Germany was not the first place I thought of as a mission field.
Directing a library wasn’t on my top ten list of what missionaries do either. That was my reaction when some friends told us about their dreams for the next phase of their family life. Yet, in the past six years, Teri and Larry Lewis became part of the Open Door Libraries ministry in Berlin, Germany that is bringing God-shaped results.
Teri and Larry direct Connections, a library stocked with Christian literature in the heart of Berlin, Germany. Through a simple library, they are discipling the nations.
Connections is not just a Christian resource library. It serves as a coffee bar, a community center that connects Christians with other Christians, and a safe place for people who are seeking God. On any given day, you might find art exhibits, English classes, or a birthday party in full swing. Several church groups use the facilities. Often, people come in to use the free bathroom (anywhere else in Berlin costs to use a public restroom), and stay to talk. For a while, a ministry to refugees used library space as their headquarters. Often, workers from other ministries will stop by to use the Lewises as a listening ear. Some of Teri’s best connections have come when she’s held out a cookie-filled hand to a fearful or curious child.
Their clientele aren’t necessarily German.
In fact, in the six years the Lewises have directed Connections, they’ve had 120 different nationalities walk through their open door.
Their connection with Connections began when their daughter took a pledge at a Christ In Youth rally to serve on a short-term mission trip to Germany. Three adults and four teens spent eleven days on a trip that would change their family direction forever. While in Berlin, they began discussions with the board of directors who offered them the position of directors. One year later, Teri, Larry, and their two daughters, Ericah and Micah, moved to Berlin, Germany.
It was not an easy move. No one in the family spoke German. They had to leave aging parents and a family dog too old to travel. Teri had been in a wheelchair not six weeks before the actual move after foot surgery. One daughter had a particularly difficult time acclimating to the change and had to spend several weeks living with another family so she could start school on time.
So, why Germany?
Why would a middle age couple with two teenage daughters feel compelled to start a ministry in the homeland of Martin Luther, one of the greatest Christian reformers of all time?
Much has happened in the 500 years since Luther declared his break from the Catholic Church. According to Teri, the two World Wars of the 20th century crippled spirituality in Germany, a country known as the hub of Europe. Moreover, Germany has seen a tremendous influx of immigrants who are merely passing through. “We plant seeds,” Teri explained. “If we can reach people for the Lord here, they will take the message with them.”
“Everyone needs Jesus,” Larry adds. “Whether you are third-world or first-world.” The couple have found that Germans are a loyal people. Once they buy into an idea, they are whole-hearted in their commitment. If you win a German to the Lord, they will show you true Christianity.
Any day is a busy day at Connections.
There’s no predicting who will walk through that open door next. It might be a child looking for a cookie and a snap English lesson. Or a young woman longing to escape the clutches of prostitution. Once an octogenarian stopped by because he had lost his way to his own home. Hanne, an older lady facing surgery, asked for prayer. Sadly, they never saw Hanne again so Teri and Larry have no idea how she fared through the surgery. People, seeking God or resistant to the Spirit’s pull, start conversations about God and then come back for more. The connections become like family. One Muslim man started studying Christianity with Larry and last May, he and eight of his friends were baptized into Christ. Omar calls Teri and Larry his American parents.
Through the difficulties and victories, Teri and Larry have seen the grace of God in action. In their six year tenure, they’ve both experienced life threatening health issues, both have lost their mothers, and both daughters have married. In moments of discouragement, God has sent someone to the library to encourage them or a previous contact has called to wish them Merry Christmas and share about their spiritual progress. When the Lewises, had to return to the states for an extended furlough surrounding the death of Teri’s mother and the two weddings, they received a significant gift to cover their expenses.
I get excited every time I read Teri’s daily reports about who shows up at the Connections library.
How thrilling –and how scary—to never know who might open the door next. No wonder Teri says that the biggest prayer need is for wisdom. “Pray that what we say will make an impact.” They also ask that we pray that God prepare the hearts of the people they encounter. I would ask you to pray that God safeguard their health, their families in the States, and their finances. This couple is doing good work, work that will in due season, bring a harvest.
The ministry of the Berlin Connections Library is a good reminder to me that there are lots of ways to connect with people who are searching for Jesus. Any one ministry can act as a springboard for lots of things to happen. God can take one small conversation where you plant of seed of hope to produce transformational change in the life of a particular person. Connections also reminds me to keep the door of my life open so others feel welcome to enter my space and share life with me, giving me a chance to share Jesus with them.
Connections is under the auspices of the Open Door Libraries Ministry who operates libraries in Europe and the Middle East. If you would like to donate to this fruitful ministry, go to the Open Door Libraries website.
Who might next come through your open door? How will you reflect God’s grace to them?