After two weeks here in Ludwigshafen, we finally joined the Ludwigshafen Mennonite church for their Thanksgiving service this past weekend. Because the pastor, Birgit Foth, works part time for two small congregations, she is only at the church every second Sunday. There are often small informal services for those who come in the off Sundays, as opposed to the larger family-oriented service we experienced.
It was a pleasure to join this intimate gathering and join their close-knit community. We had an opportunity to introduce ourselves and explain a bit of why we are here. After the service, we were invited downstairs for a pot luck lunch and some sharing about some recent events. Pastor Birgit shared some pictures of the youth at a summer gathering that they attended. As Jen noted, because of the small group, it felt much like a family gathering watching pictures of children they may not know, but had connections to parents and even grandparents from neighbouring communities.
This past week Marla and I have continued to visit the Asyl Cafés and meet people who might benefit from our programs at the church. Since spring, Greg and his family were in Canada on furlough and there were no programs offered at the church. Since then, the people that had attended have since moved on. So, we are really starting from scratch.
On Sunday, Oct. 9th, Greg and I will be travelling to Münster to participate in a theological seminar week, dealing with interreligious dialogue and paths to peace. Greg is on the planning committee, so I will be helping him with some of the on-site organizing as well as taking part in the workshops and discussions. This will be a good challenge for my German skills. We return on Thursday, so Marla will be working on her own for a while. She is beginning to meet with some people we’ve met to have intentional German conversations and practice. She is thankful that people are willing to take time and are willing to share of themselves to help her learn.
After Greg and I return, we will begin our church programs. Initially, we will open the church building on Monday and Wednesday mornings for language conversation, games and fellowship. Many of the people who can’t work are looking for places to gather and create social connections. These are the same people that are not taking language classes and for various reasons may benefit from smaller German-speaking gatherings. Through these sessions we hope other program possibilities will emerge. We plan to begin these meetings on Wed., Oct. 19th.
In addition to this, Marla and I have begun volunteering with a local youth centre, helping young children with homework after school. I am still waiting to hear when I will start teaching some German classes with the Volkshochschule.
German word/phrase of the week: “schön dich/Sie kennenzulernen” (nice to meet you). Marla has been pouring through new vocabulary and is always looking for phrases that come up often. Since we are busy meeting new people, it seems this is not only a useful phrase, but also a sincere reflection of how we feel: it is nice to meet people here in a strange city.