In 2015, Germany welcomed a record two million migrants including the highest net immigration of non-Europeans in the country's history. While some migrant families passed through on their way to other countries in the EU, over half put down roots in Germany. United Methodists "welcomed the stranger," despite religious and cultural differences.
(Locator: Hamburg, Germany)
(Sound of Melissa Witczak singing with children)
Melissa Witczak, United Methodist church volunteer: "This 'I am loved, and I am worthy, and I can do something.' So, that's what I would love to give to the children that they are somebody. So, 'You are a great child and you can do something great.' So, that what drives me to do this work."
Melissa Witczak's church in Hamburg, Germany runs an afterschool program for children. This outreach to migrants is one of many at United Methodist churches, says retired Bishop Rosemarie Wenner.
Bishop Rosemarie Wenner, Germany area (retired) "We were neighbors to the new neighbors, helping them to find a place here and to find their life here."
Men, women and children fleeing wars in their home countries have found open doors at United Methodist churches. Karsten Mohr is a pastor.
The Rev. Karsten W. Mohr: "They can tell you unbelievable stories...When the rebels came, they slept on trees to hide themselves, including the grandfather, mother of the family, for the whole night, to escape from the Taliban. Our special responsibility of this congregation is then to work with the children."
Bishop Rosemarie Wenner: "Especially people from Iraq, Iran, Afghanistan, from a certain language group, but also people from Syria, they said, 'Could we worship with you? We just want to be part of that life in this community here.'"
Wenner led The United Methodist Church in Germany during a time of unprecedented migration in 2015 and 16.
Bishop Rosemarie Wenner: "That was a big surprise for me and for many of our churches. We never did it under the expectation that we would experience church growth or increasing worship attendance. Many came with religious questions. Many came because they got to know Christians. Many people who are now worshipping with us even ask for baptism."
Bishop Harald Rückert says almost all of the nearly 500 United Methodist churches in Germany are involved in outreach with displaced peoples and the interaction has been overwhelmingly positive.
Bishop Harald Rückert, Germany Episcopal Area: "We started to become more open-minded and to open for all people. And this was a kind of revitalization of our churches. And I hope we can go on in this path and God will open up doors and we can be a blessing to many, many different people."
Learn more about Bishop Harald Rückert of the Germany Episcopal Area of The United Methodist Church.
This video was first posted on October 13, 2017.