I went to Germany, recently, to determine my purpose in the Dresden initiative. To do this, I needed to observe, learn, pray, and process what God was doing in Dresden. Events, like the DASS Camp (Blog) were part of that process. I hoped to begin friendships with teenagers and to be a part of what God would do through camp.
DASS Camp went smoothly. One family even had us (the American team) over for dinner when camp was finished, to thank us. Rico was a teenager who attended camp. His mother Jule attended the Evangelical Free Church of Dresden. The man who grilled the pile of wurst we consumed was named Frank. He is Jule’s boyfriend. Of the three, Frank spoke English best. During dinner, the Ingrams translated for me and for Roger, but Frank willingly spoke to us in English.
Frank was very outgoing, open about his thoughts, and willing to answer just about anything we asked him. It wasn’t long before Frank told us that he was an atheist. This was a little surprising at first, as Rico and Jule both seemed to have faith. However, in the context of Germany, where religion is often seen only as history, this fact and declaration were not surprising at all. Like other atheists I had met, Frank was comfortable discussing God with curiosity rather than contempt. His curiosity about our culture grew, while our curiosity about his story grew.
After 11pm, Frank brought his prized alcohol and did just about anything he could to get us to stay. We thanked him for his generosity, but reminded him that we had church the next day. Not being content that this departure would mean “goodbye,” Frank arranged to take me and Roger out on the following Monday. We happily agreed.
To our great surprise, Frank came to church the next day. I believe that he had never been to the Evangelical Free church of Dresden before. Wanting to hang out with us again, Frank came willingly. Roger caught up with him right away while I found a seat with Jule. Unlike the previous Sunday, Roger and I chose to sit apart from translation, since I wanted to experience the German service fully. For a short time, Frank took a crack at translating for us, but this quickly became awkward among the silent members on every side. Instead, we told Frank to listen carefully and share the sermon with us later.
As soon as the service was over, I asked Frank what he thought of the message. He smiled and said that the message was very important for him. Not wanting to discuss it further at that point, Frank promised to discuss it with us the next evening.
The next evening, Roger and I met Frank outside of the church. Together, we hopped on a tram heading to the part of the city nobody else cared to show us- the Neustadt, or “new city”. Quite honestly, this part of the city was known for its bars, which was exactly why Frank was excited to take us there. Most of his favorite places were at the Neustadt. Excited to experience a different side of the Dresden culture, we followed Frank’s lead straight to a hole in the wall pub, with a small garden seating area.
Eager to find out what Frank thought about the sermon, I jumped into my questions right away. I wanted to know why he had found the sermon particularly applicable for him, and what had caused him to say that it had been important for him. I had recognized some German words during the sermon, which lead me to believe the pastor was reading from the book of Isaiah. Frank explained that the service had been about our purpose.
When I asked Frank about his purpose, he launched into a series of humorous and surreal stories about his past which truly seemed meant for a movie. If you message me on Facebook, I will share my favorite story of his days spent as a “security guard” and “collections agent” for a group he says were not technically the Russian Mafia, whatever that means. Other interesting stories included Frank winning and losing large amounts of money through online poker, and so forth. Now Frank is a high school math teacher, which he finds very fulfilling.
Frank shared with us that he desired to be a teacher in the juvenile prison system. He said that he wanted to do this because it was important that somebody believed in these teenagers and taught them that their mistakes didn’t have to determine their future. This was Frank’s purpose. I was stunned by his beautiful sentiment. I couldn’t decide where to go with conversation, though I had hundreds of responses to choose from. We discussed Isaiah. We discussed the gospel. We discussed what our calling/purpose was. Since our conversation was limited by language, we weren’t able to go too deep. Frank was sharing his heart though and I was overwhelmed by the fact that Roger and I were given such a privilege.
Finding the right way to end our evening was difficult. Roger and I were tired. We had been through a lot in 3 weeks, but Frank had become very important to us. If we had the energy, we could have easily stayed out all night talking with Frank. Yet, 1am came quickly and we were spent. We exchanged hugs and promises to stay in touch.
Since that evening, we have all kept in touch through email. Frank is gracious and writes to me in English. I just received an email from Jule today, in English. I almost cried because I knew how hard it was for her to put it together. Google Translate does not help as much as you might think it would. I have a thank you card that remains blank because I am still trying to properly translate a few paragraphs for someone who hosted me in Germany.
I am overjoyed by this growing friendship with Frank and Jule. I am also frustrated by the way we always close our emails to each other: “I hope you return soon” and “I hope to be there soon.” I want to be there! I want to get started on language learning, so that I can be the one to speak outside of my comfort zone. Friendship can only go so far through email. I want to be with these people.
This is my calling. This is my purpose. I have many ideas about reaching out to the youth culture of Dresden. In reality, I want to reach families with the Gospel and to build the church through them. My prayer is that one day Frank will be the church. God has given him the desire to offer hurting teenagers hope and redemption. This is Frank’s purpose. Mine is not unlike his.
If you would like to hear more about what God is doing in East Germany, please email me: firstname.lastname@example.org
I would LOVE to get together to talk.
To read my personal prayer requests, join my Facebook Group: Lexi’s Germany TEAM
A Quick Look at Dresden
(Including a glimpse of walking through the Neustadt with Frank)