This article is shared with us by Rev. Hugo Gevers, the missionary to the migrant and under-served population in Volkmarsdorf, Leipzig, Germany. Rev. Gevers is sent by the mission arm (Lutherische Kirchen Mission) of The Selbständige Evangelische Lutherische Kirche, a Lutheran Church–Missouri Synod partner church body. Rev. Gevers serves alongside SELK pastor Rev. Markus Fischer of St. Trinitatisgemeinde, LCMS missionary Rev. Dr. Christopher Ahlman, and SELK Vicar Thomas Beneke.
On September 1, the school holidays in Saxony came to an end. Vicar Thomas Beneke and myself had some time to reflect about our time with around 10 to 20 children who frequent our „Brücke“ (a social outreach program of the Lutherische Kirchen Mission) “Oh it was so stressful!!” “Oh it was so wonderful!“ These two contradictory remarks put in a nutshell how our time with the kids really was. Wheras many families associate holidays with walking around in Bermuda shorts, a foreign trip or an idyllic beach, the families we work with, only know the Bermuda triangle of TV, computer and boredom. That is why we have made great efforts to keep the kids out of this Bermuda triangle, which really is like a black hole. Especially in the school holidays life is like a black hole to them. Our plan was to get the kids involved in outings, sports and creative work. At the same time, we know that spending time with the kids is like a hand reaching out into darkness. This is because many kids seldom experience an understanding or helpful adult. Normally our program started with breakfast. Thereafter our sport program commenced, which was often right in front of the Lukaskirche. After a good time of exercise, the kids were often capable of concentrating on the creative work we had planned for the day. Especially in the last two weeks of the holidays, we cancelled all other programs and events, in order to make time for the kids. The first week, we went on a camp in co-operation with our friends and neighbors “Kreativstube Leipzig.” Here we had the benefit of 10 other co-workers. The large amount of co-workers did make things a lot easier. This was because we could take time to speak to the children individually. 3 kids, who took part, were recent refugees from Mossul (Iraq). They spoke Arabic and very broken German. Our hearts reached out to these children. How much sorrow they have to live with! Even at this age. But all of our kids have at least one major crises that has touched their lives and has cut deep rift lines in their psyche!
The second week Vicar Thomas Beneke and I organized daily outings from our “Brücke.” One day on our church premises, another day in a comic workshop and also swimming were definite highlights. During the comic workshop the kids were motivated to come in touch with their feelings and to communicate them. Once again it became evident that many a child that has an outward cheeky and impolite attitude is actually trying to hide inner hurt feelings. Our outings were always stressful, sometimes with a lot of fighting and tears. but that is ok and is natural! In the Bermuda-triangle this open expression is not allowed. In the Bermuda-Triangle of our society there is no room for problematic kids. In the Bermuda –Triangle kids are a source of irritation…no more. This is so in their families, in their schools and also in the wider society. If they remain in this black hole, they will soon be pushed aside and be drawn into the oblivion of being nothing. This is not what God has intended for them. In God’s eyes each person is valuable and deserves individual love and care. We cannot allow it to happen, that these kids become mere numbers for the social welfare system! And more than anything else we must not allow Satan to get a hold on them. That is why we are here in the “Brücke.” That is our main goal. That they may experience God’s love and that they may receive the salvation of our Lord Jesus Christ.
So the school holidays came to an end and so also our very intensive time during the summer. The holidays came to a crowning end with a church service in St. Lukas. The kids presented a shadow theatre of David and Goliath, and they were even allowed to participate in the church prayer. Of course David and Goliath is an excellent biblical narrative to show how it is possible that God may change the normal run of things. Normally the richer, stronger, more attractive always win. In the narrative of David and Goliath the weak child could be victorious over the much stronger bigger Goliath. This was made possible through God’s strength. So the kids could learn that many an adversary in their young lives may be conquered through God’s strength.
Sometimes my heart jumped right up my throat when I realized that the kids who are not used to church service at all started getting impatient and noisy. How much longer would the adults tolerate this? Will we have to face irritated parishioners because we ruined their service? To be honest. Yes, the kids were a disturbance. Yes, this can distract people’s attention from Jesus Christ. And yes, this is not to be taken lightly at all! However then I had to remember the narrative of Mary and Martha. What did Jesus say to Martha? “Mary has chosen the better part.“ (Luke 10:42) And why? Simply because she was there! Right where she belonged. At Jesus’ feet. And that is what the kids from Volkmarsdorf did too! Yes, how wonderful to see them walk into the church carrying the cross of Christ to the Altar. And how wonderful to see them with wide eyes soaking everything up, which they saw happening right in front of their eyes.
I am pretty sure that the kids were disturbing in the church. But I am also pretty sure that the kids around Jesus were also disturbing. Was this not the reason why the disciples wanted to chase them away as soon as possible, so that the grown–ups can continue undisturbed all on their own? And what did Jesus say about this? Was it not: “Truly I say to you, unless you become like children, you will not enter the kingdom of heaven” (Matt. 18:3)? Yes, with my 52 years I still have a lot to learn. But maybe it is better not to become wiser and wiser with age, but to become simpler and simpler…And for Jesus’ sake. That is good.
–Rev. Hugo Gevers, Leipzig, Germany