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Feb

Introduction:

My parents are out of town, and I’m staying with my sisters. Right now, my role is mostly taxi-driver and cook. My grandmothers both live nearby, so I’m also helping them however I can. Grandmama¬† is my mom’s mom. She’s almost fiercely independent, even though she is blind and can’t get around very well.

Story:

This morning, Kara and Stephanie and I loaded into the van and headed out to pick up Grandmama and go to church. As we turned onto her street, we noticed a police car. It was parked in the middle of the street, mostly blocking the way. Behind it were cars, people, and firetrucks. The policeman wasn’t there, but some neighbors were standing out in their yard. I rolled down my window.

“What happened?” I asked.

“A fire.”

“Which house? Do you know which house?”

They didn’t.

I squeezed the van around the police car, heart pounding. There were at least three huge fire trucks, and they were right in front of Grandmama’s house. I thought, “There’s been a fire at Grandmama’s house. She probably left the stove on and didn’t realize it. And if there was a fire in her house, she probably wouldn’t get out. She probably died in that fire.” I briefly wondered why no one had called us, but realized there probably hadn’t been enough time. There was still smoke in the air.

But the smoke wasn’t coming from Grandmama’s house. It was the house across the street. The back corner of the roof was black, and the house sported tyvek instead of siding.

I never did see the policeman, but people were out in their yards everywhere. I stopped and asked if everyone was ok. They were. No one was hurt.

I couldn’t get to Grandmama’s driveway, so I parked on the street by the edge of her yard.

I rang the doorbell. Soon she came to the door, I explained what had happened, and we walked across the yard to the van. Then we went to church, even more thankful for Grandmama than when we woke up that morning.

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Jan

On the drive to Italy, we were supposed to spend our time practicing Italian.

Mountain on the way to Italy

The drive to Italy

We had trouble concentrating, though. I heard a rumor that some people were listening to Pavarotti, too.

When we arrived at our host church in Fontannafredda, we felt very welcome. Why? Well, there was a welcome sign. (more…)

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Jan

It’s been a while, I know. But now, we return to our irregularly scheduled mission team reports. At the rate I’m going, I’ll have to hurry to finish these before the mission team goes out again (without me this time, though).

After two days in very rural Slovakia, we headed to Vienna, Austria.

Thoughts about Vienna:

Happenings in Vienna:

We arrived at our host church in Vienna, unloaded a bunch of stuff, checked e-mail, grabbed our concert clothes, and headed off to a nearby town (I think it was called Krems) for supper and a service at a Romanian Baptist Church. The church people took us out for genuine Wiener schnitzel before the service. The schnitzel were amazing–they tasted wonderful, and they were huge. So we stuffed ourselves on wonderful schnitzel, and then we went back to the church for dessert. Really. I think there was lots of left-over dessert.

The people at the Romanian church were friendly and fun to talk with. Their building was new, and they were really trying to reach out into their community. They especially wanted the local German speakers to know that they were welcome (i.e., the church isn’t just for Romanians). Hopefully our service helped with that. We certainly didn’t sing in Romanian!

Kai and Missy Soltau were our main hosts in Vienna, and both of them had just lost a parent. They were kind and encouraging to us, even though they were hurting. They were a walking testimony of God’s grace while we were there, and I hope that we were able to encourage them in some small way.

The next day we had a whirlwind tour through Vienna. There was no way that we could visit everything, so first we drove around, and Kai pointed out the important buildings. We all went to St. Stephen’s Cathedral (Stefansdom), and we got permission to sing a few songs inside! This was particularly cool, because Haydn and Mozart both performed there. We always try to sing inside cathedrals, but sometimes it doesn’t work out, especially in the bigger ones. This was definitely a big cathedral, but we got permission to sing, and a crowd gathered. We were able to testify about God’s love, and several people asked questions afterward.

After Stefansdom, we got gelato, and visited as many buildings as we could. Then, we went back to the church for supper and did a service at Kai’s church.

Jan

Today when I was using Google Insights for Search, my Google toolbar observed that the page was in Ukranian and helpfully offered to translate it for me.

