There are times where a "promise from God" can feel like a heavy burden we carry through our days and nights. One that weighs us down the more and more we walk, and wait, and walk and wait for it to come. Yet we are bound to that promise like skin to bone never allowing ourselves to rip it off. Though it burns, we will never give it up. No matter how hard, heavy, painful or frightening it may be. We won't give it up.
The past 4 years of our lives have felt like burdens upon burdens of never-ending promises that we waited to be answered. Yet a relentless and stubborn belief grew in us daily, trusting that one day they would come to fruition. That time is now, and this is the story I’m going to slowly and steadily share with you in chapters through this blog, our music, our photography and our lives. I know we've been quiet. We didn't want to talk. One does not have much to say when one is in a cave. But it's time now to share our story. To come out of the cave and into the promise.
CHAPTER ONE: A HOUSE FOR THE MANNCHENS INSIDE JERICHO.
In 2014 Uli and I uprooted our lives and moved to Nürnberg, Germany with a vision far bigger than we could ever imagine. 7 years before, we carried a dream of starting an artist collective focused on empowering and supporting artists around the world. Through community, creative workspace and relationship, we wanted to give artists from every background, culture, and religion the platform they need to impact society locally, regionally, and globally. Along with impacting the artist and the art sphere, we dreamt of channeling the proceeds from this space to continue influencing and transforming areas of the poorest and needy parts of the world, much like we have done the past 10 years. We held onto this vision like it was our mandate in life and no matter what life threw at us, it appeared we weren’t letting go.
When we first arrived in Nürnberg the first question we asked was “Where?” Where should this workspace be? Where should we live? Where should we pioneer? We imagined the clear choice would be somewhere downtown, in the center of the city where much of life and the art scene was. But of course, God spoke differently. There is a small village outside of the city (yet still considered Nürnberg) called Fishbach. When visiting this village God began to speak about pioneering here. We had a very clear vision of this art space being inside a warehouse and us living in a small house within walking distance to the building. We envisioned us inside a small white house with a large garden next to a forest and enough rooms to grow as a family and to hosts artists around the world with hospitality, love, and warmth.
We were committed to that vision. So much so that we stayed homeless (couch surfing) for 5 months while waiting and praying that a home in Fishbach would open up for us. Yet nothing did. We walked around the neighborhood for months, rain or shine, every day asking if anyone had something for us, but the doors were closed. We went to every open house, looked at every office space. Nothing. It felt like a closed door. After 5 months we decided to move on and we looked for an apartment in the city. We found one. It was beautiful. It was a wonderful gift. And so we gave that dream of Fishbach back to the Lord, confused, but in peace with our decision trusting that He would give us a house in Fishbach when the time was right.
Fast forward 4 years later. Our season in Nürnberg has been nothing like what we expected. These 4 years have been spent working towards, fighting, failing and trying over and over again for this vision. There have been so many times where we wanted to give up. That's an understatement, we daily wanted to give up. There was a season you would find me lying on the bathroom floor crying my eyes out with a box of ice cream glued to my hand. Nights where we literally did online tests to see if we were going insane. And far to many times of praying from our bellies for God to make this work, or take it away. Things did not work and we did not work. Yet we carried on.
The 7th Lap
About a year ago we were comforted and convicted by the story of the wall of Jericho which paralleled to the burden we felt of carrying this vision. After 40 years of wandering in the desert, lost confused and waiting on a so-called “promised land” the Israelites finally made their way home, only to find out that the city of Jericho stood between all that God had promised. And it needed to be taken down. Can you imagine? HURRY UP AND WAIT. Though God had spoken clearly to the leader Jeremiah that his people must walk around the wall 6 times and on the 7th time the wall would come down, the Israelitesdid not hear that directly. Therefore they did not know how long it would take. Yet they marched. They marched around the wall obediently and faithfully trusting that what God said would happen, would happen.
