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

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