared to take care of the babies and actually be of some help. And we are getting to know the German team here a little better so the connections are becoming deeper. Day two was very similar to day one in terms of structure:

1. Songs
2. Classroom (Sean, Sarah and I "help" in various classrooms each morning)
3. Small group
4. Craft or active game (Brian leads the games each day)
5. Lunch!
6. Chaos Free play time
7. Creative or active workshop

But the active workshop (American football that the kids all think is soccer) was cancelled because of the rain {it rained all. day. long.} So almost all the kids chose crafts. Dave was purposefully vague about the craft alternative, but as soon as the craft kids heard that Shrek was playing, we lost a lot of our make-up-making/knitting/card-stamping crowd.

One interesting thing about the rain is that we saw what a morning commute was like in a primarily non-car city. The bikes still buzzed about. Parents still pulled their kids in trailers or walked alongside them to get on the tram. The children looked adorable in their rain pants that looked like waders and their matching galoshes. I don't think I've ever seen so many umbrellas in one place.

After KIBA, we stopped at the mall to:

Get dinner: Sean and I finally had the currywurst we'd heard so much about
Get milk and bread: This trip to Kaufland was easier because the cashier spoke English, but a little tricky because we didn't have any one euro coins so we couldn't get a shopping cart
Buy delicious fruit for our guests: Yes, even in a foreign city in a rented space, we couldn't go a full week without having someone over.

Our guests Tuesday evening were the Berlin City Team {the team in Berlin with Reach Global} and some of their guests. It was wonderful to get to hear their stories about why God has them in this city at this time, how God has worked in their lives to get them to this point, what drew them here and what keeps them here. The variety of life stages, passions, interests, skills, etc. really demonstrated how God uses all of the gifts He gives us in so many different ways.

Before coming to Berlin I only knew how to count to three. Part of the church service on Sunday morning was a countdown. So in the mile walk from our flat to the church, I learned 1 to 10 and 10 to 1. On Tuesday as I was watching some boys play the classroom game, I heard them counting from 1 to 6 and heard them using a different work for 2 than I'd learned a few days before. I learned Tuesday evening that when counting in a series {1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6} it's common for the kids to use zwo instead of zwei to better differentiate between zwei and drei because it's less confusing. Now, lest you think you'll impress your next group of German guests, be warned that zwo is only used when counting a series. So don't offer your guests zwo desserts. Always offer zwei.

And now, even though I'm still a day behind, I can't keep my eyes open one more second so I must say gute nacht and fill you in on day three of KIBA tomorrow.

Thank you for your prayers.

It's Just Another...Or Is It?

I'm not sure "manic" describes this Monday, but it was a little crazy.

This the church. And this is where KIBA {KInder Bibel Aktion} is.

The church meets in a private school {I don't even know the name of it}, but the school doesn't want to be associated with the church so FeG Pankow can't list it's actual location in any of its materials.

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Instead it lists the Tabakspeicher {tobacco store} as its location. This tobacco factory, once owned by a Jewish family, has been renovated and is now full of luxury apartments.

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It also shares a commons area with the school so it's a great alternative for helping people find the church. {Just listing the address is a little obscure}. It's just a little strange at first when people hear you go to church at the tobacco store.

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Here is another look at the commons area. The basketball court and beach volleyball make outside play a great energy release after lunch.

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So does this fun playground behind the school building.

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After many meetings with the KIBA team in Berlin, both over Skype and in-person, the day finally arrived when KIBA would begin. The kids are grouped based on age and, upon registering, they were to gather in their assigned groups. We were supposed to be at the table to greet "our" kids. Sean is helping with the youngest grades during the morning session. Jack is in this group and I think he feels more comfortable knowing Sean is there with him. Sean is great at engaging with the kids despite the language barrier. Most of these kids haven't been in school long enough to be able to speak English and Sean doesn't sprechen much Deutsch so the communication gets very creative.

