A Church for Others

by Ben & Sarah Carey, serving in Germany

“Going through each day without God can be vicious and harsh,” our German friend, Rosa,* told us. “Being here in Berlin without God just doesn’t work.” After being invited to Freischwimmer (our church-plant project) last summer, Rosa had been coming regularly to our brunches. Within a year, she decided to put her faith in Christ as her salvation and hope.

Rosa’s statement captures the incredible change that we have seen in her since her decision to follow Jesus. Even though her life and circumstances are still difficult and uncertain, Rosa’s perspective and outlook on life have changed so dramatically for the better, it is as if we have been spending time with a whole new Rosa-and I suppose we have.

Connecting through Culture

While living in one of the most culturally influential and “cutting-edge” cities in Western Europe may not be physically taxing, it can definitely be one of the most spiritually challenging.  More than 3 million people who live in Berlin compose a colorful mixture of cultures, ideas, personalities and beliefs. Freischwimmer (Swim Free) is our attempt to creatively connect with these individuals-the free-thinkers, independents, professional. Our desire is to connect on a deeper level, to be a church for those who have distanced themselves from church and God-a “church for others.” 

Our team has partnered with a couple of our German friends who share our vision to see individuals experience God in a practical, life-changing way. God is empowering us through two avenues: culturally (an art gallery) and spiritually (brunches and home group). 

The Galerie Kunstschwimmer has been an extremely tremendous blessing. Showing local artists’ work, opening up possibilities to get to know new people, and strengthening current friendships with a comfortable and appealing invitation to the gallery-these are just a few of the ways in which God has used the gallery to bless us and those around us. We’ve also been able to develop significant relationships with some of the artists themselves, Germans and Internationals. 

Relational Brunch

During the Advent season of 2008, our family opened up our apartment to meet on Sundays for a brunch “with input” to make the most of the opportunity to invite friends and acquaintances during an important time of year. Our Freischwimmer team felt that this was a timely and necessary step to take, beyond having the gallery and a biweekly Hauskreis (home group). It was a non-threatening, meaningful, reflective time with many visitors. We enjoyed taking this bold step in faith. 

Once January hit, we decided to continue our weekly Sunday meetings or Freischwimmer Brunch.  God provided a way for us to offer monthly brunches in a well-known local church this past summer and fall, creating and developing even more relationships. At our weekly brunches, we have seen some growth as we encourage individuals to “swim” along with us through our lives and with our God, including a baptism.  And now, with all glory to God, our average brunch (or “relaxed church services”) attendance of 20 is causing us to outgrow our apartment!

No Light without Him

We see that God has been working in three waves of growth since we have been onboard with Freischwimmer: the home group and gallery, our weekly Sunday brunches, and our monthly public brunches in the local church.  These three waves have increased opportunities for us, both in deepening our relationships within our group and with God, and in broadening our relational connections and networks with those around us.  But what is the next step, the next wave?  We’re asking God and trusting Him to provide the wind and the swell, the push in the right direction, and looking forward to swim with Him in what He has for this project. 

Berlin is a city that looks towards the future while learning from the past. In this spiritually dark place, we want to see the light and hope of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ push the darkness out of the way of those who live here. Our prayer is to see the Holy Spirit work in the lives of those with whom we are connected; to see God forever change the physical perspective and eternal destiny of those He loves and we love, such as Rosa. We, who know Christ and follow Him, are fully aware that daily life and looking towards the future “without God just doesn’t work.”

*not real name

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