In October 2019, a few months before COVID-19 was even on the news, Converge International Fellowship’s founding pastor had moved back to the U.S. and an interim who we expected to stay for a few months had arrived. Thankfully, the pastor couple were given a year-long visa to stay, otherwise when March 2020 came along, we probably would have been without a pastor and with not much chance of one being able to come. We are thankful that they were also able to stay for much of 2020, helping us as a church through the COVID-19 pandemic and the lockdown. In November 2020, through God’s guidance, we did find another interim to get us through the next lockdown in Germany.
While the COVID-19 pandemic has had a negative influence on our lives, we have also seen some incredible opportunities for ministry within the church and outreach to the community. Before lockdown occurred we were doing very little on-line. We had had one growth group which had met in a hybrid mode in 2019 just because of the distance people would have to travel on a winter’s evening. Even then though, the focus was mostly on the people in the room and not on those on-line. When the lockdown hit in March of 2020, we were quick to move everything on-line. There were some initial reservations from some people, but even they were impressed with how well it worked. Through the on-line groups and services we were often able to reach out to people who would not have the opportunity otherwise to attend.
Moreover, there were opportunities to reach out to the community of Darmstadt. With lockdown in full force, an organization feeding the homeless around the main train station in Darmstadt could no longer provide that service. Working together with another church in the area, CIF was able to step in to provide a ministry to cook meals and distribute them to the homeless. In the few months that we have been doing this, relationships with the homeless are being built up and opportunities to witness to the people are developing.
During lockdown, we could no longer meet in the church building we rented or use their baptistery as the German church had turned the sanctuary almost into a television studio for their on-line service. The sound and light systems in the baptistery would not have dealt with water very well, although it might have been an electrifying baptism. Instead we moved the baptism into the open. As the sun was setting over a local lake, we gathered to celebrate the baptism of three people from our congregation. But, one other also responded like the Ethiopian eunuch – “Here is water what is to stop me being baptized?” It was a celebration that the church may never have experienced if we had not been in lockdown.
Now, we have found our new pastor and COVID-19 is still causing problems. We pray that travel restriction between South Africa and Germany will soon be removed so that Pastor Chris Horn and his family will be able fly to Germany soon to minister in the next phase in the life of Converge International Fellowship, Darmstadt.