So basically, I’m keeping a journal for the team and when I get internet I’ll post it here:) Here is what I have thus far:)
Wednesday, May 23, 2012. 1:00pm EST
Rehearsals have been a little crazy for me. First, I was struggling to get over my cold and the end of my fever. On top of that, there was somehow a luggage mix-up, and there was no suitcase waiting for me when I got to Greenville. According to the computers, my suitcase was sitting on the plane in the GSP airport but this was obviously not the case, so I had to continue on without all my stuff. Thankfully, the airport luggage department had travel-sized toiletries for me to take along with me, and the Davises made me feel very at home, and gave me all the clothing and medicine I needed. It was a little concerning, not knowing where my stuff was, and hoping it hadn’t landed in Timbuktu. Actually, I wasn’t too worried about it (probably not worried enough). I did, of course, know that I really had to have it by today, but of course God knew that too. Some of you knew about this mix-up too, and I would like to thank you very much for your prayers. My luggage safely arrived at the very next day.
We hit the road at about 12:45 today. Many former team members were there to see us off. It was a very touching moment as we sang Benediction, a beautiful a capella hymn the team uses as a farewell song. I found I had just enough voice to sing the low parts of the alto line. It was a very touching moment, and I was reminded again that the Lord is going with us, and that He will keep us and protect us. As we boarded the bus, the former members waved us on. I thought of how the ladies used to wave their handkerchiefs to their husbands and friends as the ships in the harbor pulled slowly out of sight. I wondered what it would be like, knowing they may never hear from their families again. I am so thankful that I have the internet, so I can communicate with all you, whom I miss already.
I am looking forward to the summer so much! Actually, it hasn’t hit me quite yet–that I’m going to Europe. On a mission team. For ten weeks. Somehow it’s easy to think things are so far away, and then find that you’re right in the middle of them. Maybe it will hit me tomorrow night, when, by God’s grace, I will be sleeping in an old chateaux in southern France. So even though I’m pumped about going, my heart isn’t beating fast just quite yet. But it will be beating fast, very soon.
Thursday, May 24, 2012 10:30am CET
Last night was very short. It is about 4:30am in America, but here in Germany it’s 10:30am. I didn’t get any sleep on the plane at all, so it still feels like 4:30 to me. I’m pretty sure I’ll get over jetlag soon because I’m going to sleep pretty well tonight.
The first and only thing I have noticed about Germany was what I saw from the airplane window–the land. Houses cluster in little villages, wrapped in acres of green farmland. It’s exactly what I think of when I think of medieval times (from the air anyway; I know they’re certainly not primitive). You get the feeling that one side of the sign says “Entering the Village” and the other side says “Leaving the town.” I love it already.
The airport is humid. Random fact: Dr. Mom says Germans like warm air, not cool air.
Thursday, May 24, 2012 6:00 pm CET
I haven’t slept in almost 35 hours. On the plane it was too hard to get comfortable, and when we landed, it was time for another day. The whole team tried to stay awake all day. It’s the best way to get rid of jetlag–to get right into your new schedule with a full night’s sleep. I know I will be sleeping well tonight.
Switzerland’s countryside is beautiful, from what I could see from the plane. The peaks of the famous Swiss Alps cut through the carpet of clouds that we flew over. In the few places that there were no clouds, I could see layers of mountains that reminded me of The Sound of Music. I could almost see Maria running across the open fields, singing to her heart’s content.
And then we drove to France. My goodness, what a beautiful place that is.
For the first time in my life, I get to see a real castle (chateaux) and sleep in it all in the same day.
Kids volleyball, castle ruins over the lake, cows on hills, red houses
Friday, May 24, 2012 8:20am CET
I have never felt as refreshed as I did today when I woke up. I don’t ever remember waking up to an alarm clock and feeling a hundred percent wide awake. I was so very thankful that I wasn’t tired and that I was probably over jet lag, as well.
