Skip to main content

Notebook Lifestyle

Clemens Bilan/AFP/Getty Images

An Iranian refugee attends a Christian class in Germany. (Clemens Bilan/AFP/Getty Images)

Lifestyle

Miracles in Munich

Some Afghans seeking asylum in Germany have found refuge in Jesus, too 

On an August Sunday afternoon, the streets of central Munich, Germany, showed signs of approaching Oktoberfest: Huge beer tents filled the festival grounds and hundreds of temporary cell towers were in place to support the two-week influx of 7 million visitors.

Two streets away, at the Freie Evangelische Gemeinde (Free Evangelical Church, or FEG), there were signs of another influx to Germany: refugees. As I walked upstairs, the bustle and aroma of coffee from the fellowship hour gave way to quiet in a room where Afghan refugees meet each week to study the Bible in Farsi.

Welcoming 1.6 million asylum-seekers since 2015 has strained the German social system, but it has also been a God-delivered opportunity for FEG to reach part of the refugee population.

In 2015, as the first wave of refugees arrived, two Afghan men came looking for a Persian church that had once met in the building. That community had left, but theology student Jonathan Case, 30, offered to read the Bible with the men. They explained how they had converted to Christianity, left home because of attacks from family members, and ended up as refugees. Now they wanted to learn more about their new faith. With one man translating for the other, they read the first chapter of the Gospel of Mark.

Each Sunday, the men returned. Soon they brought other Afghans. “The first time we had visitors, we read Matthew 23, when Jesus calms the storm and the disciples say, ‘Who is this man who can do this?’” recounted Thomas Giebel, 50, an IT professional who co-leads the study with Case. “The Muslims said the same: ‘We also want to know, who is this man?’ I said, ‘Come next week, and we’ll talk about who Jesus is.’”

Share this article with friends.

Jay Janner/Austin American-Statesman via AP

Gary Floyd, a resident of the Community First Village, sweeps the steps of his house. (Jay Janner/Austin American-Statesman via AP)

Lifestyle

Building a community

A Texas program tries to be a family for the Chronically homeless without requiring changes in behavior

Alan Graham is a tough old man with a big heart for sufferers. He lives with his black lab Franny (named after Francis of Assisi) in a tiny house in the homeless village he founded. Wearing a ball cap, blue button-up shirt, glasses, and a silver crucifix necklace, he makes his rounds through the village, greeting residents by name. One July afternoon, he stopped to greet a white-haired woman and her two fluffy dogs running underfoot.

“Are you making enough for everybody?” he called to an African-American man grilling pork chops on his front porch.

In his mid-60s, Graham has seen a lot. Twenty years ago, he started going to the streets to feed the homeless. Along with five friends, he started a food truck ministry called Mobile Loaves & Fishes (MLF) in 1998 with only a minivan. The ministry gives its 19,000-plus volunteers a chance to do something toward the visible problem of homelessness in Austin, Texas. 

In January 2018, the city of Austin (population 950,715) identified 2,147 homeless people living in shelters or on the streets, a 5 percent increase from the previous year. 

To address the problem, the city partnered with local nonprofit Ending Community Homelessness Coalition (ECHO) to develop Austin’s Action Plan to End Homelessness in February 2018. Organizations like the Salvation Army, Austin Resource Center for the Homeless, and Caritas of Austin work together to provide a range of services and programs to match individuals with permanent housing. But Austin residents still cannot go far without seeing grocery carts stuffed with belongings lined up under bridges and people with cardboard signs panhandling at intersections. 

Though he partners with the city to manage information about the homeless and receives referrals from them, Alan Graham believes, ultimately, government efforts to help the homeless are ineffective because they misdiagnose the cause of the problem: He says his Christian convictions and years of interacting with homeless individuals have shown him homelessness comes from a “profound and catastrophic loss of family.” 

Share this article with friends.

Jay Janner/Austin American-Statesman via AP

Gary Floyd, a resident of the Community First Village, sweeps the steps of his house. (Jay Janner/Austin American-Statesman via AP)

Lifestyle

Building a community

A Texas program tries to be a family for the Chronically homeless without requiring changes in behavior

Alan Graham is a tough old man with a big heart for sufferers. He lives with his black lab Franny (named after Francis of Assisi) in a tiny house in the homeless village he founded. Wearing a ball cap, blue button-up shirt, glasses, and a silver crucifix necklace, he makes his rounds through the village, greeting residents by name. One July afternoon, he stopped to greet a white-haired woman and her two fluffy dogs running underfoot.

“Are you making enough for everybody?” he called to an African-American man grilling pork chops on his front porch.

In his mid-60s, Graham has seen a lot. Twenty years ago, he started going to the streets to feed the homeless. Along with five friends, he started a food truck ministry called Mobile Loaves & Fishes (MLF) in 1998 with only a minivan. The ministry gives its 19,000-plus volunteers a chance to do something toward the visible problem of homelessness in Austin, Texas. 

In January 2018, the city of Austin (population 950,715) identified 2,147 homeless people living in shelters or on the streets, a 5 percent increase from the previous year. 

To address the problem, the city partnered with local nonprofit Ending Community Homelessness Coalition (ECHO) to develop Austin’s Action Plan to End Homelessness in February 2018. Organizations like the Salvation Army, Austin Resource Center for the Homeless, and Caritas of Austin work together to provide a range of services and programs to match individuals with permanent housing. But Austin residents still cannot go far without seeing grocery carts stuffed with belongings lined up under bridges and people with cardboard signs panhandling at intersections. 

Though he partners with the city to manage information about the homeless and receives referrals from them, Alan Graham believes, ultimately, government efforts to help the homeless are ineffective because they misdiagnose the cause of the problem: He says his Christian convictions and years of interacting with homeless individuals have shown him homelessness comes from a “profound and catastrophic loss of family.” 

Share this article with friends.

Pages