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.

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

First Impressions: Germany Week 1

Exhaustion thy name is jet-lag!  I cannot recall when I have been more physically tired in my life than upon the day we landed in Germany.  We flew out on Monday Jan. 28th at noon from Oklahoma.  We landed at 8am Jan. 29th in Frankfurt, Germany.  However, to us it was more like 1am!  The Clarks met us at the airport to help us get our rental car and settled into our apartment for the week.  They encouraged us to NOT give in to the overwhelming desire to take a nap, but one by one we fell prey to this debilitating fatigue.  I believe someone could have performed surgery on any one of us without the threat of our awakening.  Truly this was awkward in many ways.  For one, we have never been to their home in Germany.  I was hoping my kids, as well as Lynn and I would give a polite and warming first impression.  But the luring weariness, just controlled us all.  Here I was excited to be in a new country and see my friends’ home for the first time and I simply laid out on her sofa and fell asleep!  When I awoke looking for Lynn, I went up to their third floor bedroom/office to find Bro. Walter studying at his desk while my husband was practically passed out across their bed!  I didn’t remember having this feeling when we went to Romania a few years ago, but it was the real deal now.

Our random greeter at the rental apartment we stayed in the first week.

That first evening we went to the Bible Study that they hold on Tuesday nights at the church.  We were all nervous but also excited to meet everyone.  Bro. Walter did a good job leading the Bible discussion, but I must be honest – I cannot even remember what the discussion was as the room was spinning while I struggled to stay awake.  At one point I thought I was falling out of my chair!  My only hope is that I was able to keep my eyelids open enough that nobody would notice! 

After dinner we went to a family’s home that were members of the church.  When they can, they hold a prayer meeting on Thursday evenings.  We were impressed with their sincerity and openness with the prayer time for their personal needs as well as the church needs.  They were all very welcoming and we enjoyed the fellowship after our prayer time.  This is where we were introduced to all that the Google Translator App can do!

The view from our little apartment. Yay for snow! Boo for parking, only allowed on one side of the street and usually full. We had to do a lot of walking that week.

  Driving was an intimidating concept to say the least.  Only Lynn was on the rental as a driver since we would only have this vehicle for the first week until the Clarks left for the States.  However, as I observed and learned the rules of the road along with him, I was overwhelmed.  There aren’t any stop signs over here, just turnabouts.  This is a good thing in my opinion as it keeps the traffic flowing.  However, there are many more pedestrians and bicycles than what we ever see in the States.  Our family joke has been repeating Bro. Walter when he told Lynn, “Watch out for the bikes and pedestrians.  They really frown upon hitting them over here.”  As if they don’t frown upon that back home.  But we understood what he meant, they have rights over here and are in more abundance over here than at home in Oklahoma.  So added to the observation of the driver is the roundabout rules, the yielding rules to the side roads on your right and the bikes and walkers.  This doesn’t even touch on the Autobahn and all the rules of that road.  you can practically feel the breeze as cars speed by at warp speed.  Believe me there are no problems with people dawdling in the left lane around here!

This guy was hanging on the wall at the Schnitzel restaurant making me feel guilty throughout my meal.

Schnitzel:  Walter and Dalene took Lynn and I into Heidelberg on night three.  By now, we were still tired, but able to function like normal humans.   This is where we tried Schnitzel for the first time.  Basically it’s chicken fried pork cutlet with any of 101 sauces over it.  The atmosphere was great, the company was great, the conversation totally enjoyable.  The schnitzel -meh.  I think it will have to grow on me.  I guess I have 100 more options to try before my final verdict, but so far, I do not care what Julie Andrews says, this is NOT one of my favorite things.  We walked around Heidelberg that evening and totally enjoyed the old European flair of this amazing city.  The castle was lit up above us on the hill and was awe inspiring to behold!  Lynn and I both felt like we were at an amusement park in the States that was built to look like we were in an old European city …but, no, it was real!

Heidelberg at night! The castle is so pretty all lit up!

This leads me to my next impression:

  Grocery Shopping:  Dalene took the girls and I into town to grocery shop on Friday.  We started with the bottle recycling area. 

Fun times recycling plastic bottles! Seriously, we need this back in the States.

