Munich Adventure

Nathan, Rada, Anya & Aleksa's move to Munich...

Rhine or Danube?

The Rhine/Danube Watershed Marker

The snow that falls on the left of this sign will, when it melts, eventually make its way into the Rhine and out into the North Sea.  The snow on the right of this sign will, when it melts, eventually make its way into the Danube and out into the Black Sea, and maybe even get to the Mediterranean. 

Each flake of snow was powerless as it fell from the sky and is no less powerless as it sits waiting to melt and then to make its way back to an ocean somewhere.  Is the same true for us?  Do we have a destiny that we are powerless to affect?

I do not believe so!

I do believe that:

  • God loves us and knows everything that has happened and will happen.
  • God gives us freewill to make our own choices
  • God sometimes chooses to intervene
  • All of this is a complicated mix of paradoxes and mystery

We are not snowflakes that have no control of our actions or future yet there is a real sense, as we look back at certain moments in our life, that there is something guiding our actions and decisions, I really believe it is the Holy Spirit. I sometimes wonder about this when I think about how we ended up in Munich but it is so helpful to remember that God’s hand was visible in so many moments:

  • The years of influence from family, friends and leaders that inspired our hearts to grow with international mission at the core
  • The key conversation at a random conference in October 2015
  • The wisdom of leaders who counselled us and advised us
  • A phone call with a friend whose wife worked in a Munich grammar school that had an integration course for Anya
  • The generosity of many friends and churches that enabled us to cover the moving and living costs
  • The openness of our current landlord who gave us a chance to live in Munich when so many others had turned us down
  • The jobs that opened up at the right times to enable us to survive financially and contribute to society here

Maybe if things had turned out slightly different we could have flowed down to the Black Sea instead of stopping in Bavaria (true story!) but what we are certain of is that God has loved and guided us while allowing us the free will to make our own choices, experience our own mistakes and enjoy the successes.

Putting Down Roots: Part 1

As the spring and summer of 2020 have worn on I (Nathan) am sure that all of us are feeling some sense of disconnection from our communities and/or uncertainty about future plans.  This has certainly been true for us, maybe even exacerbated by the pioneering nature of our context here and the geographical distance between us and most of our support network.

As I reflected and prayed about this over the summer I really felt the voice of God say to me that the next season for us was to be a season of putting down deeper and more significant roots in the communities around us and into German life in general.  

The first obvious step for this is to make another purposeful go at language learning.  Our first 18 months here saw the greatest progress in language and we have improved steadily but very very slowly since then.  So this term I have enrolled back at the language school where it all began back in autumn 2016. I go four mornings per week and to help stick to Covid-19 restrictions class sizes are reduced from 12 to 6 participants, and the length of the class is 2 hours instead of 3. Both of these factors suit me perfectly and I am loving it so far and feeling very inspired.

I’ll write in the coming weeks about a few other language topics and reflections in relation to putting down roots. I’ll also share some tips for German language learning and hopefully receive some tips from others too!  I’ll also discuss ideas and thoughts around how one can put roots down into community life.

All the essentials for getting back to school!

Blog relaunch…..!

Sorry we lost the habit of posting on here!  We really love the concept of having this site as a record of what we are doing and to keep people updated with what is going on, so we have updated a little of the content will be making regular blog posts for the foreseeable future!

We have survived all the physical and mental stresses of Corona so far although Anya departed for the UK in August to begin studying A-levels at her old school. So now we are down to three….!

Please do speak back to us on the comments section and if you have any questions, or if there are any topics that you’d be interested to see covered then let us know!

Munich parkrun Birthday!

A couple of weeks ago we celebrated one year of parkrun* in Munich! I attended the first run on 19th January 2019 and have been involved as a participant, volunteer or organiser ever since.

Westpark parkrun – one year old!

Personally it helps me keep fit, brings some routine to my weekend and gives me a grounded and regular sense of purpose to be in Munich. I have made some great friends over the last year and there is a real sense of community and mutual support. Along with a few of the other guys we went for a daytrip to Ingoldstadt to visit another event and as one of the Run Directors I have really enjoyed our planning meetings – always in a Bierkeller or Biergarten!

