The WEST Institute Blog
Ministering in Cologne, Germany
By: Adam Teeter, 2013 Graduate
When we moved our family to Germany in the Autumn of 2016, there was only one thing certain for us - that God had led us there to serve the International Baptist Church of Cologne (IBCC). We left with little more than six months of savings, seven suitcases, and the plan to find work as an English Teacher in order to stay in Cologne. We knew this was a step of faith, but looking back, we had no idea just how much God was about to teach us about trusting Him!
After initially getting settled, we spent the first few months searching and applying for jobs. Despite all our efforts and prayers, we never received a sufficient job offer or a work permit to remain in Germany. As our initial 6-month visa was drawing to a close, we were unsure what was coming next. With about three weeks left, in a completely unexpected outpouring of love and generosity, our church in Laramie, Wyoming, decided to support us an additional 6 months so that I could attend a German language course and continue the search for employment. When all was said and done, we were still unable to find suitable employment, so we returned to the U.S. after 14 months.
That's just the story of how we were in Germany from a legal or immigration perspective, however. As I mentioned earlier, we were really in Germany to join the church family of IBCC. God allowed us to witness 15 baptisms, be a part of many existing small groups, minister to many families with new babies, start and lead a small groups for students, and start a new men's ministry. We also got to see Germans come to salvation in Christ, develop new bible teachers, see new believers begin to serve faithfully, and to see Muslims, Jews and Catholics challenged with the truth of salvation by faith in Jesus alone. I was also able to preach during a Sunday service, and be a part of the early stages of a new church plant in a neighboring city. God was so gracious to allow us to see all that He did throughout the year!
Personally, we experienced a lot of challenges and growth. Not having any sort of long term security or plan forced us to run to the Lord and His Word daily for sustenance and encouragement. It was strange to be in a situation were we had more training and experience than most of the church, but this allowed us to grow and use our gifting in ways previously unseen. The strengths and weaknesses of our introverted personalities were also put on display for us to learn and grow through. Housing is in great demand in Cologne, so we moved 5 different times in those 14 months with our 2-year-old son. As if that were not enough, my wife was also pregnant with a serious health issue. The German doctor told us we were "running into the sharp end of a knife," (a German expression), but God blessed us with a safe delivery and healthy baby girl despite all the odds, helping us appreciate that God is greater than man's wisdom and understanding.
Throughout the year, we had a strong sense of calling to remain and make disciples in Germany. We could see the field ripe for harvest and the huge lack of laborers. In a sense, we simply desired to be a part of all that God was doing around us, but the pesky question of a means to remain was always constant. I remember sitting on a bench outside the language school several mornings just reading and clinging to the challenges and encouragements found in Hebrews 11. I had nowhere else to turn. Sitting in a city of over 1 million people, there was only one place I could find hope to press on and wait on the Lord, and that was in running to His inspired Word and letting His Spirit minister peace to my heart. Through all these ups and downs and joys and pains, we experienced an abundance of God's grace and provision for our hearts and our external needs.
As alumni of The WEST Institute (TWI), both my wife and I have seen how God prepared us for this time in Germany through attending seminary. It was a great blessing to be able to attend as a couple, and receive a thorough and Biblically sound education that we both leaned on throughout our time there. TWI provided us many tools basic for church ministry, such as being able to study and teach the Bible and counsel and disciple individuals. While we experienced many uncomfortable situations in Germany, it was never because we felt ill equipped to do the work of the ministry.
Looking forward, God has moved us to continue to make disciples in whatever context we find ourselves. He has challenged our notions of necessity and brought us low to a place that only He can see us through. He has changed our worldview and taught us to trust in His wisdom rather than our own. Our desire is to do what He puts before us and encourage others to experience His love and graciousness and provision in a similar way. Many in the Western world have regular jobs and nice lifestyles and never put themselves in a place of real and true dependence on God. So if there's one challenge we could leave you with it would be this: in what ways are you making disciples? Where is God calling you to go to do this? Don't let a concern of provision or understanding keep you from experiencing God! As a wise pastor once said, "You cannot follow Jesus if you are standing still."