I often think about what it must have been like for them on the 4th or 5th lap. The exhaustion and disbelief they must have experienced. The stupidity and insecurities they must have felt walking around a wall thinking it would just miraculously fall down because some guy who apparently “hears the word of the Lord” told them it would. Take a second and think about that? How many people must have been watching this from afar utterly confused and hysterically laughing at their efforts? How awful that burden of this promise must have been for them to carry, and yet how incredibly it was that they still moved forward with it. They still believed.
For 7 years we waiting (in the desert if you will) for our "promised land", only to arrive at our land (Nürnberg) to find a rather large wall around our promise, which we were required to walk and wait and walk and wait around. Nürnberg has an actual wall around the inner city that often reminds me of how that wall around Jericho must have been. I’m not comparing Nürnberg to Jericho (though some might argue some similarities) but I can see now that this was always going to be a promise that required a real and brutal battle.
We never forgot about the promise God gave us for Fishbach. For years we prayed and believed that one-day it would open up to us. Though our apartment in the city has been wonderful, it has not come without a cost. We’ve experienced much mold and moth infestations as you might remember from us living here which has come with the price of us losing more than 50% of our belongings, and health problems. Sometimes the infestations became so intense that we often wondered if this was God’s way of pushing us out and back to where He first spoke (didn't God do something like that in Egypt at the beginning of the long journey too? merp)
Last year we decided to try again. Give it one more lap around the wall. Try again for Fishbach, and guess what... the wall came down.
A warehouse in Fishbach was offered to us to start our co-op art space. The progression of how this all happened is a story in itself, which I will share in another chapter. However, in this time, the dream of living in Fishbach also felt again like something we should fight for. So we began again to look. In the middle of last year, I wrote down a prayer: “A house in Fishbach before 2017 is over.” Well, as you can imagine where this story is going… a week before New Years God gave us a house.
The house is a small white house, a street over from the warehouse, with a large garden that backs up to a forest and enough rooms to grow our family and host artists. It is perfect. We move in, in 2 weeks and we can’t begin to explain the joy, relief, and shock inside our hearts.
I often wonder if we had waited 1 month, week, day longer, four years ago if the doors would have opened and the wall would have fallen? If we had not given up on that 6th lap, but stayed one more lap for the 7th, had the walls come down and we would have gotten in their sooner? Or were these past 4 years the last lap? Were they always part of the story? We’ll never know. But what we do know is that we never gave up on the vision.
After years of fighting and believing for this, I’ve come to realize that I am no longer impressed with people who have the faith to start things, but with those you have the faith to carry it through. Vision is beautiful but faith to carry that vision is bravery. "Brave" is not a word we would use to describe ourselves (remember the nights on the floor with ice cream.) I think we identified much more with those walking on the 5th lap who felt pretty stupid and insecure about walking around a big dang wall, but who just kept going because... it's all they knew.
To answer the question of "why" one is willing to carry the burden of a promise no matter how much it costs is simple. It is not our faith, convictions or bravery that keeps one moving forward, it is a deeply rooted love. For it is and always and will always be for love. Love is the only thing in this world that makes you do things to the point of insanity. It is the only thing that can break you and make you ask for more. Love is what binds us all together. To God's truth and promises, in a relentless, unwavering commitment to knowing that, that truth is the single thing that our heart beat and bleed for. All we've ever known is to move forward. To trust God has something for us. That somehow, no matter what happened with that wall, God was with us. On the 1st lap. On the 5th lap. On the 7th lap, He was with us. And that companionship, that loyalty, that commitment to loving US, was always enough of a reason to just keep moving forward.
We move into our new home in 2 weeks
We are still in financial need to make it work. Gulp. Between the down payment and small renovations that need to happen, we need around 2,000€. We’ve canceled the lease on our apartment and signed the lease on the house in faith that this would all come together. We know that God would not break down the wall and neglect the provision needed for us to come in. If you would like to be part of completing this story and helping us move in, we’d love to invite your partnership!
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Ulrich Mannchen/Elizabeth Mannchen
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