Side note:  Germany is green extreme!  This is not a criticism, it’s an admirable thing.  The garbage isn’t even near the same as they recycle everything they can, so there are four trash bins, paper/plastic, compostable, glass, and then the “everything else” bin.  As good a thing as it is, I’ll admit, I suffered from a paralyzing fear of putting something in the wrong trash bin for the first week or so. 

Basic run of the mill garbage cans in Germany. Can you see why I got nervous?

Anyway, we were walked through the steps of taking plastic bottles to recycle so we could get credit on our groceries.  This wasn’t much different than when I was a little girl and we would take in our glass pop bottles to get dimes at the grocery store.  We were at the store for a couple of hours I’m sure as Dalene showed me the differences and how to find the things I’m used to finding.  This proved to be one of my biggest culture hurdles at first when I tried this on my own and felt lost and rushed.  Thankfully, that church members who introduced us to the camera feature on the Google Translate App saved my life as a shopper!   I can scan the shelves at the store and translate items so as to choose the right one.  It’s not 100%, but it sure is a life saver!  It still takes me a couple of hours to grocery shop, but some of that is my own dilly dallying around the store.

How Cool is this grocery cart feature! There’s a little extra shelf that flips out when needed. I could also see myself using this as a step stool #shortgirlproblems. As you can see all stores work like Aldi back in the States. You have to put a coin in to get your cart and you get it back when you return the cart. You also have to bring your own grocery bags/baskets or buy them from the store.

Bratwurst (brot vurst):  On Saturday of our first week, we went with the Clarks into downtown Mannheim.  It’s a bustling large city like most I’ve been to, so the size wasn’t too unfamiliar.  Of course it mixes the old with the new as some parts of the city or buildings are older than our own country!  It was here we tried our first pretzel on the street – oh so delicious! Then, for our first real German bratwurst. Of course I didn’t get pics because I was too busy stuffy my face. This too was delicious and large!  It was a delightful day navigating around this large metropolitan area.  Our favorite part was the marketplace that had stands with fresh cheeses, olives, flowers and the list goes on.  It was abuzz with people everywhere.  It was unfamiliar with the language barrier and trying to navigate a large city, but we felt at ease having the Clarks with us as guides.

Money:  We fast learned that people in Germany do most of their transacting with cash only.  Even Burger King!  This wouldn’t have been a big problem but that even though we had gone to our bank before ever leaving the U.S. to make sure our ATM card would work, we still ran into problems.  After a few emails with our bank’s fraud dept. things were set straight and we were able to access our accounts and navigate on our own without having to constantly trade money with our friends. 

Rhein River Baptist Church: Mannheim Germany

Church:  The whole reason we are here!  We went with the Clarks in the morning to a service of another missionary in town who holds his services all in German.  It was a good service, well as much as we could get out of it.  We did feel our novice status here as we were observers more than participators in the service. 

     However, in the afternoon at the service with the church for which we came to help, we were able to feel more at ease.  They share the same building as the church that holds the morning service, but minister to an entirely different demographic of people.  Rhein River Baptist Church is made up of an international group who all speak English due to their diverse backgrounds.  There are people from Brazil, Russia, the U.S., England and Africa all in one little body of believers. I love this diversity as it feels like a glimpse of Heaven to me!  Sometimes, in day to day life we get caught up with our own little part of the world and forget that we have brothers and sisters in Christ all over the world!  I find it such an energizing feeling when I am able to meet people like this!  Of course this is also a relieving detail since Lynn doesn’t have to learn an entirely different language or work through an interpreter for this short 3-month stint as filling the pulpit. 

     Since it was also the first Sunday of the month, they have a time of pizza and fellowship after the service.  This was an enjoyable chance to get to know some of the members and chat for a while.

The Clark family. Our favorite Germany missionaries.

We felt like we were getting our land legs as the jet lag was subsiding and we were learning new things each and every day.  That one week felt like an entire month, but we were in for more as we approached the time of the Clarks leaving us for the States…

Posted in Associate/Youth Pastor's Wife, Daily Musings, Life Lessons

Time-Out: Germany Intro.

Ready or not here we go!!

