Accompanying Migrants in Germany
The following stories are from Global Mission Fellows who worked from 2015-2017 with International and Migrant Ministries in Germany, a United Methodist Outreach to asylum seekers, refugees, and other migrants.
Fulfilling a Prophetic Call—Life in Abundance
By Peter Karanja*
Because of the high influx of people arriving in Germany from war-torn areas in Africa and the Middle East, the term, Flüchlingslager, (“Refugees”), which literally means “people fleeing,” was the German word of the year for 2015, according to the German Language Society. The world is experiencing the highest number of people migrating ever, at a rate never before seen in history. This implies that more suffering is felt as injustices are committed every day to people on the margins. In the midst of this crisis, the church should not stop struggling with the same questions the two religious leaders asked in the story of the Good Samaritan: What will happen to the church if it engages with the refugees who are of different cultural and religious beliefs? And, conversely, what will happen to the homeless, depressed, lonely, uneducated, jobless, fearful, and wounded refugees if the church turns its back on them?
The Ruferkirche United Methodist Church in Frankfurt, in collaboration with Migrant Ministries, offers German language and music lessons to refugees. They also work hard to help refugees find homes. PHOTO: PETER KARANJA
Warsan Shire, a Kenyan-born Somali poet, stated clearly that internally or externally displaced people do not just flee from their motherland for no reason. “No one leaves home unless home is the mouth of a shark. You only run for the border when you see the whole city running as well.”
As a Global Mission Fellow working alongside both old and young refugees from Syria, Afghanistan, Somalia, Eritrea, and Albania with the International Migrant Ministries in Germany, I am learning about the plight of the migrants who face an uncertain future as they search for housing, learn new ways of living, and practice a new language.
Frankfurt, Germany, is a major destination for refugees and migrants. Much like any other big city, the main challenge for refugees and those who support them is a lack of housing. Because of the complexity of the housing problem, refugees end up living in congested sports halls for long periods of time. The Ruferkirche United Methodist Church in Frankfurt, in collaboration with Migrant Ministries, has taken the step of offering German language and music lessons to the refugees. They also work hard to help refugees find homes.
These actions taken by the church have broadened my understanding of today’s missionaries and how important it is for the church to move out of its walls and fulfill its prophetic call—to promote life in abundance. As John 10:10 describes—Christ came to bring life and life in abundance.
*Peter Karanja is one of a group of Global Mission Fellows assigned to International and Migrant Ministries in Germany, a United Methodist outreach to asylum seekers and other migrants. Peter (Advance #3022096), who earned a B.A. in Divinity from Africa University in Zimbabwe, is originally from Kenya. He is an affiliate member of Trinity United Methodist Church in Naivasha, a congregation of the East Africa Annual Conference.
Crossing Paths with Refugees in Germany
By Taurai Jokonya*
In January 2017, I had the privilege of attending a leadership conference in Stuttgart, Germany. There, more than 30 Christian leaders, predominantly United Methodist ministers from Europe, gathered to discuss refugees in their churches. It was refreshing to hear amazing stories of how people in Germany are prepared to go out of their way to accommodate our friends whom the world calls refugees.
I met four Zimbabwean ministers who are now based in the United Kingdom, and the Zimbabwean ambassador to Germany was also part of this gathering. I also had the privilege of meeting the bishop-elect for the Germany Central Conference, the Rev. Harald Rückert, when we visited his church in Reutlingen. It was an enriching experience to discuss issues guided by the theme “Things that keep us apart and unite us.” Sad that the outgoing bishop Rosemary Wenner wasn’t around because she had other commitments in the United States. It would have been great meeting her as well.
Progress for Refugee Friends
A number of our refugee friends have really settled well here. When I first arrived in 2015, these friends didn’t know anything about Germany. Some arrived after I did and we took it upon ourselves to try and make them feel at home and settled. Now, 13 months down the line, I’m glad to have witnessed what the Lord can do. Though two of our friends have not acquired proper documentation, they are now working and living in their own apartments. Some have yet to find their own apartments and jobs, but there is a lot of positive progress. Three are living in a hotel now, which is much better than the town hall they shared when we first knew them. The process might be painfully slow, but they are definitely getting there.
Taurai Jokonya, second standing from left, meets with refugees who have begun to settle into life in Frankfurt, Germany. PHOTO: COURTESY TAURAI JOKONYA
All of these friends have Muslim backgrounds and when we started meeting, they were skeptical about us because of our Christian faith. But now we can count on them to come and be part of some of our church programs.
While I was in Germany, my bike was stolen in the Spring. Fortunately, someone had just left another bike by our church in late December, and we didn’t know what to do with it. So soon after mine was stolen, I got the needed approval from my supervisor to start using the abandoned one. The owner never returned for it and the cycling was great in those days!
My service in Germany came to an end in June and I am now back home in Zimbabwe. End of service meant traveling to the United States for our end-term debriefing in Atlanta, Georgia. I’m praying for God to reveal plans for my next steps.
*Taurai Jokonya (Advance #3022116) was one of a group of Global Mission Fellows assigned to International and Migrant Ministries in Germany, a United Methodist outreach to asylum seekers and other migrants. He is from Harare, Zimbabwe, and earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in Education from Africa University.
The two stories above: Copyright New World Outlook magazine, Summer 2017 issue. Used by permission. Email the New World Outlook editor for more information.