The annual Thanksgiving celebration at the Unterwegs campus ministry in Tübingen, Germany, drew 130 people, and the atmosphere was like no other Thanksgiving before it, according to Globalscope campus minister Tyler Crawford.
“We decided to shift the focus to connecting our friends from local churches with the students from Unterwegs,” said Tyler. “We set up the tables family-style and had volunteer wait staff bring the food to the tables to give people a chance to sit, chat and connect with people they might never come in contact with.
“For example, a pastor from the Jakobus church sat next to a student who has never been to a church during all his years in Tübingen,” added Tyler. “And for an hour and a half, a church elder and his wife from the Kreuzkirche sat and talked to the winner of last year’s Unterwegs Servant Leadership Award, and they made a date to celebrate Christmas together.”
For Tyler and his wife Shalynn, one of the highlights of the day came when university student Hannah stepped to the stage in front of the large crowd to share the things she’s thankful for.
“Hannah has been around Unterwegs for a long time,” said Tyler. “We met at a Café English and she wasn’t interested in sharing much about herself.”
That has now changed. As she stood before the group, Hannah took a deep breath and shared: “When I look at my life I see a lot of chaos and problems. But the longer I look at it, the more I see the small things that make me grateful to be here: a song I like to sing, an encouraging word from a friend in the right moment.”
“Hannah didn’t always talk like that,” said Tyler, “and the influence Unterwegs has had in her life over the last four years all comes out on stage. She sings in the Unterwegs band and hosts her Vesper small group in her home.”
“After Thanksgiving, I realized how lucky I have been all these years,” Hannah said later. “I applied to universities all over Germany, and I was accepted in the one city where there is an Unterwegs. I can’t imagine my life without it.”
Campus ministry certainly isn’t all fun and games, but sometimes there’s a lot of it sprinkled into the holy moments. Here’s a story from Beth Jarvis Silliman, leader of the Globalscope Unterwegs campus ministry in Tübingen, Germany, about the group’s recent weekend camping trip in the Black Forest.
Well, what did you expect would happen?
There was whipped cream, peanut butter puffs, and lots and lots of water balloons. Game time. As soon as I saw people running into the kitchen I knew this was getting out of hand. People came running back out of the kitchen with buckets, water bottles, pitchers, large serving bowls — basically anything they could find that would hold water long enough to pour onto someone else. Even our grocery bags were used in the battle. My one mistake was when I attacked Erin with whipped cream before realizing that she also had a whipped cream container. It got messy.
But what did I expect would happen when we took about 30 people into the Black Forest for a weekend of singing, eating, games, talks, and campfire songs?
I still pause when I hear a student say, “I never expected to find so many good friends at University.” I think, really? You didn’t expect blue skies and grass stains and full bellies and laughter with new friends? And that somehow all of this would add up to you learning to love who you are and that person sitting across from you?
Then there it is, the point of the whole weekend: countless moments of new students opening up and realizing that they belong, and realizing this new belonging comes with some expectations of ourselves and of God.
A lot of students, and maybe some of us, have stopped expecting to find the good. Some of them can’t even imagine expecting God — if there is a God — to want to do anything for them and with them.
For our annual weekend away the student leaders chose to talk about expectations. It was really a way to talk about the hope that God wouldn’t leave us where we are. One student leader talked about the physical abuse she had suffered as a child and how she believed the lie that she wasn’t loved. When she became a Christian it didn’t make everything completely better and perfect. It just made her loved. And this new awareness made the difference. She could believe and expect that her parents did love her, even though they couldn’t protect her. And she could forgive her abuser, which was the weirdest mystery of all.
Because of her faith, she could name the injustice done to her. Because of her faith, she could see the new life rising up in her.
Another student leader, who two years ago didn’t even believe, shared the moment of when she realized she had fallen short. She had not met someone else’s expectations. And because of her faith she found a space for confession and forgiveness. She gave an example to all of us of how and why we need forgiveness.
You are loved. And because of this you can hope and expect more.
Before we packed up on Sunday morning we did what’s called “the thankful box.” For about 40 minutes everyone said out loud what they are thankful for. Water fights. Victories and loses at mini golf and crab soccer. Hand motions of “Moose Moose.” The kitchen team. The neighbor who yelled at us when we sang Red Wagon too loud at the campfire. Moments of just pure fun. And in the midst of that comes this: “Thank you for being a place where I can join in. Thank you for the talks. Thank you for helping me feel safe.”
Thank you for helping us show these students in Tübingen, Germany, that God loves them. Thank you for praying and supporting our weekend away. It was an incredible weekend and a win for everyone.
June has been an incredibly full month for us. But with it, we have seen that faith is giving voice to the pain in our lives while not ignoring the new life.
