The Ups and Downs of Relocation
Blog -> Family
it's time for another update from the Armbrusters. The last few weeks have been interesting, with lots of ups and downs. But overall, things are sometimes messy, but not beyond what you should expect when you moved continents 4 months ago. So here are a few things about us and Aletheia.
Overall we are really on VERY different levels when it comes to adjusting to Germany. I myself feel totall comfortable here. It's early November, it often has between 1 and 5 degrees in the morning. But I love it! We still need no heating in our house, and even being outside in cold weather is totally comfortable. I just love the autumn colors, the warm sunshine, the nature that is available everywhere. There are so many things freely available here that I missed in Shanghai. And I love being back.
Noah and Abigail also feel comfortable here, as they are too young to really be emotionally bound to Shanghai. And we already saw that when we were saying our goodbyes in Shanghai. For Noah, it didn't look like his "final goodbye" to his friends was any different than a "see you next week at church". He was just ready to move on. As long as the family is around, he's fine. He wasn't dependent on his friends in Shanghai yet.
Which brings me to Anna: She's clearly suffering the most under the change. Earlier this week, we had a sleepover at our place, two friends around their age from the International Church we currently attend stayed at our place for a bit more than 24h. The evening after they left, Anna suddenly started weeping in bed. Things became worse and worse, until she was completely hysterical. Eventually she was able to express what she was going through. Spending so much time with Christian, English speaking friends reminded her of what she had in Shanghai. And it reminded her of all the friends she had to leave behind, and the struggles she is facing here now (building new friendships, not a Christian school, struggling to fully express herself in German, etc). That night it all came out.
Now to be fair, she's not always like that. She also had days when she came home and told me: "I like this school just as much as I liked my school in Shanghai." But it made me realize that she is still going through the emotional waves that many people experience for months or even a year or two after such a relocation. And it also confirmed a decision I had already had in the back of my mind before: We won't do this to our kids again. We'll stay in Munich until they graduate. They can't cope with such a relocation a second time. We won't force them to follow us through such a decision ever again. We made our own decision, it was our choice to come here. And of course we involved our kids in the decision as well. But in the end, they had to follow mom's and dad's decision. And now Anna suffers the most under it. We won't do that to her or the other kids ever again! Once is enough!
Ryoko is probably somewhere in between. She made her own decision, she kind of knew what to expect, relocating here. So that makes things different and easier for her. Plus, she had wanted to leave Shanghai for a while already. But at the same time, she is still struggling to find her role here, why she is here (beyond just "being with her family"), what she's supposed to do, etc. That's probably normal after only 4 months. But of course, emotionally that's not a place we like being in.
Her goal is to finish the Integration Course by the end of the school year. Then we will probably send Abigail to Kindergarten from September onwards as well. And then from there, she would like to have a meaningful job in Germany. Obviously, we can't decide on details yet. Who knows what church will be like by then. (One extreme: We get a huge donation, but the church is still relatively small and not that much work yet. Then I could get paid by the church, give up my freelance work, and have enough flexibility to take care of the kids after school, so Ryoko can work fulltime. Other extreme: Big church, lots of work, but not enough finances for me to go fulltime yet. So as a result, I'll still have to have work fulltime as a programmer, but also have a lot of work at church. I don't think either extreme will happen, but obviously, depending on "what things look like a year from now", we'll have to make other decisions accordingly, incl. the kind of work Ryoko can do)
The good thing is that Ryoko was able to move her classes from afternoon to morning, while the kids are at school. That'll give me a lot more flexibility to work in the afternoons as well (which I couldn't do the last few weeks, because I was alone with the kids). That should simplify our schedule quite a bit in the future, and give us more flexibility.
With this change, I am now also looking into adding a few more hours to my work. Like I said before, my current project keeps us financially above water, but nothing beyond that. That's acceptable for this transition time, but not long term. With the new flexibility of Ryoko being at home in the afternoons, we now feel that it would be good for me to find another project, and increase our income. Appreciate if you could pray with us on that front.
On another note: Last time I mentioned Noah's surgery. Actually, it was postponed. He went to a checkup the day before the scheduled surgery, just to check that he's medically fit for the surgery. That's when the doctor found something that concerned her. Thankfully, it turned out to be harmless, he's completely fine. They checked him out, turned out to be a harmless thing that was solved within a day with a bit of medicine. The only result of that little scare is just that we have to start the process again and make a new appointment for his surgery. (Thank God for good insurance, so we don't have to worry about finances, etc. in the midst of all this stuff,... All we have to do is making sure we have our medical cards with us all the time. Other than that, we never even see a hospital bill. :-))
Now back to Aletheia: 2 weeks ago we had our first vision meeting. We had around 8 people at our home, shared a meal together, and then we presented the vision that God put on our hearts. The response was overwhelmingly positive. Every single person loved what he/she heard. It showed me that many people here are indeed looking for the kind of church that God put on our hearts. And it really confirmed that we are in the right place, doing what God told us to do.
If you are interested in our vision, what we presented that night, then you can check it out here: http://aicmunich.org/aletheia-identity.pdf
That night I went to bed, simply being blown away. I hadn't felt so "alive" for months. Basically, not since we had done "real ministry work" in Shanghai in May/June.
So from there, we now have around 5 people who committed to the small group (besides us). Some others are still praying about it (some are interested, but live far away and are still trying to figure out whether they can join us, practically speaking). Some things seem to be the same in all parts of the world, so far I'm the only guy in the group. :-( But we are praying that things will grow from here. Last week we planned on having our first meeting, but then things got into the way, and it didn't work out. But this week Friday we'll finally start. We'll start with a study on "The Names and Attributes of God". And then we'll take things from there.
Like I said before, we really don't know how things will be going from here. Maybe, maybe, maybe we'll have a huge church 6 months from now. Maybe it'll take 5 years until we can even multiply this one group to two. Most likely something in between. But in the end, we simply don't know. We'll just move towards the direction of growing the group and eventually starting the church. And trust that in the right time, when God says the time is right, He'll bring us the right people to take the right next step. We know the direction we're going. The timing is up to God!
I've also just started my final class that I need for official Ordination. :-) I'll probably get that done within the next 1-2 months as well. That's of course a nice thing to have as we continue inviting people who will ask us a lot of questions. Gives our whole approach a bit more credibility. (Not before God, but some people will be more open towards the idea of a new church if they know that the Pastor is officially ordained) I'll continue taking classes, even after the Ordination. But my goal from the very beginning was to finish this first part of my studies by the end of this year. And it looks like that's going to be possible.
So that's our update for today. Thank you all for the wonderful support and encouragement we receive from many people all over the world. We couldn't have made it until here without all your support.
With thankful hearts,
Ryoko & Bernd
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