Every Wednesday, OM’s ministry Hope for Zurich (HfZ) organises a Kids Treff: a children’s get-together at a church in the northern district of Zurich. “We like to meet children—and their parents,” said Debi, one of the staff members at HfZ. “We use the children’s book ‘Josi at the King's Castle.’ It is accompanied by an audiobook.”
At a recent Kids Treff, HfZ invited some of the children’s parents to the church-run café across the street. “We arranged for a woman and her son to be there at 16:00. Exactly on time, the mom stepped into the café with her son. They had dressed formally. They addressed me with the polite Sie-form [of German], normally used with strangers. She had even made the effort to find out my family name that accompanies this formal address,” Debi recounted.
To Debi, it looked as if the mother believed that the reason for this meeting was that her son had committed some kind of misdeed. But the staff of HfZ just wanted to get to know the parents of 'their' kids, the children attending Kids Treff.
Debi sat with HfZ staff, the mother and her son sat in the shade under the trees in front of the coffee shop. “Slowly, the ice seemed to break as we explained to her why we were here,” Debi continued. But the atmosphere was still tense and every time Tom*, the son, coughed, his mom, Elena*, instructed him: “Behave yourself!”
During the conversation, Elena shared that she had been suffering from depression. She explained, in fairly good German, that her parents were Tamils (an ethnic group from South Asia), but that she wanted to integrate into the Swiss culture. Since she wanted to be accepted by the Swiss people, she made an extra effort to speak German properly. Elena is married and has one child. However, her husband is away a lot, so she spends much time home alone with Tom.
Then, Elena told her story: “It was a cold evening in November. I felt really bad; I felt forsaken. I took Tom and left the house. I had not taken time to dress him properly for the cold, and so he walked beside me in his rubber boots, without any protection against the cold. I did not know where I was going but ended up at the church. However, on a Sunday evening, nobody was there… Everything was wet, the rain had just stopped falling, but my tears kept running down my face.”
Debi offered Elena the children’s book “Josi at the King's Castle,” the book Tom knew already from Kids Treff. The story goes like this: A boy, not accepted anywhere, flees into the king’s castle. He is invited to stay there. He takes the offer but hides his bleeding, hurting heart. But the king knows! He heals the boy’s bleeding heart.
Elena accepted the booklet with the comment that she would love to have it, as it might help her to learn German properly.
Just then, Emil* arrived at their table. Emil has a mental disability and is often a guest at this café. During his frequent visits, he joins guests at their table and talks to them. Debi thought that this might not be the right time for a visit and said, “Emil, we are right in the middle of an important conversation.”
Emil answered, “No problem, I will not disturb you!” And then he began to talk.
“He started to talk exactly where we had left off—it was so cool!” Debi related. Emil talked about hurting, injured hearts. This caused Elena to open up and tell them more about herself.
“We saw once more how God uses people that not we, but He Himself, had chosen to do a given job,” Debi said.
The following week, Elena came to the coffee shop again. “I have read the whole book and have learned a lot of German while doing it!” she told the OM HfZ staff.
As she continued to talk with the OM HfZ staff, they saw that the book had also reached Elena’s feelings, her emotions. Elena recognised herself in Josi’s story and identified herself with him.
“It is amazing how a story, written for children, speaks to the needs of adults just as well,” Debi marvelled. “Now we are all curious how Elena’s story will keep on unfolding.”
*Name changed for security