I had planned to write so much more in the time I was away; I really did. But, between the struggles of finding a steady internet connection at our own base, being mobile and moving every 2 weeks, and the craziness of just being in the midst of a DTS and all that that entails, the hopes of starting a blog last September and sharing all I was experiencing, didn’t exactly come together.
As a result I’ve spent hours since I’ve been back stressing about how I could possibly catch up the people that have supported me and cared so much to hear about what God has been doing, this whole time. I came to the conclusion that I would have to do a lot of catching up in person, but also right here…before I start with anything new. Because you deserve to know and God deserves the glory!
There were a few events that took place in the time of my DTS, that I felt like I could not easily forget. Having said that, it has come as some what of a surprise to me, as I recognize it isn’t quite so easy to remember, even moments like these, after all. But really, it’s so common in our generation isn’t it? Replacing one thing with the next, what seems like every 5 minutes. More than just materially, we have been conditioned to think this way, where it’s literally “out with the old and in with the new” and even one memory is outweighed by the next. As I recognized this in my own life, I also realized how much I don’t want to continue living this way. I want to collect memories and stories, still learning and growing from them daily, not throwing them away as newer exciting ones come in. I want to be faithful with what I’ve been given, always thankful and never forgetful. So, in response to that, I want to start of this new adventure with some great memories of a past one. Because in a way it’s not about seeing bigger and better miracles moving forward, but rather a continuation of what I’ve already seen, and adding to the story God’s already given me.
And he said to him, “Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise” -Luke 23:43
One of the first life changing events for me, during my DTS, took place in Berlin, after a lecture on “The Father Heart of God”. After lecture one of our staff explained to us that we would be going to Leopoldplatz that afternoon, a park not too far from our base, commonly known as a place where the poor and addicted gather. We would go with a local ministry (Café Mandelzweig) that goes to this park every Thursday to do “Street Ministry” (handing out food, building relationship and sharing about Jesus) to support them in what they are doing regularly. This was the second time we would be going, and I knew this was a type of outreach which I both loved and found extremely frustrating. I love it because I have a heart for the poor and people that struggle with addiction. I am more drawn towards, than I am disturbed by or am afraid of these, societies ‘outcasts’ like some are. But for me, this kind of outreach time also just feels like an awkward pre-teen dance. You are so excited to be there, yet you are standing in a corner with no idea what to say or do; this, because I am not naturally extroverted, making it super hard for me to start any sort of meaningful or even flowing conversation, when I haven’t known the person for at least a short amount of time. So, now that you know that, you understand when I say, I spent the entire walk there praying that God would break barriers that were in the way of whatever He wanted me to do or say that day. That I too would be able to have a conversation with someone at any sort of moving level.
When we got there, the response was good and we handed out the sandwiches and tea we had prepared. Then came the hard part… Time to go get to know some of the people receiving the food. To make it a bit easier I decided to follow my friend Gules, who is completely opposite of me when it comes to introducing yourself and starting a conversation with someone you met 5 seconds ago… She’s a pro. She started talking to a guy that proceeded to tell her almost everything about his life in the same minute they exchanged names. As I was sitting there listening, observing, and maybe giving my 2 cents every now and then, Christin, one of my DTS staff came over and asked if I could join her. In that moment, I have to say I was almost kind of annoyed. I mean here I am doing pretty well (I mean, can’t she see I’m doing a great job connecting with this guy, vicariously through Gules). Now I have to just get up and go do who knows what. Okay I’ll just admit it, I was totally annoyed in the moment. But praise be to God, He still used me stubborn as I normally am and I wasn’t so annoyed moments later.
A bit of background info on what I am about to elaborate on: Christin has been in Berlin for sometime now already and had gone out with this team before. On one occasion, a man had approached her with his friend asking her to pray for him. The friend didn’t actually want prayer so she explained she wouldn’t pray for him as he did not want that, but she would gladly pray for him instead. At this point the man that had approached her in the first place became quite angry with her exclaiming that he didn’t want prayer, he didn’t deserve it and nothing could change what he had done. He was pretty livid. Christin walked away from that day continuing to pray for this man and had at some point felt like she had a verse God placed on her heart to give to that man. That man’s name was René and strangely enough, she didn’t see him at the park weeks after that… until this day.
