Hamburg Chronicles: Strong Sunday!

Our Sunday morning started quite e-a-s-y.  We slept in a little extra in an attempt to start to gain some of our sleep back.  We were picked up at our apartment by Daniel and Kathrine and rode with them to their worship service.  The Stage Club  is the place where The Hamburgprojekt meets for Sunday worship.

This was our 3rd worship service with our friends in Hamburg and in my opinion the best so far for many reasons. It was such a joy to see how God has grown the Hamburgprojekt by almost doubling the attendees from the first time we were there.  It also was nice to start to see some familiar faces and to be welcomed as friends.  While our German is still in its infancy stage (that’s being generous…), we were able to sing along (in English while they sang in German) some of the familiar praise songs that we also sing here.  Being able to participate in the worship service, through music, made it more of an intimate experience for both Gabe and me.

After the service we had a large group lunch at a wonderful local restaurant in the Schanze.  There were perhaps 30-40 folks that came to fellowship and enjoy a meal together.  During the meal we had the opportunity to meet a couple Achim and Corinna Keiser and their 2 children.  They were recently back from church planting in Ireland.  They shared with us the stories of their church planting experience with their challenges and how God met them exactly where they needed Him to.  It was wonderful to hear another story of how God is working all over the earth.

Also during our lunch we were able to visit with friends Nils and Tabitha Rohlinger.  We have had the joy of getting to know the Rohlinger’s over the years.  They are one of the core families that started at the beginning with the Hamburgprojekt and we were able to rejoice with them on how God has really blessed the church.   It was great to participate in the culture socially through this fellowship and relationship building time, which is exactly what Daniel and Dominic desired for us to do.  This trip Daniel and Dominic really had the desire for us to start to build relationships with folks of the church because they know how important relationships are the German culture for long term mission work.

That evening Gabe and I were slightly disappointed that one of our favorite spots in Hamburg, Elb Gold Coffee Shop was closed.  However, God was simply providing an opportunity for Gabe and I to wind down and relax in preparation for the long distance sprint He had in store for us with the upcoming week.

We want to thank you once again for your support in The Gospel work in Germany !


The Hamburg Chronicles: Paint brushes and Cargo Ships

We arrived in Hamburg on Friday in the morning.  We have learned from past trips that it is best for us to have a full first day and drive on through the evening so that we can at least force our bodies through the time change.  So, Saturday was our first day that looked anything like a real day.

Daniel had told us that he had a surprise for us on this day so Stewart and I weren’t sure what that was going to look like.  He told us to meet him at his apartment at 10:30-ish.  That morning, we needed to find a little food, so we walked around the place where we were staying and we found this very cool little coffee shop: Gluck und Selig which means “Luck and Good Feelings” (or something like that; the last word, “selig” is apparently old German…).  A couple of young ladies owned the place and its specialty was just being a cool place with crazy good food.  So, Stewart and I were eating a breakfast of coffee, coffee and more coffee when Kathrine (Daniel’s wife) met us there.  We walked to their house and we found Daniel already half covered in paint with his trademark goofy grin and paintbrushes in his hand: we were going to paint!

They were painting their apartment ahead of the arrival of their little girl, Elva Luise and we were going to do the main living room.  Kathrine had gone to a bakery and picked up some croissants, pastries and jam for us to eat during our time.  So, for the next few hours we painted their main living room and talked about all kinds of things: church, family, future…It was a great time of service and fellowship.  We thought the surprise was over…but we found out that later that afternoon we were going to the Hamburg beach to join folks from the church (and their friends) to hang out.

Interesting about this beach.  Hamburg is one of the top three largest ports in Europe.  It has a deep water inland port (like Charleston) on the Elbe River.  On the city side of the river (opposite the port side) is a beach about a football field wide dotted with restaurants, pubs and about a bazillion places to hang out, grill, drink libations and watch the ships.  So, we caught up with dozens of our friends and acquaintances on the beach from about 5:00-9:00 or so.  It was a great time!  Everyone just picked up a packet of some kind of meat to grill (and share) some folks brought small sides and everyone had their favorite drinks.  We all gathered together over a small grill manned by a master-small-grill chef (Klaus) and we were together.

It was low key, interactive and, when a big ship came in, exciting to see.  In the end, we was struck by how unstructured it was and yet how rich.  It was great to be with the people.

The Hamburg Chronicles

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, freeAnd, 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!

More later.