German Studies Chapel

Anni Kenyon ’19
German Studies Section

In the summer of 2018, I interned at the Berliner Stadtmission (Berlin City Mission) for four weeks. Having spent the prior three years learning how to communicate well in the German language, I was shocked to discover that one of the most powerful lessons that I learned occurred not through the presence of words, but rather through their absence.

We worked with refugee youth and their families and thus had a wide range of nationalities represented: American, German, Palestinian, Bosnian, and even Ukrainian. I became frustrated and disappointed in my first week because I wanted and expected to engage well with the kids and to hear the stories of their parents and older siblings. But, again and again, I would run across the problem of struggling with the right words or not being understood once I had found them.

I had met this young mom early on in the week and we would interact a little bit each day, primarily through body language and hand motions because she could not speak much German. On a Friday evening, we had a picnic for all the families. During the meal, she caught my attention and gestured down the table. Her youngest son, who was less than one year old and had been eating a spaghetti-like dish. Red sauce covered his face from his neck all the way up to his eyebrows. It was so ridiculous that we began to laugh and soon the whole table joined in as well. Later, as she cleaned her son, it dawned on me that despite our lack of verbal conversation, she had specifically sought out my attention to allow me to enjoy this moment with her. If I had just given up from frustration earlier in the week, then I would have missed this priceless moment. In this small encounter, the Lord showed and encouraged me that even when I struggle, He still uses me. He uses our weaknesses to teach us that we cannot control everything or be perfect.