As you might know, I was born in Germany to a U.S. Army family and have been a world traveller in some capacity ever since. I enjoy going on adventures, exploring places, trying foods, appreciating art, practicing languages, experiencing exciting modes of transportation, learning about other cultures’ customs and lifestyles, meeting new people, and most of all, hearing and telling stories. That’s not a unique affection, I know — especially for someone from Germany — but the reason why I love to travel and interact with diverse people is what’s significant. I’m driven not just by wanderlust, but by the gospel of Jesus and what He’s done in my life. I go “into all the world” to share my story in hopes that I can introduce people to Him and spread the glory of His goodness. I go to share the love that He’s shown to me with other people so they’ll know how much they are loved, too. I go to share fellowship, community, and brotherhood with other believers around the globe who are in fact my siblings in Christ no matter how different we seem otherwise. I go, as I’ve learned from experience, to be blessed by others more than I can possibly bless them. The thing about the Great Commission is: it’s not just a command, but a privilege.
And so, as an adult I have traveled to exotic places like Haiti and Nepal to work with fellow Christians in their communities. This is the picture you usually envision when you think of missions; house churches in developing nations defying the odds of poverty and persecution to take care of people and preach the good news of Jesus Christ. We show up as strangers, accept their humbling hospitality, and go home amazed at the miracles and many salvations we witnessed. Hence, it’s adventurous and rewarding to work among unreached nations in the Third World. But the truth is, those aren’t the only places to find unreached people groups. In this day and age, in this post-Christian era, the privileged places I have called home are just as lost.
When I was presented with an opportunity to go on a mission trip to Germany in 2012, I realized I had been away from my birthplace and childhood home for seventeen years. I’m not entirely sure why that is. I’ve always loved Germany and I miss it every day. But perhaps part of the reason is that I’ve rarely thought of it as a mission field. After all, I share my birthplace with the Reformation! It’s easy to see the land’s Christian heritage, from its prolific religious art and music to its landmark cathedrals. I’d been spending my trips in places that “needed” missionaries, like Third World countries and poor neighborhoods or disaster zones in the United States. But tradition is not faith. Knowing who Jesus is and knowing Him personally are two different things; and to most Germans, He has become little more than an art figure. As of 2011, about 50% of Germans nominally self-identify as either Catholic or Lutheran (they file as such on their tax forms), but that number is rapidly falling (as it is in the United States) and only 3% percent claimed to be committed Christians in 2009. Some missions organizations define a nation as “unreached” if it’s less than 2% evangelical Christian. Chances are, the current statistics of Germany would put it in that category. Germany is a post-Christian society where religion is mistrusted and it needs the gospel desperately.
I was unaware of that reality as a child, but the gravity and sadness of it recently came crashing down on my heart and I was compelled to go back. So I joined that trip with LifeWay to work with International Mission Board missionaries in Brühl, Germany in October 2012. The Evangelische Freikirche Brühl pastored by that mission team has seen challenges such as political opposition and fluctuating membership ever since its start. Yet they endure and press on, forming personal relationships with neighbors and business-owners to introduce them to Jesus and build a community of believers. We were there to assist and multiply that mission for a short time; to help meet and connect new people to their church community and to aid in their market festival outreach. Ministry in Germany is hard. You might not think so, considering it’s a First-World nation with a relatable western culture and the conveniences we’re used to. But you don’t typically see multitudes of salvations, miracle healings, or cast-out devils in Europe as often as you might in Asia. Evangelism takes a while there; Germans are quick to discuss politics or religion from an objective vantage point, but steady relationship is a requirement for most of them to be vulnerable about their personal needs, beliefs, and feelings.
By God’s providence, I happen to be particularly well-suited to relate to German people and culture. Going back was like a full-circle experience for me; I realized that many of my quirky habits, preferences, pet peeves, values, affections, and thinking patterns are not so weird after all; they’re totally normal in Germany. In fact, I likely picked them up there during my formative years. As a missionary in the Third World, I’m a stranger. In Germany, I’m home. So beyond just loving the land and locals, I feel I have a God-given responsibility to return again and will be doing so this October. I look forward to reuniting with friends and family there in Brühl; mutually encouraging fellow believers, continuing relationships in town, engaging the community at the Hubertusmarkt festival, and sharing love with precious people I meet as I walk prayerfully through the beautiful and charming city.
It’s tough spiritual soil, so will you pray for receptive hearts and a great harvest? It’s often discouraging for the church there; will you pray for peace, joy, perseverance, and boldness? It’s expensive for me to go — you knew this part was coming — will you support my trip financially? I’ve got $700 left to raise to cover the trip. You can donate here, slide me some cash, or make out a check to LifeWay with “Bucky – Germany 2014” in the note. There may be some chocolate in the deal for you.
Thank you so much for donating, praying, and/or simply reading this post. If you’re not a Christian, I hope you’ve been inspired to wonder why someone would go to such lengths to share his faith with people. If you are a Christian, I hope you’ve been encouraged to yield to God’s plan in your life. Joining the mission of Jesus Christ is worth everything.