Ryan, LCC ’07, LCU ’12, and Elyse (Ferrarrio), LCU ’11, Dillon have been serving in Dresden, Germany, for over three years, but the path to going there is much longer than that, and begins with their time at LCU! Here is their story…
From the first semester of freshman year through to the final days in Seminary, the staff and faculty of Lincoln Christian opened our eyes not just to local needs, but also to how we might serve the “big C,” global Church. After a short internship for Ryan in Germany (kicked off through connections made at the annual missions week) and a full six months in Jena, Germany, as a part of Elyse’s intercultural studies program, we knew that the place formerly known as East Germany was the place that God was calling us to serve His Church.
When looked at separately from the current, united country of Germany, the former German Democratic Republic is one of the most atheistic regions in the whole world. In one study, only 8% of those surveyed affirmed that they believe in a personal God, whereas 46% stated that they do not believe in God and never have. When looking at those under the age of 28, the percentage of those who do not believe jumps to 71%. There are so many factors playing into this religious climate; the world wars, the collapse of the credibility of the state church, the total destruction of Dresden in 1945, and decades of communist control and oppression of religion. But, that is the past, and we want to help Dresdeners tell a new story for their future!
We’ve been serving at a church that has been here for 120 years. It, and other churches, are doing great work in the city, and yet, out of a population of over a half million people, there are only a few thousand members at all these churches, combined. With around 200 members, the church where we serve, called “Forum Hoffnung,” or “Forum of Hope,” is one of the largest in town.
Dresden needs more churches, but we also want to see the existing churches grow! So, how do you reach out to a generation of people who think they know what religion is and have rejected it without having had any real interaction with people who do believe in God and attend vibrant churches? That’s a question that churches have been asking here for a long time. We don’t claim to have the answers, but we are here to, hopefully, introduce some new ideas and new perspectives on missions in eastern Germany.
Through our work, we want to help create spaces where Christians and non-Christians can meet in natural, neutral settings — spaces where they can experience the ups and downs of life together, where non-Christians feel just as loved, welcomed, and a part of the group as anyone else, and where Christians can be free to share their experiences with the Christian story of the world and how it has shaped and changed them. Many people would not feel comfortable going into a church building, or into a private home, so rather than expecting them to come to us, we want to go to them, to the spaces where they naturally live and get together.
We are praying that God will bless our final preparations and support-raising, in order to open up a Cafe / Community Center this coming summer! We’ll have lots of events for families, concerts, open mic nights, and worship services. We’ll share good coffee and meals together, and find out how we can serve our neighborhood, as well.
You can find out more about us and our ministry at RyanAndElyseDillon.com, and about our sending organization Kontaktmission at GoKMUSA.org, or you can reach us directly at firstname.lastname@example.org. Thanks for reading, and we appreciate your prayers for our ministry!