Monday, June 20, 2011

Dachau, Concentration Camp

The overcast, misty weather set the tone for the day.  It was fitting.  You see, we were to spend the day visiting the site of a concentration camp in Dachau, Germany.  The rain sprinkled on and off and the sky was as gray as the stones beneath our feet.  There are no words to describe the emotions experienced as you walk there, except "overwhelmed".  We spent hours pacing through the site on this cold rainy day, pondering, observing, questioning, praying, and mourning, feeling chilled to the bone in more ways than one.  I learned so much there and would recommend that everyone go at least once.  My mind is full of stories, faces, questions, and so much more that I won't even try to convey what I experienced with words.  Pictures will have to do...


Sunday, June 19, 2011

Miles and Oceans Apart

Our arms were tired after canoeing the 10 mile trek with our friend Rina.  The hot sun beat down while a cool breeze blew across the river.  We spent the day drifting from laughter to deep conversation to peaceful silence to singing together, our three voices blending, "Oh how He loves".  We floated back to laughter again as we recalled Rina's translation of Jesus riding in on a "monkey" rather than "donkey" during the German church service yesterday.  No wonder she had to hold in her laughter as we sat in the back of the sanctuary - she translated the wrong word and then pictured it happening that way!  With the exception of that single word, we were amazed at how well Rina translated the entire sermon for us.

We had taken the train eight hours from Prague to Germany where Rina stood on the platform to pick us up.  The journey flew by as we anticipated seeing our friend again.  This was the first time either of us has been to Germany and we loved how beautiful the countryside is.  Rina's village, set in a valley, is home to 800 people.  Rina was the perfect hostess and we were sad when our days in her family's German home ended.  She has a heart for people and I know she has an amazing life ahead of her.  It is wonderful to meet kindred spirits as we continue this journey and I love that our hearts are connected even though miles and oceans separate us.

The next train ride across Germany was an adventure.  One of our connections was only three minutes.  In our anticipation to ensure that we made the connection, Matthew and I eagerly hopped off the train ready to run across the platform to find the next train when a kind German guy helped us realize we had gotten off the train one stop too early!  We ran back and hopped on the train, thankful it had not departed yet, and then were able to get off at the correct stop to make the three minute connection!

At the end of the track was Kaiserslautern, Germany, home to our dear friends Lou and Cathy.  I am continually amazed at how God brought Cathy into my life over eight years ago.  If you want to know the story, you can ask me about it next time you see me.  Lou and Cathy moved from their home in Colorado to run a hospitality house for Cadence International in Germany.  The house is open weekly for military families serving overseas to have a place to recieve a warm welcome, have a home cooked hot meal, and be a part of a community.  Every week the house opens for a Friday night dinner, where up to 70 people attend including couples, single people, and families.  They partake in a meal, listen to Lou teach, and hang out sometimes even for hours talking and living life together.  Lou and Cathy also lead smaller group Bible and book studies and meet with people one on one during the week for more discipleship.  They are continually giving and pouring into the lives of the military men, women, and families living overseas.

We spent a week living alongside Lou and Cathy, observing their ministry, meeting their people.  Our precious friend Jenny was also there which was very special to have that time together.  Jenny has been living in Uganda for the last five months and crossed over with us in Germany on her way back to the States.  Lou took Matthew, Jenny, and me for a two day excursion across Germany.  The first day, we visited a concentration camp which was quite an intense experience (more on that in the next post).  After that, we spent the night in a quaint little city called Rothenburg which was untouched by the world wars.  In the evening, there is a tour by an actor called, "The Night Watchman Tour" where he walks you down the cobblestone streets detailing the history of the city in quite a humerous way.  The city has a wall around it and the next morning was spent overlooking the city as we walked along the wall. 

That evening, Lou was taking the three of us to a Christian Music Festival where three of the performances were by Americans Kutless, Toby Mac, and Chris Tomlin, along with other German bands.  We thought many people there would be Americans since they had three American artists and were surprised to feel like we were some of the few Americans in attendance.  There were thousands of people with standing room only and our hearts were stirred to see the passion with which the Germans were singing as they knew every word to practically every song.  It was incredible.
We are so thankful for Lou and Cathy's hospitality...not only for the 10 days we spent with them, but for the past eight years that they have loved on us.  Once again, dear friends separated by miles and oceans yet united in love and purpose.

