Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Reflections on Berlin by Jeff and Ashley Holcomb

Jeff and Ashley Holcomb
Reflections on the SMR Ministry in Berlin

In a word, our 10-day concert tour in and around Berlin was unforgettable!  It’s hard to convey how thankful we are for the part so many played in making this journey possible.  Our supporters believed enough in our mission to step out in faith and give generously, and we are delighted to report that God poured out many cherished blessings upon this brief time of ministry.

First of all, we were all very conscious of being upheld in prayer by so many of our friends and families back home.  Sometimes in our Christian experience we just know that the Lord is not only with us, but is going before us, paving the way for everything we set out to do.  This was clearly one of those times.  From our travel arrangements to the weather to our accommodations to how we all got along with each other, it really could not have gone any better.

When you consider that our team consisted of eleven very different men and women, ranging in age from 16 to 62, it’s pretty amazing to think that we not only interacted extremely well, but actually grew in our love and appreciation of each other over the course of the week.  In addition, the Lord brought everything together for us musically.  After many months of practice and preparation, we feel like we played better than we ever had, and this seemed to be confirmed by the audiences for whom we performed.

Berlin is not only a beautiful city, but is very orderly, very clean and second to none with respect to its public transportation system.  You may ask how we could make such an assessment after spending only a little more than a week in the city.  The best answer we can give is that we experienced it!  During the entirety of our stay, we travelled exclusively on the Berlin subway system, carrying our instruments from place to place, frequently playing our gospel songs on the platforms, in the trains and on the streets, much to the amazement and applause of on-looking passengers and pedestrians.

But without question, the greatest blessing was what we experienced throughout the nine concert performances we gave during our stay.  Each of these concerts and/or performances was arranged by one or more of the local pastors or missionaries.  Knowing that there is a keen interest in American culture and bluegrass music, their goal was to invite as many non-churchgoing German locals to these venues as possible.  It was their prayer and ours that the music, our testimonies and the ministry of the Word would be used of God to gain entrance into their hearts.

We believe the Lord heard and answered those prayers.  Attendance at our performances ranged from anywhere between 50 and 400, with each location and audience being totally unique.  The response to our music was overwhelmingly positive, and the opportunities we had to engage various people in serious spiritual conversations were numerous.  There was the one lady who came to our concert on the outskirts of old East Berlin – a town known for its atheism and spiritual darkness.  She spoke at length to several of our band members and later said, “for the first time in a decade, you’ve given me hope!” 

Then there was Chris – a 55 year old musician who had recently started to attend one of the small local churches in Berlin.  After hearing one of the testimonies, he came up and stated that he had been greatly helped by what he heard and that the difference between “religion” and knowing Christ was starting to make sense to him.  Chris followed us to another performance on a subsequent day, and actually sat in to play with us on several of our songs.  We believe Chris is genuinely seeking the Lord.

God also brought a needy Mom across our path when we ministered at a small church called the Jesus House.  She was deeply affected by one of the testimonies, and the following evening at our next concert, she remained long after the event with her teenage daughter Jessica to converse and allow us to pray with them.  To our surprise and delight, she travelled to our final concert, this time with her daughter Jessica and her best friend.  We have every reason to believe that the Lord is beginning to work in the hearts of these dear women.

Then there was Christina who was invited to one of our outdoor concerts by her neighbor Frank.  It was evident from the minute we started playing that she really enjoyed our music and our songs.  After the concert, Christina opened up to several of the band members regarding some very real needs in her life and admitted that she had only ever called upon God when she was in a time of crisis.  This created a wide open door of opportunity to present the gospel.  Christina has responded very favorably and is now reading the New Testament and attending church with her neighbor.  We are now communicating with her from afar, providing her with good gospel literature and praying that God will bring her to genuine faith in Christ.

One aspect of our ministry in Berlin that exceeded our expectations was the extent to which our music and personal interaction were used to encourage the local believers.  Because this part of Germany is so spiritually dark, most of the churches are small and the progress of the gospel is slow.  These conditions can be disheartening to local pastors and sincere believers who are working and praying to see their fellow countrymen come to Christ. 

For us to come all the way from the U.S. to provide a venue for these believers to invite friends, neighbors and strangers to hear the gospel was a great encouragement.  In addition, the mere performance of these happy and hope-filled songs went a long ways to lifting their own spirits.  Perhaps sweetest of all were the many times of intense fellowship where the reality of our unity in Christ was wonderfully apparent.  We laughed together, we cried together and we prayed together.  In the end, we departed from one another with renewed purpose and commitment to press on in our mutual love for Christ and our desire to reach those “who are without God and without hope in the world.”

We now carry in our hearts an ongoing burden and love for those that we have mentioned who give evidence of being on the path that leads to life eternal.  We also feel united to the believers in and around Berlin who struggle with many of the same things that we do.  And finally, we will pray for Aaron, for Paul, for Martin and the other local pastors who are giving their lives to shepherd God’s people and who will now spend the next number of months following-up and seeking to disciple those who have shown a genuine interest in learning more about Christ.