 Time – it’s always such a fleeting commodity in this life, especially when it isn’t managed well.  Now, that mine is slowing down for a short time, I can look back and see that more clearly.  Excuses are always abounding, I started working as the Pastoral Secretary at our church, it just kind of happened one day while I was filling in while our staff went through some changes.  Then, after a while it became a permanent thing.  It’s a blessing, and the timing was right, but being the part time secretary is a bit of an oxymoron at a bustling church like ours.  We have one of the busiest calendars in the land.  With that comes the people work, which usually is the heap of the time spent.  Paired with continuing to home school my kids and those same kids getting older and busier themselves, can lead to a full-on anxiety attack on any given day.  Don’t get me wrong, I love the work, I mean, love it!  I get to sit in an office across from my husband’s office every day.  We have five ministers on staff, and I love every one of them!  I love their wives and the other part time staffers as well.  I mean, we have THE best staff in the land.  I would vacation with them all!  We work well together and even get frustrated well with each other.  The humor is never lacking in our office.  Even when I have a bad day, these guys know how to make me smile.  However, I still fall prey to mismanaging my time – often.  It’s a gift, or maybe a curse that I have.  My personality is bent towards spontaneity, which can be good when fun is to be had or I get a creative spurt that needs to be followed.  But day to day, it can get out of hand and that’s exactly where I’ve been this past year.  Anxiety city.  And then God….

He knows what we need, and he knows what we want, and he cares about them both!  Oh I’m not saying that we always get those things that we want, nor should we, but like any good parent (even better!) he allows for those wants when it works within his will.  That is exactly what he’s done for this family. 

Our time-out started back in July 2018.  Pastor walked in one day and stopped by at my desk.  “What do you think your husband would say if I asked your family to go to Germany for several months to fill in for our missionaries who need a furlough?” he asked.  “Yes! We’re there!” was my immediate response.  Of course I thought he was only joking at the time until he assured me, he was serious.  He went on to explain that the Clark family needed to come back to the states for several months.  They have one daughter graduating from Bible College over here, another who is ready to graduate her home school and is preparing to start college next year and he also needs to visit some supporting churches and new churches too while he’s here. However, he doesn’t have anyone who can take over the work he is in while he is gone.  Being the wanderlust side of this family I kind of figured that my spontaneous response would be met with a more practical view by my husband and there would probably be some reason why this would not be a good idea.  Not that he is a downer, it just seemed like a possibility that was far too awesome to actually happen.  Imagine how pleasantly surprised I was when his initial reaction was an excited “Yes!” as well!  Of course, we still took time to pray about it, and there were plenty of excuses that would prevent this from happening, but here are the awesome reasons why both Lynn and I were on board so quickly:

