by Lydia Whitley
Church Planter, Community Church, Berlin, Germany
As we rode the bus away from IBC Stuttgart, our oldest son excitedly told us about all the toys, snacks, and new friends he made at church that day. I shared his excitement as I reflected on all the friends, old and new, I saw that day too …
Our Filipino auntie who cooked meals for us when our son was born, our Ghanian brother who teaches children about Jesus each week, our American sister who opens up her home for good food and good conversation, our Iranian uncle who prays fervently on our behalf, our German sister who mails us encouraging notes each month….
Whenever we visit IBC Stuttgart, it feels like coming home.
Our journey with IBC churches began in 2015 when my husband and I moved to Germany to join IBC Stuttgart’s staff. We felt called to serve somewhere in post-Christian Europe, and the Lord abundantly provided us with an opportunity to serve Him in Stuttgart. Over the next four and a half years, Stuttgart became more than an opportunity, but a home, and the people of IBC became our family. While we loved and served the people of IBCS, they loved and served us so much more!
In the Gospels, Jesus often warned His friends that the price of following Him on this earth would be costly. Yet, He also consistently comforted them, reassuring them that any sacrifice made in order to follow Him would be worth it. For example, Jesus said, “And everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or children or lands, for my name’s sake, will receive a hundredfold and will inherit eternal life” (Matthew19:29, ESV).
Many of us who serve in IBC churches gave up houses, cars, and other possessions in our countries of origin. We say frequent good-byes to family, friends, and churches we love in order to participate in Jesus’ work in different parts of the globe. Yet, despite all we give up, how much more does God graciously give us in return? He gives us a uniquely beautiful family of faith in our local churches, as well as in our network of churches through the IBC.
We often speak of how international churches show a glimpse of heavenly worship, when people of all nations, tribes, and tongues stand united, praising Jesus together (Revelation 7:9-10). Our international churches also give us a snapshot of a future heavenly home, as people from all backgrounds become our faith family.
In 2019, our family moved to Bremen to pursue an apprenticeship in church planting. Even though we served at a German free-evangelical church during those two years, our relationship with IBC churches did not end. During an online meeting about church multiplication, we connected with Scott Corwin at IBC Berlin. As we shared our vision for more international churches in Germany, he shared his church’s vision for more international churches in Berlin.
In 2022, we moved to Berlin. Again, we felt overwhelmed with God’s provision through the blessing of yet another IBC congregation. Once again women and men from many different nations helped us move, cooked meals, made sure our paperwork and finances were in order, prayed for us, and celebrated our efforts as we planted Community Church in the eastern part of the city.
Let me briefly return to that bus ride a few weeks ago with my son. When I asked him if he remembered why we came to IBC Stuttgart in the first place, naturally he thought the purpose of the ACM was to play with friends and eat snacks. That makes sense for a four-year-old.
So, I clarified by explaining that IBC Stuttgart, IBC Berlin, and Community Church all work together. And, we work together with even more churches like ours. Even though these churches are in lots of different places, we all love Jesus and promise to love each other. I told my son that in the week we were in Stuttgart, we had spent time with family, our church family.
What joy it is to celebrate our family of churches within the IBC, a blessing from God!