Jeff & Ashley Holcomb

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

SMR Berlin Team Memories

I asked the team if they would be willing to share some of their memories of the trip, especially the things they saw God do, both through their ministry, but also in their lives while in Berlin.  Here is the first of them from Leanna.

Thank you to everyone who supported and prayed for us on our trip to Berlin. God definitely answered prayer above and beyond what we expected. Overall, logistics went very smoothly between our flights, transportation around Berlin, health and strength for the most part, no one getting e coli, sound equipment and instrument rental (the unexpected love offerings taken at many of the churches exactly covered some unexpected expenses from equipment rental/transport). God was at work in every detail! Thank you for your prayers!

Also evident was that God used our music. I was amazed at how well-received bluegrass was! Since we travelled almost completely by train, at every opportunity “the guys and Rebecca” would get out their instruments and play. The normal German demeanor is reserved, and uninterested in people trying to be interesting. However, a visible change came over people within hearing the first few notes. They smiled, watched, tapped their feet, danced (the drunk ones), took video, asked us about what this music was, who we were and where we were playing. Some people even missed their stop so they could listen longer. In a city known for its precision in music, it was intimidating for us but also humorous that people would enjoy such a freestyle sound. Needless to say, the instrumentalists started getting blisters with all the playing they did, and Michael came up with the idea to coat their fingers in super glue so they could keep going! 

Our daily schedule looked like this: awake at around 9, get breakfast in the hotel (let me tell you about this - hot buttered rolls, nutella, hard boiled eggs, cold cuts, muesli, cereal, yogurt,  delectable coffee, juice), then split up to sight see or relax or sometimes we played on the street in a  neighborhood where we would give a concert later on, Randy Dodd, our guide would bring us somewhere local and yummy for lunch, head back to the hotel to change and be at the concert location by about 4 or 5, concert at 6 or 7, pack up and talk to people until about 10, then dash around trying to find someplace open late for dinner, get back to the hotel 12 to 1 am and crash after charging electrical devices. Randy said that of the 65 teams he has led, ours worked the hardest.

Now the best part... the spiritual impact. The music got people in the door and gave us credibility, then we gave our testimonies between songs, with the help of a translator, and we found many that many people related to the hopelessness, pain, and wrestling with life events that we described in our own pasts. We explained these were the very things that made us cry out to God and that He answered us in our need. Now those people know a little more about the God that is waiting to hear them too. The pastor ended by giving a short gospel presentation in German while everyone paid close attention. At the first church, about 150 came to hear us and 17 asked for more information about being forgiven - a pretty big deal for a congregation of about 50! The night I gave my testimony, afterwards I met a girl my age named Jessica, whom I could see had been crying. I found out that was her first time to church (her mom was a new believer and had been trying to bring her). She was moved by my story. We all prayed with her and her mom and we saw them again, plus her friend and sister, at 3 more of our concerts. Please pray for Jessica, that the conviction and need she felt then, would not dissipate with time. I am in correspondence with Jessica and her friend. 

Another highlight was at our outdoor concert. There was a member of that church with worsening MS and confined to a wheel chair, but he loved all of our music. Our last song was “I’ll Fly Away” and a few people started dancing with him as he twirled around in circles and waived his crooked hands. I bet he looks forward to that day when he meets his Savior in a new perfect body! They asked us to play that song once again and this time EVERYONE was up and dancing and singing! Like, 200 people, most of whom were not even from the church! It was a very surreal moment to be worshipping God with bluegrass music at an outdoor BBQ in a land with such a history and with people we just met and feel totally at home. I hope that’s what heaven is like. 

There were many more wonderful moments and evidence of the prayers of so many, upholding us. So thank you all! If you need something more to pray for, the small but faithful churches and pastors we left behind could use your prayer. They have different challenges than our pastors and are sometimes in danger. Atheistic culture is not easy to reach and leaders are subject to burnout and discouragement. Some of these dedicated servants are Aaron Bowes, Paul Rostig, Martin Wahl, and Stephen (I don’t know his last name). Most of the pastors were non-native of Germany. Pray that God would raise up more faithful men from within the culture to lead, and that the novel message of hope would fall on thirsty soil.


