Pastor and garbage collector: Two ways one man serves his Frankfurt community

Pastor Bodo is probably the only garbage man in Frankfurt, Germany, with a master’s degree. At least, that’s what IMB worker Kelly Seely quipped.

Together, Seely and Bodo planted a church in an economically diverse area of Frankfurt five years ago. And they’ve been intentional to make the church, Frankfurt-Süd Projekt (Frankfurt South Project), look like its community and serve the needs of the community.

A worship service at Frankfurt-Süd Projekt. A baptism is taking place in the boxing ring that was temporarily in the space. IMB Photo

Bodo was pastor of Frankfurt City Church, a thriving church plant across the city comprised mainly of young business professionals. The demographic is different in the new church. Many of those who attend the church work in the service industry. Most work with their hands. Bodo took a job as a garbage collector to serve the community and get to know the people he is called to reach.

Bodo, a Korean German, admitted that after ministering to professionals, such as lawyers and bankers, for the previous 10 years, he didn’t really know how to disciple those who live and work “across the river,” as locals refer to the area. He was committed though to getting to know them so he could effectively reach them with the gospel. And, in his mind, one of the easiest ways to get to know a community is to take out their trash.

Now, what started as a temporary gig has become a facet of Bodo’s calling to pastor. Five years later, he works full time as a garbage collector and full time as the pastor of Frankfurt-Süd Projekt. His wife, Moon-Sook, and his teenaged kids are involved in his daily ministry of discipleship as it often involves hosting people in their home. Pastor Bodo reaches out to those on the garbage truck with him, invites people into his home for life-on-life discipleship, and then preaches a Sunday service.

Pastor Bodo fellowships before a Sunday service. He has been intentional about connecting to the community where he serves, even going as far as becoming a bivocational pastor and garbage man. IMB Photo

Seely is excited about the varied ministries of the church. To connect with the athletic community, an IMB colleague teaches fitness classes in one facility. In another nearby space, a church member offers music lessons. Some in the church run coffee shops, where refugees can work and make a living. These ministries are in addition to six thriving community groups that meet in homes across the area and diverse Sunday services where Scripture is read each week in multiple languages.

In Frankfurt, this church looks and functions more like a community center. The church’s meeting spaces include a boxing gym housed in an artsy, revamped garage and the secondary space for music lessons. These spaces aren’t simply abuzz on Sunday. They’re open each week, reaching people and meeting their practical needs. Nothing about their approach is traditional, and they truly believe that the church isn’t a building, but the people.

IMB missionaries Kelly and Janice Seely co-planted Frankfurt-Süd Projekt with Pastor Bodo, a national believer. IMB Photo

The church’s vision to look like its community is one of the things that drew Andy Spencer, a repeat volunteer and a member of Great Hills Baptist Church in Austin, Texas, to commit to a partnership.

“What they’re trying to do is to remove lostness in Frankfurt through community groups, neighborhood evangelism, and building community centers,” Spencer said. “The [number] of Christians that there are in Frankfurt is very, very small.”

Spencer is excited about the potential this multicultural and relatable ministry has to reach the nations.

“I’ve read that the Walmart in a community always looks like the community,” said Spencer. The church, too, should look like the people of its community, he explained. That’s the way Seely and Bodo are going about church planting, he added.

For Seely, who has been a church planter in Frankfurt since 2014, this work is especially exciting. Frankfurt is such a culturally diverse city, and Seely’s team truly is reaching the nations from this unique place. Persians, Koreans, Germans and other nationalities come together, worshiping the Lord and reaching others in their community.

Pastor Bodo preaches during a Sunday service at Frankfurt-Süd Projekt. The Sunday services are housed in a facility that serves as boxing gym during the week. IMB Photo

Seely is encouraged by the heart of this growing church plant and its impact, now and in the future. He and Bodo are willing to do whatever it takes to reach their community, working and serving among them each day.

Will you pray for this church plant and for all the church planting efforts in Frankfurt?