I apologize for the long quiet gap between post. We seem to have been rather busy the last week and a half. Late to bed and early to rise.
I first want to start by saying it has been such a privilege and blessing to be here. I truly wish everyone of you could experience what we have. It’s not about the big events alone, but seeing God’s beauty in the little things that He does everyday. Being in a foreign land (some of you are personally aware of this) can be overwhelming, frustrating & even have moments of feeling alone; on the flip-side, it is beyond wonderful to experience God in a new way and walk in full dependence on Him to lead. It is hard to put into words, but when you don’t know the language or culture it’s easier to find beauty and you are less likely to take moments and opportunities for granted…like when you first fall in love, everything beautiful and wonderful about the other person stands out and you are blind to the lesser beauty. As well, you meet face to face the God of Abundance, the God of Life, the God of Revelation, the God of Love, the God of Beauty, the God Who grieves over the loss, the God Who gave Himself so that none shall perish. You don’t have to go to a foreign land to experience this, it truly is a mindset and perspective. Nonetheless, I am forever thankful to Abba Father for leading us here. I feel great things are ready…like race horses full of energy at the starting gate…to explode forth! This land is ‘waiting eagerly, with anxious longing, for the sons of God to be revealed’.-Rom8:19
Since it has been a few days since my last post, I think I will start with today and hit the highlights of the last week and a half.
We have a praise report. James got word from the Secretary of Education (we had to wait a week due to the staff being on holiday), that his paper work is approved and he can begin job searching. So now we pray for the favor of man and open doors! James desire is to work in a hospital; nonetheless, he is happy to be wherever the Lord leads. He has submitted a request to a local company; there has been no response at this time. This next week will be a focused week of knocking on doors, as we now have been given the green light to proceed. Thank you for your prayers.
We were out of town for 5 days. We returned Wednesday night, and because we got in late our only option for food was…you guessed it, McDonalds! I must admit it was the best McDs I’ve ever had (did I mention I was very hungry).
Let me start at the beginning. Easter Sunday, we had dinner with the pastor and his wife (I’d rather not mention their names or post pictures of them, as they have not given me approval. If you’d like their names or pictures, please private message me and I am happy to share). They shared that they were going on holiday to the Ticino region (it is the Italian region and the only canton of Switzerland where the primary language is Italian) of Switzerland for a week. They asked if we would join them for a couple of days. Because everything was on hold with the Secretary of Education department, we decided it was a good opportunity to build relationship and have some R&R.
We left Thursday morning. It is a three hour journey through absolute majestic beauty. In the midst of this journey is a 17km (10.56 miles) tunnel called Gotthard Tunnel (it is the third-longest road tunnel in the world). You definitely need to stay focused as the driver, as not to get vertigo; however, for the passenger, i.e.. me, it makes for a good nap time.
We arrived in Locarno (the city where we all were staying) around noon. We had booked an apartment through Air B&B (the same site we used to book our apartment in Zollbrück), from a young man. The apartment was in an obvious historic building, directly across from a incredibly historic church. We both were pretty excited. We met the young man at the door of his apartment (in his early 20s and an apparent bachelor), and it became very obvious, as we stepped in, that this was his regular residence and apparently rented it out to create extra money (as Locarno is a very attractive place for tourist). He was an extremely nice young man, but the Hindu images (statues & pictures) placed throughout the room were a little distracting, not to mention the picture of two topless men embracing each other. James became uncomfortable when he looked outside the balcony window and saw a small group of men looking at our car (granted he did have one tire on the sidewalk). The young man gave us a quick tour of the little apartment, handed us the key and off he went with his overnight bag. Needless to say it all was a little awkward. As soon as the young man left I quickly relocated his hindu items to a shelf on the outside balcony and then commenced to praying over the apartment telling myself, it’s ok, we can do this for one night. You see we had a reservation with the hotel the pastor was staying at for Friday night, but there was not an available room for Thursday night and because most hotels charge a fee per person, Air B&B was the most economical route for us. After I finished praying I turned the blanket of the bed back only to find a field of cat hair! I thought to myself this is to much! James expressed that he wanted to find a hotel and that we would just count the $100 a loss. I kept pressing it’s just one night, we can do it. He said we will talk about it…
We then went to meet the pastor and his wife. We had a wonderful day of venturing around the area. We hiked through a gorgeous mountainous area, and to a botanical garden, followed by a delicious roasted chicken dinner.
