After a few days of living in a new city, it is starting to feel like home. Here are my thoughts on what welcome has meant for me arriving here and trying to settle in…
Welcome is when you arrive at the train station, and a kind man carries your bags up the stairs, when you are ready to collapse in a heap.
Welcome is the taxi driver pointing out sights on the short journey to your apartment, and waiting until you’ve found the right house.
Welcome is the Christian who sees you hovering outside his church, and comes over to offer help. Who greets you with a smile, and a handshake, and kind German words.
Welcome is hugs and flowers from an amazing God-family, who have prayed for you for months; who emailed with pictures, because they know that a picture can reassure more than words ever could; who bring an emergency package of food essentials, so that you can eat without having to venture out into an unknown city; who promise your mum they’ll take good care of you.
Welcome is walking into your new church, and seeing the same kind man on the door, ready to greet you again, and introduce you. Welcome is members of the congregation coming up just to say hello, and not expecting any sort of eloquent reply. Welcome is an elderly lady pushing her grandson to sit next to you, because he can speak English, in case that would help. Welcome is lunch with the family upstairs, and having the privilege of listening to a Sorbisch poem by someone whose language, his pride and joy, is dying out, and he wants you to hear it because it is special to him.
Welcome is getting proper internet for the first time in days, and reading prayers and messages from far-away friends, who wait eagerly to hear about new adventures which they are not part of yet, but care about anyway.
Welcome is being greeted with a hug and a kiss by your mentor, who has come to collect you unprompted because first days are scary, even when you’re 20.
Welcome is a staff team who hold your hand gently as they shake it, and repeat your name again and again until they have it just right, because it is important for people to know your name. It is chatter and photos and breakfast together, tea and Bible thoughts and prayer, jokes and encouragement. Welcome is being given information that you didn’t know you needed until it was there, like the plan for the week, or when lunch will be, or where to find the best internet, or how to register as an inhabitant with the authorities. Welcome is promises of help, and warm hugs, and to be shown where the tea and coffee is kept. Welcome is to be beckoned over at lunch, and shown your place at the table.
Welcome is being promised a guided tour by a man passionate about his city, who wants you to love it too. Welcome is homemade cake and pear and vanilla tea and chatting about everything and nothing. Welcome is someone sitting down with you and asking what they can do to help you find some fun activities to do during the year.
I am so grateful to the people I have met this week, who have been patient with me while I grappled for words, who have been confident when I wasn’t, who went out of their way to be extra-helpful, who learnt my name, who are helping me to ever so slowly find my feet in Görlitz.
The hardest bits: Saying goodbye to my mum at the train station. Until that point we’d been on a shared adventure – and after that I knew I was on my own.
The best bits: Finding family here in all sorts of different ways. Having a place to call home (my apartment deserves a separate blog post at some point). Evening walks to Poland. Sunshine.