The level of organization and support toward the refugees in Berlin is extraordinary. I guess it should be no surprise that the country known for organization and efficiency would handle the current crisis in any other way. Not only is Germany a leader here, but a profound example of how a country can change for such good in a short period of time.
Our exposure to the refugees started at the Landesamt für Gesundheit und Soziales, or the State Office of Health and Welfare. This facility serves as the central processing center for refugees in Berlin. Here refugees check in and are assigned a camp/home to report to. We also found that basic medical aid and personal items can easily be accessed here.
The magnitude of this place set in when we looked at the hundreds of people sitting, waiting to reach their final destination. When you think of the journey they took; the miles they walked, the dangerous voyage across the sea, it is amazing they made it. However, not only are they met with danger the whole journey, some are still vulnerable once they arrive in Germany. As was the situation, of baby Elias. Elias was abducted by a stranger from this exact site, led off by his hand with no visible sign of distress, and was later met by the fate of that of a nightmare.
Each neighborhood has an organizing authority which coordinates, church, volunteer and professional help. In the community surrounding Mavuno Berlin this responsibility goes to Stadtteilzentrum Steglitz. It is here were the needs of each camp are coordinated and managed, often with such efficiency that needs are met before others are able to deliver.
We spent extensive time at Thielallee Camp, were we learned the specifics of success and challenges they and other camps have had since the crises began. Of course, the massive influx this summer has strained all aspects of the system. However, the common attitude here is that of Chancellor Angela Merkel response to the crisis, “We can do it and we will do it,”
Despite the massive influx of refugees we are constantly amazed at how well Germany has quickly responded to the situation. The camps are well constructed, clean, orderly, and provide extensive security. Visitors are generally not allowed, and protection of the refugees is second to none.
The one thing that has become clear is our initial assumption was correct. The best response for us, is in relation to deeper needs and community integration. The details of this type of response are complex and must be long range. Over the balance over our trip we hope to cast a more defined vision with our Church partner Mavuno Berlin in relation to our findings.
In general the trip is going well, full days, and lots to do. I think all of us have a sense that God is using us to do something bigger.