At my local Westpark Event we usually gather between 40-80 runners and our early success meant another group was able to begin in Munich in July at Riemerpark on the other side of the city. Although the parkrun phenomenon has very much come out of the UK we are very pleased that there are more and more Germans joining us every week! We also have tourists come from all over the world for parkrun in Munich – most weeks there are visitors from at least Australia, South Africa, Russia and the UK.

I also find that being part of parkrun really complements our church ministry here in Munich. Our family’s ethos is that all aspects of life should serve God and love other people – we use the phrase ‘building the Kingdom of God’ to describe this. Being part of parkrun is certainly a way to do this by helping to organise this healthy and social initiative for the community as well as build personal friendships that can encourage others – they certainly encourage me!

I’d thoroughly recommend getting involved with your local parkrun – it can change and transform lives for sure… And if you live in Munich it would be wonderful to see you at the start line in Westpark one Saturday morning! (see the links below)

When mum and dad came to visit

*parkrun is a free, timed, weekly 5km run each Saturday at 9am for anybody and everybody to participate in with at least 200,000 runners each week.

A bit of chocolate goes a long way

In the classic film Chocolat we see the amazing protagonist open up a chocolaterie in the middle of a closed off, overly religious and legalistic French village.  The mayor and other prominent villagers ensure she is made very unwelcome yet, one by one, she brings life to the more excluded villagers through a non judgmental attitude, an ability to see the potential in each of them and, of course, through amazing tasting chocolate!  Relationships are restored and the village transformed!

In some ways this really resonates with what we are aiming to do in Munich.  We are not seeking to find a place within church walls to which people can come to us.  We are seeking to set-up our lives outside of formal church structure and encounter people with whom we can share a bit of the life of God with.  Similar to Chocolat it is important that we are non-judgmental, look for the best in others and, of course, eat great food together!

Many people have recommended we read Alan Scott’s Scattered Servants book that came out last year.  It is a very special book that exhorts its readers to bring life to the cities they live in, not through great quality church meetings, but through scattering throughout their neighbourhoods and loving people wherever they find them.  This is what we love to do and this is what we believe God has called us to!

“You are My children and I have given you good things to share.  As you follow Me, you will encounter people who are far from Me, who are fighting for faith, struggling in their marriages, longing for healing, wondering if I am alive.  As you meet them, share what I give you for them.  Don’t worry if it feels like you have nothing to offer.  It is My pleasure to send you out empty but bring you back full.”


Onwards & Upwards

At the start of this year a dear friend of ours shared a clear word that she felt God wanted to encourage us with… ‘onwards and upwards’!

There were several applications to this word but she suggested we go to a high place in Munich and pray for the city and seek God for his heart for the communities spread out below us.  There is something amazing about gaining a little bit of a higher perspective for the place where you spend most of your daily routine.  I guess you get out away from the distractions and see that you are part of something bigger, and begin to feel God’s heart for your community. And so with our wonderful friends Andi & Annika we climbed to the top of Olympia Berg in the Bavarian spring sunshine, and sought God for Munich.

Gateway Church Munich praying on Olympia Berg

Following our first high altitude prayer we have selected several other highspots in the city and will continue to pray from these places over the coming months.  Please do join us in praying for this great city.  There are so many people here who are spiritually hungry, yet seem lost and without direction or purpose.  We know that it is only through prayer that people truly turn to God, and that prayer is a critical ingredient in the transformation of cities, nations and continents.

I recently read that the wave of prayer that preceded the Indonesian revival of 1999 was mainly conducted on top of office blocks because they were forbidden from constructing church buildings.  Thousands of Christians changing their nation by praying on their knees (high above the people below them!)  How amazing it would be to see the hand of God moving all over Munich and beyond, changing lives and communities, because there are people joining together in prayer!

The rusty hinge of human history turns out to be the bended knee.

pete greig, dirty glory

Standing on the Shoulders of Giants

As I ride around Munich for my work I get to enjoy the architecture, landscape and art.  Probably my favourite piece is this sculpture on the corner of Prinzregentenstraße and Seitzstraße, across the road from Haus der Kunst and the Englischer Garten surfers.

I always see myself as the small child standing on the shoulder of the man who appears to be a traveller or a shepherd.  Sometimes I reflect that it is on the caring shoulder of Jesus that I stand, and it reminds me that he walks the journey with us, that he is our strength and protection, and gives us a grand view of the adventure, like a father taking a small child on a hike.