Wednesday, June 8, 2011

SMR in Berlin Final Report

Sonrise Mountain Revival Berlin Project
Day Eight and Nine
By Kristin Gaffney’s Dad

            Kristi got sick our last day in Berlin and is finally getting over it, but now is in the midst of the finals she deferred to go on the trip.  So I will attempt to fill her shoes and finish the blog.  Forgive me as my writing will not be nearly as entertaining as hers!
            The last day was a great finish to our time in Berlin.  The morning started with different members of the group going in different directions, some to sight see, some to shop and others to rest for the night’s performance.  Rich has been amazing, dealing with his recovery from complete knee replacement as we walk everywhere.  He and Mark stayed at the hotel and practiced – as if they haven’t gotten enough of playing this week. 
            Others chose the site-seeing route, trying to understand a little more about Berlin.  Dick went to the Checkpoint Charlie Museum, Jeff took the boat tour, and Mike went the Technology Museum.  Of course the girls chose the shopping option and went off with adventure in mind.  However, I don’t think they expected, after Leanna left them to visit with some missionaries, that they would find themselves on the train that was at the end of the line, heading the wrong way and out of service…but like good missionaries they adjusted to their situation, but not before a few screams when the lights went off and the train was moved off the line.  Once the train was turned around and placed on the track going the right way, they were good to go with a new story to share!  Then again, maybe Ashley, Rebecca and Kristi wish Kristi was writing this blog today so that they wouldn't have to share this story...
            The last concert of the trip was in a “tough” part of the city.  Aaron Bowes and his church sponsored an outreach concert to this area with the desire to establish a Bible study there.  The building was a former Lutheran church that had been converted to a museum charting the fight for freedom in former Nazi Germany and East Germany.  The room was good acoustically, still being used for concerts on occasion.  Attendance for the night was great, with a good number from the community being augmented by many others who came from the various churches we had worked with all week wanting to hear us for the last time.   The team performed exceptionally, the testimonies were clear, and once again, after a series of encores, the team got to spend time after the concert in deep conversations all around the hall.  Aaron was thrilled, he felt the seeds had been planted for further ministry in this area.  Of course no one was in a hurry to leave, knowing that this time goodbye meant goodbye…
            But leave we had to do, so we packed up and headed back to the hotel to pack some more.  The taxis arrived at 7:00 a.m. and most of the team didn’t get to bed before 2:00 a.m., so needless to say a tired bunch made its way to the airport, most reluctantly, as the time in Berlin had been so good, yet anxious to see our families and friends.  God graciously allowed us to have an uneventful trip home, arriving early. 
            This team was a very effective tool for Christ.  I knew that bluegrass would be accepted in Berlin, but I truly underestimated how popular it would be.  The combination of the musical form and the content of the lyrics and the testimonies of the team made for a powerful presentation that impacted everyone who heard them.  The pastors and missionaries with whom we worked are unanimous in both their appreciation and their desire to have this team return to build on the work they started.  Praise God, may He get all the glory!
            One constant was the request for CDs or a website where our music could be heard over and over again.  Obviously this is something we need to consider for the future.
            For all that supported this team financially and in prayer, thank you!!!  Your part was so important and absolutely key to the success of this project.
            Now please begin to pray for the next PWM team to go out, the PowerSurge Worship Band in August to Latvia.  This team will be helping Randy Dodd open a new field of ministry, coming alongside pastors and missionaries in this key Baltic country.  They need to raise $26,000.00 and prayer partners.  Also keep praying for Sonrise Mountain Revival, for their continued growth as a band and that the Lord would use them at home as effectively as He used them in Germany.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

