On the fourth and fifth weeks of our time in Germany we stayed close to home (feels a little bit odd to use that reference) with the exception of just a couple of day trips around the area. It was nice to get our homeschooling in and have a little bit of a routine around the house. Lynn worked upstairs in Bro. Walters office area getting sermons prepared for Sundays, working on the Bible Study and trying to work ahead for when we returned to the states.
The kids were able to get lessons in and even get ahead a little bit in their lesson schedules. Meanwhile, I was still plugging away at trying to learn my way around the grocery store and run a house in a foreign country. We were also able to do some outreach and passing out invitations to the church with some tracts.
It’s a little bit hard, with the language barrier to start good conversations unless we can come across someone who speaks English very well. Passing out these tracts is about the best we can do in this area. We’re just praying that the Lord will use it to further his kingdom some way.
So, keeping it real here, my Sanguine/Melancholy personality has struggled a little bit with the German people as a group. When I go to the store or anywhere publicly it is with some anxiety. People, in general, don’t smile or wave or even sometimes acknowledge your presence. I’ve even been hit with carts at the grocery store when I’ve paused in front of a freezer section too long. Of course there are exceptions to this every now and again. However, coming from Oklahoma, where people wave from their car if they don’t even know you or neighbors smile and wave as they are out in their yards, it seems very cold and stoic over here. My personal bent is to smile and wave at people and they just think I’m plumb crazy here in Germany. I don’t think it’s a meanness, but it sure does make me sad and certainly matches the mood of the area on the cold, gray, and cloudy winter days.
Some have explained to us that where Americans tend to be friendly on the outset publicly, they are perceived as superficial by the German people because their friendship seems to be fleeting when needs arise. Whereas, the German people may seem unapproachable, but once you make friends here, they are loyal, real friends who will be there for you in good times and bad. Of course, both of these viewpoints are gross generalizations of both people groups, but I can see where they may think these thoughts, though I would hope it wouldn’t be true of me as an American. And yes, it did make me a bit self-conscious for a while as my personality isn’t going to change just because I’m here, but I’ll let God sort that out in people’s minds.
However, one of the blessings of being in a mission work for the length of time we are here is that we get a chance to make some new friendships. In spite of my above statements about the Germans as a whole, the people of Rhein River Baptist Church have been so welcoming to our family, and in these weeks in particular we were able to get to know two familys a bit better and spend some time with them.
Our first outing was to Luisenpark in Mannheim with Evan and Katarina (Kat) and their two kids Robert and Addy. Apparently, every winter Mannheim puts on something called Winter Lights each night at the park through the end of February. I like this idea rather than just having Christmas lights through December. It kind of makes January and February less dreary. We met at 3:00 at the park and when I say park I mean a large scale kind of park. In Ponca City, our parks are on the small side, maybe a walking path, definitely a playground area, or even a splash pad, but this was not like that at all. I add this because I wore the wrong shoes! I was thinking something like, “Oh a nice little park with a few lights and maybe a duck pond or something – ballet flats will do.” Uh – nope! More like walking for mileS and yes the “s” is capitalized. My Rheumatoid Arthritis was not very happy with me and my joints afterward, but it was so worth it! This park was amazing!! There were, of course play areas for the kids, several giant chess sets, a bit of a zoo, storks roaming around, gardens, a Chinese tea house and just miles and miles of beautiful picnic, walking and play area. We ate at the restaurant on the property as the sun went down and then walked it all again to see the winter lights.
These were just breathtaking. Even better was the company. Evan and Kat are really special people. He is American and she a Russian/German. They had great stories and history to give us as we walked and chatted. She told me how her family were part of a group of Germans who had lived in Russia for a time. They had a community just on the border that was all German speaking. I had never heard of this before. They both have a love for the Lord that seems genuine and sincere and growing. We so appreciated them taking the time to show us this wonderful place and educate us a bit on Germany and its people. In a day and age when time is so valuable, we appreciated them using the greater part of a day to get to know us and host us.
A few days later we went to Speyer, one of the oldest cities in Germany founded by the Romans. We were hosted for the day by Rene and Marina and their three kiddos, Leah, Timmy and Baby Ben. Rene and Marina are both German and this was Rene’s hometown.
This town was A-mazing! It had that old European feel to it with people out and about everywhere! Lots of little shops and a town clocktower which is actually called the Old Gate that was part of the city gate in medieval times. It is about 180 feet high and was built somewhere between 1230 and 1250. I couldn’t help but to feel compelled to touch it as we passed under the archway – to feel the history that it contained in some way.
Rene and Marina walked us all over the town visiting old churches. Old is a relative term here as one of them was “only”100 years old which would be very old in my American experience. However, they also showed us the Dreifaltigkeitskirche (and no, I cannot even begin to pronunciate this!) which was built in the early 1700s as a part of the protestant movement. When he was a child, Rene’s church family met in this church building for a while.
Then, to beat both of those, is the Speyer Cathedral which was founded in 1030! As you walk around this cathedral you can see the difference in stonework as it has been through many war times and has needed repairs through the ages.
We ended the day with the most amazing food at a local Greek restaurant called Korfu. My mouth is watering just remembering this meal!
More importantly we got to know Rene and Marina on a more personal level and consider them new friends as well. As a matter of fact, later that week their baby, Ben had an accident in the home and crushed his little pointer finger. It was scary for all as we prayed for them to be able to save his finger. They had to do a surgery to try to save it and now, some 5 weeks later it’s doing so much better, but he still has to jump through some hoops before we know if the finger is saved. He was the cutest little patient in the hospital though, and still had the ability to give us all a smile!
Getting to know all of these church members better has been a blessing to our family. We came to be a blessing to them, but, per usual and praise be to God, the opposite is true.