“It only takes a spark …”

Oct. 26, 2017

This is the phrase that came to mind as we began our formal ‘Friedenshaus’ sessions. Our friend, Greg, reminded us how his first meeting went in spring. After meeting people, handing out flyers and getting the room ready, he and Jennifer waited, and waited … and no one showed up! Not till the following week did one person come by. And then it grew from there.

This was on my mind as 10 am on Wednesday passed. I went outside to make sure people wouldn’t miss the sign or the address. I paced. Finally, two of our expected guests arrived and we dove into our lessons. They had come prepared, with questions and notebooks from their classes and previous language practice. Greg and I could work one on one. The time allowed us to get to know Abdullah and Ghossan quite well and answer a few of their many questions. We looked forward to our next meeting. (Update: this morning we were joined by Mohammed, who boosted our class size significantly!)

We were also happy to have a friend, Robert Friesen, visiting from Switzerland. He had holidays and was curious to see what our work here looked like. Later in the day, Rob joined me at our weekly Café in a nearby community. Despite his tentative German, Rob jumped right in (mostly in English) and made some new friends quickly. He was impressed with the resilience of these young men he met.

The picture below, taken at a nearby Refugee Café on Monday, reflects an image we had in our minds as we thought about this project before our arrival. We were involved in a conversation when we observed a young girl who was there with her mother. They were native Germans, visiting the café with a friend. This two year old had no inhibitions about approaching this stranger, who had a German picture book he was using to practice. She sat on his lap and pointed at the pictures, announcing proudly what all of these objects were called in German. He answered and asked her questions. Talk about your teachable moment!


Without knowing it, this young girl embodied the goals of ‘Das Friedenshaus’ – breaking down barriers (race, language, age) and building peace through relationship building – and making everybody around you smile!

Marla here.  The last couple of weeks I have attended “Café Life,” a women’s only event that extends hospitality to those in the community who are looking for a social outlet. It is interesting to see the mix of women that attend:  recent refugees from Afghanistan, Turkish immigrants who have been in Germany for some years but still do not speak the language and native Germans who appear to be on the fringes.  Hosted by a Baptist church, there is always a clear Gospel message that is shared but it is unclear to me how many of the attendees actually understand everything.  What they must perceive is that they are loved and welcomed and this is great.  One of the things I am trying to assess is if there may be a need and opportunity for Friedenshaus to compliment what is happening at Café Life by offering German language classes for refugee women.

There are so many ways that newcomers are being welcomed here in Ludwigshafen and throughout Germany. We continue to be humbled by the ways people embrace change and give of themselves, both newcomers and old-timers alike.

German word of the week: die Schublade: the drawer. Nothing too exciting, but one of those words that keeps coming up yet remains elusive for Marla. I was wondering about the origins of this word. The verb schubsen means to shove or nudge something, probably referring to the ability to close a drawer and get things out of the way. Laden is a small store, so it refers to the ability to store things. So, together the words refer to a storage space that you can push out of the way – makes sense!

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