Bishop Ough recently urged all Minnesota churches to actively respond to the migration crisis in Europe by taking a special Thanksgiving offering for the United Methodist Committee on Relief’s International Disaster Response, which is providing on-the-ground assistance in the countries where refugees are arriving. One of those countries is Germany. Pastor Anne Detjen, German Bishop Rosemarie Wenner’s secretary for missional congregation development, recently attended a Missional Church Consultation Initiative (MCCI) weekend in Rapid City, South Dakota. During her visit, she connected with Bea Stucke, administrative assistant to the director of ministries for the Dakotas Conference, who was born and raised in Germany. Detjen—who lives in Eberswalde, Germany (near Berlin)—shared her insight and firsthand experience with the influx of refugees entering her community in Germany:
In Germany, you hear a lot about a “refugee crisis.” But how can people be a crisis? These are people who come to us asking for help. And there are many. In Berlin/Eberswalde, not many are used to seeing women with the traditional headscarf or people from African countries, and I was always delighted to go to other places in Germany like Hamburg where there was a more “colorful” picture of our society.
About three weeks ago, I received a phone call from a man who works for the Lutheran Diaconal Services here. He said that in five days, an emergency shelter for refugees would be established across the street. The building is an old school, established in 1905, which was empty for a while. Now there are 213 people living in the different classrooms until they can find a better place to stay.
It is really heartbreaking. Our night temperatures right now are around freezing, and the refugees just own flip flops or sandals. Laundry machines were installed in the school, but they cannot wash their clothes because they do not have a change of clothes. Mothers with children have come, and the children have been wearing the same clothes for days. An older woman from our congregation started crying because she was reminded of her own escape 70 years ago.
And in the midst of all of this are the “rich” Germans. Some from our congregation don’t have much themselves—they are either out of work or only have temporary jobs. But they give their five loaves of bread and two fish. They share with the people at the school. They share their time and their attention. They play with the kids or serve food. They teach the language, German for Beginners, although they are nurses or come from many other occupations. They bring clothing and other things.
A 74-year-old from our congregation has taken over the responsibility for the kitchen, although that is not a paid position. The caterer delivers the food, but there needs to be someone to give it to the people. A friend of mine from Hong Kong heard about our new neighbors and asked what she could do. I told her she could perhaps order socks from Amazon in Germany and have them sent to me. A few days later, 80 pair of socks and 20 pairs of boxer shorts arrived. It is very moving to see how much readiness to help there is!
Now we are starting in our congregation with a project called “Warm Winter,” and I ask all elderly women who may not be able to help otherwise to knit socks and scarves and hats. We have to make sure that they all get through the winter with warm enough clothes.
You see, there is so much to do, and at the same time, I am pushing forward on the Missional Church Consultation Initiative (MCCI) as well! My Bishop, Rosemarie Wenner, is very hopeful that we can use this program for our congregations!
Minnesota Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church