Church at the Lake

Photo: Car is full of our belongings as we move to our new home.
Moving
September 1, 2020
What are you afraid of?
September 10, 2021

Each week we have outdoor church services at a local lake. Regardless of the weather, we are teaching the Bible and praising Jesus.

 

We have been in our new home in Ausserfern for eight months now. When we moved right before school started, we had a brief window without Corona restrictions. For a while it seemed like the mountains and the distance to the next larger community would keep the pandemic out. But the lockdowns and social distancing reached us too.

Ausserfern has 33,000 people, living in 37 villages spread across an area larger than Kitsap County in Washington. We live in Lechaschau. It is one of the larger villages with about 2000 people. Ausserfern is a mountainous region and includes Germany's highest mountain. Tourism is an important industry in the area, and the travel bans have hit the economy hard. We've been trying to get into the community and get to know our neighbors, but it is challenging as everyone is trying to limit their contact to others. Pray for our neighbors Wolfgang and Iris. They are also new to the area. They don't usually attend church, but we invited them to our church service at the lake, and they happily came.

The elementary school here has 80 kids. All the classes are mixed grades. Ruben is in the second grade, but he is together with grades 1-4. Wesley is in Kindergarten this year and is looking forward to going to "real school". Tabita is teaching the first grade at a school in the next town. She has a lot of migration background kids in her class, and can draw on her experience teaching German as a second language. Gordy is also teaching at the school this year. He teaches religion for five high school students that signed up for evangelical Christianity.

 

The Church at the Lake

Since February, our church has been meeting outdoors at a local lake. There are strict guidelines for indoor meetings, but outdoors we have more flexibility. We also have a more beautiful meeting place than the most elaborate cathedrals.

Getting outdoors also makes us more visible. We have had several visitors who noticed us while out walking their dog or getting fresh air. One of the visitors was the head of the local fishing club. This was an important meeting because the fishing club has leased the whole lake from April-October! He was very welcoming and encouraged us to continue to meet. He says we won't scare the fish and the music is a welcome addition!

When we started there was snow on the ground and a few times it started to briefly snow during the service. The congregation can just bundle up if it gets cold, but it is really difficult for the guitar players. Amazingly, however, we have been able to meet each week without having to cancel for weather. Pray for this coming Sunday. We have a forecast of freezing temperatures and rain.

 
 

As wonderful as the lake is, we can't continue to meet there indefinitely. We have been praying for a permanent location where we can meet Sundays and during the week. Finally, we have found the perfect location.

For hundreds of years there was a Franciscan monastery in the largest town in Ausserfern. Irish monks had initially evangelized the valley over a thousand years ago. But the monks have now left. The last remaining Franciscans left the area 5 years ago. The monastery has sat empty since then, including this community theatre building. It has a large stage and room for 120 visitors in the auditorium. It also has several side rooms for Sunday school classes or seminars. There is even a small bowling alley in the basement! (Unfortunately, we probably won't keep that.)

Over the last five years there have been discussions pursuing the possibility of purchasing the theatre for the evangelical community in Ausserfern. Our small group could never afford to buy a building on our own. But a former church planter who now specializes in helping churches get buildings has put an offer on the property on our behalf.

The building will be partly financed through renting out to other groups and we as a church have the responsibility to pay monthly rent. It is a hefty sum for our small group, and more than we typically received monthly in the previous years. We believe that God is growing his church and having a place to meet is an important part of that. We asked the church members to prayerfully consider how much they are ready to give to the church in Ausserfern, and we received commitments to cover the rent plus the other ministry expenses that we have budgeted. It is great to see the community coming together and giving sacrificially to reach the people of Ausserfern!

The building needs to be renovated, so we will remain at the lake throughout the summer. We plan on a grand opening in fall. Until then, we have a lot of work as a community defining who we are as a group, shaping how we imagine ministry and preparing for growth.