Our next stop...Paris!  More to come in future blog posts...

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Surfing in Prague

We went surfing in Prague...yes, that's right, surfing.  Couch surfing, that is.  Matthew introduced me to the concept of couch surfing - an online network of travelers who open their homes and offer their couches for people passing through the country.  It's an opportunity to meet locals in various places around the world and experience those places as more than just a tourist.  I was fascinated to be able to learn what daily life looks like, see how families function, learn about local places that tourists typically do not get to see, as well as form relationships with people all around the globe.  Although fascinated, I was also nervous when we first arrived in Prague.  I mean, you never know what it will be like in someone else's home, how much of the language they speak, whether you will get along, etc etc.

My nerves were calmed almost immediately upon entering the home of the first family that welcomed us.  It was a young couple with a sweet two year old boy who smiled and said, "couch surfers!" when he saw us for the first time.  We were captivated during our conversations with them, especially when we heard about how the couple started up a "distance adoption" program in Kenya where people can sponsor kids and help pay for their educational expenses.  Those of you that know us well know that Kenya is very dear to our hearts.  Not only that, but it was inspiring for us to see people our own age who went to Kenya and just started trying to meet people and make connections to start a program like this.  They now have hundreds of kids who have been "adopted" and a website that they put together for the "parents" to see pictures of their sponsored child, write letters, and even view their grade reports.  I don't believe that it is coincidence that I had just begun to read "The Purpose Driven Life" which we found in a used bookstore in Edinburgh a few days earlier.  After all, one of the main objectives of our trip is to figure out what we feel called to do for the rest of our lives.  Meeting this family in Prague and hearing about the program they started on their own definitely feels like another piece of the puzzle was put in place.  We have no idea what this puzzle will look like in the end but we are excited to see different parts revealed and the picture beginning to take shape.  After our few days with this family we were sad to leave them.  They truly welcomed us into their family and shared their lives with us.  I hope we are able to stay in contact with them as we continue on our journey.

Matthew and I stayed at two other homes during our time in Prague - one night with a young couple and two nights with a family with five kids.  The young couple had a traditional Czech dinner ready for us and we had a great time enjoying the meal and talking about life.  They couch surfed in the US and saw many of the national parks (some of which we have not even seen ourselves!) so they showed us their photos which made me miss home.  Staying with the family of seven definitely reminded me of my childhood!  The five kids even included one set of twins, a boy and a girl, just like in my family.  The kids didn't speak English but we managed to communicate through music and games.  On Friday night, another family with three kids were over for dinner and ended up spending the night.  They pulled out all kinds of instruments including cymbals, maracas, violin, guitar, recorder, piano, jimbay, xylophone (I could go on) and spent the evening playing music and singing together.  The girls kept reappearing in different dresses and the boys were busy trying to make a disco ball out of foil and flashlights.  A while later all the kids came into the room with tickets they had made for everyone that said "discoteque".  After a late night of music and dancing, Matthew and I woke up in the morning and made breakfast for everyone.  This was a feat as we are used to cooking for two and we found ourselves cooking for about 15!  Hopefully they enjoyed the meal and I am hoping that everyone had enough to eat :)

Before going to Prague,  I heard it described as a fairy tale land.  I could understand what people meant as we were amazed to walk around and see much beautiful architecture.  We enjoyed strolling along the riverside, through the parks, and along the streets.  We walked across the Charles Bridge and enjoyed watching the artists and street performers.  It was fun to find little cafes and restaurants to dine in, not to mention the occassional stop for gelato!  I really enjoyed exploring the city with Matthew.  Next, an all day train ride to Germany where we get to spend time with our friend Rina who lived in Colorado Springs for a while but is now back in Germany.  Then, to visit Lou and Cathy, our dear friends from Colorado who are now living in Germany as well.  My sweet friend Jenny is also passing through for a week on her way back to Colorado from Uganda, so we will be able to spend a week with her at Lou and Cathy's.  More about our time in Germany in the next post...