Reflections from a Wittenberg Coffee House – Life and Listening

Today I began my Wittenberg English Ministry (WEM) by “myself” but not really.  I said farewell to Elizabeth Schnabel who served as Deputy Director until I could arrive.  She was so helpful to me in the short time we worked together.  As she left, I suddenly had to remember things.  That was I when I took comfort in realizing that there is a strong ministry team in Wittenberg that supports WEM.  The local churches and WEM work in strong partnership which gives credibility to the ministry in the eyes of Wittenbergers.  I value the partnership that I am discovering and look forward to continuing in ministry with them. 

So I did my duties and then I moved from the Gasthaus to the apartment provided through WEM.  The landlady is a delight and, again, she uses her English and I use my German and we get along well.  She is friendly and helpful.  I have now unpacked (and, as I did so I kept saying to myself, “And why did you bring this?”) and put everything away.  Life here is becoming a reality. 

I WENT GROCERY SHOPPING by myself.  I am pleased that I could do it with little difficulty.  My goal in taking German lessons over the past months had been to be able to handle the activities of daily living.  So far I can order food in restaurants and I have been able to successfully shop for groceries.  Tomorrow will be a test as I go shopping for a crock pot.

Tonight we had a HUGE attendance at the English service in the Kappelle.  We almost ran out of chairs.  Of course it was my first service and I forgot the offering baskets and the group was so large we ran out of service bulletins.  I won’t even share what I ended up using for the offering baskets, but we survived.  People shared the bulletins and all was good.  The participants were from Germany, Finland, Canada and the USA.  One of the highlights each day is to sing “A Mighty Fortress” in the chapel where Martin Luther preached many sermons.

As I listen for the voice of God each day, I heard something in the sermon tonight when the pastor said, “the opposite of faith is not unfaith, rather the opposite of faith is anxiety.”  As I heard his point he was saying that faith is a relationship of trust and when we have weak or broken trust we have anxiety.  He emphasized how God is faithful and is one in whom we can trust.  Since I have had no shortage of anxiety the past few days, my ears perked up, as he preached.  I took great comfort in his words and plan to incorporate them into my prayer life as God ministers to me and allows me to minister to others.

I do continue to to see the hand of God in each day and I am thankful for developing better listening skills.  I have to listen very carefully as a person speaks to me in German.  As I listen attentively I increase my ability to work with the German language, but more importantly, I increase my ability to relate to the people with whom I am working.  The Rule of St. Benedict begins with the word LISTEN and Benedict invites us to listen to God through God’s Word.  Listen implies to “lean into” and truly attempt to hear what is being said.

Some things I have given thought to:

  • Listening is a ministry.
  • Listening is work. One must “lean into” in order to experience trust through listening.
  • Listening builds relationships.
  • Listening demonstrates caring.
  • Listening builds understanding.

How are you listening?

How did you hear God in the events of today?

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