Waiting … and Growing Pains

Dec. 3, 2016

Advent waiting.  Many of us may have participated in Worship Services last Sunday that focused on this seasonal theme.  In the Ludwigshafen Mennonite Church, the Scripture text for the morning was from Jeremiah 23:5-7.  These words included a promise from God:  the Israelite people would return to their homeland and all people would experience righteousness and justice.  Because I am still learning the language I mostly understand only the main themes explored by the Pastor. Then having lost the pastor’s train of thought, I wander down paths in my own mind.  So on this morning, I was led to consider our Advent posture alongside the waiting many of our refugee students endure:  Waiting to get word that they are allowed to stay; waiting to return home; waiting for their families to join them; waiting for medical test results to arrive; waiting to find out if family members are still safe.  

Somehow it feels like our waiting in Advent during this season is linked in a new way to people (many from another faith tradition) who are also waiting with a completely different urgency for justice, righteousness and hope to explode upon their world.

When we first started meeting with people at Friedenshaus back in early October, we were able to offer nearly one on one teaching situations. This allowed for better, more individualized instruction, but also led to closer and more intimate relationships building.  We imagine that many people in a situation where they benefiting from personalized teaching sessions could have kept our “unadvertised” afternoon sessions to themselves. Instead, they invited others to join them, knowing that the experience would change. And it has. Our numbers have expanded to the point this week where we had 17 people involved in language learning in one day.   As much as it is very exciting to see the growth that is happening and the community that is developing we are a little sad about not being able to offer the same kind of “personal” program we did at the beginning.

Rapid change calls for flexibility, creativity and patience from students and teachers.  This has been necessary because of the range of abilities and ages our students bring. This week, we had students range in age from 14-62 (the children of one of our attendees joined us in the afternoon after school).

One of our keenest students is a language teacher as well and couldn’t help himself when other students were asking questions of clarity. He used our white board to explain a grammar point in Arabic so that the other students would fully understand what we were talking about. It has been incredibly helpful having more advanced German students who speak Arabic and are able to explain things to some of our beginners. The willingness to help each other is beautiful to watch.

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The last few weeks have also seen an increase in the number of women coming.  Through the month of October all our students except one were men.  Now our list of 40 people who have joined us at some point includes 15 women.  Besides their keen interest in language learning, the mothers in the group have been coming to classes with some kind of traditional Syrian food to share with others.  This has delighted us all, but particularly the younger single guys who enjoy with great enthusiasm this little taste of home.

The motto “Building community; Learning peace”, guides the ministry at Friedenshaus and we are witnessing the building of new relationships even as we experience each other’s diversityOur Advent waiting for the King of Righteousness to once again bring hope to the world is in the end hope for all.  As followers of Jesus, we strive to share his reign in practices of peace and caring relationships. In our fumbling human efforts we strive to create places of righteousness and justice.  We hope Friedenshaus is such a place.

German word of the week:

streiten und streiken – we have noticed that it is difficult for many of our students to distinguish certain sounds when people are speaking. Therefore, they often misunderstand words. The word ‘streiten’ (to fight or argue) sounds quite similar to ‘streiken’ (to strike). As we explained, when employers and employees disagree (or sometimes, ‘streiten’) it can often lead to the employees ‘streiken’ until their demands are met. This was timely here in Germany, since the Lufthansa pilots were currently on strike.

p.s. Another wonderful addition this week was the visit of our two youngest children, Nadya and Jonah. They arrived in Ludwigshafen early Sunday morning and joined us for all our classes this week, chipping in as teachers when our student numbers surprised us. Stay tuned as we hope they will share in a future blog.

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