Before I continue about my time in the youth group - let me define what they refer to as a youth group. The youth group at the specific church I am attending isn't just middle school thru high school ages. The ages range from about 17 or so until about 20-something, maybe even early thirties.
The first Friday I went, I was very nervous. Here I am, in a new culture, not knowing the language, or the people. I didn't know anyone in the room - except the person who had just given me a ride, whom I had only spent about 10 minutes with at that point. I was told that many people there knew English, but I didn't know who knew English, or how well.
I met one guy named Peter. He talked to me for about five minutes and was very welcoming. I guess he could tell that I was a bit nervous, as he asked me, "You're quite shy, aren't you?" I told him, "Ummm...Sometimes." He replied, "But I thought Americans weren't shy??" Ha...I guess I proved that stereotype wrong!
Peter then took me to meet a few girls. They were very kind and took it upon themselves to translate everything to me during the night. Announcements, the message, songs...You named it, they heard it in German and turned it into English.
At one point, one of the leaders (and brother of the people I live with), Hermann, was giving some announcements to the group. While this part wasn't translated word for word, I knew he was sharing that there was an American in the group who only spoke English. (AKA: Me.) While introducing me, there was a moment I found to be awkward. One of the guys in the group said something (in German, of course) that resulted in his whole row looking back at me and laughter being shared among people in the room. I have no idea what was said. I didn't think to ask for the translation because I was caught off-guard and felt a bit embarrassed...but at least some people got a good laugh...right??
During the service they also sang two songs in German, and one in English. The first Friday was a great introduction to the group. I met a few people and they were all very welcoming.
This last Friday, I went back once again. The same girls helped me out again by spending time with me and translating their native language to mine.
During the message, the leaders had everyone break into about 7 groups. Before I realized what was happening, people started counting off. People who said the number "one" were part of group "one". People who said the number "two" went with group "two". However, I don't yet understand the numbers in German. I've heard them before, but not enough to realize when people are counting. The group was counting and saying their group number. Then, it was my turn to say a number...but I was still clueless as to what was even taking place. Once it hit my turn, I think I got the "deer in the headlights" look as I knew I was suppose to say something - but I didn't know what. Thanks to my new friend for allowing me to follow her to her group!
The groups were all given the same challenge to discuss. The challenge was to find something (an act of service) that each group can do for the church or the community within the next month. My group spoke in English the whole time, with a little bit of German. I insisted that they could speak in German, but one of the guys told me, "But speaking in English is cool!"
Each group had a piece of paper for our group to write down our act of service we wanted to do. Our group came up with an act of service and they wrote down the names of each member of our small gathering. When they got to my name, one of the guys asked me, "How do you describe your name?"
How do I describe my name? What??? It took me a second, and then I realize what he was asking. I responded, "Oh! Do you mean how to I spell my name?"
For those of you who don't know much about the German alphabet (as I didn't know much about it either until recently), their alphabet is a little bit different. There are a few more letters in it and the letters are pronounced differently. Sadly, I couldn't remember how to pronounce all the letters the German way - but I did remember one important one. The following was how the next conversation took place:
"I spell my name C-R-Y..." - Me
"Y? Which letter is Y?" - German Guy
"I don't know...I don't remember..." - Another German Guy
"Oh!! Sorry...I mean 'upsilon'!...Did I say that right??" - Me
"Yes! You did! Good job!" - My New Friend
While I couldn't remember the exact way to say each letter, I remembered 'upsilon'! If you've ever attempted to learn another language, you know exactly how good it feels when you remember a word (or, in this case, a letter!) and get something right. It's one of the greatest feelings of accomplishment. It also gives the feeling and thought of, "I remembered something in German! Yesssss! Maybe I'll be okay here after all."
After each group finished filling out their paper of what they want to do in the next month, we turned the paper in and all gathered together for the rest of the service. The leaders read off the different papers of the tasks everyone intends to do. Some mentioned that they want to help the church janitor clean for a day, some want to help care for the church garden, others want to provide snacks for the Friday night youth service. Our group decided to write notes of encouragement to members of the church who are currently in a time of discouragement and hardship.
As the leader was reading off all the different things people planned to do, she was reading them in German as my new friends translated for me. Then, the leader switched to English and looked at me saying, "The next one is a surprise for Crystal. One of the groups wants to sing a song for you in English."
The group went up to the stage. The same leader who introduced me the week before, Hermann, was in this group, and he spoke saying something like, "We just wanted to let you know we are very glad and happy that you are in our youth group while you are here. We want to sing a song for you and we hope you enjoy it."
The song wasn't one that I knew - but I liked it! The song is called, "Heaven is a Wonderful Place". The group sang the song and then invite everyone else to join them for the second round. If you don't know the song - click here for a youtube (random) video of the song.
After the service was over, they had hotdogs for everyone to enjoy. (Yum!) As we ate our hotdogs we all chatted and some of us stayed to play games.
I got to the church around 8:00 pm. I didn't leave until about 12:00 am.
I'm really looking forward to meeting more of the youth group this upcoming Friday, as well as getting better aquatinted with my new friends.
I have only gone to the youth group twice, but I look forward to going more than I can really express. The youth of the church have really gone above and beyond in welcoming me to Germany. Although I've told them I don't expect someone to translate for me every time, or for them to sing a song in English every week, so far they have. Every time I have left the group, I leave feeling encouraged. They have really included me and I am excited about making new friends.
The Travelin' Chick,