Updated: Mar 24, 2022
A year has passed since I moved to join the Aquila Initiative team in Germany. I still vividly remember all the preparations for the move, the packing, the purging, and the tearful goodbyes to friends and family. It has been a year since my life changed completely. As I reflect on the entire process of moving to Germany, I can recognize God’s control and provision in every detail from booking a flight to receiving a German residence permit to finding an apartment despite a tough rental market. He was guiding it all. When I look back on my first year in Germany, something else stands out; I recognize that God has deepened my desire to cultivate the gospel by allowing me to experience the need for the gospel in Europe
Moving Abroad with Little Information
When I moved to Germany there were several things I didn’t know. For instance, I had a job description, but it was vague and so, I wasn’t exactly able to picture my role within Aquila Initiative. I was fortunate to have the promise of Christian community, but I wasn’t sure what church would look like in an international context. Furthermore, I was moving to Germany in the middle of a pandemic! I knew lockdowns would significantly impact how I would build a community and adjust to the culture, but I had no idea what to expect. In other words, I moved to Germany with very little information.
Given all these unknowns, what would compel me to move? I moved to Germany because I was sure of one thing; God was calling me to cultivate the gospel in Germany. In a way, this was the answer to all my questions, fears, and doubts. Furthermore, here’s what I did know. First, I was confident that God had opened this door of opportunity where I could exercise the gifts and abilities, he has given me to glorify him and build others up. Second, whatever my role in Aquila looked like, I knew that I would be working for an organization that saw the need for healthy gospel centered churches in Europe and labored to fill that need. Third, I knew that my service in the local church would aim to fill that same need. All these things encouraged me to obey God and move to Germany. In short, I knew that Germany (and Europe) needed the gospel, but I didn’t quite understand the magnitude of this statement. It took me a year living in Germany to comprehend this dire need.
Lamenting the Brokenness in this World
My life significantly changed pace in Germany. On one level, European life has a slower beat than the hustle and bustle I was so comfortable with in America. On another level, my life slowed down because my routine was disrupted. Suddenly, I found myself with no need to rush after a morning Bible study to work and then rush from work to home to prepare for the next task in my day. It was refreshing for a few days, until I realized that not running from one thing to the next left me with a lot of time to observe and think. As if that weren’t enough of a gearshift, I began to experience the effects of the pandemic in new ways. My life in Laramie, Wyoming wasn’t seriously impacted by the pandemic. Looking back now, I can honestly see that I experienced minor inconveniences. Let me be clear, my experience doesn’t mean that the pandemic didn’t leave a huge impact on others in my community. However, in Germany as pandemic restrictions prolonged, I was forced to slow down even further.
Simultaneously as my life slowed down, I was constantly confronted by the brokenness in the world. I found myself confronted with it on three different levels: brokenness in myself, brokenness in the church, and brokenness in the world. Nothing awakens you to the reality that you are a sinner more than being placed in an unfamiliar context. There were weeks and months where I felt convicted of my pride almost daily. As I was confronted by different cultural views, I found myself constantly repenting and asking God for humility to love others well and seek to understand their views and background. While confronting this reality; I was also confronted by the brokenness that exists in churches as my friend shared her long history battling depression and previous trauma. I lamented with her as she described how this made it impossible for her to work. Lastly, I was confronted by the brokenness in the world after befriending a young woman via Facebook. I learned that she had moved to Germany just before the pandemic and hadn’t had an opportunity to build a community for over a year. I listened as she openly shared her painful story. Her father was the only family she had, and he died of terminal disease when she was a teenager. She explained that she had to give up her home just days after his death and move in with another family because she couldn’t afford to live on her own. So… much…. brokenness. These are only a few examples of the brokenness I faced this year.
As time went on I gradually, began to realize that this slower pace of life gave me time and space to think deeply about the gospel and how it interacts with the brokenness of this world. Whenever I heard distressing news, or whenever a friend (or on occasions complete strangers) shared their despair, or whenever God revealed my own sin, I could now stop and lament the brokenness of this world instead of minutely acknowledging it and moving on to the next task in my day. The struggles I see affecting believers and non- believers here aren’t novel. Things, like depression, anxiety, broken marriages, fear, discontentment were all present when I lived in Laramie, but suddenly now there was a heaviness to them that I couldn’t shake. A heaviness that I couldn’t quite explain at times. Perhaps I felt this weight because for the first time, I was taking the time to lament over the brokenness I saw in the world before God instead of merely acknowledging it and quickly moving past it. Sitting under the weight of the brokenness in the world, is uncomfortable. It forces you to come to terms with the reality that the entire world really does groan for redemption (Rom 8:18-23). I heard that Germany needed the gospel, but now after living here for a year, away from everything that was comfortable and familiar, I could hear and feel the depth and magnitude of this groaning. A groaning for salvation, a groaning for redemption, a groaning for the gospel.
The Gospel, the Only True Hope
It’s easy to get overwhelmed and discouraged as we see the brokenness in ourselves, in others, and in the world juxtaposed to our inability to fix anything. But as I continue to bring my laments before God, he reminds me that the gospel is the only true answer to all the brokenness we see and experience on multiple levels. The gospel is God’s answer to the pervasive effects of sin and death. In the gospel we find that not only does God undo the consequences of the fall but goes much further than that and provides us justification, righteousness, and life through the sacrifice of Jesus (Rom 5:16;18). Where sin and death increased, grace abounded (Rom 5:20).
Furthermore, the gospel reminds us of the character of God. In the gospel, we see a loving, gracious, and merciful God who makes salvation available to all (John 3:16; Rom 5:8). A God who is infinitely wise to design the perfect plan of salvation and powerful enough to implement it (Rom 5:12-21; Rom 8:1-3). The gospel shows us that God has a redemptive plan for this broken world where he seeks to reconcile the world to himself. A reconciliation that will culminate in a new heaven and new earth where we will dwell with God forever (Rev 21:1-5). The gospel gives humanity hope. It gives us the hope because through the gospel we know that God sees that the world desperately needs to be reconciled to himself and doesn’t ignore it. Rather, he provides the only perfect means of salvation, Jesus. He sees, he cares, he provides. The gospel gives us hope that one day all things will be made new, and this world will be fully reconciled to God. It gives us hope for the future. We can face uncertain days because we know that one day everything will be reconciled to God. The gospel is effective and applicable in every area of our lives because it reminds us of the character of the God we serve, and it reminds us of his redemptive plan
As I reflect on this year, I can see God allowing me to experience the need for the gospel in Germany. I moved to Germany knowing about it, but now I’ve seen this need up close and it allows me to see that God has called me to Germany to cultivate the gospel. To cultivate it through Aquila Initiative, through my local church, and simultaneously in my own life. God has used this year to grow my understanding of this calling and its importance.
The World Needs the Gospel
The need for the gospel cultivators though, goes beyond Germany and beyond Europe. The entire world needs Christ centered believers who choose to cultivate the gospel in every area of their lives. The world needs believers who use the hope of the gospel to boldly engage the brokenness around them. The world needs believers who seek to counsel and encourage one-another with the gospel whenever faced with distress, difficulty, or despair. The world needs believers who remind one-another who God is and what he has accomplished in the gospel. The world needs churches filled with these believers to spread the hope of the gospel.
As Christ’s followers, we are all called to cultivate the gospel in our lives and in the contexts where God has placed us. It’s not limited to international missions or full-time ministry. Have you considered this? Take a moment to think about where God is calling you to cultivate the gospel now. Where do you see brokenness? How has God equipped you to engage it with the gospel?