(I didn’t know this all until after)
So, while I was with Gules, René had approached Christin (oddly enough after the last encounter) saying he wanted to show her something. He wanted to show her the graveyard where his best friend was. This is when she got me (me of all people) to ask if I would feel comfortable going with her to the graveyard with René. My very small, weird and crazy side screamed, “Uh, yes, this is the kind of strange thing I’ve been praying I would experience, for years!” and the other, more sane, normal and cautious side of me thought “are you nuts?” The latter thought was drowned out by the first, along with a deep peace about it all, and after letting people know where we were going we proceeded to follow René. We introduced ourselves, as we walked and then Christin and I tried to ask him a few questions. Questions like “How long has it been since your friend passed away?” and “Do you go here often?” Both he answered with a simple answer, “You’ll see.” When we got there, we did see. It was beautiful and unbelievably well taken care of. He stood there proud and with so much sadness all at the same time explaining that this was his best friend. We asked how it happened and he told us that it was a drug deal gone wrong; his friend was shot. He explained that his friend was always the one that thought it was wrong, that knew it needed to stop and the one that really didn’t want to be a part of it. I asked him if I could take a picture of him there. He said yes.
When we went to walk back, Christin asked him what He thought about God. He was very open this time and said, he didn’t understand why there is so much bad in the world, if God is who He says He is. Christin explained that we all still sin and fall short. He then said that He also never understood why Jesus would endure the pain of the cross if He really was God. At this moment the Holy Spirit filled my lips with words in a way I have never experienced before and the short conversation went something like this…
“Exactly, why did He?”
“Can you answer that?”
“Because He loved you that much”
I don’t know if The Gospel was ever so clear to me as it was in that moment. And I know that something touched René in that moment as strongly as it did me. Now, Christin was able to share exactly what God had spoken to her for René. She told him that ever since she met him the first time in the park, she had been praying for him. That she thought a lot about how he acted and what he had said to her that first day. She asked him if he knew that Jesus wasn’t the only one a cross the day He was crucified; that there were two other men also, that were guilty. And she proceeded to tell him about Luke 23:26-43, the response of the two men, and that even at that last moment Jesus forgave the criminal beside him, promising he would be with Him in paradise. At this point René was crying. The man that previously got aggressive because of the embarrassment of showing any emotion, was now standing in front of us crying. Christin asked if he would wait if she went to find him a bible and he agreed.
During the time I waited with him, we talked more. At one point he told me that his teeth embarrassed him, that he felt like it’s all people looked at. That it was all I saw. I told him it didn’t bother me at all, but he didn’t believe me and he kept saying that he knew it was all I saw. Then, I got to tell him how a few years ago, half my face was completely paralyzed and I felt the same way. That I still felt like that sometimes. He stopped talking about how insecure he felt after that. Christin came back after quite a while explaining to me that she couldn’t find a bible anywhere. I told her René had gone with his friend but had promised to come back. I knew full well that we were still dealing with an addict here, but I was believing him regardless, and told her to keep looking. She came back with a miracle bible; 50 cents, at a random stand on her way to attempting the Library, after all else failed and René came back. She highlighted the verse and we asked if we could pray for him before we left. He asked us to pray for his 4 boys. We prayed and I told him that I felt Jesus wanted him to know He would protect and father his boys. We all cried together and hugged each other goodbye. We got to see René showing off his new bible to everyone and he waved goodbye until we were really gone.
I know that God touched René in a way he had never felt before that day. I know that he felt His love and forgiveness and that René understood God in a way he had never before. I also know that René is in an incredibly hard situation and that his life may not reflect that in every area right now. But regardless of what René’s life looks like to someone on the outside, I do believe that there was a shift in his heart and mind that day and that he and I both learned more about the Father Heart of God that day than either of us were expecting.