Resonate Global Mission missionaries David Kromminga and Mary Buteyn partner with the Berlin City Mission to lead a church plant in Berlin, Germany—a city where thousands of newcomers seek refuge each year.
On Sunday mornings before the coronavirus pandemic, newcomers from throughout the city gathered for breakfast, prayer, and worship. Some of them traveled for up to an hour to get there. Some are new Christians from a Muslim background. Some have been raised in Muslim homes but are asking questions about Jesus.
Like many churches throughout the world, they aren’t able to meet together in person during the COVID-19 pandemic. David and Mary took Sunday worship online. Much of it works great, but there are some aspects of ministry that don’t translate well on the internet.
Ministry Losses during COVID-19
No longer meeting in person, the church plant can no longer gather for breakfast on Sunday morning before worship. David and Mary miss breakfast—not only because it provided an opportunity for members of their church plant to fellowship with one another, but because breakfast was an easy entry point for those who are generally wary of Christianity.
Before the coronavirus, David was also hosting a weekly Bible study for people from a Muslim background. Meeting in person was important as they shared a meal together, watched a video about Jesus, and discussed what they saw and learned. They’re waiting until they can meet in person again.
The weekly Sprachcafé (Language Café) where Mary offers newcomers the opportunity to practice conversational German continues through video call, but it doesn’t have the reach it did before. Before the coronavirus pandemic, between 70 and 100 people would gather for two-hour lessons. Now, between 2 and 15 people call in each week.
Sprachcafé was open to the public before COVID-19, and David and Mary typically met a lot of new people each week—people they could form friendships with and possibly disciple or invite to join their church plant. The couple is missing both new and familiar faces.
But they’ve also seen God working in new ways.
“For what we have given up, we have also gained,” said Mary.
The church plant they lead now meets twice during the week via Zoom for lively conversations. They get to catch up, laugh together, mourn together, and pray for one another. For people who live an hour away from where the church meets, it’s easier to check in online.
“We see some more often now than we actually did before this situation,” said Mary. “That’s a real gain. There are closer relationships developing.”
David and Mary were also able to connect one young man in their church plant with another missionary for language lessons that quickly became an opportunity for evangelism. The young man came alone to Germany from the Middle East, and while he’s from a Muslim background, he’s interested in learning more about Chrisitianity. When his German classes were cancelled due to the virus, David and Mary connected him with another missionary who conducts German lessons with him three times each week through video call.
“He asked her for the Bible stories I was telling in worship,” said Mary. “She’s also doing major evangelism with him in those sessions and he’s very open.”
‘Ministry of Lengthy Walks’
While it’s still impossible to meet face-to-face in groups, people in Germany are able to go outside with members of their household or with one other person. David has been practicing what he calls a “Ministry of Lengthy Walks”—meeting one-on-one with men from the church plant for 90-minute walks around the city.
New to Berlin with few connections, many refugees are lonely and feeling very isolated while practicing social distancing. Fresh air, exercise, and conversation with David is especially life-giving during this time. The walks have also provided good discipleship opportunities as people talk about their challenges or questions.
One man asked David if the coronavirus was predicted in the Bible. They had an interesting conversation about Scripture and hardships faced by both believers and unbelievers.
David and Mary said that even after the pandemic is over, they’ll likely continue some of these new ministry opportunities—especially meeting with the members of their church plant online throughout the week.
“If people have to travel a whole hour to get physically with us, this is just a really great way for people to see each other during the week and then to assemble again on Sunday morning,” said David.
But David, Mary, and the believers in their church plant frequently make plans for “when they’re back together” and are eager to meet in person again.
- Pray for newcomers in isolation. They’re new to the city and don’t know very many people. Many are lonely, bored, and frustrated with the situation. Ask God to provide comfort, encouragement, and connections with people.
- Pray for families of refugees. “They are concerned about their families in their countries that they’ve come from that do not have the healthcare infrastructure that a country like Germany has,” said David. Ask God to protect and provide for family members. Pray for all to experience God’s perfect peace.
- Pray that the ministry happening during the coronavirus will put David, Mary, and their church plant in a stronger position moving forward rather than a weaker position. David and Mary have witnessed people growing deeper in faith throughout these past weeks. Pray that the ministry will be stronger than ever when they’re able to gather together again in person.