  1.  Friends in Need:    We came to Central 21 years ago when the Clark family was just starting their internship.  We were both young couples excited about new ministry.  This led to a friendship that would span continents and time.  Dalene and I became fast friends.  They already had two girls, but we were pregnant at the same time with my now oldest, Katie and their third, Kyndall, (who are both going off to college this next year! Sniff sniff).  I still remember us with our babies at the airport seeing them off when they initially left for Germany.  We’ve always picked up where we left off, whenever they’ve been able to come back on furloughs.  Now, there was a legitimate need at this work they are in and we would be able, as friends and colleagues to be a help to them.  How awesome is that?!
  2. Answer to prayer for our son:  Just last summer, while our girls were away at camp and we had only our son at home, we had an emotional discussion with him about his sisters.  He was feeling a pressure and desire to be closer to our oldest but felt like he just didn’t connect with her due to the age difference among other things.  He was in tears just thinking about her going off to college in only one year and not getting that chance.  Just as we, as parents, were absorbing the idea that our family was on the brink of change with our kids growing up and leaving, Jarod, too, was rolling around these thoughts.  We encouraged him to pray about opportunity over this next year to grow closer as a family while we had the time.   Then, along comes an offer of just the 5 of us in Germany for three months!  What better way to grow closer as a family than through stepping out of all of our comfort zones together with no peers along for the ride or crazy work, school, youth group schedules to contend with?
  3. Opportunity for life decisions:  Our middle daughter, Megan, has wanted to be a missionary since she was a little girl.  Her hero as a child was Amy Carmichael, she even dressed like her one year for our fall festival.  However, last year, she read a book.  It was a good book, that was challenging teens to consider their futures.  Sounds good doesn’t it?  However, she seemed burdened by a statement by the author who challenged readers to reconsider their own desires and make sure it was God’s will – also, a good thing to do.  She seemed to be confused and burdened by this, though, wondering if she was just in love with the romantic idea of going to far off places as a missionary or if it was really God’s will for her.  Again, what better way to get a taste than to actually go on a mission trip, not for a week but for three months.  Getting to feel what it is like to be away from home, comfort zones, and all things familiar.  Yet, she gets a chance to do this with, at least, the comfort of her family with her and the knowledge that this is just a short-term commitment.  We’re praying that God will show her His desire for her during this time.
  4. Time with our oldest:  Just as our son was wrestling with the fact that our family dynamic is about to change, we have been wrestling too.  I absolutely love where we are right now with the ages of our kiddos.  We embarked on this parenting adventure knowing that we were raising them to send them out.  However, the fact of that time coming soon, weighs heavy on this momma’s heart.  I’m a bundle of conflicted emotions.  Excited to see where God will lead her and how He will use her and also heartbroken at the thought of missing her.  Not seeing her face daily, hearing her laughter, seeing what cool pictures she has drawn recently sitting on her bed listening to music, or even just enjoying a movie together or dinner time conversations.  It’s natural, it’s good…it’s heart achingly coming too soon!  I treasure the thought of 12 weeks to just huddle in close with my babies and absolutely absorbing each moment with them.
  5. My desires:  I have long wanted to be able to take my kids to see things in this world!  We’ve done the Disneyworld fun trips, but I have expressed multiple times how I’ve wanted to take them on a mission trip so that their eyes may affect their hearts.  We just haven’t had the opportunity.  The trips that Second Man and I have been blessed to go on were when it just wouldn’t be feasible to take our little ones along.   Not only missions work, but also, seeing some of the wonderful things in this great big world that God has created, has been my desire for my kids.  Well, here it is just plopped in our laps.  It isn’t the sole reason for accepting the call, but it sure was a fabulous extra!  What a blessing the leadership of our church has been as well.  When Pastor first posed this to the deacons of our church, one of the first questions was, “Will they get to do some traveling?”  This is so important.  Second Man is an extraordinarily hard worker and even hard on himself to be busy about God’s work.  He’s not a workaholic, but he is exceptionally careful with the stewardship of the ministry in which God has put him.  The assurance of our deacons and Pastor being behind the idea of us getting to use some time to travel while in Europe freed up his conscience to be able to do so.
  6. Reward:   This is a personal matter and small on the whole scale, but special to us, nonetheless.  We truly are hoping that we can consider it a reward for something personal to us, that I don’t even want to give detail about here.  However, we, as a family gave something up recently that was both enjoyable and a desire of ours.  We felt led out of conviction to give it up and it hasn’t been easy, both socially and personally.  I don’t give details, because it truly isn’t something that I would want others to think I am imposing on them or judging them about.  But I do believe in a God of rewards and can’t help but consider that maybe that would play a part in this.  I won’t truly know that until I reach Heaven and get to ask Him about it, but for now, I know that this is a blessing in our lives!
  7. Time:  The mere logistics of this trip lend a look at time.  Though Second Man will be preaching each week, leading a Bible study and discipling an individual who is a shut in, his schedule and mine are both extremely lightened while we are in Germany.  We need this.  We both need it physically, as stress due to schedules, extended family issues, and other life pressures has taken a small toll on the both of us.  I was diagnosed this past year with Rheumatoid Arthritis and am still trying to navigate my way in this new journey.  He has suffered from heart palpitations among other physical ailments that all tend to come from stress and…well…getting older.  We can’t deny that little tidbit, now can we?  We both plan to use this time to work on our physical, spiritual and mental health.  This is such a luxury that everyday normal life doesn’t always give us.  How blessed we are! 
  8. Opportunity to be used:  How honoring the thought that God can use us to help a missionary and to get minister to people in a foreign land.  How honoring the thought to do that even at home!  I never want to miss the opportunity to be used by God!  There is no great feeling in this world!

God’s just so good!  I can’t wait to see what He’s gonna do!