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During registration this day, I met a girl I'll call V {Europeans have very strict privacy standards so I won't be using the names of the KIBA kids and I won't be posting pictures of their faces}. She's 10 and was invited by one of the other KIBA families. She speaks very good English so, thanks to her, we're able to communicate easily. We hung out during the song time until she got comfortable with the other kids.

Once all the kids were registered, we began the song time. At home we listened to KIBA songs almost nonstop before our trip so we're very excited when the songs start playing - it's one of the few things that feels familiar.

When song time is over, the kids head upstairs for the lesson on Esther. Sarah and I and the babies help with the middle grades. Sam and Caleb are in this group; so are about 17 other kids! It's the biggest group by far.

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Manu teaches this group and does a great job engaging the children. After the main lesson, the kids break up into small groups to go a little deeper, work in their workbooks and play games.

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Some time during the morning, the küche helpers bring up snacks. The kids and teachers enjoyed fruit kabobs on the first day.

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After the lessons are over, the kids head down to the cafeteria for lunch. This is the main meal during the day so it's hearty. I'm not sure if it's the cooking or the activity that gives the kids such a big appetite, but they EAT A LOT. After lunch and an hour or so of free time outside, the kids come back to hear about the workshops {one active, one creative} for the afternoon. Our team was asked to run some of the workshops so throughout the week Sean and Brian will be teaching baseball and American football. On the first day, Jack and Caleb had to decide between learning baseball or how to make cosmetics. Needless to say, they chose the baseball.

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For the kids that aren't interested in either option there are a few other creative outlets. When Manu pulled out a box of yarn, I knew I'd found my niche! Plus, V chose the "knifty knitters" and I was anxious to get to know her a little more. As I got started on the hat I was making for Jack {grey and maroon for ERA}, I looked up and found myself sitting around a table of women ranging in age from 70s to 10 and knew that this is where I would feel at home. In God's great wisdom, He designed learning to be passed on from the older to the younger generations {Titus 2:3-5}.

The highlight of my day happened while sitting around this table. V walked over to ask me a question and put her hand, familiarly, on my shoulder as she did. One of the German KIBA helpers, Marlis {a woman full to bursting with love for the Lord and His people} asked me a question about "my daughter," assuming that V belonged to me. When I told her she wasn't my daughter, Marlis asked the other women around the table in German why V could speak English so well. I quickly answered her {in English, of course} because I knew exactly what she was asking. God used this to demonstrate that language isn't a barrier when people are connected by the Holy Spirit.

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When the workshops ended, the kids got their final snack of the day {ice cream, or eis} and headed back home with their parents or whatever adult was picking them up. When all of our responsibilities were done at the school, we meandered home for a short break and then headed to Evelyn's flat for her dinner. Even though her husband, Daniel, couldn't join us for long, he lovingly {and deliciously} prepared the meal for us. It was definitely some of the best pizza I've had.

The adults sat together in the dining room

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while the kids enjoyed their time in the kitchen.

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After a great meal and wonderful conversation, we rounded up our crew and headed home with day one of KIBA checked off.

The first day was full of great lessons:
1. Language doesn't have to be a barrier to getting to know someone and it's never a barrier to being able to show them God's love
2. Lots of German children speak English
3. Evie really benefits from her morning nap
4. I know sehr ein bisschen Deutsch, but would really like to learn more
5. Service is an act of the heart, not the body

Gute nacht

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

KIBA Started

KIBA started.

It's late.

I'm tired.

The update will have to wait.

Monday, June 24, 2013


Sunday was a day of preparation. Here are the boys preparing for a busy day with a big breakfast: Honey Balls, Musli and some of the best nectarines they've ever had.

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The day before I had spent time with the boys making the KIBA sign for outside of the church. We were all so happy to see our sign when we walked up.

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With fresh KIBA shirts, we took the opportunity for a team photo. Even the babies got dresses shirts. Aren't they cute?

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Here is our family before the church service in our KIBA gear.