Thanks, Google, but actually this page is not in Ukranian.

Google thinks the page is in Ukranian.

Google thinks the page is in Ukranian.

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Nov

Our time in Slovakia could hardly have been more different from Prague. We went to work with a little mission in the village of Sus. Our hosts there are missionaries sent out by Swiss Faith Mission, so they speak German (and some English, fortunately!). The people in Sus are all farmers, so the missionaries farm too. I think our time in Sus would have been quite shocking if we hadn’t been to Guetli already. Sus is kind of like Guetli, but more primitive.

Saturday evening we sang at a church in a nearby village. I gave my camera to one of the girls from Sus, so I have lots of photos of that service (for a change). We were a little nervous about that service since it was our first time singing in Slovak, but the people were very kind (and said that they could understand us!).

Saturday was July 4th, and on the way back from our concert, we had a private celebration in our van. Amy Corey brought glow sticks, and we turned up the patriotic music. Strangely, I think it was the best July 4th celebration I’ve ever experienced. I guess being in rural Slovakia helped me see how much I should be thankful for my country.

We had our own service at the mission Sunday morning, and then Sunday afternoon we helped with the mission open house. Normally, they invite all of the village people to come over for a Bible study and have refreshments afterward. Since we were there, we sang, and then someone from the mission preached, and then we had refreshments. It was an exciting day, because lots of the village people came! Unfortunately, we didn’t get to stay to talk to people afterward because we had to be in Bratislava that evening. I think most of them probably didn’t speak English, so we couldn’t have talked much anyway.

Sunday evening we sang at a church in Bratislava, the capitol. We gave a concert after the evening service, and not everyone stayed. At first, I felt a little disappointed, but I remembered that God can work no matter what the size of the audience. We sang “It is Well” that night, and several of the audience members seemed especially moved by that song. Actually, it seemed to be a favorite all summer, in all languages.

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Nov

After Kirchberg, we had to drive to Slovakia. It’s a long way to Slovakia, so we spent the night in Prague. It was a terrible trial, and we suffered greatly, I assure you. We especially suffered during the several hours when we went sight-seeing in Prague.

I love sight-seeing in Prague, but I can’t say that I love Prague as a whole. There’s a lot of dirt in Prague, and a lot of scary people. And it took three different keys for me to get into my hostel room. Three keys! I can’t decide whether that makes me feel very safe (No one’s breaking into my room!) or freaked out (Why on earth do we need three different keys??).

But still, it’s Prague. It has lots of shopping and old buildings, which make me happy. I wish I had a good picture of the market where we did most of our shopping, but I was too busy shopping to take pictures. Funny how that works . . .

I do have obligatory pictures of the astronomical clock, the St. Charles bridge, and a church. There’s also a picture of the cafe where we had pizza for supper. It was a nice day.

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Nov

We spent several days in Kirchberg, singing there and at other churches in the area. Unfortunately, my computer ate my pictures from those days. Since my pictures are gone, my memories are a little fuzzy, too.

In Kirchberg, we sang across the street from the market, and then went into the market to pass out invitations. There were several vendors who were unhappy about our presence, so I was very excited when the bakery stand lady stopped me and said, “If you will give me a stack of the invitations, I’ll give them to my customers.”

We had several good concerts in the Kirchberg area, but I don’t remember much about them. I met an interesting lady who teaches handicapped children. We sang in a town square and a shirtless man who acted drunk sat on the fountain in front of us and kept clapping and talking to us.

We had Bradley’s birthday celebration (not during a concert). It was so funny that I cried.

Oh, and food. I do have lots of Kirchberg memories centered around food. First, there are the sandwiches.

I’m sure our hosts from the previous stop gave us sandwiches to eat on the way. When we arrived at Kirchberg, they said that we were going to have kaffee and kuchen, but it turned out to be kaffee and sandwiches. That was ok, but for some reason, the team seemed to have reached our sandwich limit. So we didn’t eat very many sandwiches. But, the church people kindly left them at the church so we could have them for a snack later.

