In the words of the great American singer/songwriter Bob Dylan, “Times they are a-changin’…” While Mr. Dylan was undoubtedly writing these words as an anthem to the ever-progressing civil rights movement sweeping America in the early-to-mid 1960s, these words also describe the slowly changing spiritual ‘climate’ of one of the most important and influential cities in Europe.
Such was the feeling of theMILL group from Denver, Colorado, on their third annual trip to Berlin, Germany. Ever since our first trip in 2010, God has placed a special ‘burden’ on the hearts of this young adult ministry which is based out of Northern Hills Community Church. We believe that the spiritually dark and gloomy state of Berlin can indeed can be changed and redeemed through constant prayer and an outpouring of the Holy Spirit. TheMILL has been partnering with European Initiative to use effective and organic means to simply tell Berliners that God misses them.
Hannah Testa from theMILL (on her first of hopefully many trips to Berlin) experienced one perfect illustration of the change happening in Berlin:
Meet Damian and Alex, out-and-out Berliners. Damian is a Catholic and Alex is a staunch atheist. Hannah met both of them during one of the campus outreaches at Freie University, one of the three main universities located in the city. She initiated a completely organic conversation that turned into an intentional spiritual discussion about God. Alex and Damian were both extremely intrigued why a 22 year old girl from the States was so passionate about her beliefs that she would spend her time and money to fly to Berlin, just to talk to people like them. After their brief dialogue, they were very interested and even sad to leave the discussion as they headed off to class. They agreed to continue the conversation at a follow-up meeting at a pub that evening, organized by European Initiative. Not only did both of them show up, but they also invited two of their friends to hear this group of Americans. The four Berliners immediately connected with Hannah, as well as three other members of theMILL team. The dialogue went beyond just trying to ‘convert’ them and was a perfect example of being entirely relational while concurrently speaking spiritual truth. The discussions continued into the late evening with the entire group engaged. One specific statement from Damian and Alex stood out as a testament to the fact that God is moving in Berlin. Damian turned to Hannah and said, “Hannah, this is new. People don’t talk about God or what they believe here in Berlin. This is something new… and it has just started happening...” Alex agreed. Damian kept reiterating how amazed and shocked he was that our group so openly talked about God and that God is everything in our lives.
Today, weeks later, the conversations are continuing, spanning the ocean from America to Berlin. We believe that God is gripping the hearts of the group of Berliners that heard the gospel message that night to bring them closer to Him.
Damian and Alex’s story is just one of the countless iterations of amazing spiritual and Godly discussions that theMILL experienced while in Berlin. The spiritual disposition of Alexander Platz, one of the busiest plazas in Berlin, is tangibly changing in the three years we have been visiting the city.
Recently, over 600 Berliners attended an EI organized event where the gospel was preached unapologetically. 37 people committed their lives to Christ and well over 100 signed up for follow-up conversations. In such a spiritually oppressed location as Berlin, this is a monumental victory for the kingdom. People are looking for answers. They know that they have a purpose; they just haven’t realized what it is yet.
Even with these amazing examples, work still needs to be done. We want more. First Timothy 2 speaks of the heart that God has for His children and how much He misses them. “I urge, then, first of all, that petitions, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for all people… This is good, and pleases God our Savior, who wants all people to be saved and to come to knowledge of the truth. For there is one God and one mediator between God and mankind, the man Christ Jesus.”
Not everyone will accept Him, but all we are called to do is to be faithful in giving “a reason for the hope that we have”. Times certainly are “a-changin’”, and a new movement, a movement of the Holy Spirit, is happening.