Friday, May 25, 2012 3:00pm CET
Breakfast was really good. The Chateaux St. Albain served us French bread with jam, yogurt, and coffee that we drank out of bowls. There was this really cool bread slicer that looked like a fancy battle axe on a hinge that you raised, put the loaf of bread under, and then chopped. Then the owners asked us to sing for the group of kids also staying there (we had played volleyball with them the night before). So we sang a few hymns that we knew from memory in English, and when we were done they applauded for us.
French is really a very charming language, and very beautiful to listen to. I wish I could wake up tomorrow and just know it inside and out (because for one I am too lazy to try to learn it).
We drove for several hours today. Around lunch time we stopped in this little French village and played frisbee while Dr. Mom and one of the lunch crews went to the market to get food. For lunch, we had ham and cheese sandwiches ton sandwich bread that tasted more like cake. Someone told me that they don’t have the kind of sandwich bread I’m used to in Europe. That’s good, because I discovered today that I can actually enjoy sandwich bread.
I saw two more castles today. The first time I saw one I was so excited I almost cried. But I didn’t because I was too embarrassed. I am so excited about seeing castles. We have seen many chateauxs but the all out castles are the best.
We got to Bordeaux at about five. The Bixbys all greeted me by name, andI felt very much at home. Dinner was very good. There was French bread again. I love French bread. We also had French crepes, with different fillings–sugar, jam, and Nutella. Then we had these red things that looked like hot dogs and tasted more like sausages.
Singing at the Tram station
Saturday, May 25, 2012 9:45pm CET
Today was absolutely phenomenal. For breakfast, Mrs. Cole served a huge spread. There was yogurt that was delicious, two kinds of fresh croissants (croissants with chocolate filling, and croissants with raisins), grain cereals (one with chocolate chips and one with red berries), and baguettes with jam. Today I found out that French people use bowls for coffee and hot chocolate at breakfast so they can dip their bread in it while they are eating (a random other thing: today at lunch they had disposable plastic coffee cups–little white things with handles. Ingenious!)
We heard a message from both Mr. Bixbys. The messages were incredibly helpful and insightful. Mr. Tim Bixby spoke on “Why Europe,” explaining objections some people have to sending missionaries to the “already-evangelized” part of the world. Mr. Robert Bixby then brought us a very insightful message about keeping good relationships with the people around you, and the need to have premeditated solutions to problems that arise. This means I need to create scenarios in my head so when they actually happen I have already planned out my response, so I don’t accidentally stumble into sin. This is because life is made of infinite choices and I am always choosing something, never not choosing anything. I need to know which choice to make as soon as any problem arises, before I stumble into sin.
Lunch was epic. We had roclette for lunch. It was so fun. Every table got a grill with a spot under the fire for little frying pans. We all put a strong cheese in the pans and melted it in the bottom shelf of the grill. It was similar in texture to warm mozzarella. Then we cooked meats on top. There was bacon, salami, and two other spicy kinds that I didn’t recognize. It was delicious. We pulled sizzling bacon and salami off of the grill and ate it hot, and then we poured melted cheese on baked potatoes and ate it with French bread.