But more often I think of the saying, ‘Standing on the shoulders of giants’ and that, even though my Christian walk and mission is one that is very much in its infancy, I have the privilege of a high perspective and millennia of experience because of all those that have walked the path before me.

  • I think first of my parents, grandparents and great grandparents – of their own lives of service to Christ and of the prayers said for us each day.
  • Then I think of those who have known me and pastored me and loved me at different stages and in different places – of the inspiring examples set and of the passionate care they have expressed.
  • Then I think of contemporary heroes of the Christian faith whose stories I can relate to yet who were trailblazers for Christian mission in these crazy and confusing decades and centuries that we live in.
  • And finally, I think of the early church apostles – of their obedience to God even though there was little practical evidence that the mission they were about could ever succeed.  I have the privilege of observing more than 2000 years of fruit of the work of the church yet they just had a few years of persecution to encourage them!  I think of the amazing verse from the book of Hebrews:

Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith.

Hebrews 12:1-2

Sometimes as I ride around I can feel that the work we are attempting is so insignificant, and sometimes it feels so futile.  Yet I know that I can fix my eyes on Christ and keep running this race, knowing that I am standing on the shoulders of countless giants who have paved the way for us to be where we are today and that there comes another generation that will stand maybe a little higher also because of the work that we, by the grace of God, will have accomplished.

Munich in October – Guest Post

Guest Post – Vicky Mennear: In October 2005 we visited a church in Solihull that were advertising for a new youth worker.  On the interview panel were Steve & Vicky Mennear. 13 years later and they are unique amongst our dearest friends, and we were very happy to welcome them to visit us early this month and Vicky has kindly given us some reflections to post….

Octoberfest – timing could not have been better!  We were visiting Rada, Nathan, Anya and Aleksa while Müncheners and tourists were enjoying the annual festival – Beer tents, dirndl and lederhosen, brass bands, family fun and of course beer!

Putting down roots and establishing a corner of the Kingdom of God in another nation other than your birth country is a challenging enterprise. This is what our very dear friends are about. I am enormously proud of them. Proud of their courage because I know I wouldn’t do it and of their dependence on their Father in Heaven.

Two years after moving to Germany, routines of normal family life are growing and stories of God’s provision are abundant. The apartment, schooling, paid employment, developing friendships.  Of course Steve and I saw the challenges they face. Living out a gospel of grace and planting a church in the national language, this is, as noted in, ‘Global Humility’ by Andy McCullough:

An expression of humility, of incarnation, of service, of honouring our hosts. 

Munich is a beautiful and captivating city, full of wide vistas and grand public buildings lying on the edge of an ancient forest. It has a dark past. 

Steve and I enjoyed getting to know it, finding our way around, trying to understand what makes this place tick. Müncheners love their children. Much of the suburban space is child friendly and there are places to play scattered between apartment blocks. Cycling for adults and children is the most popular way of getting around.  Worshipping in German, visiting a German Church quickly made me aware of the difficulties of crossing cultures. Then thinking how we overcome this in our home setting?

God is at work here. God comes where he is wanted (Philip Yancey).  A seed is planted in the ground and what appears in due time does not resemble the seed but is something completely different. Something completely different will grow here in due time and it will produce many seeds. 

If I had my way Nathan and Rada would be living next door to me and my family but God has a bigger purpose. As much as we miss them, I think I might be the one who has to adjust my thinking and get on board with a bigger purpose!

Vicky Mennear, 17.10.18

Immigrant or Ex-Pat?

The term ‘ex-pat’ has always conjured up negative feelings for me.  I have stereotypes of over-tanned pensioners, guffawing young professionals and insular social circles, not forgetting old empirical connotations and notions of superiority.  At the end of the day what we Brits describe as ex-pats are surely as much immigrants as someone fleeing to a new country for safety or better economic prospects.  Maybe it just isn’t fashionable to be described as an immigrant?