While eating dinner, James again suggested staying at a hotel (earlier in the day he inquired about a room with a Ramada Inn, who had rooms available), I agreed if only we could cancel with the young man of the apartment and get our money back. He called and explained to the young man that there was cat hair in the bed and that we were not comfortable staying. He was so kind and agreed to give us our money back (James had to tell him that some of his personal items were on the balcony, boy did I feel bad). Nonetheless, we learned a lesson to not wait but act quickly when we are not comfortable with our accommodations.
We ended the evening with our friends, and went to our hotel. It was superb! Clean and comfy. We woke up to a gorgeous breakfast with all the cappuccino I desired. Not to mention a beautiful view.
We spent the day touring around. We visited the most wonderfully beautiful valley, called the Verzasca, with it’s gorgeous Verzasca river flowing over smooth polished rocks with it’s jade green waters. It was breath taking, unlike anything I’ve seen.
We then went on to the Verzasca dam, where James Bond once jumped- it is now known as the “007 Bungee Jump”. I was all in, fortunately for James it was closed.
We went on further along the river to a spot at Ponte Dei Salti in Lavertezzo where there is a double arched stone bridge, built in the 17th century (known as one of the oldest Roman bridges). We perched ourselves on one of the gigantic smooth stones near the bridge and had quant little picnic. It was a great time and we were able to have some nice in depth conversations with the pastor. We then continued our adventuring to some other remarkable areas of Locarno. We ended the day with a nice italian dinner. Some interesting tid bits about eating in Europe (as we found the same to be true in Italy), dogs can eat with you in the restaurant and horse meat is quite often on the menu, neither of which are very pleasing. At the end of dinner James realized our friend was intending on buying our dinner (he blessed us with dinner the evening before), so James insisted it was our turn to buy. After some back & forth debate between the two men I suggested an arm wrestle. To my delight they both agreed. It was very humorous to say the least and I will not indulge in bragging about the winner…but I will say he is very handsome, witty and smart…and I am married to him.
Our hotel the second night which our friend booked (and paid for!) was very quaint and cozy. It was called Casa Lumino, and is christian owned. We had a beautiful view of the lake that surrounds Locarno. Again a wonderful breakfast. Continental breakfast here generally includes, variety of bread, cheeses, meats, yogurts, cereals, hard boiled eggs and fruit. Any type of coffee or tea your heart desires!
It was our and our friends last day in Locarno. They were headed back to home, but we decided to make the 5 hour journey down to Venice Italy! How could we resist being just 5 hours away. James had booked the room, parking ticket, water bus ticket, and museum & church passes a few days prior, so we were set. We had breakfast with our friends, said our goodbyes, and we were off.
It was a interesting drive, getting through the toll booths, traffic and crossing the border. The drive from Locarno to Venice lacks some luster, as it is a bit dull, James compares it to driving through Kansas which is impossible with castles sitting on hillsides, nonetheless, it did not meet our expectations of Italy.
*WARNING* There is nothing easy about getting around Venice! I will spare you the details; however, after much confusion and frustration we got parked, found our water bus that takes you from the mainland to the island of Venice.
Once in Venice we had to locate our hotel. Venice is a beautiful labyrinth of canals, bridges and walkways, which all web out from the ‘grand canal’. The canals are actually the ‘streets’ of Venice and there are boats everywhere, from gondolas, water taxis, water buses to private boats of the locals. This city is unlike any you have seen and should be a must on everyone’s bucket list. Even though our visit was on the tail end of the off season there were already loads of people visiting. Once again we are thankful for our GPS. It helped us find our hotel. Because the true front-side of the hotels and restaurants face the canal, the actual entrances are in what appear to be alley ways. We found the doorway to our hotel, rang a door buzzer which notified the front desk and allowed us in. We entered into a small foyer with some steps to the right, followed by a few more steps to the left and then as we turned left we both stood with a stunned look on our face as looked up what seemed to be an endless flight of steps (70 to be exact and poor James was lugging a suitcase). A nice woman step out of the door and waved down to us as if to encourage us that we were in the right place and there was rest at the top. Our hotel was charming with victorian interior, built in the 1400s. It once housed the wealthiest of Venice.
