And We’re Off!

October 17, 2016

After what has seemed like a while to us, we will finally be starting our programming at the Friedenshaus. This is not a complaint, rather a recognition that relationship building takes time and that meeting people is an important step to building trust and understanding.

Another reason for our delay was the Studientage in Münster. This is a yearly theological conference that all AMG Mennonites from Germany are invited to attend. Our Friedenshaus partner, Greg Rabus, was one of the organizers (and presenters) and we were invited to join him. The conference began Sunday, Oct. 9 till the 13th. The theme of Inter-religious Dialogue was quite relevant to the work of Das Friedenshaus, so it made sense for us to be involved. However, since the conference was in German, Marla chose to stay in Ludwigshafen and continue with her German language studies, meeting with individuals for conversation practice and doing grammar exercises on her own.

Upon returning, we participated in a weekend of activities organized to honour the volunteers working with refugees in Ludwigshafen. We were recognized at a gathering at the city theatre which included ethnic music and food from around the world. It was very well attended by volunteers and the refugees themselves, making for a truly intercultural event.

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Our formal programming begins this week. Every Monday and Wednesday morning we will open the church to offer help with beginners learning German. We hope to include games and conversations in small groups to make the learning fun and personal. We are pleased to know that at least one couple from Egypt is planning to attend already.

Marla and I were treated to their hospitality Friday when we were invited to their home for lunch and met their three children. English and Arabic are languages spoken at home, so mom and dad have had limited opportunity to practice German while their children are in school.

(This is Marla interjecting here with a few further thoughts about our experience with this family).  Karl had met Rady twice when we happened upon him at a Flea Market. After warmly greeting us he invited us to come to his home for coffee.  We agreed to do this the following week. The next week Rady informed us that his wife insisted we come for lunch.  Once in their home we were greeted with warmth, friendship and SO much food.  We began eating at 1:30, finished eating at 3:00. We only needed a fruit and a bit of cheese for snack much later in the evening.  All that said…..I have continued to “chew on” two things following this experience.  The first is the uninhibited hospitality we received.  We had only met Rady and the next week we are in his home for three hours enjoying interaction with his whole family.  Second, how can we respond in an appropriate way?

Rady and his wife are the kinds of people with whom we are hoping to work. As time goes on, we will have a better sense of other needs that may exist and will be able to adapt our programs accordingly. For now, we hope that this will be a forum for native and new Germans to meet, speak German and build meaningful relationships.

German word of the week: “Aufwiederhören” – most of you are familiar with the farewell expression Aufwiedersehen (till we meet again) but Marla learned what to say on the phone (till we hear one another again). Makes more sense than saying “see you” on the phone!
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