Friday, July 21, 2006

July 4th

What do you do on July 4th, when Germany is playing in the World Cup Semi- FINALS? Well, you do what any self-respecting "Fussball" fan in this country would do-- you hang out with a group of friends, watch the game which captures the attention of Europe, (and, i dare say, a large part of the globe!), "boo" for Italy, cheer on Germany, AND wear your 'lucky' Germany fan shirt.
Hmmm. In this case, the outcome of the game was ... well, see the faces of Kristin, Maria, Lydia, and myself above. (3 of us wore our fan shirts in this picture!)

But, thankfully, my friends wanted to make the best of a special day and turned their attention across the Big Pond-- after our clean-up time (our church hosted a big fan night with big screen viewing), they congratulated me with a "Happy 4th of July" ... waved flags for the USA, and even spontaneously hummed the National Anthem (to which I obliged with singing the words!). Wow-- very supportive friends!

Stockwerk 5

We have had a marvelous year with a new discussion group, with Connexxion. Here are a few photos of my really FUN friends, to whom I've grown closer and closer over the past months! When i move this fall, I will miss these guys a lot and the cool atmosphere at Conny and Kirsten's apartment each Wednesday night. THANK you, Stockwerk 5! ("Stockwerk" means "floor"-- so in North American building standards, it's on the 6th floor-- up an ornamental, LONG staircase!).

Here is Susi, on our evening on the Peace Mountain, where we sang and played guitar and just hung out after our last group time of the spring/summer semester! Dirk on Djembe (mine... I still need to learn how to play it!), & Conny (guitar) & Kirsten singing!

Saturday, July 15, 2006

Vision Trip, Calif. (Pt. 3 -Seabreeze)

Here's more about our March adventures -- a true perspective- stretching trip with our Connexxion group in the USA. We were in the States, to get teaching from the Word, & fresh ideas about campus ministry & church planting. After a fun & instructive 2 weeks (in Ft. Worth, then a college conference in Glorieta, New Mexico and on to L.A. with Christian Challenge)... Our final weekend was spent with my former "home church" in Huntington Beach. Here's our group with the pastor & wife on the pier (left).

The Missions Team organized the weekend (below, right).

On Friday we were invited to participate & speak in a fellowship & inspirational evening with other international students hosted in a home.

Seabreeze Church meets in a community center- type public library. Being a part of this church when I lived in L.A. taught me much about church start-ups, ministry on the West Coast, & being relevant in a pleasure- driven, post-modern culture.

Some staff & members showed the group around the facilities and explained how they turn a library each Sunday into a worship center. During this time I greeted the church in both services & shared a bit about our ministry. Plus the students had opportunities to serve a bit (here with children) while they discovered the inner-workings of Sunday mornings.

After the worship services, the church hosted a special outdoor reception for us and a couple who serve in Ghana-- complete with our own display table and flag- colored balloons!

Here I am with new friend Lori and a long-term great friend of mine and "hero," Lisa, who has also visited me in Germany! She's getting married in the fall!

What's the stereotype of how all Germans dress?? Lukas is willing to play along! (By the way, you can click here for my 1st report about the Vision Trip, and here for the 2nd!)

Here are some "beach babes" soaking up the sun during our short couple of hours at the windy, Pacific beach -- students Lydia & Vera (with me in the middle)! I just relished seeing my awesome friend Rebecca again and staying with her family! On my last visit I stayed in their outfitted garage, so I told them I must have "moved up" when this time their son, Lance, gave me his room! (ha!)

Bert is active at Seabreeze on the Team for missions. He was one of the main coordinators of our Vision Trip there. He charmed us with his positive attitude & drove us around in a van which the church so VERY graciously rented for our time there. Don't you like his international outfit? --a Germany soccer scarf along with his Ghana shirt, which he got on a project overseas. He & his wife were also one of 4 couples who hosted students in their homes. Lukas & Stefan are with him on the Pier.

service with a smile

We take pictures of celebrities, wondrous sights, friends & special moments. A week ago i asked a friend if i could take his picture because i wanted to remember his generous act of kindness.

