The month of November marked the beginning of our fifteenth year of ministry in Europe. As many of you know, we’ve had the privilege of serving the Lord in a few different geographic and cultural settings throughout the years here. Each of the places has their own distinct spiritual climate and challenges to face, and Germany is no different. We are thankful and humbled by God using us here in Europe and feel overwhelmed by His goodness over the years.
OUR LOCAL SPIRITUAL CLIMATE
Although Germany is a monetarily rich country, with a long Christian history, it has unfortunately become spiritually bankrupt and post-Christian in the truest sense.
Our particular region, the Kandern Valley in the Black Forest, though beautiful on an external level, is one where great spiritual darkness is hidden in the midst of the beautiful rolling and thickly forested hills that surround us and draw countless German and international vacationers each year.
Earlier this year we attended a local festival where the various clubs in our town set up food booths in order to raise money for their clubs. We were shocked to not only see a booth from the local witch club, but also one for their youth group called the Beelzebub club. The community center in one of the local villages serves as the location for the annual Witches Ball. These clubs are real and are quite serious about their pursuit of darkness.
This is just one example of the spiritual climate here. There is much more we could write if time permitted. But whether it be blatant witchcraft or other forms of idolatry (materialism, secular-humanism, etc.) it is all part of the cloud of darkness that blinds the eyes of the unbelieving in our region.
We know that the only way to fight against this darkness is with the light of the gospel and steadfast prayer! That is why we are committed to faithfully, clearly and simply teaching and preaching the word of God to whoever will listen, and to doing battle in heavenly places on our knees. Please pray with us that God would use CCK, and the other churches and believers in our community to stand as lights in the midst of this present darkness.
OPEN DOORS BUT NOT WITHOUT STRUGGLE
Church planting isn’t easy! It can be a very emotional experience because the church planter literally pours his heart and soul into seeing a healthy body of disciples established. Even in the midst of God’s workings, there are setbacks and barriers to overcome.
So far our experience in Kandern has been somewhat of a rollercoaster. Our first year was characterized by a quick and unexpected growth with many from the expat community either checking us out or joining our ranks. Our second year, however, has been one of unexpected change and reduction in church size. This can be pretty discouraging for church planters but in reality, it is part of the normal cycle. Over the last several months many of our original families either moved away or didn’t feel that CCK was the best fit for them for one reason or another. This is never an easy thing to face but we know that ultimately God is the ONE who will build His church and trust Him to continue to do so.
There are two things that we have noticed in this season of pruning. The first is that CCK has been left with a leaner but more committed core of people who share the vision of a Bible teaching bi-lingual church with a heart to cross the cultural lines and reach the German-speaking community. The second is that God is actually bringing more Germans into our assembly. Nearly all of the visitors and new additions to CCK over the last few months have been German. The exciting part about this is that in each case, the Germans that have joined us are passionate for the Lord, hungry for His word, and enthusiastic to serve Him and reach the lost in our local community. An extra-added blessing of our church in recent weeks is a new German couple, Carsten & Daniela, that has begun attending our church who have enthusiastically jumped into serving and helping interpret/translate on Sunday mornings. We also have a friend from another church, Chris who is stepping in to help translate once a month. We praise God for needs answered in the most timely way!
In recent weeks we have also inherited our first local family at CC Kandertal (By local we mean that they are not only German but originally from the Kandern Valley). The Spohn family’s history in their village goes back generations and hundreds of years. When we met, they had already been believers for over ten years but had been seeking the Lord on finding a church closer to home. They also had a growing desire to be more personally involved. This family is very well known in our community due to their home remodeling business and they have a solid Christian witness. Our prayer is that God would richly bless them and use them and families like them to more effectively reach the German community for Jesus. They definitely have the heart to do so!
Those serving with us have also been facing some obstacles and challenges as well. We sense in recent months the enemy has been like a roaring lion seeking whom he may devour within our team and attacking left and right thru situations and people. Specifically, our intern Jayme who joined us back in August has been doing the bureaucratic waltz with the visa office while going through the process of getting her visa. Each time they’ve kicked back her application they’ve asked for another document that she quickly supplied, only to be met with a demand for yet another document. This is all quite normal in the world of visas, and we are hopeful that her application will eventually be approved, but it is frustrating nonetheless. Please remember Jayme’s situation in prayer. The Paradise fire in California hit Karl Becker, our worship leader, and his family pretty hard as their home church was among the structures burned, as were the homes of literally all of their close friends and supporters from that community. The personal items that they had stored there before coming overseas were all lost. Despite the suffering, they have been sharing some amazing stories of God’s grace actively sustaining those who have lost all but their lives in the face of this unprecedented situation. In that, we rejoice along with them, though our hearts break for their hardship as well! Please pray for the Beckers and all affected by the Paradise fires.