Later that day we went to downtown Bordeaux to pass out flyers and tracts. My jaw dropped when I saw the city for the first time (Dr. Mom thought I was sick). The people in Bordeaux are not legally allowed to change the outside shell of their buildings. Inside, there could be a vacant lot, but the outside must stay exactly the same. Stepping into the city, I felt like I was stepping back in time. A row of beautiful stone houses faded into the horizon stood at my right, and a red brick bridge that Napoleon Bonaparte had given the order to build (with the exact number of arches as letters in his name). When we started passing out flyers, I was amazed (and encouraged) at the number of people who took them. Only a few people refused a tract or brochure that I could see. Mr. Bixby brought us to a very old church called St. Peter’s Cathedral. When I entered, I left lively Bordeaux and entered an atmosphere that was new to me. No one talked inside. There was no rule posted that said be quiet, but I think it was the very nature of the place that made everyone stop talking. The cathedral was very grand, and dark. A huge stained glass window at the front of the sanctuary provided most of the light in the place. Along the walls stood statues of apostles and saints, candles with open flames burning underneath a Madonna painting, and a beautiful wooden crucifix. The only noise other than the shuffling of people’s feet was the soft flow of Gregorian chant floating in from somewhere. I felt like I was in medieval times, and I could almost see people kneeling and worshipping in this old cathedral. I was in such a different state of mind and I was so impressed with the grandness of the place that it wasn’t until Aubrey Elliot pointed out how sad it was that something actually clicked in my mind. This great feat of man’s work showed me the horrible delusion of thousands of people. All the candles, the confessions, the saints, the Madonna, the statues, stained glass windows–it all showed me how real this false religion was to people. People worshipping, some of them more “religious” and serious about their faith than I (I am ashamed to have to say), performing the rituals they were told to, saying what prayers the priests told them to, trying to ease their burning consciences and trying to find answers. Thinking that their good works and religion would bring them safety when their time on earth was up. Doing all they could, only to find that there was nothing they could possibly have done to secure their own souls. Not knowing that only faith in Christ could have brought them to the Answer.
I made a little friend, Adriana. She translated for me when I talked to Didié and with another lady who came to the church who I’m not sure was a believer. She was my little buddy:)
I ate dinner with a group of MMT people and church people. The boy who sat next to me was very friendly and spoke in broken English. We had a very fun time talking with him and trying to communicate when it was hard. Between me, Kristin, and Joseph, we knew about 2 French words and so we came up with a lot of ways to talk to him, like using lots of hand motions and making sounds and faces and drawing on the tablecloth. But Ben loved practicing his speaking English with us so we had a good time.
When I asked Ben what he thought of when he thought about America, he told me he thought of the American Dream and also of the Perfect Family.
Sunday, May 27, 2012 10:45pm CET
Sunday was a very good day. I was a little bit discouraged going into the service because it had been quite rough on Saturday, but Sunday’s performance was much better. After the service was when I found out that the man Didié had been saved at our Saturday performance and it made me glad. We had a potluck lunch with ice cream and cake for dessert before the concert. Afterwards, I went back to the Coles’ house. They had a little party with some of the MMT girls.
I should say a little bit about the Coles. Dr. Aaron Cole and his wife Liz are missionaries who are temporarily working with the Bixbys while they are studying French in a course at the university nearby. They have three lovely children. The oldest is 5 years old and her name is Vivian. Adeline is 2, and baby Matthew is even younger. I had a good time telling them stories Sunday night during the party.
Something humorous: I told Judy Morehouse that I didn’t think I got along well with kids. I said (sarcastically) they hated me. Next thing I knew, just minutes later, there were about 6 little girls all holding my hands playing ring around the rosy with me. We had a great time:)
Monday, May 28, 2012
Right now I am in the car driving through this little city in France. I saw the Mediterranean Sea for the first time (I keep saying ocean for some reason). We hit this little rest stop that the Bixbys had recommended and I am very glad we did. It had a beautiful overview of the French countryside and we saw this wicked old medieval city. Okay so this city was absolutely gorgeous. It had towers and turrets and arrow slits and cross windows and up and down walls, and the whole works. I was so excited I almost cried. I am weird like that. One thing I love about France is that there are all these random unmarked castles and fortresses and chateauxs. Everywhere there are little buildings or sheds or walls that are who knows how old. Also, this place reminds me of the period drama movies I’ve seen where they talk about going to the countryside. It was very hard to leave the Coles’ house. They were very good to me. It was also very hard to leave the Bixbys’ church. As we sang Benediction to say farewell, I felt for the first time that I was going somewhere where truly no one knew me.
When we stopped to see this medieval city, I was so excited I almost cried. Then I almost cried again later when we saw some chateaux that was absolutely picture perfect.