We certainly feel like immigrants here in Munich and I often reflect on my experiences and realise how little weight I gave to the difficulties of immigrants in communities I had previously lived in in the UK.  Here is a list of 6 of my personal immigrant experiences:

  1. You feel unwelcome.  When things go against you in terms of housing, schooling and jobs you begin to feel like you are implicitly not welcome in the city. It is a logical sub-conscious feeling – ‘there is no space in this city for my family to live, get educated, work…therefore the city does not want us here.’  You overcome this little by little but it can weigh heavy at times.  Those that make the extra effort to welcome you are extremely precious people.
  2. Everything is more expensive!  This is because you don’t understand how things work.  At the extreme end I nearly ended up with a €5,000 health insurance bill because I hadn’t realised I’d taken two policies out when we arrived!  I have also picked up a few fines with cycling and driving that I would have avoided in the UK.  You don’t have the time, knowledge (or sometimes energy) to make the most savvy consumer decisions.  People treat you differently and can take advantage.  I would advise anybody moving to a new place to add about 20% onto your budgeted outgoings in the first year.
  3. You are overlooked for opportunities.   Through reduced communication ability you miss opportunities.  Sometimes this is because you miss the soft signs that native people take for granted, sometimes this is because people just can’t be bothered to take the effort to communicate with you.  Personally I found being missed out of communication can make working life less fulfilling.  It also feels very sad when it is your children who miss out on opportunities, or are even be blamed for not doing something that we had no idea they were meant to have done!
  4. You have fresh perspective.  You get to see and experience a city and country with completely fresh eyes.  Like the new kid in a company, although you might not know and understand the history of the place, you can see things that people who have lived here all their lives miss.  Maybe I should have asked immigrants in my old communities what they saw when they arrived, and maybe I could have learnt something about myself.
  5. You are interesting to other people.  You stand out, in a good way.  Small talk is easier because people want to know why you came here.  This makes making friends great fun and people can be intrigued by your story.  You also find a camaraderie with other immigrants even if you would normally have little in common with them.
  6. You lose your old identity but don’t fully gain a new one.  You will never fully feel at home anywhere again.  In the new place you feel like an outsider.  In the old place you feel like everything and everyone has moved on.  This can effect you on quite a deep level.  However, as a Christian it is really helpful to remember Paul’s words in Philippians 3:20:

But our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Saviour from there, the Lord Jesus Christ.

It is ok to not feel at home here on earth because our deepest longing is for somewhere else.  Whether you live in the same community for 80 years or move around every few months, the truth is that we are all just ‘passing though’.  Don’t put too much emphasis on national identity, finances, housing, education, being popular or even being fruitful.  God is calling us all home and we can daily keep our eyes fixed on him.

Bildergebnis für ex pat immigrant

So next time you bump into an immigrant in your community (or even an ex-pat) why not ask them what life is like for them living next door to you?  What are the joys and what are the difficulties?  What do they observe?  And maybe give them an open door for practical assistance and advice and help them make the most of their time as your neighbour.

….to the Nations

Nathan explains a little of our heart for the nations

I have a new addiction.  It is a card game called Mapominoes which combines two of life’s joys – geography and competition!  Yes, it is completely geeky but it keeps me happy.

Using a card game to pray for the nations!

I have always been fascinated by maps and other countries.  I would spend hours pouring over atlases and I can remember as a child trawling the exhibition stands at Christian conferences looking for information about missionary organisations and the different countries they were working in.  The prayer tool Operation World was a big favourite of mine.

Do you also love the whole concept of different nations, cultures, peoples?  Built into humankind is the desire to explore and to know, surely a resonance with God’s eternal plan for his created people to spread out throughout the earth.

This whole theme is intrinsic to our calling as a family and of the culture we desire to shape for our mission here in Munich.  One of the reasons we were excited to move to Munich is that it is full of the nations – tens of thousands of people from the Balkans, Italy, Greece, Turkey, west and east Africa, the Middle East, the former Soviet nations…and many more.

Yes, we want to plant a church in Germany that serves German people, but we also want it to be representative of the communities that are here in the city.  And further to that, we are passionate to see our mission efforts overflow from Munich and effect other nations too.  That is why two very important moments in our church planting venture so far were having visitors last summer from church leaders from Serbia and from Macedonia.

Visit of Vlada & Sonja, church planters from Serbia

This coming weekend Rada will be attending a Prophetic Missions Conference in Niš, Serbia.  This is all about being blessed by brothers and sisters from other nations and about being a blessing to the nations.  It is about laying a DNA for our church community in Munich that has a great love for other cultures and passion to serve other nations.  We’re very excited to see what will happen this weekend and eagerly looking to the future and building a church that has Jesus’ commission to his church right at its heart!

Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptising them in the name of the Father and of the Son and the Holy Spirit.


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