Operating by Faith

Unable to return to their assignment in Africa, a German couple fills an urgent need in the South Pacific.

(Photo: Alan Hood)

In December 2017, Wycliffe’s Harri Metzger and his wife Salome were on furlough in Germany when they received some troubling news. Assuming they would soon return to their support roles for Bible translation in Tanzania, East Africa, they were stunned to learn that Tanzanian authorities had rejected their visa application.

The unexpected news hit them hard.

“Salome would take time off,” recalls Harri, “and go [walking] in the forest because she needed time with God. As for me, I didn’t really know what to do.”

Harri thought he’d be returning to his role as office manager, while Salome expected to return to her work in literacy and homeschooling their two young sons. But the unexpected news from Tanzania left them feeling confused and wondering what God had in store for them next.

Long Journey to Missions

Although Harri is of German descent, he grew up in Kazakhstan. His family returned to Germany when he was 11 and around that time, Harri began attending church with his grandfather. He soon gave his life to Jesus.

Over time, Harri sensed the Lord calling him into missions.

“I got a fire in my heart to go and serve God as a missionary,” he says, “like a call to go outside Germany.”

Harri knew he would need theological training. However, because his parents wanted him to follow a more traditional path, he first trained for more than three years to become a tax accountant.

After finishing his training, Harri then began theological studies. As he pondered his future in missions, he kept his eye open for a potential wife, too. Then he met a fellow student named Salome.

“Salome was the first girl who told me, ‘I want to go into missions,’” says Harri.  

They married in 2008, while she was a theology student and he served as a pastor in central Germany.

"Like a Miracle"

“He did everything . . . miracle by miracle, step by step.”

Several years later, Salome voiced concern that their goal of becoming overseas missionaries might fall by the wayside. After all, Harri had been serving as a pastor for more than six years. 

“Salome, it’s all good,” Harri said. “If God wants me to stop serving here, He will give a clear sign, like a miracle.”

Two weeks later, an elder informed Harri that the church was looking for a new pastor. He had 18 months to find another position.

During that time, Harri and Salome began thinking about a possible role in missions. Then a friend asked the Metzgers to drive him to the Wycliffe Germany training centre, where he was taking an orientation course for three days between Christmas and New Year’s Day.

“You can look at Wycliffe and decide if this is for you,” an HR manager told them.

For Salome, Wycliffe Germany was a natural choice. She had grown up as a missionary kid in the Philippines, where her father had served with Wycliffe for 12 years. Convinced that Wycliffe was a good fit for both of them, they began raising financial support. By 2015, they were in Tanzania.

Change of Plans

Two years later, their work permit expired so the Metzgers returned to Germany. When they learned that their work permit wouldn’t be renewed, they took some time out to rest and seek guidance.

(Photo: Alan Hood)

During that time, a co-worker mentioned that SITAG, Wycliffe’s partner organization in the Solomon Islands, had been praying for an operations manager to join their team. Harri and Salome decided they would go if they could raise additional funds—or resign from Wycliffe if they couldn't.

“So I’m talking to God,” Harri says, “and I said, ‘If we can’t raise the additional amount, I will quit Wycliffe Germany and go into regular work.’ We then wrote a prayer letter, asking people to pray for an increase in our support."

After sending off the letter, the Metzgers took a two-week vacation. When they returned home, they learned that their financial needs had nearly been met.

“That is one of the miracles God did,” says Harri. “He did everything . . . miracle by miracle, step by step.”

Soon after, and with another child on the way, the Metzgers returned to the mission field—this time to the South Pacific.

Settled in the Solomons

Harri is now the operations manager for SITAG. He makes sure that everything runs smoothly—including the finance office, vehicles, appliances, power generators and even immigration paperwork. Salome’s time is primarily devoted to homeschooling their two sons, Simeon and Josua.

“It’s a real blessing to have someone who’s here to dedicate himself to that role,” says SITAG’s director, Andrew Van Andel, “and sees that as a critical part of Bible translation here—which it really is.

“It means that those who are advising language projects can be free to pursue that by being based in their village locations and not having to be pulled back to help with operations. They also have someone in the office who’s available to support them when they have shipping needs or other logistics.”

The timing of their arrival is not lost on Harri. Folks at SITAG had begun praying for an operations manager around the same time the Metzgers applied to serve with Wycliffe Germany.

“If you look back, you see they needed somebody with two years’ experience. I’m starting to work here in procedures, and finances, and I understood it immediately because I worked two years in finance in Tanzania.

“It was God’s will,” says Harri. “We enjoy being here. It is a good team. Real good running.

“But we are German,” he says with a twinkle in his eye. “We will make updates and run it better and better!”

Globally, Wycliffe needs more people to serve in operations and other vital support roles. Learn more at serve.wycliffe.ca

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