Well, now this is weird. Only three days ago I was doing something similar in the same place, but that was before I had experienced the grandeur, scale and beauty which is inherent to Berlin. Now, I’ve got so much to think about from even such a short time in Germany.
I arrived at the airport at 8pm Berlin time without having ever seen my host or contact’s faces, and without having actually heard back from them whether they received the date and time of my arrival. I had been told that they were good people (which indeed they most certainly are) so I trusted that all was well. My contact, Gerrit Scherf, caught my eye as I came out the arrivals gate, and with him was my host, Carsten. The first challenge was snapping back into German, and that’s always a bit more difficult than it should be. The hardest thing is pronouncing the German word forms properly, because we never use them in English.
We went from there to Carsten’s place, where I was staying for the next couple of days. Carsten’s flatmate Christoph was still away at Uni so we had dinner as just the two of us (bread, cold meat, cheese and my favourite, “meat salad”) and spoke about life, church, music and everything else. My German came back in dribs and drabs, but I could express myself fairly well with a little stilted speech.
The next day it was as cold as usual, but that didn’t stop us from seeing Berlin. We went to all the sights pictured in the gallery (hint, hint). All I really had wanted to see was where the Berlin wall stood and the Brandenburger Tor. But Carsten didn’t need to work these two days and offered to take me around Berlin, which was very kind and very helpful of him. We ate lunch at a Vietnamese restaurant which is apparently fairly well known in Berlin, and that was fabulous. Let’s face it, it was all great.
That evening Carsten’s church had a leaders meeting which I attended. They’re a smaller church than ours but they’ve got a people with a great heart. It was a vision casting night so I listened intently as the individual group leaders stood and presented their vision for 2006. Then we sang a song together (in English, and I knew it too!) and prayed together, and celebrated afterwards with champagne. There was a girl there who studied for two years at Hillsong, and she bowled up to me after the meeting speaking fluent English (with a wonderful world-English accent, but still with a bit of Aussie in there too). It was so good to join with a church group in Berlin and see that God is indeed with us all over the world.
Christoph came back that night (before the meeting, I forgot to mention) and once we got home at 11pm(ish) he and Carsten began cooking dinner. We had chicken wings and some vegies with potato. Yum. At 2am we finally made it into bed.
The next day we slept through our alarms and got up at about 10am. Carsten had more to show me and so we went out straight away. We saw plenty and for lunch I had a real Berlin-style currywurst (sausage with a hot tomato sauce and curry). That was brilliant, particularly because it was ridiculously cold and there was a nasty chilling wind blowing. We saw the government building in the middle of Berlin and climbed in a great big dome to see all over Berlin. To get rid of the chill we then sat down in a posh cafe called Einstein Kaffee to have a hot chocolate with cream. I don’t think I’ve ever had a hot chocolate which tasted better.
That night I went over to Gerrit and Alex Scherf’s place for dinner. The Scherfs were in Australia in 2003 (Gerrit is a doctor – he worked at Modbury Hospital) and connected with Adam Low when they were looking for a church, hence my contact with them. Alex made some pizza which was just wonderful, and we looked at some photos of Adam and Clare’s trip through Germany with the Scherfs. Gerrit and Alex have a young daughter, Noami, and a younger son, Josiah. The other older girl in the photos is a niece who stayed the night. With dinner we had alcohol-free beer and also malt beer; the latter was very nice, even to this beer hater. After the pizza (did I say how good it was?) Alex asked me whether I had had a Berliner berliner, and when I responded in the negative Gerrit basically went straight out to a corner bakery to pick some up. The Berliners know how to make berliners, that’s for sure. Then we simply chatted about language and life and church and travel and heaps of everything else. Gerrit and Alex are great people – I can tell they’re fantastic parents and good friends, and I hope to see them again.
At 11pm(ish) Gerrit took me back to Carsten’s. By then my German was coming more automatically, with less English-German translation in the head before it had to be spoken. But I had to hit the sack pretty much straight away, because the train to the airport would leave the station at 7am the next day. Craziness, this 8:45 flight was. Who thought that up? Oh, right, me.
Carsten came with me to the airport to see me off. I can’t believe how welcoming and hospitable he was (even at 6:30am) and how comfortable and even befriended I felt throughout my short time there. He seemed so happy to have me there…
We arrived at the airport and checked in (with automatic check-in machines) and now suddenly our time was up. We said our farewells, I got in the security line and Carsten headed back home. I find that my heart is as heavy here now as I write as it was in the line up in Berlin just then, and the tears make the screen hard to see. Somehow I feel like I’ve left family behind, that our two days were meant to be just a beginning of some sort, yet I don’t actually know if ever I’ll see these great people again. They opened my eyes to a wider world of Christian friendship and fellowship, made me feel totally safe and loved and showed me what it really is to trust in God and follow him completely. They set the bar high, and I only hope that I can live up to the standard which they displayed so beautifully.