I am so excited to share with you my first update on this trip from Berlin itself! The Apex Berlin team landed on Saturday afternoon after 22 hours of straight travel and little to no sleep. But that’s thankfully the worst part of the story – we had a great couple of days of travel. Don’t get me wrong- it was exhausting but truly one of the easiest experiences that I have had in traveling internationally, ever. Security and customs were not a hassle and we were able to find where we needed to go without any problem!
Sunday, we went to our first church service at the Berliner Dom (pictured below), which was an absolutely breathtakingly beautiful old cathedral in the center of Berlin. Unfortunately, it is a state church, which means that the gospel doesn’t have to be believed or preached. Priests or pastors are not required to believe in Christ or in his Word in order to go through the training and do the job. Therefore, this particular church exists to provide Berliners with ways to feel good – about themselves, their circumstances or the world in general. Jesus is not pointed to as the one and only Savior of the world, but instead good behavior is preached, and biblical passages twisted to fit the theme as deemed necessary. We ended up attending a confirmation and communion service which was both really interesting and incredibly sad at the same time. The sacred pews were jam packed with families in all manner of dress from three piece suits to tshirts and shorts, carrying flowers and pineapples as gifts for the kids who entered ceremoniously, dressed to the nines. These kids, aged from about 6 to 17, who had gone through the 9 month class to prepare them for confirmation were blessed and told that they were now a part of the Christian church and as such, they had security for the future. You could tell they had practised how to stand and walk during the ceremony, and many of them looked bored or just excited about the celebration after the service. And when the ceremony was finished, the sermon that was preached made me want to cry. The words being spoken were not at all the truth of the Gospel of Christ, promoting personal relationship and faith in Christ, but rather took a passage, twisted it and explained how God is displayed as a horrible God in the passage, and then said that we need to interpret it in a way that allows for righteous living and trust in a benevolent, loving God. The way that the Lord was described had me picturing a jolly, Santa-like figure who was rarely interested in the affairs of his creation.
For the rest of the day, we walked around the city and saw a few historical sites that were also heavy and hard to witness (Berlin Wall, and the Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe), but somehow, the moment that saddened me the most was the way that this city values the church as a symbol of tradition and goodwill, not as an alive and flourishing community, dedicated to serving and loving their Savior.
Prayer Requests: Please be praying for the team as we settle into our first of three “wohnungs” or apartments that we’ll be staying in over the next six weeks! We’ve got a really full schedule ahead of us, and there is definitely a tendency for me to be overwhelmed and a bit nervous about my ability to serve effectively. Please pray for good conversations and learning opportunities as well as the ability to build friendships among the team that is here full time in Berlin.