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Renovating a Ceiling and Breaking Down Walls

Tyler and Shalynn Crawford serve in the university city of Tübingen, Germany where they were originally part of our campus ministry there called Unterwegs. During those years working with college students, the Crawfords formed a ministry partnership with the Kreuzkirche, a local church in Tübingen. The church supports the work of Unterwegs and, in 2020, invited the Crawfords to expand their work beyond university students and into new age groups. Here Tyler shares how a space at the church has impacted people in unexpected ways.

One of the first projects we took on in our current roles was changing the front room of the church building we look after from a "dead corner" into the Cafe Foyer, a space that people from inside the church and out would find welcoming.

The use of this space has grown since we gave the corner a makeover in 2021 - a lot. Prayer groups meet there in the early morning, kids from the neighborhood come there to do homework in the afternoon, and student meetups and multi-generational game nights go until late.

The use of the Cafe Foyer has increased to such a level that some of the structural problems in the building - beyond what we can fix with paint and furniture - were becoming apparent. In addition to being too warm in the summer and uncomfortably cold in the winter, the acoustics of the room were difficult for the growing groups meeting there. A drywall ceiling and a tile floor made it acoustically difficult to understand the person you were talking to if another group was chatting beside you - or if kids were playing nearby.

So, with financing from our local church partner, two church volunteers and I took two weeks in February to make the space better by putting in a new, insulated, sound-absorbing ceiling.


Ministry with power tools

"When did you learn to do handiwork like this?" asked Sam on one of the first days of construction.

"It was in the church I grew up in. My dad had a workshop in our basement with a lot of power tools, but I was never allowed to use them. It always made me so mad. I finally got my chance to use power tools when our youth pastor took us to the Appalachian Service Project, fixing homes for people who didn't have the financial means for repairs. Someone finally put a drill and a saw in my hand, and I was able to use them to serve others."

Sam took careful note of the story.

The next day, my son Finn came by from home, right next door, to check on the state of the construction site. Sam spotted him eyeing the tools and, with the story from the day before still in his mind, asked him: "Finn, do you want to try drilling with your dad?"

Finn was nervous about the (very) loud noise of the drill and shook his head "no," but Sam didn't give up. "Well, how about you go up the ladder with your dad and put these ceiling anchors in the holes we've already drilled?"

That was a task that Finn was up for. Up the ladder the both of us went, working as a construction team of two: Finn putting the anchors where Sam had drilled, and me hammering them into the ceiling, working together to fill those little empty spaces with something that will hold for years to come.


This place is an anchor point for me

Sitting in the newly-finished cafe last week, after a few hours of giving out fresh-baked brownies to any visitors who wanted to partake, I was about the turn off the lights and head home when a mother, picking up her child from daycare in the church right before closing time, came by.

She knows the cafe well. She's not the type to come to a Sunday morning church service, but thanks to the daycare and the cafe in the church building, she spends more time in the church than most Sunday-only visitors.

"The new ceiling looks good," she said. "It looked like it was a lot of work."

"Thanks, it was. There are a lot of brownies left. Would you like to take some with you?"

"Can I? I have my three other kids at home, and they would love some. It's been a stressful time for us the last few weeks, especially with the move."

"You moved?"

"Yeah, we're having to navigate a lot of difficulties right now. A lot is changing. That's why I'm so glad we have this place. Everything is shifting around us, but this place is an anchor point for me."


The best moments

These last few months, as often in the years that came before them, the best moments of ministry were not the ones we had planned - but rather those that came at unexpected times, with unexpected people.

These are the encounters we're in this ministry for: the ones that come in the middle of construction, or at the tail end of the day, just before closing. These are the people we're here for: those connecting to faith in Christ in ways that they didn't plan.

"My plans aren't your plans," the Lord declares in Isaiah 55, a characteristic statement of a God who works in mystery and reveals Himself in ways that surprise us.

We renovate a ceiling. God is breaking down walls.

church partnerships, Germany, Tyler Crawford

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