SMR in Berlin Days Six and Seven

Sonrise Mountain Revival Berlin Project
Day Six and Seven
By Kristin Gaffney

            I’m going to try and get two days in one shot because unfortunately, I’m behind due to late nights and some computer glitches.  I’m also very tired.  Bear with me.
            Wednesday – Some people stayed home during our free time, but as for me, Mike, Mark, Jeff, Ashley, Leanna, and my dad, we set out for some sight seeing before our concert.  As half the team didn’t go, I won’t elaborate too much, but we saw the Pergamum Museum and the Berliner Dome, which you should look up online because they were incredible!  The first is the museum that among other things, houses the reconstruction of the Pergamum Altar including much of the original statues, the Babylonian gate, and a number of Assyrian artifacts.  The Berliner Dome is the national cathedral.  It is a magnificent structure, old on the outside, beautifully remodeled on the inside, yet retaining its majestic splendor.  It is not only an active church, but houses the crypts of the royal family, going back centuries.  We also got great Vietnamese food, the best I’ve ever had, who knew?
            The concert was desperately needed for the people there.  This concert wasn’t so much about singing and opening the doors for new believers, in fact there were none present, but it was encouraging believers.  My dad reminded the team before the concert that the mission of PowerSurge is to both proclaim the Gospel AND edify the believer.  The two churches we sang for desperately needed to hear our message, especially concerning the song ‘There Is A Reason’.  Many were going through difficulties, from missionaries struggling with finances as they are undersupported, to Pastor Stephon’s wife who, after being married for one year, was told she had cancer and has been battling ever since.  We stayed after for a long time, talking to them about everything from Yankees vs. Red Sox (yes, God can use Red Sox fans as missionaries, who knew?) to the grace of God.  We closed our time with them with a time of deep sharing and praying over Pastor Stephon and his wife, Pastor Amadeus, and missionaries Matt and Emily.  It was a powerful evening…but not done yet.
            After we left them, we headed back to the only restaurant in Berlin whose menu I can read.  Yes, we got to eat at the Mexican restaurant again.  This night was open mic night and of course Rebecca, Mark, Dick and Rich got to play.  After that Mike played an original song on the guitar and Rebecca improvised around it.  The crowd loved them, of course, but the highlight happened after we girls left because we were getting too tired.  My dad and the others said that Mark played a solo piece, then a guy came out of the audience and asked Mark to play with him.  They were incredible and brought the house down (what does that mean, anyway, but that’s what they said happened.)  Afterwards they found out that he was a famous guitarist and the guy with him was the owner of a big production company in Europe.  And my dad said Mark was the better guitarist! 
            Thursday – It was the first day I could (sort of) sleep in!  Well, actually it was a terrible day, just completely horrid… although the weather was perfect, and we had great food, and people liked our concert, and we had a fun time together… but I was having a bad hair day.
            Poor attempt at sad-but-true humor aside, Thursday was a national holiday!  It’s Ascension Day, which the German’s celebrate but cover up by making it Father’s Day, or something like that.  The Christian Germans we talked to all knew what the day was supposed to be.  There were tons of people out and about, because this is the German’s national four day weekend.  Places were very crowded (unfortunately where we went to eat and the train after there was a lot of smoking) but so was our concert.  We played outdoors at a benefit event raising money for the church we were with so that they could send people out to Africa for a mission trip!  Our mission trip is helping another,J!
            Pastor Martin was hoping that they might get some neighbors to come out, but hadn’t had success with a similar event in the past.  However, before the concert even started people began to pour in, and Pastor Martin’s wife excitedly told us that she didn’t know over half the people already there.  And throughout the three hours we were there, people kept coming.  They had food booths around the concert area, and people bought tickets for the food and sat and listened to our concerts – yes, we had to present throee separate concerts, but with this team, that wasn’t hard.  Afterall, they have been playing every chance they could get all week.  We broke the regular concert up into three parts and then added a bunch of instrumentals.  I think Rich, Dick, Rebecca, Mark and Mike would still be there if we would let them keep on playing. 
After some more amazing conversations, we packed up, tired but happy and went out to eat at a great restaurant.  My dad has been telling us about this amazing Argentinean steak house.  Reasonable prices and really good food, Leanna and the guys loved the steaks, but the rest of us got other things, and we all agreed that everything was good.  Then we got back on the train and headed home to be, and its almost one in the morning and I am just completely exhausted.  Dad can fill in anything else he wants you to know, I suppose, and I would write a note for him to edit this but he’s liable to keep it in the blog anyway.  (nothing else you need to know except keep us in your prayer tomorrow as we finish our time here, and yes, Kristi, I did keep it in…)
            Good night!

SMR in Berlin Day Five

Sonrise Mountain Revival Berlin Project
Day Five
By Kristin Gaffney

            It was time for our subway game.  Basically, we all got off on different stops and then, starting with Rebecca, got on the next train and started playing, adding instrument after instrument until finally the vocals.  We have a video which will do much more justice than me writing about it, so hopefully we can get that up sometime soon for you.  But I do have to say that the one gentleman who was seated in the middle of it all thought it was over when Mike got on with the big bass…until the vocalists started singing all around him and he jumped half a mile!
            Also, happy 50th birthday, Mark Kelly!
            This was definitely a tiring day, and for the last two days the weather has been hot, hot, hot!  It cools down quite a lot at night too, so we seem to be getting both the extremes.  (I hate hot weather…)  But we managed to get through, although many of us need a break from playing our instruments and singing.  We did quite a lot of walking, which many of us were just physically too tired to do, and searched the whole day for drinks that were not carbonated.
            We played in the street for the church in the center of Steglitz, a busy suburb of Berlin, where we will be performing on Thursday and that was very cool – will doing it was cool, the weather was most certainly not!  We had to rush from there to get to our train that would take us to the concert.  We ate a quick lunch on the train platform, got on our train, and the trains were even hotter, filled with people, and hot, so hot and everything was melting and ick!  L  (Okay, I just really hate hot weather; it wasn’t that bad. – Dad’s comment here: yes, it was…)
            We had to catch another train after, which was very nice, but we all did discover just how fast European trains can go!  When you’re standing right next to them it feels like they’re breaking the sound barrier!  A long loud blast of a horn, and whoosh, they’re gone.
            This concert that we were going to was outside of Berlin, in a town whose name I don’t remember in German (dad here again: Fuhrstenwalde) but translated means ‘Royal Wood’ for reasons no one can surmise – we passed through a forest to get there, but there was no woods once we arrived.  Some of us walked from the station over there, which would have been nice if we weren’t so hot and tired, because it really was a quaint little city, but thankfully many of us were able to get a ride there in a car.  We got water, and then although we desperately wanted a rest we were hard at work setting up and getting ready for the performance.
            God really worked during that concert.  Even though we were physically and mentally tired, and Jeff’s voice wasn’t still fully recovered, the time spent in prayer before hand was answered!  It was one of the best concerts we have ever done despite being exhausted, and it opened many doors for the people there.  I’m not going to guess and say how many people I thought were there, because I’m really bad at guessing, but I would say… over thirty.  A lot over thirty.  Like, thirty is just me being safe because there were a good number of people there (dad again – more like 250, which I guess is a lot over 30).  They were very receptive, and despite coming off cold and stone-faced at the beginning, by the end they were tapping along with the music and even sang ‘Happy Birthday’ in German for Mark!  They kept asking for encores and afterwards many were engaged in deep conversations.  The pastor was excited because he estimated over half the people there had never been in the church before and were professing atheists.  A lot of those were the people who stayed to talk, and he feels we helped him open several critical doors to his community.  The missionary we were working with in partnership with the pastor there was an American named David Sweet.  He has been in Germany over 20 years and is mentoring national pastors.  Dad was happy, because Mr. Sweet is a Moody Bible Institute alumnus! 
            Many great stories came out of that night, but we quickly had to get back to catch our train.  The train was fun, some slept but many of us talked for a while all the way back to the hotel.  Then some who didn’t rush off to bed went to get ice cream to celebrate Mark’s birthday (yeah… one of them was me).
            We got a good night’s sleep and we’re ready for whatever work God has for us today!