The church there gave us a fabulous full course dinner with different tarts–onion tart was my favorite. There was Quiche Tart that was very good too. And salads. One thing I noticed is that everyone here puts corn in salad. I really like it. It makes it sweet. And most people serve cubed beets with the salad as well, which is also very nice. They had French bread and cheeses (including brie cheese–my favorite) as the in-between thing, Then for dessert there were all kinds of things. The best was chocolate truffles. I decided I am very glad we have to eat everything on our plate.
Later we went to the Mediterranean sea and sang at this cool little sound platform. We drew a small crowd of people. I got to talk to some folks after, but they were already Christians and we had a lovely conversation.
That night we stayed in a little house with an elderly lady named Agnes and her adult son (whose name I don’t think I ever knew). She was very nice, but she had this cat that had red eyes and would sit and stare at you eerily.
For breakfast Agnes served us breads and jams. That is a very French breakfast. Usually there are at least two kinds of bread, and in this case it was regular French bread and more of those croissants that have chocolate in the middle. 🙂
Tuesday we passed out tracts all day. That is my favorite kind of work–street work. I cannot understand what the people who reject the tracts are saying, so that’s an extra blessing right there. I have about a 90-95% accept rate which I’ve never seen before.
In the middle of the city there is this big old red brick fortress. It was really cool. Had an awesome staircase.
We also changed dollars to Euros. I asked Dr. Mom if I could go with her because I wanted the experience and I wanted to see how someone who was good at those things handled the situation. She put me in charge of taking the team members’ dollars and calculating how many euros they were supposed to receive in exchange. It turned out to be very interesting. Only one of the places in the town that said they exchanged euros actually did. We got an exchange rate of 1 euro for every 1.34 dollars. Basically, you got three quarters of the number of dollars back in the number of euros. So if you exchanged $100, you came out with just about 75. Then I was in charge of distributing all the euros. Somewhere along the way we came out slightly short and it was pretty stressful recalculating all the math and stuff over dinner. I personally think the man who exchanged our money was dishonest and took some to keep for himself. It’s the only way the numbers made sense. So it was a team loss, but it worked out so that no one lost any money individually.
Wednesday, May 30, 2012 10:50 CET
Wednesday morning, Dr. Dad told us that we were going back to Carcassonne. And we were going to go inside the walled city. So I got to live my dream and feel like I was stepping back in time. My favorite thing inside the city was this store that looked just like a medieval store in a video game (yes, I sheepishly admit that my favorite part reminded me of Legend of Zelda). They sold all these medieval clothes and armor and weapons and these really cool journals. The architecture was incredible–so long lasting and powerful.. It gave me a new picture to put in my head when I read in the Psalms about God being my fortress and my strong tower. Dr. Mom bought fresh, warm ham and cheese sandwiches in the city, so I also got to eat something from out of the city. I bought a necklace for myself that had a sword as a pendant. I’m not sure where I can wear it, but it seemed like just the right thing to get after being there. Funny thing: I enjoyed the walled city probably more than anyone else on the team, but I was one of the first ones to get back into the car when we were waiting for lunch in the parking lot. Something about me changed when I had the opportunity I had always dreamed of. I was completely satisfied, and now I have an awesome memory. But it’s almost as if I don’t care so much about castles and things anymore. I can say that because I have stopped taking pictures of every fortress and castle I see. I adore looking at them, and it’s not like there
When we got to Leissigen that afternoon, the person in charge of us worked us very hard passing out church information and tracts and gospel books.
That evening was a Wednesday night church service and I got assigned with Judy Morehouse a host family. I don’t know what their last name was, but the husband and wife’s names were Leo and Sylvie and they had two kids–a boy Matt’s age named John and a girl Holly’s age named Louise. They spoke only French and John had only a couple words in English that he knew. But they were a beautiful Christian family. They were getting ready to move to Paris because Leo was going to be a pastor there. We could communicate pretty much only with words that we had in common and with hand gestures, but we were able to figure out a lot. We were wrong a few times and we had some good laughs. I’m thankful that on this team there are kids with a sense of humor.