That evening, we were singing at a church in another town, and having supper there. When we arrived, there were lots of bottles of Fanta and beautifully arranged platters of sandwiches. It would have been funny, except that I think the church ladies must have made 7 sandwiches for each of us, and we were only able to eat about 1.745692 sandwiches apiece.

It’s not that we have anything against sandwiches, especially the beautiful ones that the German ladies make. And really, we were ever so grateful for their hospitality. It’s just that American young people can only eat so many open face salami (or cheese or egg or smoked salmon or bologna) sandwiches with a bit of butter and an artful slice of pepper or cucumber.

We also had sandwiches at a different church, and hot dogs at another. I thought we did a great job of eating the hot dogs, but one of the serving ladies didn’t. I think she cried when she saw how many were left over. I felt sad for her, but really, they didn’t need to make approximately 87 hot dogs for us. I think they got confused and thought they were feeding starving children from Africa. That, or a basketball team. At any rate, they expected us to eat ten times more than we actually can, and to eat it 30 minutes before we were supposed to sing an hour-long concert.

We were all staying at the church in Kirchberg (not in host homes), so when other churches weren’t feeding us, we cooked for ourselves. That was fun! We had pizza one day, and schnitzel another. Oh, and Dr. Dad made scrambled eggs for breakfast. Germans don’t generally make scrambled eggs, so this was the only time all summer that most people on the team had non-boiled eggs. And yes, we did eat those like we were starving. I think Dr. Dad made 100 eggs for the team. It was something ridiculous like that, anyway, and I think we ate them all! We did skip lunch that day, though.

Finally, there was an actual kaffee and kuchen (this one included coffee, and cake, and no sandwiches at all). There’s a very sweet couple in the church in Kirchberg that hosted me and Tim last year. This year, we stayed at the church with the rest of the team, but they invited us and Heather Davis and the Drs. Parents over for kaffee and kuchen.

Dr. Mom wasn’t able to go, because she wasn’t feeling well. So, there were just 6 of us at the table. But for the 6 of us, there were 3 kinds of ice cream, and a huge strawberry cheese shortcake and pastries and bread with butter and probably other things that I’m forgetting. We were expected to eat the entire strawberry creation, along with huge quantities of icecream and pastry. These people are so sweet, but I’m glad that they aren’t my grandparents. If they fed me on a regular basis, I think I would be dead. Oh, and on the way out, the lady gave me and Heather a box of chocolates!

Nov

Some people cry when they visit the concentration camp, but I didn’t. I felt stunned and a little sick. I’ve heard people say before that something left a bad taste in their mouths. Just thinking about the things I saw at Sachsenhausen makes me want to spit. (more…)

Nov

On Saturday (during our stay at Oranienburg), we went to Berlin! Saturday evening we gave a concert at a church on the outskirts of Berlin, but during the day, we had time to see the Pergamon Museum, Checkpoint Charlie, and the Brandenburg Gate.

Our visit to Berlin began on a disturbing note when we were accosted by a gypsy woman. (more…)

Oct

The team has visited Oranienburg many times, including last year. On Friday we had several informal times of fellowship with church people, and we met some adorable bunnies. I’ll tell you about Saturday later.

Sunday morning, we shared in the church’s Lord’s Supper service (during what we would consider the Sunday School hour), and then we had the morning service. The church people had invited lots of visitors to that morning service, and it was packed. They had to put folding chairs in the lobby for overflow. We enjoy singing for church people, but it was exciting to know that visitors were hearing the gospel, too.

After church, we had a huge dinner outside with everyone. Tim and I met several girls near our age who all seemed to be involved in the medical field. I think one was a dental hygienist, and another worked at a pharmacy.

Sunday evening we went to a park with a bunch of church people (because they don’t have Sunday evening services), and played volleyball. Well, I didn’t play volleyball, but many team members did. I played a card game with some of the non-athletic teenagers.

Tim and I really enjoyed getting to know our hosts, the Schulz family. Sunday evening we had dinner on their balcony, watched Charlotte ride her unicycle, and learned about life under Communism. We’re especially grateful to Richard for fixing breakfast for us Monday morning when his mom was busy.

Disclaimer: Tim took all of these pictures. Thank you, Tim!

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