Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Last day in Germany and trip home

Our last day in Germany, Monday, July 29, was spent visiting some places that were special to Dad.  Neundetelsau was a Lutheran seminary town that Dad attended school in.  He was at one time studying to be a Lutheran minister and had some significant things happen to him there.  He recommended we go to the main church there and see the altar at the front of the church.  It had a symbol of Jesus hanging on the cross and on each side of him were 3 golden angels holding candles.  As we sat there quietly contemplating what that meant to Dad, we also thought about what that scene meant for us.  For me it triggered much gratitude for the legacy Dad started for his whole family there as he made his decision to forever be connected to God in spite of what life may bring.  We held hands and had a family prayer of blessing right there in the empty church (most churches are open in Germany for people to just come in and pray or look around) thanking God for what He has done for our whole family through the decision Dad made there for Him.  We also asked for guidance in the next phase of our lives since there will be many changes happening now that our house is sold, Tiffany and Grant both have graduated, etc.  I found the church bulletin there from the service the day before and looked in it.  It seemed quite appropriate for where we are at in our lives right now.  A good verse for getting our  priorities straight :-)

Here it is:

44 "The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field. When a man found it, he hid it again, and then in his joy went and sold all he had and bought that field. 45 "Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant looking for fine pearls. 46 When he found one of great value, he went away and sold everything he had and bought it.  Matt. 13:44-46

There was also a prayer printed in it that was special to me.  I'll write it in German and if you'd like to know the English translation, just let me know.  I'll get it to you :-)
Was Du mir schenkst, ist so kostbar, dass ich es nicht fassen kann.  Ich kann nur staunen und dankbar empfangen, welcher Reichtum durch Dein Wort und Deinen Geist in mein Leben gekommen sind.  Ich will mich Dir ganz schenken.  Alles soll Dir gehoren.  Ich bin Dein und Du bist mein.  Amen.

Next we drove down to Dinkelsbuel--a cute little town with a story behind it and had some traditional food in a little restaurant there for lunch. They have a festival every year to commemorate a special event that took place in the town's history. A teenage girl and some children saved the town from attack by simply approaching their enemies as friends.  Here's a small paragraph from Wikipedia about it:
"Every summer Dinkelsb├╝hl celebrates the city's surrender to Swedish Troops during the Thirty Years' War. This reenactment is played out by many of the town's residents. It features a whole array of Swedish troops attacking the city gate and children dressed in traditional garb coming to witness the event. Paper cones full of chocolate and candy are given as gifts to children. This historical event is called the "Kinderzeche" and can in some aspects be compared with the "Meistertrunk" in Rothenburg. The name is derived from the German word for "child", and is called such because of the legend that a child saved the town from massacre by the Swedish Troops during the surrender. The legend tells that when the Swedish army besieged the town, a teenage girl took the children for begging the general for mercy. The Swedish general had recently lost his young son to illness, and a boy who approached him so closely resembled his own son that he decided to spare the town."

The last thing on our agenda was to see Rhothenburg.  I remember visiting it when I was about Grant's age with my Dad and meeting Dad's friend from Lutheran seminary, Hans Rau who served as a minister in the town's main Lutheran cathedral for many years.  The town has a wall around it that is still in very good condition.  It has a walkway on top of it that people can walk on for quite a long way which we had to try out of course!  We did see the church where Hans Rau officiated but couldn't go in because it had closed for the day--I guess it had become a tourist attraction and they were now charging an entrance fee--hence the need to close it down.  We also romped through the streets photographing the amazing medieval architecture and purchasing some treats to bring home and share.  They have a well-known treat there called "Schneeballen" --snow balls.  It's a pastry that Rothenburg is known for.  Pretzels were also a big thing there.  We wished for me time to wonder and window shop but had to get back and pack so that we could get on a plane the next morning.

We were up bright and early yesterday morning to prepare for our long journey home.  We also reserved about an hour to spend with Uncle Gerhard to celebrate his birthday in the morning before leaving.  We sang him happy birthday and gave him a very practical gift that would come in handy for him topped off with a "Schneeball" from Rothenburg :-)  He really appreciated it and as we sat and shared pictures with him and discussed our time together, we all realized we had grown closer and gotten to know him better as we romped and explored together with him.  He said he felt younger when spending time with us--especially when he sat in the backseat with Tiffany and Grant and took on the challenges of the trail that Grant led out in :-)

Our trip home was long and quite exhausting but for the most part went quite smoothly.  They were taking extra security measures so we felt rung through a wringer in that regard.  It seemed our passports and boarding passes were checked double as many times as usual and we had to claim our baggage in Philadelphia and recheck it which we didn't have to do on the way over.  When going through security, they were asking for extra favors from us that I don't remember on the way over.  In the process of emptying my pockets multiple times, I lost a couple things but nothing too important, thankfully.  As we were flying into Portland last night, the sunset was so beautiful with the mountains all aglow--Mt. Hood was so close, it felt like we could reach out and touch it!  But it was on the opposite side of the plane.  Our side had Mt. St. Helens, Mt. Adams and the Columbia River on it.  Wow! What an awesome reminder of what a beautiful area of the world we live in!!! And what a relief to be back in the good old northwest region of the USA!!!!

As Gerhard put it, "You have been many places and experienced many things in a short period of time.  Now it's time to soak it in.  It's like you have just eaten a meal of many delicacies and now it must digest."  Yes, I agree with him.  It will take a while for all that has just taken place to really digest.  It was life changing, educational and truly a blessing in every way!