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

SMR in Berlin Day Four

Sonrise Mountain Revival Berlin Project
Day Four
By Kristin Gaffney

            I’m actually writing this on the morning of day five because we got back from day four at around one in the morning.
            But here’s day four…
            First, we basically had a free morning and were able to sleep in for awhile, and after three back-to-back-to-back concerts yesterday it was a total blessing.  Mark, Dick and Rich decided to play on a street corner and got some money as well as were able to talk to people.  And yes, when I say ‘play’ they weren’t goofing off on a tetter totter and slides (although I saw a playground and was really tempted to do that) but playing their bluegrass music.  People in Germany really love our music, it helps that we’re so different from all the music the Germans are used to hearing from America.  Since being here I’ve heard Rihanna, Lady Gaga, Black Eyed Peas, and er… that rapper guy who’s really annoying and has something to do with M&M’s?  Maybe Dad will edit in his name…? (no dad won’t)
            Ashley and her dad, Jeff, went to the pharmacy.  Ashley’s neck was really hurting her and she got some heating pads for the night and Jeff has been feeling very sick.  Hopefully it’s just allergies and not a sinus infection, but they managed to get referred to an English speaking doctor who gave them prescriptions for both allergies and sinus infection for only fifteen Euros!  He has started to feel better, but keep him in your prayer.
            Lianna and I went sightseeing, bought chocolate, took a ton of pictures, and also found a really good ice cream place!  (No, Mom, I’m not just eating food in Germany, I’m also eating dessert!)
            We all came back (sporadically) at around two and then went to eat dinner together.  The food was fine, but every meal came with really good brushetta and at the end they gave us like three whole plates of it because we’d been complimenting the brushetta the whole time!  J
            We had some more free time, about an hour, and basically we all took naps or relaxed.  We’ve been walking around so much that I don’t think most of us want to walk more in our spare time, especially Rich and my dad with their knees.
            But we got to our concert with quite a lot of time to spare (a first) and managed to get all set up long before people started to come in (another first).  The instrumentalists went out onto the street about a half an hour before the concert and played, attracting a small crowd.  It was a great night even though Jeff literally became a baritone overnight with his allergies (hopefully)/sinus infection (L).  We had to cut one song and rewrite the parts for the other, but the audience really loved it and we did two encores, Cor. 1:18 and Dueling Banjos (those songs are our new favorites for the subway.  We now literally play on the trains every time we get on – sparking a lot of fruitful conversations!)
            But at the concert something totally wonderful happened!  There was a mother who had only been coming to church for a few weeks and she brought her daughter (in her early 20s) to our concert and her daughter came to Christ!  She started crying in the middle of Leanna’s testimony and afterward made her decision with the counsel of one of the workers from the Jesus House.  Praise God!
            And although there’s nothing better than that which I can write about, I do have to wrap up this day.  So, we were all really really hungry, and although it took awhile to leave with praying and talking to so many people, we managed to find an open restaurant  at a time just after eleven p.m.
            On the subway over, we played our music, because most people in this band play more often than not, and tons of people liked it!  One guy liked it so much that he offered us a free lunch, hopefully we’ll be able to take him up on the offer.
The first Mexican restaurant we went to was closed for the night, but it was a short walk to the next.  This restaurant had great food, and weird fancy water… I’d ordered what I thought was lemonade and it ended up being strange flavored water…  Anyway, what I thought was great about the menu was that it was the first menu I could read!  Thank you Mom and Dad for taking me to so many Mexican restaurants!
            At the end, Randy decided that we should play a song for the restaurant, which we did, because, again, we play all the time.  They loved it and I think invited us to play again at their restaurant sometime, which would be an awesome ministry!
            I think it was a great day for God, opening many doors, but certainly the best was our new sister in Christ!

