Late May was eventful for a small team of us as we traveled to Hamburg to support the Hamburgprojekt – a new church plant in the north German city. Our church has been a partner with them for four years now. To be a ministry partner usually means financial support, prayer support and encouragement. In our case with Hamburg, it also meant that we would send small teams to the city to mentor, coach, teach and train their pastoral staff and leadership. What a privilege it has been to be involved at any level and see what God has done!
This year’s trip was May 19-28. These are the chronicles of that trip.
We left Charlotte at our usual time around 5:00 pm. This time we flew Lufthansa which we were looking forward to – we’d done Continental and US Airways and it seemed at least the Germans knew that long flights and tiny seats didn’t go well together! I happened to sit next to a sweet little 9-year old who was traveling with her family to India (what a trip!). Stewart was traveling next to a business woman who made regular pilgrimages to Europe. The only disappointment was the food on the flight – it was some scary stuff…
Dominic, one of the pastors, met us at the Hamburg airport around 1030 the next day (we connected with another flight in Munich). Our commitment on Day 1 is to stay up until midnight or so. Our bodies make the adjustment faster (Hamburg is 6 hours ahead) that way. So, Dominic told us that Debbie (his wife) wanted to have us over for lunch before we went to our accommodations. Stewart had experience with Debbie’s cooking and so he (for both of us) heartily agreed! We were not disappointed…It was so good to see their family. They have two boys, Merlin (around 4) and Luis (18 months or so) and they were both very fun. They live in a first floor apartment with very tall ceilings (10 ft?) that they had one of their fathers help them refinish – it looked great. We spoke about home life with the two boys and how the Lord is slowly giving children to the others in the church.
After lunch, Dominic took us to where we were staying. Interesting story about that…a week or so before we were to leave the US, we found that we had no accommodations. Walking around Hamburg there’s no shortage of hotels so we didn’t think it was any big deal. That is, until we discovered the Hamburg marathon was the first weekend that we were there. It wasn’t until a couple of frantic days later did we realize that just about every single room in walking vicinity of the church was taken. A friend of ours from the church, Ulf, who was running in the race told us that this is one of the biggest road races in all of Europe…no kidding.
Daniel Bartz, the lead pastor, finally said to me in an email, “Gabe, let us take care of this.” Boy, did they! A young couple he recently married were on their honeymoon and (somehow) Daniel contacted them and they agreed to let us stay at their place for free. Um, free? And, they lived close by Daniel’s home and within walking distance to the church. It was a wonderful set up in many ways and we were richly blessed; to be able to come back to an apartment each day and relax in it in ways that hotel rooms don’t facilitate was very helpful.
It was down to the wire, though, and it revealed sin in my own heart. I had been so excited about this trip in ways that I had not been in the past, God had given us opportunities to ministry that we had not had in the past that to be confronted with an issue (albeit minor) like this…well, let’s just say that my response was less than faithful and hopeful. I reverted to “wait a minute, God. I’m jazzed up here and You throw ice water down my shirt….” Or, put another way, I’m doing this for You, You need to do this for me… Ugly and sinful. I was reminded that I need mission trips for my own spiritual health maybe as much as anyone would need my ministry. Thanks be to God!