What's next?  Well, finding another house and moving in the next 30 days.  Please pray with us that we will know God's will in regards to this whole process.  Thank you :-)

These pictures are from our last day and the view of the sunset as we flew into PDX,  Enjoy!!!

Monday, July 29, 2013

Germany family time

The last three days have been very special ones!  Time spent here in the Bensheim area with our sweet Uncle Gerhard is precious.  After leaving Nurnberg on Thursday, we drove to Heppenheim where Gerhard arranged for us to stay in a youth hostel that is inside of a castle.  It’s quite a novel idea in spite of it’s dorm like design.  The main challenge has been the weather!  It has been in the upper 90’s and 100’s F and VERY HUMID and our rooms are on the upper floor and are without air conditioning—hard to sleep in a sauna but thankfully we have gotten a few hours of sleep each night in spite of that challenge.  Tiffany and Grant have also been bitten by some unknown insects at night while they were sleeping—hopefully nothing that will cause too much trouble—some very large red and itchy welts have appeared on their skin.  Thankfully I brought some remedies that have been helping.

Friday we went on an excursion hiking as far as most people would have driven up and over hills, through woods and vinyards and villages with two main destinations in mind—the house of my late German grandparents (Grossmuti and Grossvati) in Bensheim Auerbach and the castle above their house that we used to hike to and play in when I was a kid.  Gerhard showed us some interesting places on the way with historical meaning as well.  Then in the evening we headed down to Heidelberg to see the castle there at sunset.  So many memories have come up of visits we had with my grandparents and the things we did here!  It’s nice being able to show my family these special places and facilitate Tiffany and Grant connecting with their heritage.

Saturday we attended a church service at Marienhohe, a college that my father taught at during the time that I was born.  It was nice being there.  We met some people who were able to show us the very apartment where they lived and where I was born.  We took some pictures—one of which you will see below.  The building of my birthday is the long white building with  red windows at the top.  Then after that tour we headed over to Oppenheim—taking a ferry ride over the Rhine River on the way.  After having some lunch at a nice little German restaurant where the food was delicious, Gerhard wanted to show us the cathedral he celebrated his first engagement in.  It was a beautiful  Lutheran cathedral that contained bells.  Just as we arrived they were ringing quite loudly—soon we found out that the reason for it was a wedding!!!  Must have been more than a coincidence, you think?  We were also able to go up to the top of one of the towers of that cathedral and this afforded us an amazing view of the whole area!  After the view we headed to the grounds behind the cathedral where he showed us a cellar of human bones which had been collected from 1400-1750 of the members who had died during those years--20,000 sets of bones in one place!! Can you imagine??!!!  Made us think about how precious this life is that we have now and how precious our future life with Jesus will be :-)  Our next stop was Worms, Germany.  It is the place where Martin Luther was tried by the Catholic Church.  There is a Martin Luther stone memorial there and the church where he was tried in front of the Papacy.  Was so glad to be able to see this because Wittenburg, where Fountainview had filmed, was the beginning of his challenges moving forward with his part in the reformation and Worms is where it culminated!  The memorial showed the progression between those two places and had stone memorials of other significant individuals alongside Luther who also had been part of the Reformation movement toward Protestantism.  Very meaningful and interesting.  Amazing and remarkable what God was able to do through him so that we all can read the scriptures for ourselves and have "nothing between our soul and the Savior."  I thank God for people like him who stood firm for what they believed no matter what the cost.  I pray for that same kind of courage in my life standing firm for God and what's right no matter the cost!

Sunday Gerhard was ready to take us on another day long hike through field and dale discovering beautiful and fresh things along the way!  He took us to the highest point in the Odenwald, the forest he lives close to.  There is a tower that has a 360 degree view at the top!  But before starting out on our main hike, he wanted to show us the Feldenmehr—sea of rocks—basically a huge rock slide of large boulders with a mystery addition—a huge rock pillar that was carved from a boulder by the Romans hundreds of years ago way up high on a hill.  It’s laying on it’s side there and no one knows why.  We thought it was just a short walk from the parking lot but it ended up being a couple miles up this really steep hill which we had a great time doing.  The amazing thing is that Uncle Gerhard just charged right up and down the hill without much huffing and puffing at all!! Wow!  I want to be as fit as him at 88 years old!  Pictured below you'll see a picture of one of four springs of water that are active all year around.  They help supply drinking water to the people in the area as well as keep the Odenwald green even in the summer when it's hot :-) The main hike we went on after that was beautiful and nostalgic.  It brought back many memories of my childhood and of Dad growing up here.  Gerhard took us to a place for Kuchen 2/3 of the way through the hike and we had a chance to enjoy some meaningful discussion time with him.  His friend Peter who is 20 years younger than him just had a stroke and he shared that he was very concerned for him.  We joined hands and prayed for Peter and his family.  We spoke of things that really matter in life such as love, connection, family and friends.  It was a special time of connection that we will never forget!  Shortly after we returned to our castle home on Sunday there ended up being a beautiful sunset.  The last two pictures below are of our castle home--Starkenburg Castle--at sunset :-)

We are now heading out to seize that last day of our time here in Europe!!!  My father has shared several places that are special to him.  We will visit all those places and reflect on the meaningful and nostalgic things that happened in them.  Will write about them tonight after we return to our castle home for one last time :-)