Posted in Associate/Youth Pastor's Wife, Travel, Uncategorized

New Friends and Local Places: Germany Weeks 4 & 5


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.

Posted in Uncategorized

Getting Our Land Beine (legs): Germany Week 2


Monday night of this week we had a final supper with the Clarks before their departure to the U.S.  This is when they introduced us to a new food called the döner kebab.  This is a Turkish dish that is found everywhere around here right now.  We, in the states would probably call know some of its relatives, the gyro or shawarma.  It’s meat, usually veal or chicken cooked on a vertical rotisserie and then shaved off into portions and served in a German pita bread with vegetables and sauce.  This stuff is money!  So good!  After dinner we said our goodbyes and well wishes and headed back to our little apartment. We were on our own now, with high hopes of being a blessing to this church.

Döners

On Tuesday morning we moved from the little Airbnb apartment to the Clarks house.  Everything is smaller in Germany including the roads and cars.  However, we were determined to do this in one trip, so we stuffed everyone into the vehicle and then Lynn went about stuffing the luggage onto our laps!  It looked like a horder’s circus act, but we did it!  It’s a strange thing to move into someone else’s house and try to make it your own.  They actually have a larger house than ours back in the states with four floors counting the basement.  We aren’t used to stairs and especially ones that tend to curve upward and are hard stone.  I’m pretty sure it’s going to be a feat of great proportions if we all make it home without anything broken.  All of us have had a slip or two on the stairs as we are getting used to going up and down.  We’ve found that we don’t even go down without assessing if something needs to be taken with us, the same with going up.  I’m also hoping for some calories burnt by this as well. 

That evening was our first Bible study night.  We planned on leaving early to make sure we got there before everyone and got the church set up with the tables to sit around for the discussion.  Well, we headed out a little bit later than planned and wouldn’t you know we got lost on our very first time out!  We left the house about 15 minutes later than we had planned.  It was dark out and our first time navigating out of the little town of Brühl and into Mannheim, which should normally take just around 20-25 minutes.  The Clarks had put the church into the GPS system of their vehicle, but she takes some getting used to.  She’ll say things like, “take a right and then go left,” this can be very confusing at times, but we’ve learned that she means that some exits on the right have you travel further down the road so we must stay left until our actual exit.  We didn’t know all of that then.  So, the very first exit we needed…we missed.  One of the quirks of the Autobahn is that if you miss your exit, you’ll probably be traveling a few minutes before there is another one where you can turn around.  We finally got turned around and wouldn’t you know we missed another exit!  By this time all of us were feeling the panic.  You know that feeling where you panic, and you can’t think about the simplest of solutions?  Well, we were there.  Poor Lynn!  I can only imagine how frustrated he must have been inside as he was trying to navigate himself while little miss GPS was also trying to navigate, and I was in the next seat trying to navigate him as well!  When we finally made it to the church it was 7:00 right on the dot!  Thankfully, the members here tend to run late, so we actually beat them all there anyway.  Whew!  It was dicey there for a few minutes!

We brought with us, from the States, copies of the study by Jim Berg called Changed into His Image.   I’ve been through this study twice already and still learn more each time.  It’s an in-depth sanctification book that’s great for discipleship purposes at pretty much any level.  We figured it would aid the discussion if we have an actual workbook to go through while we’re here, giving the participants homework each week to fulfill. This first week was just an introduction night as he explained the study and how we will go through it.  We also had a bit of a testimony/meet and greet so as to get to know some of the members a little bit better.  I loved hearing all of their testimonies of how they came to know the Lord and how they came to this church.  I’ve said it before, but I’ll say it again, I’m humbled when I realize what a small world we live in and how Christ has permeated all these different nationalities.

We also started back into homeschool lessons with the kids this week.  It felt good to establish a bit of a routine.  This, of course, has to be a flexible routine with all we have planned to do, but routine, nonetheless.

The Kids and Me.

Late in the week we took the kids over to Heidelberg during the day.  We were still getting used to driving in Germany as well as driving a manual stick shift which neither of us have done for quite a few years.  We made it thankfully, but on one of our wrong turns we ended up on a hill of a street that certainly seemed one way since there was a stone wall on one side and it was so narrow.  But, no, not in Germany they figure you can get a few cars lined up side by side in the space of about two and a half meters wide – Oh wait! Let me speak American – that would be around 8 feet.  We decided to turn around in a driveway along one of the crests of the hill but backing out was also a challenge.  The Volkswagen that the Clarks own has a sensor system for backing up that beeps at you.  We are familiar with cars that have back up cameras that seem very helpful, but this just beeps and as you get closer to any objects it beeps faster and louder which is always a good mix for keeping the driver calm as he’s backing out in a dollhouse size area along a hill on which any second another car could come zipping around.   Thankfully, Lynn did it well and we were on our way back to where we needed to be.

We walked along the old town part of Heidelberg which was our first taste of old Europe and all of the beautiful architecture.  We found some really cool shops including a used bookstore that was about 3 stories high with a spiral staircase in the middle of it.  Katie was in a wonderland here.  She just loves books and to be surrounded by all of these treasures made her giddy with delight.  Of course, most were written in German, so we didn’t find any English books of interest for us, but it was still a really cool store.  This area of Heidelberg is like the idea of Branson Landing (if you’ve ever been to Branson, Missouri), put into 600-year-old buildings…aka charm galore!

Heidelberg university is also situated in this area and is said to be around 600 years old!  Imagine the feel of walking on a university campus that is older than our own country! 

We lingered and enjoyed the day so much that we didn’t even have time to go up to the castle at the top of the hill.  We’re hoping to do that on another day.

 Our first Sunday flying solo went very well.  At first, we were a little worried as, again, people showed up just right on time or a few minutes late, and I mean everyone.   However, we were relieved when they did show.  Our kids have taken on the challenge of running a Children’s Church program for the young ones which went very well.  We brought over some Abeka Bible story cards and the girls are each taking a week teaching the lesson while Jarod helps with singing and games and helping the little ones listen.

Lynn brought an awesome message called “Don’t Pray it Safe.”  He’s preached this before, but has to go through his sermons and do some editing for the cultural nuances and applications.  He did a great job of preaching and communicating his message without losing anyone language wise.  After service we realized that these folks like to talk about the message!  This is great as it provides feedback to Lynn on how they understood the message and it’s also encouraging to know that they aren’t just listening but are thinking it through as well.  This is always an encouragement to a minister when he knows that the crowd connected with the message.

After church a sweet family from the church, Rene and Marina, invited us to dinner with them at a local döner place that they frequent.  We enjoyed getting to know this sweet young couple and can sense we’ll be good friends through this experience. 

Well, that’s the week two highlights.  More to come as we adjust to living here in Germany.