My husband and I have been working with a Contact Café by the nehemia team for 2,5 years now.
We meet every Thursday at 4.30 pm to give Germans and refugees an opportunity to get to know each other, have tea, conversations, intercultural inputs or to go on a faith journey. This gave me the chance to get to know some refugees and it really enriched my life. My husband and I made many new friends and learned a lot. Here are a few insights.
Hospitality and appreciation
We are invited to the house of Abu and Um D. Their table is packed with food to spoil us with their Arabic specialties. We eat until we are about to burst. When we leave, they pack more delicious food for us to take home. Even though they have so little themselves, they give to us plenty. I realize their hospitality is their way of showing appreciation of us. Both body and soul benefit from appreciation. They want to honour us, thus the abundance. I think about my own hospitality towards my guests and walk home, full, contemplative and a little ashamed.
Faith is a matter of heart not shape
One evening we are sitting together with Iranian friends who show interest in Christian faith and we are having a quiche. A. points out that she didn’t add any ham so that the Muslims could have it. M. who became Christian not too long ago answers in broken German: „But why? I understand what we eat is not sin. Only the things in our heart can become sinful. So I now eat everything.“
Relationships are more important than work and play
„To help a friend is more important than my personal plans.“ This is a motto many of our refugee friends live by. We Germans are pretty good at planning but it gets tricky for us if somebody needs help unexpectedly: It’s August, during summer break and we need help with a complex process of moving. Most of our native friends are either on holiday, at weddings or tired from their day’s work – all understandable. What should we do? Call a moving company? I decide to call A., our Syrian friend and ask if he could help. I will never forget his answer: „We are ready!“ He didn’t just offer his own help immediately, no, he even calls several friends to come and help on the very same day to carry boxes and furniture on a hot summer day. I can count on my Syrian friends.
Faith needs to be lived
There is a knock on our door. A close Kurdish friend has a few questions. He asks what he should tell his friend who is Muslim and wants to become a Christian. Is that even possible? What do you need to do? What religious rules need to be followed? How should one pray? We try to answer as well as we can. Suddenly he cannot hold it back anymore: he is the one who wants to go on a journey to follow Jesus. „I have been watching you for two years and I have seen so many things in your lives that caught my attention. The way you are living is real, you care about me and my family. In Islam I see a lot of hypocrisy.“ We were amazed, gave each other big hugs and prayed together at our dinner table.
There is always room for one more person
A Syrian couple we know from nehemia’s Contact Café is living in a 3,5 room apartment in Nuremberg together with their three kids. A little cramped but it works. The husband, A., is the oldest in his family and has some relatives in Germany. Soon after the approval of their applications for asylum his brother and sister moved in with him, bringing their own families. There are now 14 people living in his apartment. In spite of the limited space A.’s family hosts all those people for several months so that the family can be together again. When asked how they handle the lack of room and privacy, they simply say: „Of course we help our family. I am the oldest, I am responsible for my brother and sister.“