Here's how it started: one Monday night after our "First Steps" group, I shared in my kitchen my puzzlement about how to get rid of some stains on my gray tile floor. Peter said he'd check with a family member about it, and bring some special cleaning fluid. The next week he'd returned, with spray in hand AND a heart to begin the task for me-- (what?!!) The change was radical-- but then those 6 tiles stood out REALLY white-ish gray in contrast to the rest of the floor! About 2 weeks after Peter called me: "Can I come over today and finish?" His only "payment" (after about 4 hours work) was a Dr. Pepper (harder to find here!). Danke schön!
"For even I, the Son of Man, came here not to be served but to
serve others, and to give my life as a ransom for many
.” (Mark 10:45; New Living

Monday, July 10, 2006

New Views

I will be moving in the fall, to Braunschweig. I thought I'd share some views of my new city with you. (see also my article entitled "Potpourri") The photos are taken on my first trip there in May, as I was researching and praying about this move. I can't really tell you what the buildings are yet, but it will give a short look around as I saw things...

On the left, I went inside a shopping mall in the downtown.

I do love fountains!

Old historic churches are fascinating to visit.

But especially great is when you can attend a very COOL and relevant church every week! This is the largest Baptist church in the nation, with over 700 members. It's name is the Peace Church ("Friedenskirche"). One of their 2 full-time pastors is making an announcement on stage. (It's also unusual for a church to have 2 pastors).

On the Technical University campus there are 2 or 3 Mensas (word for university cafeteria).

Deanna is pictured here with Ansgar, a very kind student who showed us around one morning, in front of some science buildings (well, since this is a technical university, there are a LOT of science buildings and special research institutes!).

Fußball Fieber

The World Cup ("WM" or "Weltmeisterschaft") is over, as of yesterday's final Spiel als Italien über Frankreich den Sieg gewonnen hat (for English speakers, when Italy won the victory in the game against France). I must say, it's been truly exciting for me to see Germany get so patriotic with all the flags and such, (they normally never come out in this land which is shy about showing its colors).

I wore my "lucky" Germany soccer jersey (only cost me 4 Euro!!) for each of our games (I say "our" because having lived here over 7 years, I do identify quite closely with my adopted nation). Well, I wore it every time EXCEPT when Thomas and I were stuck in Friday traffic... and the long, long stop- and-go traffic for kilometers on the Autobahn on the way to Prague for our staff retreat. (Oh, you thought the Autobahn was ONLY FAST? ha!)

We caught the game on the radio-- at least until we crossed into the Czech Republic. And may I say, soccer is NOT the sort of game you can follow well on radio?! Uh- hum... it didn't help either that we had to return back to Jena, thankfully early on in our trip, because I'd forgotten my passport! Thomas was a real sweetie and TOTALLY patient with me in that mistake. But we cheered on the home team from the car! So, I thought I'd do a special blog JUST about what the World Cup looked like in another part of Europe, on our Team Trip to Prague. No matter where you are: it's "Fussball Fieber" (= football or soccer fever).

Shopping fever? Here is a collection of what the official cleats look like, but colored especially for different countries' teams.

Fan fever? The kids of my co-workers are wearing their special jerseys, too, for Germany's Schweinsteiger (#7) and for Ronaldo (#10) from Brazil. They picked them out themselves!

Viewing the game fever? See the green field of soccer on the outdoor screen. We're on a main outdoor plaza (some cities have several venues for viewing, with from hundreds up to tens of thousands watching it together on giant monitors). As well, many restaurants have TVs or even large- screen monitors for customers.

Night fever? I found this screen amazing-- it's ROUND -- so even at night, from all angles of this pedestrian area, you can watch your favorite game outdoors!

