We have the immense honor of supporting our friend Vanessa as she prepares and adventures into an exciting time of life: campus ministry in England! Vanessa is one of the sweetest humans you would ever meet. When Loren and I were in Europe, we visited our friend Tony in Germany; he introduced us to this lovely new friend Vanessa! She shares parts of her story and how Jesus grabbed her attention and changed the course of her life. Help me welcome the beautiful Vanessa with open arms and take a moment to pray about supporting this beautiful mission.
I am obviously not Natalie – I have much shorter hair and while reading this you can image me speaking in a slightly British-mixed with German voice. Who am I then? I'm German student who has just graduated with a M.A. in Literature and Culture Theory (maybe you can guess my favorite book by the beginning of this post) and is preparing to move to Birmingham in England to work for a campus ministry called Canvas – part of an American organization called Globalscope. Some of you might have an idea what campus ministry involves, others will probably have no idea what I am talking about.
I have thought about how best to explain what we do over the past few days: I could list all the facts of the events we put on weekly as a team of ministers in England, tell you how many students we have that first get a glimpse of what Jesus means to us and could mean to them in our community or give you some numbers of baptisms that happened and free meals were served over the past few years. But I have decided not to do that. Why? Because those things do not really tell you much about Canvas. What I will tell you is some of my own story with the sister ministry in Germany and how I ended up wanting to work for Canvas. Many similar stories exist at Canvas and the Globalscopes across all countries that we serve in.
I grew up in a semi-Christian home in the North of Germany, by the time I got to college, I wouldn't have thought of calling myself Christian ever. It mostly stayed that way during my undergrad – I had just lost my mother to cancer, I was far away from home, but I had friends and a boyfriend. I thought that would be enough – but something was missing. It took until some of those relationships broke up that I met one of the campus ministers here in Tübingen. Mind you, I had met them before, but I never wanted to talk to those “weird Christians”. I thought all they would want to do is beat bible verses into me, so I would finally become Christian again – spoiler alert: that didn't happen! Instead I met a loving friend and mentor who became someone I could trust and talk to about anything. She never made me talk about faith unless I wanted to, but through her actions I felt that there was a greater love out there. So, I began being involved in the ministry more and found a space where I was comfortable enough to explore my faith and ask questions. Questions like: am I ever going to feel okay about my mum passing away? How can I improve the friendships and other relationships that I am a part of? And also: where does Jesus fit into all of this? About a year after joining the ministry I had a baptism remembrance service (okay, you got me – that's one baptism- ish thing I am telling you about) and started connecting with a local church that is loosely linked to the campus ministry here. I got to grow in leadership positions both there and in the ministry to come to today: waiting to be sent to England to become that person that first welcomed me into the community and opened up the possibility for all this to happen.
I know there are stories like mine waiting to be uncovered in England. When I think of the students there, I see myself shyly walking through those doors for the first time not quite knowing what to expect. It makes me hope that I can be a friend to them and share some of what has been given to me with them. I hope that God may be able to spread his kingdom through our work in Birmingham.
Lastly, I have one thing to ask, dear reader. You can go away from this blog post with a good luck wish for me – and that is absolutely fine. But there is one thing I still need to go to England: financial support. Our work at the ministry is provided for by monthly and one-off donations by people of many different backgrounds. I am currently at about 40% of my needed budget and a month away from the beginning of the school year in England. So, if you've read this and would like to get in touch with me about partnering over the next year, sign up for my newsletter so I can contact you via email to talk about this some more: click here. If you just want to give, you can do so HERE – I hope we might be able to work together to bring God's love to Birmingham.