Jess In Berlin

Moving is tough at the best of times. When I moved abroad during Covid there were vaccinations to get, housing markets to navigate, visas to apply for; it felt hugely overwhelming. On top of that was the emotional stress of not knowing anyone, made more intense by my course switching to and from online teaching depending on the Covid rates. This was my experience as I moved from the UK to Berlin last September to start my Erasmus year abroad, the third year of my Graphic Design undergraduate course.

I never saw myself as the type of person who would ever move abroad. The number of unknowns, including navigating German as a new language, meant it was something that intimidated me as much as it excited me. However, as I’ve trusted God with every aspect of my life, from the practical to the emotional, it has only magnified how much God can and will provide for me. 

In a last-minute rush to get some accommodation two weeks before my university course started, I messaged the New Ground church plant here in Berlin – Welcome Church. I spent my teens in a Newfrontiers church and I thought joining a similar church might provide some familiarity away from home. A complete stranger invited me to stay in their spare room for a month. It was such an answer to prayer and just the beginning of God providing for me in practical ways here. After that first month, I faced the challenge of accommodation hunting again, in a city where demand is so high that you need to reply to an advert within 5 minutes of it being posted to even be considered. But again, I saw my prayers answered through the church community, as someone was looking to rent their room out for a few months at the exact time I needed it.

When it came to my most recent hunt for accommodation, God not only provided me with a flat at exactly the right time, but it’s also exactly what I wanted. It’s in the right neighbourhood, near friends, I have a balcony with a gorgeous view and I’m blessed with a lovely German landlord who leaves me the sweetest voice notes. God provided a roof over my head, but he also gave me what I wanted, not just what I needed.

God has also answered my prayers for employment. I joined the team as Welcome Church’s Design Intern, but I was praying for a second internship. A friend messaged me about one at an art gallery in Schoneberg. Its main focus was publication design which was exactly what I was looking for. I got the job and it felt like God had put that internship into my lap. 

I can’t begin to describe how much being part of a church has blessed me while I’ve been here in Berlin. I met someone in Welcome Church who has the same chronic illness as I do – an unpleasant irritable bowel disease called Ulcerative Colitis. It’s a fairly rare disease and it was so encouraging to meet someone (in a small church plant) who had been through exactly the same experience as me. It really gave me confidence to start asking for prayer again. I’ve had the disease for over 7 years and at some point I began to believe it wasn’t on God’s radar to heal me. I haven’t been healed yet, but it has been such an answer to prayer emotionally! 

Amongst all the many distractions and delights of Berlin, getting to know the individuals and families at Welcome Church has been the highlight of my Erasmus year. Welcome Church has shown me again and again what community looks like. It’s by no means perfect, but it is family. It has been messy, silly and spontaneous, as well as encouraging and challenging. It has been a privilege to witness first hand that anyone, regardless of age or interest, is greeted with openness and care. It has had a lasting impact on me and has encouraged me to invest more in my local church community going forward.

As a student, I’ve found it can be easy to prioritise everything else over serving in church, as life is constantly busy and serving takes time and effort. But as I’ve got stuck in this year, I’ve realised how much others sacrifice to create community in a church culture and I’ve seen the danger of just how ‘me-centred’ my life can get. As I’ve actively invested in church, I’ve found a family away from home and I’ve grown in leadership and responsibility. In Berlin, where everything – the questionable and unquestionable – is accepted and celebrated, I have been kept grounded by people whose first goal is to honour and glorify God.