Info. and news fever? You can read about the game the next morning. And at this coffee shop, you can find a newspaper in French, Czech (at least I think that's the language it's in!) or German! (bottom newspaper says Germany won 5-3 over Argentina)

Saturday, July 08, 2006

Prague, sparkling as crystal

Last weekend we had the treat as a leadership team to plan for future ministry with Connexxion and pray in the city of Prague. We spent many hours holed up inside a city apartment, using laptops & sticky pads as our tools. In the off hours we strolled the streets of Prague, which is about 5 hours southeast of my city.

The magnificent castle behind me is the seat of the Czech president, Václav Klaus. The city abounds with shops selling local crystal. The astronomical clock has a Glockenspiel each hour.

If your dog has a 'need' while out walking, you can get handy paper bags available along the sidewalk, to dispose of the waste! There is a superstition that you get good luck by touching one of the statues on the famous Charles Bridge.

We admired those making an eternal impact, serving through the International Baptist Church where we visited on Sunday. There are about 20 nations represented in that church and it was like a taste of heaven to experience Africans & South Americans in the choir, an Asian lady at the piano and a British pastor speaking.

"Just Baptized"

Four of my special friends 'got dunked' in the last 3 months. What a joy! They are all discussion leaders in our campus group. Maria & Lydia are on the left above. And Conny is on the right, in the water, while her special friend Annalie reads the verse chosen for this occasion (the floor in our former church building was taken up; under it lies a baptismal pool).

Vera also made this special step of faith, and she & Conny celebrated that evening at my place-- with about 30 friends! They made a darling decoration for the front door with tin cans (like you tie to the newlyweds' car) & a sign saying "Just baptized!" (she's pictured with my co-worker Deanna here). Below are Janine and Petra with Conny (on rt.).

Maria and Lydia, twin sisters, got baptized on the same Sunday in their home church about 1 hour from Jena.

We celebrated this wonderful day with salads & bratwurst behind the church. Those of us from Jena took a photo together.

Friday, July 07, 2006

Martin Luther in my state

This blog could actually be called, "Martha in Martin Luther's state"! Fascinating history abounds in this nation. Martin Luther was all over my state of Thüringen and he was born and buried in the state just north of me, Sachsen- Anhalt.

My friend Kim visited me 2 weeks ago (whom I knew in our singles group in Florida years ago, & who now works in another area in Germany). Her wish was to see the Wartburg Castle where Luther had spent about 10 months under protection, disguising himself to be spared from certain assassination.

This is the courtyard of the fortress.

From this room (below) he translated the New Testament into German-- in just 11 weeks-- and thus made great strides in unifying the German language & peoples. The only original furniture from Luther's time is the whale bone footstool on the right.
While we're talking about the Wartburg, after Luther had come & gone in that place, but still during his lifetime, a humble farmer, Fritz Erbe, came to be imprisoned in an awful dungeon in this south tower of the castle. Going way against the grain of his time, whether Protestant or Catholic, Erbe held to the biblical view of "believer's baptism" --meaning that only a person who decides to follow Christ should be baptised, and that by immersion. When he refused to baptize his newborn child, and also harbored a woman in his home who had been scripturally baptized, he was imprisoned for a total of 15 years until he died. 8 years of this imprisonment (1540-1548) were undergone in this dungeon, located 3 meters under the surface of the grounds there, and the dungeon itself being 10 meters deep. One reached the dungeon through a rope ladder, the entrance to it being called the "fear hole." Erbe used his fingernails to carve his last name into the stone wall.

I heartily suggest renting the inspiring DVD film "Luther" by Canadian director Eric Till and starring such actors as Sir Peter Ustinov and Joseph Fiennes. The college exchange group which came recently from Union Univ. also developed a new appreciation for this amazing figure (in front of his statue in Erfurt, the capital of my state). Erfurt is the location where Martin Luther was ordained an Augustinian monk and then a priest.