Monday, May 30, 2011

SMR in Berlin Day Three

Sonrise Mountain Revival Berlin Project
Day Three
By Kristin Gaffney

            Oh boy.  How do I begin to describe today?
            Breakfast was at the hotel and very good.  We all ate hearty because we knew we had to, we had three services to do today!  (It is Sunday)  And I loved breakfast.  I seriously am just in love with the breakfast here even though I just eat hardboiled eggs and bread.
            Anyways, we got our stuff onto another train and walked over to the first service.  It was at a German church with an international flavor and when we got there we discovered that the service was being taped to be televised on 6 regional networks, two satellites and rebroadcast in several other locations.  It was even going to play in China!  That was hectic, but the people there took care of the slides and we sounded great!  Everyone was wonderful, in that giant room with the four story high ceiling, the organ in the back, and the up-to-date sound system.  Our ministry was well received – afterwards people could not stop expressing their appreciation.  Evidently bluegrass does speak over here!  The only problem for us was that almost the entire rest of the service was in German, which we don’t understand.  Needless to say, despite that it was great to worship with God’s family in another part of the world; singing old choruses like Majesty and God is So Good and praying the Lord’s Prayer in English while everyone around us did so in German was an incredible experience.  And the service had so many other people involved in it including this incredibly gifted black gospel singer who closed our time of worship with a song in English.   The message was given by the visiting regional head of their denomination – all in German, so even though it was about Martha and Mary, it was the one part of the service difficult to follow along.  Afterwards they gave us a pretty good, but weird, lunch of bratwurst in some spicy sauce and odd potatoes.  Then we were already running late so we had to rush to get to the next church!
            Aaron, the pastor of the church we went to last night, helped us tremendously by taking a van with our heaviest equipment and Rich and my dad.  Their knees have been bothering them and we’ve done a lot of walking on the trip, so please pray for them.
            The next church, Crossway International Church, was very gracious to us.  We were basically their entire service that day.  We rushed to get everything set up with their sound system and although there were some minor glitches the entire thing was very well received.  Most of us even managed to stay awake the whole time – no minor feat with jet lag, a late night back the night before, and such a busy schedule.  The good news, it was an English church so we understood the whole thing!
            After the service we had a light snack and got to spend some time meeting and sharing with the congregation.  Then of course we had to run off to our next event.
            This place was a very small church called the Jesus House.  The worship room was the size of one of the subway cars, but the people there were very warm and receptive.  We managed to get all of our instruments in and still have room for the audience, even with our bass.  (By the way, Michael’s bass came without a bow, and his fingers are really bothering him and blistering, so please pray for his health as well.)  Jeff and I gave our testimonies, which was nerve wracking for me, but it all turned out alright. 
Dad gave the message with our music wrapped around it throughout the service.  We were again well received, even though once again we worked through a translator so that people could hear both the English and German.  Once again, afterwards there was food and a time of talking around it.  They gave us a number of different foods, including a really, really good cheesecake and some cool chocolates.  The conversations were even better.  This church works with a lot of people who have had difficult lives and many seekers or young believers.  Jeff was especially excited because his testimony opened the door for three very deep conversations.  It was exciting
            We took the train system back to the hotel – playing on the trains is becoming a regular event for us - and then got a good, big meal.  Pastor Aaron Bowes was able to eat with us and it was good to hear more about his heart for the Lord and his ministry.  He sends his greetings to all the PowerSurge family, he misses all of you but is happy to meet this new group – us!
            Tomorrow our day is not nearly as busy, the highlight being an concert sponsored by the Jesus House and another church whom they are partnering with for this outreach.   Please pray for God to use us to open more doors!
             Oh, and Leanna and I are finally going to get some Starbucks – we need it!
            With love from Germany, Sonrise Mountain Revival.

