This story was shared with us by Rev. Hugo Gevers, a missionary to the migrant population in the Leipzig area. Rev. Gevers works with The Selbständige Evangelisch—Lutherische Kirche (SELK), a partner church of The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod (LCMS). The LCMS supports Rev. Gevers’ main responsibility, Die Brücke with donations. Rev. Dr. Christopher Ahlman, Stategic Mission Developer and Area Music Program Coordinator for the LCMS Office of International Mission (OIM), also works with Rev. Gevers, Die Brücke, and the associated congregation of the SELK in Leipzig, St. Trinitatisgemeinde. You can read Rev. Gevers’ report on this event below.
Arschia is 6 years old. His short life has been ripped apart, and now there is a huge rift between his early childhood in Iran in the past and his life now in Germany. Without preparation, his entire childhood in Iran including close family and friends had to be left behind. Grandparents and others were suddenly nothing more than faces on a computer screen. Nine months ago Arschia had to flee from Iran with his parents. The first few months were spent in a refugee camp in Chemnitz with many strange and different nationalities. Thereafter the family was transferred to Elbisbach (near Borna). In this asylum home Arschia has to share one room with his parents. The family shares a bathroom and kitchen with 2 other families. Arschia can hardly speak any German. His parents know a little English but they too still have to learn German. However the language problem is only one of the stumbling blocks lying ahead of them in their plight to find new roots here in Germany. For one Arschia’s parents don’t have a work permit and therefore they cannot earn their sustenance on their own. Work permits as well as language courses and courses enabling their integration in Germany are only given once they are able to attain their residence permit in Germany. This may take up to 15 years. And if Arschia completes his schooling in this time, he too will not be able to work or study in Germany until he and his family have attained their residence permit. Nonetheless the family is happy to be in Germany. “At least we are safe over here.” This is what they often say. Yes, in Iran they were often threatened and had to fear persecution or even death. This is because they converted from Islam to Christianity. In Iran such people are often killed or jailed.
Missionary Hugo Gevers wants to assist people in this or in a similar plight. Refugees may not apply for the same benefits as locals in Germany. That is why private people and churches try to assist to help refugees in their efforts to find roots in Germany and to learn the language over here. Matthias Pankau, a local journalist in Leipzig, was interested in this work. He therefore visited the home in Elbisbach and then wrote a report, which was subsequently published in a Christian magazine, Idea (Ausgabe Nr. 50, 11. Dezember 2013 S.24&25) as well as in the newspaper in Leipzig, Leipziger Volkszeitung (Ausgabe vom 20.12.2013). In the interview, Matthias Pankau asked Arschia what he would like to have for Christmas. Arschia immediately answered: “A horse!” Arschia’s wish was read by Mrs. Neubert who is the manager of a Leipziger riding school, Gesundheitssport St. Georg ev.
Mrs. Neubert has been in charge of this riding school since the year 1970 and works as a volunteer here. The riding school has a program to help needy children and to introduce them to sport and horses. By the medium of sport and healthy nourishment, the school wants to engender a healthy life style in the lives of these children. Of course horses play a very important role in this context. “Strong through horses!” is a motto of the riding school. “Horses have a very positive influence on children. Especially children with social problems.” Says Mrs. Neubert. Arschia did not get a horse from Mrs. Neubert. But he was able to participate in a riding and sport program lasting for one whole week. Missionary Hugo Gevers and other co-workers of “Die Brücke” helped organize a week from 23. February to 28. February in the same riding school. This week was chosen because it was during Saxony’s Spring Break from school (a two week break in Saxony at the end of February). Mrs. Neubert explains that the mixed group responded very well to the program. Some things had to be explained by sign language. But the foreign kids soon knew what was expected from them. This week was a very important event. We cannot under-estimate the value of the same. To cook together, play musical instruments and to do sport together may just give the bonding effect which may encourage immigrants to learn German and to seek their integration in Germany.
One of the other events on the program was a musical program called “Drums alive” Rev. Dr. Christopher Ahlman was able to assist in this program. This program includes movement, rhythm and co-operation with a group. It was very important for these kids to learn how to fit into a structured program.
Helping children from weak families and families in need and to try and help migrants feel at home in Germany may be one of the most important tasks set for the German state and one may think that this task would receive the highest priority. However Mrs. Neubert says that one often finds it very difficult to receive government aid for such projects. Especially children from poor families cannot afford a riding and sport week. Sometimes the parents of such children do not know how to apply for government assistance to participate in such programs. In Arschia’s case, it is simply impossible to receive such assistance. That is the reason why one has to hope for the good will of donors to assist such programs. We stood in many government departments, wrote letters and asked people to sponsor this event for our 11 kids. But the funding fell just short. We would have liked to include even more children for such events. But are nonetheless very pleased that we could get the program for our 11 children. The parents too were very happy and reported that their children seemed to be far more peaceful and relaxed after their week with the horses and with the co-workers of “Die Brücke.”
Die Brücke hopes to work with Gesundheitssport St. Georg again in the future for a similar program. Through the program, the children learn coping skills, begin to integrate, and are able to participate in something they might otherwise never do. With the donations making their participation possible and the workers of Die Brücke also helping to run the program, the children saw Christ’s love for them in action.
- If you would like to help fund this event in the future, please contact Rev. Gevers at email@example.com.
- Please pray for the children who participated, that they would be well-cared for in the future, and that they would know the love of Christ for them through the people of Die Brücke and St. Trinitatisgemeinde.