And there are the remnants of cream and water and sunshine reminding us to expect the unexpected.
Longtime campus minister Beth Jarvis, who serves with Unterwegs in Tübingen, Germany, got a glimpse of the bigger picture when a chance remark from a passing church deacon helped her look at her group in a new way. Here’s her story:
In one moment it was there: a glimpse of the bigger picture.
It came from an unexpected source. A church deacon passed by me at the end of our last big event of the semester in the cafe room of one of our local church partners. The deacons and elders had been meeting upstairs through the whole event, which always makes me a little nervous because, well, we’re loud. I was taking out the trash and he stopped me to say, “Beth, I love seeing your group here. All these different students coming together. They look so happy. To me this is what heaven will look like.”
At that point, I too looked through the window at my own group and saw it through his eyes. There it was: heaven on earth.
In this one room, there was a lot happening and a lot about to happen. There was Vanessa, who has just finished her degree and is preparing to serve with Globalscope in Birmingham, England. She wants to be a part of making Birmingham “as it is in heaven.” There was Katharina, who has been part of the backbone of Unterwegs since the beginning. She’s always been there, arms open, ready to welcome anyone. To her God is big and God is love. And recently she’s added to that belief that God is also personal, interested in her. She recently joined four other German students and nine Georgia Tech students in a trip to other universities in Germany, praying and dreaming about planting a third and fourth Unterwegs in the coming years. To them, the future is big and wide and open because their God is big and wide and opening up His kingdom before them.
This picture of heaven on earth grows larger and larger. There’s Julia Kopp, who is loud and wonderful. She will come on staff with us in the fall. When asked what she liked about Unterwegs in her interview, she said, “Unterwegs is more than just the four walls of a building.” She wants to be a part of this movement and step into her full potential.
There’s Anna Blume, who was at that moment preparing to leave to serve. She is now at Auburn Christian Fellowship. She wants to know if full-time ministry is for her. She’s a little nervous about it, but inside her is a beautiful and strong woman minister. The strength with which she loves people is inspiring.
There was Max, who is dating Emily, my teammate. The love they have together for ministry is contagious. Max will join our team in April as a German intern and in the fall he will also go work at Auburn for a couple of months. He wants to see ministry in a different culture. He wants to learn what it is like to be a part of something not contained by one language, one culture, one city.
And in all these wonderful and unique people I see the future of Unterwegs.
There’s Manne goofing off with my teammate Erin. Erin will plant an Unterwegs in Freiburg, Germany, in the fall of 2016. In the meantime, she’s hanging out with Manne and sharing life with him. Manne is opening up so much, right now. I can no longer imagine Unterwegs without him. And I still don’t fully understand all that is happening and about to happen. Now Manne is asking about opportunities he might have to serve, to see God’s kingdom grow.
It is growing. We see this at Unterwegs and we show it to the students here, empowered by your love and prayers and support. Soon we are going to be adding three new international teammates: Julia; Raúl from Globalscope Spain; and Robin from Globalscope England. They are all joining us in September and I’m really excited to have an international team.
So, yes, as I looked through the window, the same window the deacon looked through when he decided to not get mad about the noise, this is what I saw. And what I see. I see an image of Heaven on earth. And it is just a glimpse of this bigger picture of what God is doing right now.
Beth Jarvis Silliman is the team leader of the Globalscope Tübingen campus ministry in Germany, which makes her pretty knowledgeable about meeting new people and developing relationships. Here she shares a story of meeting and making a new friend at Unterwegs, and how God has been working in that relationship:
Making new friends can be scary, but often this situation sneaks up on us. We find ourselves in a new location, new job, new church and suddenly we’re trying to remember the art of friendship. This is the place where many new students find themselves. In high school, friendships happened because everyone was from the same village. Now, at the University of Tübingen, you are one in 27,000 students. This means you can choose your friends, and this choice can be scary.
In my experience, the only thing that makes this less scary is if you’ve had good experiences in the past. This is the reason why I still sincerely want to meet new people who come to Tübingen every year. I’ve made great friendships in the past this way, and even though there may be some awkward moments initially, and there may be some rejections, I know that I will become friends with some new people. And we will form an “us” and this “us” will be a strong and powerful thing.
Globalscope campus minister Beth Silliman, in front in pink, and her good friend Laura, at left in white, pose with other friends from Unterwegs at the ministry’s end-of-the-year awards show in Tübingen, Germany.
Last October I met Laura in the university cafeteria. She was there by herself so we invited her to our table, which had become an Unterwegs table. And so she met Unterwegs that day. We hung out the next week. The next month, she came to our Thanksgiving dinner. We kept hanging out. And suddenly, there’s “us” singing in the Unterwegs Christmas choir. The friendship continued. Then there’s “us” making soup together for our Soup Party in March. There’s “us” hanging out on vacation with other Unterwegs students at a Christian retreat in August.
