Since I was little, I’ve started my prayers the same way: “Lord, bless me indeed and enlarge my territory. Let your hands be with me and keep me from evil so that I don’t cause pain.” This prayer acts as a comfort, something I can offer up on repeat, a tiny verse out of 1 Chronicles my 10-year-old self over-simplified and memorized in my own way. But when I think about it, I have to laugh a little because here I am, going to church in a different country.
It took us six months, but we finally decided to be brave and go to church. Thanks to the googling skills of my sister-in-law, we found a church, and we had a plan. If anyone approached us and started speaking German to us, we would give them the deer-in-the-headlights look. It worked. The church is located near the main train station, in a modern building. Just like in the States, greeters wait outside to welcome you in. Up two flights of stairs are the main hall, an open space with a bar (yes, a bar), and tables and chairs to relax and hangout.
Here is where Daniel met us. I was probably pretty obvious, standing at the top of the stairs, shoving my beanie and gloves into my backpack and looking around open-mouthed. He introduced himself in German and asked if we were new, and we had to explain we were Ausländer, give our speech about not knowing a lot of German, etc. He very excitedly (for a German) showed us around and explained what to expect from the service. It was a warm welcome, and a good reminder that regardless of language barriers, we were among friends.
The service itself was a typical church service, beginning with music, announcements, a sermon, more music, prayer scattered throughout, and ending with a benediction. What we didn’t expect was the complete openness of the church-goers. I have never been in such a wild crowd with such a rock and roll band. It was the opposite of what you’d expect from orderly Germans. Songs were sung in both German and English (with subtitles on both), and the sermon was in German. While we were offered a translator, we found that we were able to follow the sermon without translation (yay!).
Mut & Glaube
When we went to church for the first time in Kent, the pastor read from Joshua about being strong and courageous. It felt like God was saying, “pssst! Erin!” At this service, I had to laugh because we talked about Mut und Glaube, courage and belief. The pastor read from the book of Mark:
“And the Gospel must first be preached to all nations.”
Here I am, after praying a simple prayer basically my entire Christian life, asking God to expand my territory. And he has taken me through California, Colorado, Ohio, and now Germany.
Pssst! Be strong and courageous!
Pssst! Preach the gospel to all nations!
Pssst! Be a missionary right where you are!
Peaches and Coconuts
The Dutch have a word that doesn’t translate well: Hygge. The easiest way to define it would be a gathering of friends, warm and cozy and talking late into the night. The Germans have a similar word: Chillen. Which is easier to define: to chill/ hang out/ relax with friends and drink beer and have a good time. This church has these vibes.
It wasn’t stuffy, it wasn’t trying to be something else, it wasn’t fake. It was transparent and genuine and chill. No one cared about anything other than celebrating Jesus. No one was worried about people watching them, if it would be weird to raise hands, close their eyes, sing off-key. It didn’t matter to them.
Daniel joined us after the service and asked what we thought. We told him we did not expect that type of service, and that type of worship from Germans. He laughed and said, “It’s all peaches and coconuts.” We both looked at him confused. He said, “in my English class, we were told that Americans and Germans are like peaches and coconuts. Germans are coconuts. Hard on the outside, but when you crack us open, we are soft and sweet. Americans are Peaches. Sweet on the outside, but hard on the inside.”
I want to be a coconut.