Saturday, May 28, 2011

SMR in Berlin Day Two

Sonrise Mountain Revival Berlin Project
Day Two
By Kristin Gaffney

            My roommate woke me up at nine o’clock and it took me almost twenty minutes to understand what she meant.  Thankfully that was the worst point of the whole day.
            The rest was incredible!
            First, we had breakfast, with three kinds of extremely delicious bread, incredible hardboiled eggs, several things which I had no clue what they were, although I did try a German yogurt and learned that they’re super super sweet and I didn’t like it.
            Randy took us all out on a little walk, even Rich was able to go along.  We saw a beautiful German lake and learned an interesting fact.  The lake was featured in an episode of Lake Monsters!  We learned the fact too late to save half of us and the rest only escaped to be placed in a hospital… just kidding.
            Anyways, afterward we went to a German market and saw a few little boys playing by a fountain, I think that was the first time I saw children playing.  And we really got another taste of the culture as we walked around a German market, bought a few items, and had fresh strawberries which were the most delicious strawberries that ever existed!!!  Well, I was hungry.  We took another train and passed by the place where Randy and his family lived when they were in Germany and then we got lunch.
            Lunch was awesome!  (I realize that most of what I’m talking about was food, but it was memorable.)  We got these lamb meat, salad mix, GIGANTIC sandwiches and all tried to eat the whole thing.  It was great and if Mike has his way we will be eating that every day!  I wouldn’t mind…
            We walked and took a few trains back to the hotel where we’re staying.  Then it was time to put on nice shoes, pick up our instruments and away we went to the concert.  The church was gorgeous (eventually I think we’re getting pictures, my camera’s spastic but Leanna and Ashley are taking plenty to compensate) and the people were super nice.  We did sound check, which took an extremely long time, and tried to get the slides up.
            And oh… the slides didn’t come up until after three songs and then didn’t come up correctly and was missing an entire song but… well… I’m a bit sensitive about that because slides are my job, but it was a comedy of errors that weren’t all mine.
            But despite my abysmal failure, the concert was wonderful!  Everyone sang great and there were over a hundred fifty people there (we just had a game guessing, I said fifty, Leanna a hundred, someone else one fifty, and then we found out it was about one hundred fifty.  So I should never play guessing games. Yikes).  Most of the people were unchurched from the community.  All the people loved it and thirteen people asked for the sinner’s prayer pamphlet that the Pastor of the church we were working with, after he presented the Gospel, announced he was giving out for those who wanted to pray for salvation!  God was really using us to His glory!  The pastor is Aaron Bowes, and he is great.  He will be helping us all week and is sponsoring two more outreach concerts.
            However, I thought we played and sang better on the train ride back to the hotel.  We had violin, mandolin, guitar, banjo, and even bass!  The people riding the train loved it!  It was so good and even I sang along.  People asked about our group, they were smiling, some stayed on longer to hear us play, and so we all realized it was fun and decided to organize a little music stunt on the trains sometime during the week which you’ll hear about when the time comes.
            All in all, good night, guten nicht, and have a nice dinner for those of you in New Jersey who eat at 6:30.  We’ll be asleep and getting ready for three (yes, THREE) worship service/concerts tomorrow.  Wish us luck or viel gluk (I don’t think that’s right, but okay), or even better, pray that God uses us for His glory again tomorrow.  Bye.

Sonrise Mountain Revival in Berlin - Day One

PWM is happy to have the bluegrass band Sonrise Mountain Revival representing us in Berlin.  The are working with PWM friend Randy Dodd.   Here is the report from our first day in Berlin.

