30 June 2004

newsletter march to june 04

The German Jungle: March-June 2004

So, it’s been three months since I left the US again for Germany. And a lot has been happening, as always…

The first month was spent looking for a room in a flat, reconnecting with people, and adjusting to a pretty bad case of culture shock. Europe is very different from Africa... I was surprised by how alike everyone here looks- the same hairstyles, name-brand clothes, and unfriendly straight-ahead focus. Sometimes God’s humor is just great… the room I ended up finding (in a city that rarely has openings) is the same one that was offered to me two years ago! Back then I turned it down to go work in Kassel, for better or for worse. Now, I am living in an 8 square meter room, and doing what I was too insecure to try then.

Two weeks after arrival, I received a call from an old boss of mine, asking me if we could meet up and discuss some thoughts he has been having about God. Andi has been a prayer case since I first met him through my best friend in 2000. Back then he didn’t care to even think about God. He said my sweatshirt with “sin kills” on it, and the way my best friend and I interacted with one another (we’d often sing worship songs while working, or pray before lunch… small things that came naturally, we never purposely evangelized) caused him to start thinking and reading the Bible. He’s still a ways from the truth (he needs to understand GRACE, not works) but getting closer every time we talk. Because of his new conviction that the Bible is important, he has asked me to do a short film on the 10 Commandments. (well, actually, he asked about the 15 commandments, but I said I can’t make a film that doesn’t agree with what I believe, so he gave me free reign to write the script accordingly.) I’ll share the concept in a bit…

April saw me finally moving in to my room. If you don’t understand meters, picture it this way- a little smaller than two queen beds. Andy built me a loft bed, so I can at least turn around in the space…sofa and desk from the “sperrmuehl” (extra-trash) fill the floor space. Our kitchen window looks out on all the trashcans for the building- mmm, appetizing! But it’s nice living ground level, I sit in my windowsill and meet the neighbors. I had several meetings about part time jobs in the film industry, to see if I could get a position that would put me in contact with the people I need to know and the resources to make my films; however, I was told overall either that I am “overqualified” or “under experienced.” I did meet an animator through this process who is also a Christian, and when I pitched my film idea to him, he was so excited he offered his services!

The next few weeks were spent flat on my back. I don’t know the English word for what I did, in German it’s called “bandscheibevorfall.” That means that the disks between several of my vertebrae have slipped out a bit to the side, pinching a nerve. The x-rays also showed that I have a scoliosis (means my back looks like an upside down question mark). Anyway, it made it impossible to do much of anything. I couldn’t even climb into my bed. I spent a day in the hospital, where an elder from my church here looked at me. His advice was six months of physical therapy and massage therapy, combined with a whole lot of prayer. After three weeks I was able to move again without pain, and was on my way to a meeting with the animator, when the bus I was in had an accident! (May 26) I was thrown forward fairly violently and threw out my back a second time, only worse. I had to be taken to the hospital in an ambulance, and wasn’t allowed to move for about 6 hours until they were certain I hadn’t broken my back. When I saw the x-rays, I couldn’t believe they were mine- the scoliosis was only half as curved as before! I believe God really is straightening my back. The bad news is, it hurts rather badly again. I can walk around now, but I still can’t carry anything, and if I sit for more than a few minutes, it becomes rather uncomfortable. I don’t have medical insurance, so any further treatment will be costly. I got a lawyer to see if the bus company can be made responsible for my hospital bills, etc.

So... this past month has been especially exciting! I was on the road visiting a few Jesus Freak churches and doing ministry. First I was in Chemnitz, where the Freaks work together with the Salvation Army, for an intense prayer meeting- they are having some serious troubles there. Then I held a seminar near Zwickau at the Regional-conference for Saxony (there were about 50 people there). My topic was “Performing Arts for God.” It was a mixed workshop, with a bit of theory and stories from my own experience, and a practical part where the group was split into teams that took turns producing their own short films and learning Improv Theater. My whole group said they would have liked an even longer camp, and they invited me to hold one in Goerlitz later this year.

From Saxony I traveled to Kassel, where I had been part of a multi-church team planning a massive street missions action. After a month of preparation, it was time for the three days of nerve-racking evangelism. I could write a whole newsletter just about this one week! The basic idea was to build an open-air living room in the middle of town, in the “fuessgaengerzone” -where no cars can drive. Everything you would expect, from sofas and lamps to carpet and potted plants to a stereo and hanging paintings… a real living room. We invited people (primarily aged 15- 25) to come in, sit down, and join us. We had hot and cold drinks, sweets, and Bibles free to take. It was an incredible success! I was able to get into a lot of serious conversations about faith, God, church, and the Bible. Several guys even came to church with us Friday night!
Problems always arise with this kind of action, and the team said they were glad I was there to deal with some of our guests- I don’t blame them, I would love to pass on some of the experiences! One lady had obvious problems, she came in and began doing weird dance-like movements. She spoke fairly clearly and I could tell she was not on drugs, but her behavior was quite odd and disturbing- she scared off the other guests. So I sat down and tried to talk to her. She disagreed with everything I said. Finally we came to a point where she was repeating whatever we prayed, until it came to the end “in the name of the father, the sun and the holy spirit” we prayed... she repeated it “father, spirit, and dead head.” Three times we said Jesus, and every time she said instead “dead head.” Then she spit on me. After apologizing quite a bit, she then threw a cup of water on me. And began apologizing... I asked the prayer team (in English) to pray specifically that we be able to calm her and get her to leave our living room. After a while, we were able to get her to go. She wouldn’t let me walk with her at first, then grabbed me and used me to half drag her forwards. I just kept praying very quietly, so she couldn’t hear. Finally I was able to see her into a train, and I returned to the living room.
Others I talked to included a member of the Communist party from the local government, lots of punks, university students, a few nice grandmothers, and a 17 year-old gothic girl. The first day she came with a friend, but as soon as she noticed we were Christians, she made an excuse and ran off. The second day, she came up to me and asked if she could just have some sweets and a coke, even if she didn’t want to talk. Of course. The third day, she ran up and hugged me, “Cate-you’re still here!” she sat down immediately and shared her life story with me, and asked a lot of questions about my faith and me. She asked me to write down the church address, and she wants to come. So it was a rewarding time.

I have a thousand other such stories, but I guess this newsletter is already a bit long! I’ll save the news about my short film for another mail. The summer has a lot of exciting stuff coming up, a few street theater ideas in Hamburg, the Freakstock, Heartcore prayer seminar, and a miniature convoy through Denmark and northern Germany. As always, if there’s anything specific you want to know, or if you just want to say “hi!” I’d be glad to hear from you!!

Gottes Segen aus Deutschland-


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