During our introduction to worship this morning at church, I shared a bit about how I had been observing closely (at least closer than usual) the activities surrounding the G20 Summit meetings in Hamburg, Germany this past weekend. Marla and I visited friends in Hamburg on our last weekend in Germany (about a month ago) and we cycled past some of the sites where meetings would be held. Large fences had already been erected and areas of the city had already been cut off to public traffic in preparation for this event.
The violent protests this weekend seem to be the result of a group of protesters called Antifa, or the Anti-fascist Action movement. One article describes the protesters as “extreme anarchists and socialists who see violence as a legitimate form of activism”. They would oppose capitalism and the far-right. After this brief explanation, I thought that I may have something in common with these protesters, at least in theory. But my anti-violent Anabaptist upbringing would stop me from protesting violently. And, quite honestly, from protesting at all, out of fear that violence will break out. A fanatical conviction can really shape one’s worldview, positively or negatively.
But, it is our worldview that motivated us to volunteer at Friedenshaus this year. What is this worldview? That God so loved the world that he sent his only son … . And that this son modelled the best way to follow God; to care for those in need, on the fringes of society: to show this love in our actions towards all people, not just our friends and fellow Christians. The global refugee crisis seems like such a large issue – protests alone can’t solve everything. But, being able to help newcomers find community seemed like a doable option for us.
This past Thursday, Marla and I Skyped into the afternoon class at Friedenshaus. A very large group crammed into the classroom at Ludwigshafen Mennonite church to say hello and send their greetings. They asked questions and we shared a bit about how life is going for us back here in Canada. Both we and our friends made an effort to be there. I got up earlier than I needed to in order to be coherent at 7 am Winnipeg time. And, our Ludwigshafen friends braved a very hot afternoon in a stuffy classroom just to see us projected on the screen.
Why? Because we have shared our worldviews and have found common ground. Love was shared and received. Trust was developed and we sincerely care about each other. Distance and what the future brings will always affect this. But, these months will not be forgotten. Thank you, MC Canada, ASM and all of you who have supported us during these months.
German Word of the Week: Gemeinschaft (‘community’ or ‘fellowship’). This is an important word that really describes the goal of the Friedenshaus project. Language classes were the most practical service we could offer in the beginning. But once basic understanding was there, the possibilities for building relationships could blossom quite quickly. In our post-service interviews, we remarked about the very significant relational aspect to this project. We weren’t just providing a service to people – it was a reciprocal relationship where we all learned and grew because of our fellowship.
I haven’t blogged in a while. I considered stopping once we returned to Canada. But, if things related to the project arise (like our Skype session this past week), I may write again. Many people shared how they enjoyed the German word of the week. Once I start teaching again in September, I may have to continue this aspect of the blog, at the very least.