Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Eurasia 2017

10/16/17 Five weeks into our 10-week assignment! We’re enjoying our jobs, keeping busy, and are very comfortable in our nice apartment in the “Pink Palace” in the charming 1500-resident village of Büsingen, Germany, on the Rhine River!

We’re here to work, even though it’s not what we’re posting on Facebook since photos of us at computers isn’t nearly as interesting. Except for one, the missionary staff is completely different from our last time here. The local staff people are the same. Dan has a long list of IT related tasks; addressing needs, investigating ‘things’ that don’t work, upgrades and improvement even before people bring him their laptops with questions.

So far, I’ve worked with the regional personnel coordinator, emailed the regional missionaries and updated spreadsheets with their current information, helped the finance guys with a couple of small projects, and inventoried the storage area (next, reorganizing and labeling!). I enjoy all the projects I get, usually connecting with lots of people and doing things I enjoy!

This German village is so interesting – it’s unique in that it’s surrounded by Switzerland and actually has a Swiss zip code AND a German one. All the homes in the entire village are heated by a central hot water system powered by solar panels. And, by contrast, the grass in the field where these panels are located is kept short simply by grazing sheep there!  The village has recycling and trash collection down to a science! Also, energy is being saved by keeping the village’s streetlights turned off from midnight to 4 a.m..

We’ve taken long walks around the village or toward Schaffhausen, Switzerland (less than 3.5 miles away), along the Rhine River – it’s beautifully clear with boaters, ducks, and swans. And you can even see fish! German and Swiss folks are very health-conscious; you’ll see people out walking or biking from early morning to early evening.

Our second Saturday, we borrowed a car and went to the Salvation Army Bröckenhaus or Bröcki (second-hand stores here are VERY nice) and found lots of bargains (even found a curling iron since I had left mine at home!!), then drove into Schaffhausen, Switzerland, where there was a farmer’s market happening all over town on the cobblestone streets! There were flowers and plants and vegetables, meats and breads and cheeses — so fun and so charming! After wandering around the town and soaking in the sunny day, we bought lunch from a vendor – bratwursts sticking out of a paper wrapper, accompanied by a slice of brown bread that you put a heap of mustard to smear on your brat as you ate it!

On Sundays, we catch a ride with missionaries to the International Church (it’s the congregation we knew from before but, with the sale of European Nazarene College land, now they’re meeting in the international school cafeteria in Schaffhausen).  Besides most of us from the Regional Office, there are some American/Swiss families and other ex-pats, some Germans and Dutch folks. October’s memory verse is: Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved. Romans 10:13. The kids have been showing off with their memorization of the passage!

This month celebrates the 500-year anniversary of Martin Luther’s reformation papers, 95 theses/questions to challenge the Catholic Church’s beliefs and practices, defiantly nailed to the door of the Wittenberg Castle church on October 31, 1517. While we may have heard this information before, it seems more personal this time, to be in this country where Protestantism started, on this particular anniversary!

There was another anniversary, on October 3 – Unification Day, when East and West Germany were reunited as one country in 1990. German offices were closed so we borrowed a car and drove to Lucerne, Switzerland, for the day, sharing a burger at the Holy Cow restaurant, walking their famous Chapel Bridge, and indulging in some coffee at Starbucks!

Evenings, I cook and knit, often watching an old movie or British drama on YouTube (while Dan is researching all the IT work and upgrades needed here). I finished knitting a gray linen scarf and started a pair of baby booties because one of the Syrian refugee families here just had a little boy. The pattern needs some tweaking to fit a newborn. (One day, Dan and I watched another pregnant refugee woman walk up and down the main street many times; maybe she was trying to hurry things along!) Our first week here, there was a church ladies game night that included a Swiss, an Italian, a Brit, and some Americans) and some were interested in learning to knit. The little booties will be an easy, quick, and practical beginner project. Good thing there’s a variety store here called Müller that sells yarn and needles; sometimes even the Aldi stores have them!

We’re grateful to have a washer and dryer that’s just for our use, down in the basement of our “Pink Palace", but they’re pretty small, so I wash more loads than at home. It’s also been pretty easy to borrow a car a couple of times a week and get to the local German Aldi which has a great selection of food and other things (it’s only 2 miles away but we leave Germany, enter and leave Switzerland, then we’re back into Germany)! We’ve had apples from New Zealand, peaches from Spain, avocados from Chile. The Aldi even has a bakery with lots of rustic breads and pastries! We may come back heavier unless we keep walking!

The Regional Office has a relationship with a group of refugees/immigrants who live in the apartments purchased by the village a couple of years ago (that used to be part of the European Nazarene College). And that group of mostly Syrians had already blessed the Nazarenes with a special dinner to thank them. On September 30, I made a large shepherd’s pie and an apple cake for the dinner that the Regional Office hosted for the local refugees. What an evening it was! Being good guests, the immigrants brought several lovely cakes to share for dessert. At first, Dan and I were at a disadvantage – we spoke no German or Kurdish, so we did a lot of smiling and watching. Those who had some German and/or Arabic expertise used it with our guests who have been in Germany between 1 and 2 years and are learning German. The little kids were adorable! Since several of us provided food, there was LOTS and, after the meal, the Syrians used one of their cellphones to play music and do some traditional dances! The women watched and talked about the traditional cakes they had made – one of these days, we might even get a cake-baking lesson from the mama! We also shared traditional sayings/proverbs about friendship and hospitality and sang national songs. Dan and I sang “Take Me Out to the Ballgame”! What a privilege to experience this kind of ministry!

The next evening, Arthur and Annemarie (the Dutch Regional Director and his church-planter wife) had us come upstairs for dinner (to the 3rd floor of our house - we lived there last time, and now we’re in the ground floor apartment). What a lovely evening we had; they are very caring people, excellent hosts, and they want to connect with their staff – even us short-timers!

As we begin our 6th week of this assignment, several people are out of town, so the office is quieter than usual. That will change, of course! I’ve been asked to help with an office birthday celebration soon. More projects will come up and we expect to continue some work over the internet after we return home.

In the meantime, I’m still gleaning information to make the weekly bulletin for our home church!  Dan also is involved, posting the bulletin on the church internal Facebook page and keeping in touch as a church board member while the rest of that group are continuing the interview process for a new pastor.

We hope this not-so-brief update helps all get a glimpse of our days here. It is such a privilege to be used here in these ways while we have the skills needed and the blessings of good health to use them.

Those who follow and care about us are always in our prayers as we thank God for your prayers and support.

Dan & Janet

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