This October, Laura and I wanted to celebrate our friendship anniversary. We cooked dinner that night for another friend. That night Laura told me that earlier that day she had gone to that same cafeteria with other Unterwegs friends to meet new people.
“I thought, ‘How did Beth do this last year?’ And then I did it just like you did with me,” she said. “I met new people and they were really cool. And I think they are going to come to Unterwegs.”
And there’s the key: We don’t just try to meet new people because we’re all about numbers. We want to meet new people because we have experienced community. We know it to be good. And this encourages us to share it with others and to reproduce it every year in new and fun ways.
This is what I’ve learned from Laura and value in our friendship. It’s such a good friendship that it leads us both to keep responding, but not just to each other. We keep inviting others to join “us.” These pictures of “us” become a strong and powerful reminder that God is working. This continual friendship began first with Him, who called us into friendship. And because of this “us,” suddenly making new friends isn’t as scary.
A record turnout, an electric atmosphere and a wide variety of attendees contributed to a very successful fifth annual Thanksgiving feast at Unterwegs, the Globalscope campus ministry in Tübingen, Germany.
Tyler and Shalynn Crawford, campus ministers at Unterwegs, recently reported that the crowd of 140 included not only university students who have been coming to Unterwegs for years but also many first-timers, as well as friends from local German churches that support the ministry.
“There were more members of supporting churches present than ever before,” said Tyler. “One of them was so impressed with our event that he came up to me and put a 100 Euro bill in my hand, becoming a supporter right there on the spot!”
Activities at the dinner included a collection of canned goods that are donated to a low-cost grocery store that assists hungry families in Tübingen and Thanksgiving testimonies from four Unterwegs students.
“A freshman, two sophomores and a senior from Unterwegs all stood up to share with the group what they are thankful for,” said Tyler. “Thanksgiving at Unterwegs is really much more than just an event we do; it’s a cross section of the ministry itself.”
The biggest change in this year’s dinner was the location. In previous years it was held in the Unterwegs campus house and then, when it outgrew the house, in heated tents in the Unterwegs garden. This year, however, there was an even better solution.
“We moved it to the Kreuzkirche, a partner church in Tübingen that supports Shalynn and me,” said Tyler. “It’s even closer to campus than the Unterwegs house, it’s free, and there was much more room.
“The churches that we have been reaching out to for years now, churches where Unterwegs students have found an encompassing Christian community, are now reaching back to us,” added Tyler. “They are also being filled with students who may never have come into contact with a church otherwise. And for that we are very thankful!”
In an ironic twist to a year of fundraising by students in the Georgia Tech Christian Campus Fellowship for the Globalscope Germany team, campus minister Rick Harper received the most donations and last week earned a slap in the face with a fish taken from his own pond.
“It was a close battle, but in the end the people spoke and they chose Rick to be slapped,” said Jordan Kor, a member of CCF’s leadership team. “There were even fish scales stuck to his face afterwards!”
The fish slap fundraiser was the culmination of a year-long commitment made by the CCF senior leaders to raise at least $750 per month to help fund Unterwegs, the Globalscope campus ministry in Tubingen, Germany. The leaders have a long-time relationship with Tyler and Shalynn Crawford, members of the GS Germany team, GT graduates and former CCF leaders.
“Tyler and Shalynn were two especially influential people in the lives of many of us,” said Jordan. “Shalynn was an intern during our first year here at Georgia Tech. They are awesome people and we believe in Globalscope as a program. More than half of the members of my leadership group participated with CMF as GS exchange students for at least one semester during our years at GT.”
At their senior retreat last fall, the 17 senior CCF leaders decided to raise $750 per month for Unterwegs through personal monthly donations, fundraising activities and by participating in paid experiments in the university’s psychology department.
“We are proud to say that we made our goal every month,” said Jordan.
Fundraisers included a “hand slap” that raised $300 one month, a project that charged students for the opportunity to wax body hair from CCF member David Rorick and raised $250, and several donation dinners prepared by Rick Harper. Several anonymous donations also helped keep the project afloat.
The group’s commitment ended in April, so they wanted to go out in style with their most entertaining and innovative fundraiser yet, the fish slap. Four brave CCF staff members – Chris House, Marc Smith, Jeremy Lawler and Rick Harper – set up donation jars, and the students could vote for their choices for the recipient of the fish slap with their contributions.
“Overall this fundraiser raised $437!” said Jordan. “We had Nina Kalu-Orji, a sophomore regarded as the sweetest student in CCF, do the slap as planned, but she was too nice to get a good slap in, so Rick was slapped a second time by Meg Costello, who is known for packing a punch. He wasn’t too happy about that, as you can see in the video!”