In the spring of 2016, Bevelyn, Edmee, and Jessica embarked on their first missions trip to Europe. Here’s what happened in Munich, Germany:
The Refugee Camp
In the spring of 2016, we spent a memorable and spirit-filled week in Munich Germany where we learned that there’s always more going on beneath the surface, and things aren’t always what they appear to be. We, Bevelyn, Edmee and Jessica, were thrilled to go to Germany for the first time. When we originally booked our trip, we made a reservation and paid for a hotel in Munich, but about two weeks before we left for Germany, our friend Manu who lives in Munich with her son Benny offered to host us! So in Manu, we had both home and tour guide. A double blessing! We were looking forward to spending quality time with our friend, whom we’d met the previous year on our ministry trip to New Orleans… Manu picked us up from the airport, and as we were driving around getting our first glimpse of Munich, we were immediately struck by how clean and tidy the city was! It was practically spotless. We wondered where we could minister in a town that looked as if it had itself together! But Manu knew exactly where to take us, and drove us to a refugee camp.
Germany has become the temporary home to many Syrian and Nigerian refugees among other nations. And indeed from the looks of it, the living conditions in which the refugees found themselves were far superior to what many had in their home countries. And the refugee housing was much, much better than the refugee camps we’d visited in France where the conditions were precarious.
The residents in the camp located in Munich were separated by country—Syrians lived with Syrians, and Nigerians lived with Nigerians. Manu was able to introduce us to some of the Nigerian refugees, and we were able to spend some time talking. One lady named Rita made an immediate impression on us, but not necessarily in a good way at first. She was frustrated with the fact that she had now been living in the camp for 2 years. While living in a camp may not be the best of situations, it was quite clear that she didn’t know just how good she had it!
We discerned a mindset that we’d encountered many times before on our trips in the United States and in France—an ungrateful attitude that is rooted in hopelessness and not understanding the power of Jesus.
The Welfare System
In the United States and in many parts of Europe, the government, in the form of the Welfare System or Social Handouts, has become God to many. As the government gives and gives, people come to rely on the government more than God for their daily needs. Most expect to receive more and more, without giving anything back in return. To be clear, we are not downing people who are on welfare. Bevelyn’s family was on Welfare for a time when she was growing up and Edmee’s parents were Haitian immigrants who settled in France, but in both cases, assistance was viewed as a short-term blessing until they could get through temporary difficulties and get re-established and find jobs.
Welfare, even from its inception and creation by President Roosevelt as part of his New Deal, was never intended to be a lifestyle. Unfortunately, now in the United States, there are generations of families who have been on welfare and have come to think that they’re entitled to it. But that mindset comes at a dangerous price! Permanently living on welfare strips people of their self-esteem and the sense of well-being and joy that comes from working and being rewarded with pay. Welfare not utilized in the right way, prevents people from dreaming, and becoming all God created them to be, and it also engenders hopelessness.
The bible says in Proverbs 10:22: “God gives us the ability to obtain wealth.” Jeremiah 29:11 says, “For I know that plans that I have for you, plans that will not harm you, but plans that will give you a hope and a future.” So we can wholeheartedly say with all of the LOVE of Jesus: permanently living on welfare is not part of God’s plan for anyone’s life! Expecting anything from anyone other than Jesus is a delusion. People expect to receive housing, food and other benefits without working, which is not biblical! The bible says that if a man does not work, he should not eat. (2nd Thessalonians 3:10).
As we talked with Rita, we quickly discerned that her complaining spirit was holding her back from the abundant life that Jesus died for her to have. (John 10:10) And we were determined to make her understand that the enemy need not steal anything else from her life. So we began to speak to her and share Jesus. Edmee lovingly suggested to Rita that she should ask herself what she could do to be a blessing to Germany. While she was in her holding pattern, she should volunteer her time, figuring how she could make her environment better. So we continued to talk to Rita and minister to her, and finally, we felt that there was a shift in her and we gave her a task to do. We asked her to speak to the other refugees in the place where she was staying and ask them what they needed. We told her we’d be back the next day.
Later that day, Manu took us to school with her. She teaches teenagers, and so we spent time getting to know her students and learning more about the culture of Germany. We also got to spend precious time with Manu’s son Benny, a bright and wonderful young man who is endlessly inquisitive. Best of all we loved the fact that he was asking us questions about the things of God! We still had to figure out what to do with the hotel room we’d already paid for. Giving it up could be an awesome ministry opportunity! Perhaps a family at the refugee camp would like our room? It seemed like a natural solution to us, but after inquiring with administrators at the refugee camp, we quickly learned that such offers had been made before for hotels and even short-term apartment stays. The families usually turned down the offers for one reason or another, a major reason being that the hotel or apartment was too far away from train or bus transportation.
The following morning, when we checked back in with Rita, we were awed and amazed by her progress! She’d taken her task quite seriously, and we were heartened that she’d obviously heard us and had decided to contribute, and volunteer, and pour something back into the refugee camp. In just about 24 hours, Rita had canvassed the other refugees in her living area and had taken a notepad to write a 12-15 page list of the things that the folks wanted: clothes, household items and various and other sundry items, but the one item on the list that jumped out? A man requested a wife! We wondered if the man was somehow familiar with Matthew 7:7 (Ask, seek, knock) and James 4:2 (You have not because you ask not)!