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This Sunday was family Sunday so the service was more kid oriented than usual. Most of the songs were from last year's KIBA so the kids knew them and could sing along and do the actions. There wasn't a separate nursery or children's education hour so all the kids stayed for the whole service. Evie enjoyed discovering all the new toys in the box at the back of the room. I really enjoyed the relaxed atmosphere and the opportunity to worship and listen to the sermon despite needing to be moving around to take care of Evie.

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This is Dave leading the service.

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Brian taught us about Noah this week.

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Clearly his family was engaged :)

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On our way home, the boys discovered that if they linked arms, they could just barely reach all the way around this tree.

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The girls woke from much needed naps and prepared for dinner with a snack.

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We had a few minutes of down time so we took the chance to learn a few line dances in preparation for what we'll be teaching on Friday night. Evie was not content to just watch. She had so much fun holding my hands and dancing right along with me.

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On Wednesday evening we're giving a talk about what it's like to live in Minnesota. We'll serve a variety of snacks typical in the US and/or from Minnesota. However, I'm sure what will be most memorable are Sarah's famous chocolate chip cookies. Sarah and I spent the evening preparing cookies in the apartment right below ours {the tenant is the landlady who told us we could use her oven as our flat doesn't have one}.


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we thought we'd have enough to go around.

As you'll find out tomorrow, this was the first of many very busy and full days. While we are all exhausted at the end of the day and can tell we're being stretched, we are confident that God is allowing us to grow in our love and knowledge of Him by serving where we're needed {or where we are}.

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Around a Table

Saturday brought the most around-Berlin travel we've done so far. We started the day at the Tabakspeicher* helping decorate for KIBA. We saw the space transformed from a school cafeteria into a palace.

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And it was so much fun to work alongside fellow KIBA-ers in preparation for our young guests.

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When we were finished we headed "home" for a quick rest and were ready to meet Dave at 3:00 for our first Berlin train ride.

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The boys waited anxiously as the adults made final preparations for the trip.

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You know, little things like purchasing tickets. Lucky for us Dave has an über train pass so one adult and all three big kids traveled for free. Vielen Dank, Dave!

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When will the train arrive, Mercy?

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Can you see it yet, Evie?

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On our way to the first train station, we passed from East Berlin to West Berlin and crossed this spot in the sidewalk where the Berlin wall formerly stood. It's amazing to think about how freely we moved from one side to the other, nearly missing the plaque on the ground and the line of bricks running across the road.

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This is me standing in East Berlin and West Berlin at the same time. Years ago, I've been told, the difference between the east side and the west side was dramatic, even after the wall came down. Today, I couldn't tell you what the difference is.

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Watching people in the city is a fun way to learn about the culture. As we walked toward the home of Mike Edwards, the Berlin City Team Leader, we passed by these gentlemen, so immersed in their conversation that they were seemingly unaware of the bustling city around them. I can only imagine the amazing stories they have to share. {Doesn't it seem like they should have a chess board between them?}

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Evie plodded along happily with her daddy as we made our way to Mike's. Most of us had never met Mike, but had heard a lot about him and his work in the city. As we talked, we learned about Mike's strategy for reaching the city with the gospel by knowing and loving and serving and living in community with {sounds like disciple-making} all parts of the city.

Before we came, we were told how diverse Berlin is. After spending a couple days in Pankow, we weren't convinced. We see more ethnic diversity in our suburban neighborhood back home than we've seen here. When we asked about it the response we got was, "that's because you're in Pankow." We learned that Berlin is made up of small boroughs called kiez-es. Each kiez has it's own personality and identity and ethnic make up. So as you walk through the city, you can see how each kiez is different from the ones next to it. It's a good reminder of God's creativity and His love of variety.

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After leaving Mike's house, we had the privilege of meeting with John and Gayle Butrin who have a hospitality ministry called Matthew's Table. Several years ago, they came to Berlin with the intention of starting a church plant {John is a former pastor} but God had other plans for them. Now they love and serve their community by getting to know and love their neighbors and anyone that God puts in their path. They begin with an invitation to dinner {or breakfast or a concert or anything else to get them around the table} but that is just the beginning of the discipling they do. They take an active interest in the lives of the friends they make through Matthew's Table and rely on the Holy Spirit to reveal ways for them to show God's love to each of them on an ongoing business.