The service at Leissigen went well over all. I haven’t yet mentioned that I learned a duet with Aubrey Elliot. So now we play Nearer, Still Nearer on harp and violin. It’s a pretty nice arrangement.
At Leo and Sylvie’s house that night, Judy and I had a really touching experience. Leo took a French Bible with the whole family and turned to 1 Corinthians 15:58. He read out loud in French. Then we turned there and read in English, “Therefore, my beloved brothers, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain.” When we were done, he pointed to us and said, “For you, for you.” It’s so neat to see how the gospel creates a bond between believers who don’t even know each other and who may never see each other again on Earth. And this man, this brother in Christ, was able to encourage us, not with his own words, which we could not understand, but through the words of God. I was again able to see just a little bit more just how powerful the Gospel is. Both Judy and I went to bed very encouraged that night.
Friday we drove all day. I watched the landscape in between naps and saw the hills of the French countryside change from rolling grassy humps to tall slopes blanketed in trees to shaggy stony cliffs until all of a sudden in front of me stood something entirely different and I caught my first breathtaking view of the Swiss Alps. The border crossing went incredibly smoothly, and it seemed like moments later we were surrounded by little brown and white villages in little clusters spread randomly in all the little hills and flats.
I was very excited about spending the night in a hostel. I knew it would be a rewarding time of rest. I had looked this place up on Google earth and remember that when I zoomed out, there was a huge blue lake. When I zoomed out more, there were mountains all around. I was very excited. I was totally unprepared for what I saw. It seemed like we rounded one corner and then we were suddenly in this beautiful valley with mountains all around. From my bedroom window I saw t beautiful deep blue lake nestled in the middle of mountains. From the hostel you could see a snow covered mountain that appeared to be within walking distance, although I’m not entirely sure that it was. The village that the hostel was in was beautiful. When I think of Heidi, I think of this village. Dr. Mom says we aren’t in Heidi country yet. I can hardly wait until we are
Today we continue the drive to Stuttgart. One of the vans got separated from us. We didn’t know where they went but we waited for a while in front of a house. After a little bit, I looked to see if there was internet connection. There was. But it was very slow because everyone on the team was trying to use it. When Google loaded for me my heart soared. But then I tried to load anything else and it was far too slow. I tried for like 10 minutes but then we had to move on. It was disappointing. I don’t know what God is trying to teach me because he is really limiting my communication with home. The other day I kneeled on my Kindle by accident and broke the screen. It is very hard to read anything though so I’m pretty sure this is a clear sign from God to wait and trust him. It is so hard sometimes. I want to talk to home so bad. I want to update my blog every day and put pictures up for you all to see. But God has something different in mind, I know for sure. If you think of it, pray that I will be able to survive on my communication rations. When we drove around the corner, there was the other van, parked near the sidewalk. We used up our lunch break and Dr. Mom didn’t want to stop for lunch because she thought the church would have something for us to eat as soon as we got there at 3. Dr. Dad wanted to stop. I did too.
The border crossing into Germany was very smooth. Now I’m in one of the three places I’ve always wanted to see (the other two are Italy and England, in case you were wondering). I keep thinking to home, thinking of how I am the first one in my family to venture to Europe. I can easily see why people vacation here. Before I left South Carolina, my friend Amy Cory told me something that I had a hard time believing, although I really tried to. She said that I would find that the most enjoyable part of the trip would not be seeing the sights but living with the people. Yes, she said, I would enjoy seeing the sights, but I would realize how much more rewarding it was to be a part of the team and to be living with hosts. She said when I heard about the way nationals thought and I saw the way they lived, and when I was just exposed to this other culture entirely, it would change the way I thought about life in general. I tried so hard to believe her then. But I am experiencing it now.