There is definitely a difference from rural Germany (which is where we live) and urban Germany. Even how they speak German is very different however it was awesome to see the sights. The Dom (Cologne’s huge cathedral) was spectacular and even just hanging out in the park and letting the kids splash in the fountains was very relaxing. A highlight for us was that they have a Mexican restaurant (not something we have found in our area) and so we thoroughly enjoyed ourselves.
But probably the most memorable time in the weekend was on our way to the restaurant. After we parked our cars and were trying to figure out if we needed to pay for parking (of course, the signs are in German), several men were yelling to us that parking was free as it was after 3 PM on a Saturday. My friend approached them and started conversing with them in his limited German. Our wives and kids went on to the restaurant but he and I stayed just for a few minutes talking with them. On Saturday nights (and from what I could tell, other nights as well), these gentlemen hung out at this coffee shop (owned by a man from Tunisia) and played Rummy (but not for money, they insisted). All of these men were from Algeria (over 30% of Cologne are immigrants). They invited my friend to come hang out with them any time he wanted and he could play cards and work on his German (they all had to learn German when they moved here too). We introduced ourselves and then were going to introduce our families when we realized they had already left and decided we had better get moving ourselves.
We walked away from that experience pumped. Not only were we able to speak with these men in German, but also to be invited to hang out with them is just the opportunity that my friend is looking for in his ministry. Lives are changed when relationships are built and in those relationships, people see God’s Work in our lives as Christians. That doesn’t mean being perfect, it just means that they can see the Hope we have and how that moves us.