CHURCH & MINISTRY
October Outreach Week: In October a team from Springs Lighthouse church in Colorado Springs came to serve alongside us for a week and helped to support several outreach efforts that we had planned during their stay (Springs Lighthouse is the sending church of the Gage family, one of the CCK core families that is actively and faithfully serving in our church). The week consisted of a prayer tour of the valley, where we went to each of the main villages of Kandern to pray over them asking God to open the doors for the gospel, a day of street outreach in local city of Lorrach where we played music, handed out gospels of John, and invited people to an American style picnic that followed our Sunday service called Amerifest, where we had live music, chili dogs, American picnic games and people from CCK looking to minister to those who joined us. In each case, we had the opportunity to connect with people in the community, sow seeds, and pray for the fruit to come. We are thankful for this team of seven for taking the time to join in with us the way that they did.
Simplifying Sunday Service: A few weeks back I (Frank) made the decision to begin simplifying our Sunday morning services by minimizing the tech that we’ve been using. Although our core families are actively and willingly serving they had begun to do so to the point of exhaustion because the perceived needs were more than could be managed by us. So in the effort to protect those serving from burnout and to do away with unnecessary extras, I made the decision to get back to basics and go completely unplugged, as we were doing when CCK first began meeting a year and a half ago. Now the only tech we are using is recording the teachings directly onto a laptop, powerpoint slides for worship and my old iPhone strapped to a mic stand for live streaming. We are amazed that the results of this have only been positive. Going unplugged has actually created a much more intimate environment, sounds better on our live-streaming video on Facebook live, saves us money, and most importantly has relieved those serving of unnecessary stress. Our view is that if God hasn’t provided the help, then it is not time to do it. That has been the case with the sound system and we’re happy to set it aside until the need is real and the Lord supplies the help that is needed to run it without overworking our workers.
Reaching beyond our walls: On a positive tech note, our simple live streaming through Facebook has been getting between 150 to 400 views per week. We know some of these are local because people tell us they’ve been watching but it’s been a blessing getting feedback from some that have told us they have never heard the word taught like this before… praise God for the power and the effectiveness of His word when it is simply taught simply! This is encouraging for us to see God using social media to reach beyond the walls of our building.
Times of Refreshment: God always knows when we need times of refreshment, sometimes He meets us where we are at and sometimes He allows us to get out of the scene for a short time. In October Frank was able to attend the yearly senior pastor’s huddle for the Calvary Chapel’s in Germany. It was a time of refreshment for the men to pray together and share what God is doing in each of their lives and enjoy fellowship with like-minded brothers. In November God blessed Suzie with a free trip to Holland for a week to attend a ladies retreat with CC Haarlemmermeer, enjoy some needed downtime and fellowship and get spoiled in the process by our friends that live there. We are grateful that God truly does know our needs even when we don’t ask.
Visiting Friends: Also in November, we had some lifelong friends, Chris & Liz Sperling, take a side trip to visit us for a few days while working in Rome for a week. Chris and Frank were both youth pastors from separate churches a long time ago and we have stayed connected ever since. The fact they made the effort spoke to our hearts in ways they may never understand. Needless to say, we had such a special time catching up, as we have not seen each other in several years and they live in Colorado. God is so good to give us friends like these.
PARTNERS & ADVOCATES
We would like to end this update with something that the Lord began putting on our hearts recently that we’d like to share with you. The longer we have been overseas the more difficult it has become for us to connect with new prayer and financial partners. Taking time away from CCK at this point to return to the U.S. in an attempt to raise support isn’t really possible, practical, or even something that we are comfortable doing. At certain points, we have shared about general and specific needs regarding our finances and many of you have both joined us in prayer and stepped in to contribute. For that we are grateful! In like manner, we are currently asking the Lord not only to provide new prayer and financial partners but to also raise up advocates from among those who are already praying for and supporting us and others who feel led.
The dictionary defines the word advocate as…“a person who publicly supports or recommends a particular cause or policy, or a person who pleads on someone else’s behalf.” In short, an advocate would help to share about our ministry, possibly organize a prayer group and host a meeting for us when we are back on our furloughs and share with others how they and churches can partner with us in it through prayer and finances. As an advocate, you would act as an agent or ambassador on our behalf, in our absence. If you are interested in learning more about becoming an advocate for us please email at email@example.com and we will explain what all it would entail in our specific case.
Before saying yes to something like this and for more general understanding about advocacy we’d like to recommend an article written by pastor Mike Thieman, missionary trainer with Saving Grace World Missions titled: “Becoming an Advocate for your Missionary”. This is a short article that gives some of the basics and describes the importance and effectiveness of missionary advocacy.
We thank the Lord for the way that He uses those of you who support us through your finances and prayers. Thank you for being willing vessels for the Lord’s purposes and standing with us! Thank you also for faithfully taking the time to read our updates and for praying! We would like to encourage you to visit our CURRENT PRAYER NEEDS page before you leave in order to know how to specifically pray for us today.
If you are a church or an individual and would like to learn about partnering with us financially with either a one-time gift or regular monthly support you can visit our “SUPPORT” page or click here.