Living outside the world of English

IMG_7064Hallo!  Ich bin Heather.  Ich komme aus den USA, und ich wohne in Deutschland. Ich bin verheiratet ohne Kinder.  (Hello! I am Heather.  I come from the USA, and I live in Germany.  I am married with no children.)

I spent July going to an intensive German course in order to acquire some basic German vocabulary.  The first couple of days we practiced introducing ourselves.  Without having studied German before, it felt really overwhelming!  I stumbled my way through, but during the following weeks, I found myself slowly improving.

Now that the course is done I’m not ready to have conversations in German, but I can at least say and understand basic things which is so much better than nothing at all.

In the meantime, Jeff has been focusing on getting everything having to do with our car in order, and he’s working on setting up our local banking.  In between, he’s been doing some German learning on CDs.

This is the first time we’re living in a country where English is not a national language.  In Kenya and South Africa, English was one of the national languages, so it was easy to get by without knowing one of the local languages. In Africa around 15+ countries have English as either a national language or a widely-used business language. (* Note: In these countries, English is typically not widely spoken outside of major cities, but it is often used in official documents, on road signs, in TV and radio programming, and on food labels.) 


English usage in Europe

But, in Europe, things are a bit different.  Not only is English not a national language in Germany, it’s only a national language in 3 European countries (the UK, Ireland and Malta).  While it is spoken widely across the continent, often it’s not in common usage on signs or official paperwork.

Here in Germany everything is in German – every government document, all of our banking paperwork, food labels, road signs – everything! Many German people know some English, which is really helpful for us, but there is little need for English usage IMG_7067outside of touristy areas.

I’ve been able to practice my German vocabulary often when we go shopping or when we visit government offices.  I’m still not able to understand very much, but I’m glad to have some basics.


08 2014

Welcome to the tripoint


 Willkommen im Dreiländereck/Bienvenue au trois frontières 

After meetings and some time near to some of our colleagues further north in Germany, we’ve finally made it to the place where we’ll be living.  We’re now far in the southwest of Germany just 20-30 minutes from the borders of France and Switzerland.  We’re so close to these borders that, yesterday, we visited a friend of ours in Switzerland, and, today, we visited a church in France.

This tripoint border with Germany, Switzerland and France (the three countries’ corner) is one of the many tripoints in Europe, but this is the only one in a major city.  It is a point not only where country borders meet, but also where peoples, cultures and languages all collide.  Within this region, several languages are spoken.  The standard versions of French, Swiss German and German (High German) are used officially in each respective country. These are the languages you’ll find, for example, on the street signs and official documents.


But, local dialects (languages) like Alemmanic, and perhaps even a little Alsatian or some regional French dialects, are common languages local people in this region speak to each other.  By this region, I mean, generally, the area within about a 65-80 Km (40-50 mile) radius from the tripoint.

640px-Continental_West_Germanic_languagesYes, there are many German dialects (languages) – not just one. And we’re not just talking local accents or a few local words.  These different dialects across the country are actually not all mutually intelligible! Linguists who distinguish languages primarily by mutual intelligibility, would probably classify many of these different German dialects as separate and distinct languages.  The same would apply to the French dialects as well.

This is our new home – the Dreiländereck!


06 2014

The diaspora – God’s people in His appointed place


Can you guess where this is?

Here’s a clue… it isn’t a photo I took in Africa.

* * *

The Old Testament records the fall of the Kingdom of Judah in 586 BC to the Babylonians.  Babylonian king Nebuchadnezzar forced the Jewish people to live in exile, leaving their homeland.  They became a displaced and scattered people known as the first Jewish diaspora.

Today, the term diaspora has come to refer to more than just the scattered Jewish community, but to any community that lives outside their homeland. The displacement sometimes happens by choice – perhaps because of employment, family or the desire to try something new. Other times difficulties in some people’s home areas force them to find refuge in other countries.  No matter the reason, diaspora communities can often represent opportunities for God to work because ultimately, He is the one who moves people where He wants them to be.

* * *

OK, back to that photo…

It’s a photo from one of the five church services held every Sunday at New Life Fellowship in…

…Dusseldorf, Germany.


This is a true international community representing more than 40 nations with services in five different languages!  It is a place where God has brought different diaspora communities together.  Some come from communities where they developed strong Christian faith.


Others come from countries where Christian faith may not have been permitted, and this community offers them their first chance to hear about Jesus.  Together, God has positioned them to  be a beacon of hope to a city in Germany.