Sonrise Mountain Revival Berlin Project
Day One
By Kristin Gaffney

I’m writing this as the slow snores echo softly down the hallway.  Or, very loud snores.  It’s about six thirty in Berlin and we’ve all been up most of the night, for us it’s… 12:30 p.m. or something ridiculous like that and we have been up since yesterday.  Almost everyone is asleep or pretending to read in bed and actually asleep – that is the girls are, the boys went out to find some more bratwurst before bed!.
Already we have had an impromptu concert on a balcony, stepped on the very land where Adolf Hitler died, eaten delicious bratwurst, learned many new words in German, had a curious encounter with a person dressed as a gorilla, and generally been far to sleepy to care.
We arrived at around two in the morning for us and eight in the morning in Berlin.  Randy Dodd  met in the airport, we all found our luggage (mine was dirty and slightly smushed, grr!) and exchanged our money.  I had a faint heart attack when I realized I had to cart my giant red suitcase, my duffle bag, and my sensitive camera bag on two buses and countless train rides (There are trains above the roads!  You can just get on them and go somewhere!  There are millions of them, or so it seems!).  Somehow no luggage or people were lost and we made our way to the hotel after taking great care to avoid the bike-sidewalks.  The bicyclers literally just fly by as fast as they can, which means avoid them as best as possible unless you want to be run over.
To keep us from collapsing from jet lag, Randy promised to take us on a little tour of Berlin after we got our rooms settled.  Also, no matter what Leanna says, she did try and fall asleep and I did have to drag her out of the super comfy bed.  A comfy bed which I desperately can’t wait to return to…
So, Randy talked to us, we all listened then it was off to meet up with Randy’s daughter.  Because of the amount of expected walking, Dick and Rich stayed behind to practice and then find a place to eat nearby, of which the choices were many.  The rest of the team took a train. Then another.  Then another.  And then I got very dizzy as we went on even another train.  I don’t think I’ve ever been on a train before, but I figure that by the end of the trip I’ll have suffered, I mean experienced my fair share.
We came out on this giant railstation that looked vaguely like a cross between Newark Airport, the Palisades Mall, and the Empire State Building.  I tried to take several pictures but I could barely walk in a straight line after the lurching of the train and the shock of finding myself on the top of a very tall building (I get scared just walking on the ground in New York City and imagining myself in the tall buildings, stupid fear of heights).  But we made out way to a bridge and we met Randy’s daughter Shanda and her roommate – they are missionaries in Spain who came to spend a few days with our team.  They tempted us by having coffee, and it wasn’t until much later that we were going to have some.
We walked along for a bit, talking to each other, and saw the German version of the White House and the Capital Building, both very impressive and beautiful.  Then we walked around for a long time, desperately tired and hungry, while Randy informed us of all the incredible culture, the differences of West and East Berlin, historical monuments, and don’t worry everyone we’ll eat soon.
It seemed to take forever, but Randy was true to his word and we found our way to a street restaurant and I got French fries (or pomme fritz) and currywurst (a bigger bratwurst that’s cut up and has something to do with whatever curry is).  I liked it!
The Brandenburg Gate was in view where we were, and my father told me the history of the gate while we sat facing the former resting place of the Berlin wall and no-man’s land.  There were white crosses beside us in honor of people who had died attempting to get to West Berlin from East Berlin, and it was interesting to note the many crosses that the largely atheistic population of Berlin passed by without a glance.
The square in front of the Brandenburg Gate was incredibly crowded, with horses and buggys, a graduating class from a local school complete with robes, Darth Vader and Yoda with giant fuzzy heads, a group of street dancers, and a person dressed as a gorilla.  We did learn the lesson that if you take a picture with a person dressed as a gorilla they will expect you to pay them for the privilege.  No, we didn’t pay them and yes, we deleted the picture…
Then it was on to the Holocaust Memorial, which was not what I expected in the least.  It is a collection of square slabs, varying in height, across a waved floor covering an entire city block.  Children and teenagers and even a few adults were around it, eating food, sitting on the slabs, playing games.  We walked through, some being somber but almost all of us found ourselves starting to run around, after all, we were tired, this was fun and most of the locals and tourists were doing the same.  Randy told us that the creator of the memorial wanted each individual to have a different response, ranging from the somber reality of the tragedy it represents to celebrating the life that exists today.
I somehow managed to be running around trying to scare Leanna and my dad, but then I started to think about the symbolism of the museum.  The tall squares loomed, impressive and impersonal, and the sound of laughter, joyous when close, took on a sharper and almost cruel tone the farther away we went.  As I went deeper and deeper into the museum, purposely trying to loose myself, it definitely brought a new perspective to me by actually being there.  The Germans were profoundly affected by two World Wars, arguably more then any other country as they were the instigators of both.  It was the Allied powers which broke up Germany into many parts and then broke up Berlin the same way, as Randy explained to us.
I love history and so it was surreal as we walked along after the memorial, seeing a few slabs of the foundations of Hitler’s headquarters and then the ultimate realization.  We stood in the center of the trio of trees that marks the place where Hitler and his wife killed themselves.
Needless to say, we weren’t all somber for long.  After a bit, while waiting for others to catch up, we sparked a lengthy and in depth conversation over American Idol that lasted almost the entire way to the Sony Plaza.  We petted some adorable huskies (buy me one Mom!), got on another bus, got on another and another train, but then it was only 4:30.
So we got some pastries and coffee to stay awake and then me and Shanda’s roommate saw some boys playing basketball (poorly, no offense to them, but basketball is an American sport) and we decided to join.  I admit, that was a lot of fun and it passed the time quickly until we were back at the hotel.
But it still wasn’t time to sleep!
So, Shanda and her roommate had not yet heard Sonrise Mountain Revival in action so Randy and Dad decided to get us all together and play music even though our eyes were falling off and our heads seemed permanently stuck staring at the floor.  I was vaguely certain that two or more members of the band were sleepwalking… one of those I suspected was me.
But I sat back and enjoyed the music, sang along a bit, and despite the wretched bags under our eyes it was really good.  So then Randy told us to play our last song, I’ll Fly Away, on the balcony in one of the rooms.  The instruments all managed to fit (we actually don’t have the bass yet but Mike sang the bass part rather well despite that) and then we started to sing (I joined in.  Bluegrass music is infectious.).
A few of us went down to take pictures from the street, and about halfway into the song we began to realize that a woman across the street was standing on the balcony and listening, a father and his daughters had stopped to listen, and a man was standing with his key in the doorway, a smile on his face, beating his head in time to the music.
God really has a plan for us here, I can feel it, I just can’t wait to find out what it is.  Or maybe I can.  Because I am going to bed now.  Goodnight all, and sweet dreams.