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Lockdown in Munich: Bernd and Ryoko Armbruster

1. Give me a brief description of your 2020 highs and lows. What went really well and what were some of the challenges you faced?
2020 was obviously very different from anything we expected. We had just moved into a new place in December 2019. This place is more like an apartment, the reason we rented this place was so that we can spend more time together. We bought a kitchen, furniture, decorated the place, etc. And right into all that momentum and excitement we had about our new place, the first lockdown hit us. Until today we haven’t been able to use the place in the way we would like to.

On the other hand, it was encouraging that our members have shown their commitment to the community during this time. We did what was possible and allowed in each season, and people were pretty committed to all activities, both online and in person. I think the couple of months when we were not allowed to meet anybody outside our own household helped some of us see the value of sharing life with one another in the Christian community.

2. How much of the year did you and your church/city spend in lockdown vs. free to have church?
From March to May we were not allowed to meet at all, not even in private. From May to November we were allowed to meet as a church and do pretty much anything we wanted, as long as we kept the general rules of social distancing. Since we are a small church, those restrictions hardly affected us.

Since early winter however, we are only allowed to meet for services under very tight regulations. Small group or other gatherings are not allowed. During the service we are not allowed to sing together and can’t fellowship before/after the services. This makes is very hard for us to have any kind of meaningful face-to-face time.

We are still meeting online for small group (Bible Study, guys fellowship, ladies fellowship, etc). But we can slowly feel how our relationships with each other start weakening and people start drifting. We hope and pray that we can meet for small group in person again soon.

3. What are some of the good things you witnessed over this past year?
We definitely saw how people start appreciating things we took for granted before. Fellowship, relationships,… have a whole new meaning during this time. Also, some of our members have definitely learned to connect more with God in a personal way, since they couldn’t get the same input into their lives from other church members

4. What are some of the difficult things you and your church experienced?
See above. The “very limited time we can spend together” for nearly half a year now gives us the feeling that some of us are drifting away from God and/or our church. For many months, everything looked fine. But more recently, we realize that “the lockdown is just taking too long now” to sustain our relationships with each other with our current mode of operation.

5. How do you think this year has affected your church?
See above. In some sense, it has set us back a year (Outreach plans, building deeper relationships with each other, etc). In other ways it has helped some of us to grow closer to God personally (instead of relying on the church to bring us into God’s presence) and appreciate our relationships with each other in the church more.

6. Almost one year on, what has God taught you through this unprecedented experience?
He is in control! He has shaken many worldly idols for many people. He has allowed many plans to be destroyed (personal, church, financial, etc). He has certainly allowed things many Christians thought we would never see. But in all of this, God has been incredibly Faithful. None of our church members ever lacked anything we truly needed. And many of us have learned to be thankful, get rid of idols and focus on what truly matters.

Jesus predicted that such worldwide pandemics would happen as early signs of his eventual return (e.g. Matt. 24). And while we don’t want to deny or minimize the suffering that many people are going through right now, we have just seen how God has protected and blessed us personally and our church members in many ways. He is building His kingdom, and He is using such seasons to draw people to Him. So we’re simply humbled by everything He is doing.

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