“Bread? Why did you bring me bread?” My friend’s husband had died quite suddenly, and she questioned why I was bringing her a gift of baked goods.
“It is an American custom,” I said. “When someone dies, neighbors and friends bring a gift of food to the family.” She replied, “Oh. Well, thank you!” Shortly after, my friend invited me to walk through her garden so I could see the roses her husband planted as she shared memories of their happy moments together. This is the kind of heartfelt relationship I treasure, where I can walk alongside my friend in her grief.
It has taken a long time for me to get to this place, ten years to be exact, as God has been teaching me about relationships since our family moved from Illinois to Germany in 2000. My husband and I came here to teach at Black Forest Academy, a school for the children of missionaries, after sensing that God was moving us in a new direction. It was difficult for me to leave behind family and friends, especially those at the local symphony where I had played in the violin section for 21 years. I loved playing orchestra music and had made some good friends over the years. Six months after moving to Germany, I read in the local paper that a nearby orchestra was going to perform Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony. I called the conductor and told him that I had played the Ninth Symphony two times with my orchestra back in Illinois, and I asked if I could come sit in with his orchestra. “Naturlich!” he responded, which means “of course!” That was the beginning of many meaningful relationships I’ve formed with friends from the orchestra.
In 2010, I was in the United States for a brief visit when a routine x-ray during a doctor’s appointment revealed a mass. After undergoing surgery and regaining my strength, my husband and I went back to Germany to resume our work there. When I returned to the orchestra, the question asked by many was, “Did you lose your faith?” I thought it was a funny question at first. But it was a doorway to deeper conversations about my faith and reliance on the Lord. I joined a smaller chamber orchestra, and more rehearsals brought more discussions during snack breaks. Over pickles, radishes, and pretzels, I was asked questions like, “Why ARE you here?” Because I had authentic friendships with my fellow musicians, I was able to openly share the truth of God’s love and explain how He stirred our hearts to work in Germany at the school.
Whether it is taking a loaf of bread next door or playing violin in an orchestra, God is teaching me that purposeful relationships are a tool He can use to further His kingdom. I am thankful for the opportunities I have to share my heart and express God’s love to new friends.
“We loved you so much that we were delighted to share with you not only the gospel of God but our lives as well, because you had become so dear to us.” 1 Thessalonians 2:8 (NIV)
-Written by Peggy Stuckey, TEAM missionary in Germany
-Photos provided by Peggy Stuckey