Kerstin knows that life isn’t always smooth sailing. With her publishing and coaching company, Down to Earth, she provides Christian alternatives to New Age solutions for those who find themselves in stormy seas.
When she turned 30, she heard a lecture about parenting that spoke to her. She realized that even though she was single, she still needed to parent and mentor others.
She had always been a mothering type; her friends had even nicknamed her “the Hen.” She realized that God could use her to support others in a profound and natural way. Out of this, sprung the idea to create a space of refuge for those seeking answers to life’s tough questions.
“When you are in deep psychological need like schizophrenia, there are a lot of places you can go,” Kerstin says, “but when you have a milder problem like, ‘What am I going to do with the rest of my life?’, it is harder to find a place where you can go and find help or just have breathing space.”
She looked for flats, but they were too expensive. Sitting in a meadow was “too boring.” So she looked toward the water as a source of inspiration.
She thought about houseboats, but those were also out of her price range.
A week later, she was at a meeting for a publishing deal. The deal fell through, but the husband of the publisher knew someone who was restoring old houseboats and gave her contact information.
The shipbuilder had lived a long time without God but had recently reconnected with his faith and asked God to speak to him.
The first thing he heard was, “Build an ark for me.”
The man was taken aback, thinking this was rubbish, especially since he and God hadn’t spoken for years.
That was April 2012.
Now, with the support of a community of people that God has provided to help her, Kerstin is seeing the ship transformed from a mess of rust and hardware into a space where people can live, be refreshed and encounter God. As for how many people have helped, Kerstin has lost count. She estimates that more than 200 people from at least ten nations have put in more than 3,000 hours of volunteer labor.
Kerstin finds beauty in the ownership that comes out of collaboration. Each person has played a unique role to see the project come to fruition.
“It’s my ship, but it’s actually owned by 400 to 500 people who have prayed for it, who have given toward it, who have given practical help and who have told their friends about it.”
Kerstin could talk for hours about all the people who came on board at just the right time.
When Kerstin couldn’t get her ship out of port because of unexpected expenses, people came together to give her the funds she needed.
Another friend had people give money for the project instead of birthday presents.
Another man, who was struggling to make ends meet himself, gave blood to be able to give to the ship project.
Two unemployed men from Portugal traveled to Berlin just to spend a few weeks laboring.
One man came to the ship with his motorbike loaded with 10 kilos of spaghetti, five kilos of spaghetti sauce, five kilos of nuts, 20 liters of apple juice, which supplied Kerstin and the volunteers through the winter.
Another woman helped during her two-month practicum time. She was so tall that she could work on the ceiling without a ladder.
As the community continues to walk alongside Kerstin, she looks forward to the day when she will walk alongside those who will come and take refuge on the ship.
“I pray that people who know God already would discover him more deeply and that people who don’t know him yet would discover him in a natural way that isn’t forced.”
You can follow Kerstin’s story on her blog “Heart of Berlin”.