Once we got settled in and caught our breath, we hit the streets of Venice. We must have walked for 15 hours in total. We were there for two half days and one full day. However, to actually take in all of Venice and some of the surrounding islands a person really needs a week. Venice is absolutely fascinating with so much rich history. Just imagine marble palaces and churches being built in the year 824 on a lagoon and these are the same structures one sees today…awe-inspiring and hard for the mind to conceive. I can see why Venice is considered one of the most romantic cities.
We noticed the main walkways were crowded with tourist, but if we walked one “block” over the streets were barren. This is where we spent most of our time. It was amazing to us as we witnessed the locals going about their daily activities, children playing soccer in stone courtyards and women hanging their laundry over head. One evening we came across a three man orchestra with two violins and a cello, it was beautiful.
IMG_5745 (Three Man Orchestra)
We also visited one of the small islands called Burano, where they do lace work by hand. This was a charming village with colorful buildings and houses.
Another worthwhile island is Murano, where they do glass blowing; however, we did not spend anytime there.
I could go and on, but I’d like to share about one of the areas of Venice that we found most interesting. The Venetian Ghetto, (incidentally, the first Jewish Ghetto) was instituted in 1516. It was in this year that 700 Jews were forced to move to this part of Venice (as the Jews were being forced out of surrounding countries, Venice was one of the only places allowing the Jews a place of refuge, although in a contradictory way and for reasons of economic advantage which all came at a cost for the Jew). They were segregated to an abandoned site of a 14th century foundry that produced cannons. The word “ghetto,” soon used throughout Europe for the neighborhoods of isolated minority groups, originated in Venice: geto is old Venetian dialect for “foundry.” The two entrances to the ghetto were controlled by two heavy gates, manned by christian guards, (which the Jews were required to pay for)which were closed and locked at night and reopened in early morning, keeping the Jews locked in. The Jews were not allowed to do business beyond the boundaries of the ghetto. This went on for 300 years. Up to 5,000 Jews lived in the cramped quarters at a time. They were not allowed to build out beyond the ghetto, so they built their buildings upward to accommodate living space, up to seven stories, (most people only had a personal space of about 6 sq feet) which is why the ghetto has some of the tallest residential buildings in Venice. The Jewish people did not realize full freedom until the 19th century. By World War II, 1,500 Jews lived in the ghetto and by the end of the war only 8 remained. There is still to this day a Jewish presence in the ghetto, five families (approx. 20 people) remain, and we were fortunate to speak and pray with one family member who owned a shop. Their main source of income, as with much of Venice, is tourism. As well, there is an extraordinary museum and five synagogues. We regret not having more time here.
***a little trivia: the @ symbol was created by a Venetian Ghetto Jew, which at that time the icon @ equalled the capacity unit of an amphora (a tall ancient Greek or Roman jar with two handles and a narrow neck).
Venice was both a place of infinite wonder (for the tourist), yet at the same time, a prison (for the residents). One night we had the opportunity to encourage our waiter who was so discouraged and feels as though he is at a dead end; working at the same place for 16 years, 10 hours a day, 6 days a week. He received all we poured out.
When we said goodbye to Venice, I felt a since of sadness. For some reason, that I do not understand, Venice had an impact on me.
We made our way back to Zollbrück, stopping for the night in Locarno (where we spent with our friends days before). The next day we enjoyed a gondola lift ride to the top of the mountain before heading home.
(At the beginning of this post I said I would start with today and then share the last week, but this next portion was more recent, from 4/17th~19th)
Friday, we went to a theme park in Rust Germany with the pastor. He planned a youth outing for those that have been helping build the youth group and he asked us to go along to help. The name of the park was Europa-Park. It was awesome. It is themed around European countries. Each country has it’s own section with rides, attractions and food typical of the country. It was quite spectacular.
Today we attended our first “free church” with some friends. It was a great experience. Similar to what one would experience with a nondenominational church in the U.S. We are finding that the spiritual climate of Switzerland is not quite as bleak as we originally thought; however, there is still a huge need and we can see God’s vision for us being fulfilled. As well, we found out that the free church offers german language lessons (originally began to reach the refugees coming in from places such as Africa and Syria), and we begin on Wednesday morning!
Then our friends took us on a wonderful bike ride around the Village of Borgdorf.
Today marks one month in country.We continue to seek God for our next step. Next week is a crucial week to see some momentum supporting us to stay longer.
Blessings in the Lord!