The founding pastor of New Life has recognized this, and recently said in reference to German missionaries,  „Ihr habt der Welt geistlich viel gegeben. Jetzt kommt die Welt hierher“ (“You have given the world a lot spiritually. Now the world comes here “).  He said they he sees their church community playing a part in awakening the faith of the country of the Reformation, and encourages people in the church to pray daily for German people they know.

Because people from diaspora communities are already away from home and living cross-culturally, missions can be a natural connecting point.  And New Life also encourage church members to remember their home communities.  They support workers and projects in some of the countries where church members are from.  Through their involvement in global missions they also bring hope to communities all over the world.


I visited New Life with a Wycliffe colleague from a West African country and one from Germany.


Both were presenting Wycliffe Germany and sharing about Bible translation ministry during some of the services.  I was along just to experience what this church they had told me about was like.


We attended the English service, the French service and the German/English service.  We only missed the Spanish and Farsi services.

The French service had a large group of Congolese, so the song in this video (sung in Lingala – a trade language in Congo) was one that I could tell that the group enjoyed singing even more than the French songs!


During the main service all of us had a chance to share, including me.  Many people inquired about how they could become involved in some way in Bible translation ministry.  Wycliffe Germany is hoping to develop relationships with more diaspora churches like this one in Germany.  The unique experience of diaspora communities give them a special part to play in God’s global mission.

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06 2014

Connecting with Wycliffe Netherlands


Each year during the annual Europe area meetings, the Europe area staff connect with one of the local  Wycliffe organizations in Europe.  This year the team met with the staff of Wycliffe Netherlands for time to fellowship together, share information, and learn about what is happening with Wycliffe Netherlands.


The Wycliffe Netherlands Director, Bram van Grootheest, provided a full update including some of their challenges as an organization and some of the new strategies they are considering.


Wycliffe Bible Translators of the Netherlands is one of about 20 organizations in Europe that are affiliated with the Wycliffe Global Alliance.  Like many of the organizations that carry the Wycliffe name in their countries, Wycliffe Netherlands’ primary focus is advocating for and providing resources to Bible translation.

They engage with the church in the Netherlands by raising awareness of the need for Bible translation, in praying for Bible translation, in sending out people from the Netherlands as missionaries who serve Bible translation in some way, and they raise funds to support Bible translation related work.  They additionally provide training and care for all the missionaries they send out, and process financial gifts for Wycliffe missionaries and for projects they support.

Founded in 1970, Wycliffe Netherlands now has 10 home office staff, and more than 150 missionaries who serve on every inhabited continent. Learn more about Wycliffe Netherlands.

Jeff & I have been to this office before, back in July of 2011.  Click here to check out what Jeff did on that last visit.

What does the Europe Area do?


Our week of meetings with the Europe Area staff has come to an end, but you might be wondering, what does this team actually do?

Let me first go back to who the Wycliffe Global Alliance is. The Alliance is an organization of organizations which are all committed to seeing God’s Word accessible to those who still need it in their language.  These organizations include our home organization in the US – Wycliffe USA – and more than 100 other Alliance organization scattered across the globe. Read more here.

In addition to the global administration team, the Wycliffe Global Alliance has four Area teams:

They are responsible for connecting with Alliance organizations that are in their geographic areas. Each area team provides training, coaching and consulting to the organizations in their area enabling these organizations to fully participate in the global Bible translation movement.

Some of the more specific responsibilities of these area teams include:

  • Capacity building through coaching and training.
  • Facilitating networking and cooperation among the Alliance organizations in their area.
  • Supporting programs and initiatives that involve multiple Alliance organizations in their area.
  • Helping organizations to engage effectively in national and global contexts.
  • Developing new organizational partners in their area which helps to expand the network of organizations that are a part of the Alliance.

The Europe Area team, like all the other Area teams, does all of this for the about 20 Alliance organizations that are in Europe.


Europe Area team members include those who help the Alliance organizations in Europe with funding and finance, personnel, communications, and Information Technology (IT).

For the last number of years, Jeff and I both have been seconded by our home organization, Wycliffe USA, to  serve with the Wycliffe Global Alliance.  Jeff has served with the IT team of the Europe Area since mid-2010, but remotely until now. The Europe Area IT team that Jeff is part of provides computer support to nearly 20 Alliance organizations in Europe, and also does special projects for Alliance and other affiliated organizations in Africa.

I first served with the Alliance Africa Area, and then with the global administration team since the end of 2011.  (I get to attend the Europe area meetings as a spouse and partially as a representative of the global administration since only Jeff is officially assigned to them.)