With the list in hand, our ministry work was taking off! We started to plot out how we could get the items on the list so that we could be a blessing. It wound up taking us several days, to gather all of the items and Manu was eager to help us. We drove from store to store buying things, and our adventure continued. Along the way, Bevelyn got into a bit of a verbal altercation with Manu and Edmee over what kind of clothes to purchase! But before it happened, Jessica sensing the mounting tension quickly sized up the situation and intuiting what was about to transpire, quietly slipped away to another part of the store…
Bevelyn dresses one way when she’s on missionary trips, but when she’s going to work, church or out to dinner or to have fun, she is very serious about her attire. Plus she studied fashion! So Bev being Bev, with her outsized strong-willed and wild personality, had one opinion about a dress to purchase for a little girl; and Manu and Edmee were more practical-minded. After a few tense, colorful and loud moments in the store, love won out, and the outfits were purchased!
We were ready to start handing stuff out at the camp, and we were excited! We only wish all of the recipients were as excited as we were… There was a specific family who’d requested clothes for their children. When we met the oldest “child” whom we suspected was in his 20s, he did not have a problem letting us know he did not like the clothes. This was surreal considering he was wearing worn, tattered and dirty clothes. He didn’t like the style of the brand new shirt selected for him, and Bevelyn couldn’t hold herself back and called him ungrateful. We were spending only one week in Munich, but like all of our missions trips, we were learning lesson after lesson day by day. But life is like that, too!
Many of the people, however, were super grateful for the items we’d purchased for them and as a thank you, they offered to cook for us! And our new friends went all out! The Nigerians we met had a serious spirit of hospitality and prepared lots of food for us, including one of their country’s signature dishes called “Fu Fu.” In addition to Bevelyn loving fashion, she also loves food, so she was over-the-moon about eating one of her favorite cuisines. So there we were, Nigerians, Germans, plus French-born Edmee, Jessica and Bevelyn from the USA! That feast was an awesome opportunity to exchange gratitude, and best of all to share Jesus and His LOVE!
Before we left Munich, Manu took us to a concentration camp. Touring that concentration camp made a lasting impression on us and confirmed a feeling that we’d discerned while we were in Germany. 70 years after the end of World War II, there was still a deep sense of national shame in Germany because of the Holocaust. But the spirit of shame is another one of satan’s ploys, and another reason why Jesus and His love, forgiveness and salvation needs to be shouted from the rooftops. There’s still very much of an Old Testament feeling pervasive in many parts of Germany, ie, people there still believe that the sins of the fathers are the sins of the sons, and guilt and shame are palpable. Many still do not wear the German flag, and many also prefer to say that they are European instead of saying they are German.
The Holocaust was an unimaginable tragedy, but for the generations alive now who had nothing to do with it, they should not abide in guilt, shame, and condemnation. Jesus and His love should reign, and not satan. We were grateful to be able to talk to the people at a German church and give them a different perspective. We hope those who heard us speak the liberating Word of the Gospel that day were set free and healed of the stronghold of shame, guilt, and condemnation.
Our week in Munich was awesome, exciting, and unforgettable! We were so grateful to Manu and Benny, and we also made many new friends and plan to check in on them again, especially Rita. After we returned from Munich we learned that Rita wound up dating the man who wanted a wife!
2 Kings 7:3-4 reads Now there were four leprous men at the entrance of the gate; and they said to one another, “Why are we sitting here until we die? 4 If we say, ‘We will enter the city,’ the famine is in the city, and we shall die there. And if we sit here, we die also. Now therefore, come, let us surrender to the army of the Syrians. If they keep us alive, we shall live; and if they kill us, we shall only die.” and verses 8 & 9 read And when these lepers came to the outskirts of the camp, they went into one tent and ate and drank, and carried from it silver and gold and clothing, and went and hid them; then they came back and entered another tent, and carried some from there also, and went and hid it. Then they said to one another, “We are not doing right. This day is a day of good news, and we remain silent. If we wait until morning light, some punishment will come upon us. Now therefore, come, let us go and tell the king’s household.”
When it relates to God’s will, one of the ways this passage of scripture can be interpreted is this: If God has put breath and strength in your body, you should work. If you cannot work, you should volunteer, sow seeds, or DO something to be a blessing to others. God has never called anyone to be lazy. Laziness is a thief that has crept into many people’s lives. It steals opportunities and robs people of the ability to be a blessing to others. It is also a medium through which the enemy makes God’s creation subservient to anyone or anything that caters to that laziness. Some have succumbed to this sin to the point of starvation. The four lepers in 2 Kings realized that sitting idle due to the famine in the land was not helping anyone. “Why are we just sitting here waiting to die? Let’s get up and go into the city.” So they took a risk and went into enemy territory to find food. What happened next was a miracle. Not only did they not die but by doing so they recovered the enemy’s spoils and got to be a blessing by sharing it with their people.