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Author’s note: this is the last in a series of reflections written as letters to my mom (but you can insert your name here, too), highlighting some of the events and insights I have had since moving to Germany in 2014.

“Rise up, O God, judge the earth, for all the nations are your inheritance.” —Psalm 82:8

Dear Mom,

I had a unique pastoral situation that I’ve never experienced before: I was so overcome with emotion I couldn’t speak to give the benediction, blessing my new friends from around the world. My friend Jan Henry had to step in and say the words, wrapping his arm around my shoulder so that the blessing could come from both of us. He spoke the words, I blessed with tears.

You see, we had just had an amazing few days with young adult leaders of the church from around the world! Young adults from Cuba, Indonesia, Ghana, Guatemala, Taiwan, Canada and dozens of other countries gathered in Leipzig, Germany, in the days leading up to the General Council of the World Communion of Reformed Churches.

We worshipped, learned, created movement and words, shared stories, played football, ate, and laughed a lot. I had conversations with leaders who lead Bible studies and youth groups and university groups back in their home countries. We talked into the night about what they were struggling with and the call of God on their lives as they discerned the direction for their path.

In the span of a few short days I grew to love these amazing young leaders from around the world! With the image of them holding hands around communion, when it came time to send them off with their final blessing, I was so overcome with the power and joy and deep love of the Holy Spirit for them I couldn’t contain my emotion.

But this shouldn’t surprise me anymore. We have been given such an immense gift of a glimpse into the global church and the blessing they are in each location around the world. We have savored the stories such as the church in Guyana that is partnering with the government to protect the mangrove forest that provides a greater natural protection of the waterways. Or the church in Ukraine that acts as the local bakery—not only selling baked goods but also giving it away. The church also established and sustains a village fire department—all of these things in the effort to reach out to the poor and vulnerable in their community. Or the church in Greece that was so moved by the refugee crisis at the border that they first brought food to the thousands stranded but then expanded their efforts and now have over 140 dwellings where they house refugees.

Do you remember my life verse that I received when I was in high school? From Matthew 28:18-20: “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”

Little did I know when I received these verses from God in the mountains of Colorado that it wouldn’t just be a single nation that I would work with, but multiple ones. Little did I know that not only would I work to make disciples of nations, but they would make me a stronger, deeper, more enriched disciple myself.

We hear only bad news about the decline of the mainline church. We argue among ourselves in our local denominations attempting to grasp power and control.  Yet here, as I tried to choke back the tears of blessing, I saw the beautiful family of God from around the world. Truly the nations are a beautiful inheritance of God, and I’m grateful for this opportunity to live among them.

I love you Mom! Thank you for supporting us in all that we do here in Hannover. We are ever grateful for your continued prayers and confirmation of our work here.


Gretchen Schoon Tanis

Gretchen Schoon Tanis moved to Hannover, Germany with her husband Phil Tanis (Executive Secretary of Communication for the World Communion of Reformed Churches) and kids Jon and M.E. in the summer of 2014. She is a minister in the Reformed Church in America, with a Ph.D. from Kings College in London, England. Currently she is practicing the arts of a Hausfrau, pastoring an English language congregation, periodically teaching youth ministry, and splitting her attention between her favorite football (soccer) clubs Arsenal (of London) and Hannover 96 (who have been demoted to the second division this season so things are not looking very promising!) 


  • Duane VandenBrink says:

    Gretchen, Thanks for sharing these personal stories and testimonies these past several Sundays. I found them very moving and inspiring. I have felt like I started my worship time early reading your writings…… Blessings to you……

  • Thank you. This was wonderful to read as I prepared to enter the pulpit to begin worship this morning.

  • Bob VE says:

    Thanks for the positive lesson on global discipleship this morning. Thanks to my mom and all other moms for what they do and have done. Sincerely. Bob

  • Daniel J Meeter says:

    A great “reading” during my Daily Office. Thank you so much for this.

  • Jane Brown says:

    Inspiring and hope filling to read what you were part of – important to keep sharing these moments to give vision to us all-
    I have been walking the halls and sitting in rooms at Mayo Clinic this past week- so touched by spirit here of the working together, listening, respect, use of gifts for common good (1Cor 12) —a healing ministry interwoven with mixture of faith, spirit, compassion, medicine, science – we have felt such a shalom as we move thru time and days here- I hear a shalom in your description of your experience –

  • Thanks for sharing. We are living in special times: the Great Commission becoming the Great Completion?

  • Wow, very touching
    Suddenly I remembered the moment that I’ve been through with you in Zwochao & Leipzig

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