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It was amazing to listen to the stories about how God has used them to bring people closer to God. And, just like at home, we witnessed what can happen around a table when people get together to share a meal: they end up sharing their lives as well.

After a ride on the train and the tram, then climbing the 87 steps to our apartment we said goodnight and got ready for our first Sunday in Berlin.

*For those of you who can interpret Tabak Speicher - I'll explain later...

Saturday, June 22, 2013

Walking and Parks and Stuff

Friday started with a tour of the area of Berlin where the church and KIBA are located. With our walking shoes on, water bottles filled and babies in strollers, we headed out to discover what Pankow had to offer. During the whole trip Evie has been in a great mood* and this morning was no exception. She was shaking with excitement at the prospect of a morning walk.

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Of course, walks are always more fun when your big brother is around to entertain you.

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Our tour started right outside our apartment building.

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See those flower boxes on the balcony? That's our apartment. The bay to the left is where I'm sitting right now typing this entry. Because of all of the previous destruction in East Berlin, much of it has been rebuilt and it is beautiful.

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Alright, I'll admit that the next place on our tour was not this building. In fact, most of the group didn't even stop to look at this building so I can't tell you what it is. BUT it says "Berlin-Pankow" on it so I thought it would be good to show.

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Moving right along on our tour...This actually was the first real stop. The Rathaus is the city hall. There happened to be a wedding the day we walked by and we learned that all weddings must take place in the Rathaus, regardless of whether or not there is an additional religious ceremony.

During the time that East Berlin was under communist rule, the sign directly above the door was covered up. When the building was recovered, the sign, reading Gott mit uns, or "God with us," was revealed.

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Our next stop was the state church. Officially, the state religion is Lutheran. Despite the size of the building, it is common to see only 20 or 30 people in church on a Sunday morning. This is because many people believe that paying church tax - an automatic 10% deduction for Berliners registered with the state as Christians - is their means of salvation. Lucky for them, there's better news. Now we just need the opportunity to share it!

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Small markets and shops are abundant in Pankow. This is the Obstmann fruit stand. Well, it used to be a stand, now it's a store. And it's right down the street from where previous KIBAs were held. The Turkish man who owns the store provided low cost fruit during the week of KIBA as a way to support the work that was going on. God is so creative in the way He provides, isn't He?

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As we walked on to other various stops {the school where the church meets - pictures of that later - the church office, etc.} we passed the Milchmann, which is presumably an ice cream shop judging by the enormous ice cream cone out front. The boys just couldn't resist giving it a big hug {we wouldn't let them take a lick}.

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The last stop of our tour was a park where we would meet Manu and her daughter Heidi for some play time. It was so neat to see the kids begin playing despite not being able to understand each other's language.

By this point, Evie was glad to have an opportunity to get out of the stroller and play a little bit.

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So was Mercy.

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The area around the park was wooded, which Jack really enjoyed exploring.

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After a short break back at the apartment, and an interesting trip to the grocery store, we walked across the street to Burgerpark where we met some of the members of the church and joined them for a birthday party.

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The park has a small petting zoo so Heidi took the boys over to look at the goats.

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When we finished eating, Evie was happy to have some freedom to walk around. And happy to have the hand of her big brother to hold.

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While walking around, she caught sight of the large fountain in the park...

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and then there was no stopping her. She had her eyes glued on that fountain and she was determined to get to it.

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Apparently all the effort was worth it because the fountain drew a crowd.

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Sam attempted to go in, but the water was too cold for him to go through with it.

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Jack dipped his feet, but that was as far as he got.

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After a long day, full of parks and walking and meeting and greeting, we headed home for bedtime and preparations for the next day.

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*Thank you, thank you, thank you to those of you praying specifically for easy adjustment for the babies! Your prayers have been answered.