I recently went on a trip to Europe covering ground in Germany, Prague, Austria, Italy, Switzerland, and Liechtenstein. It wasn’t a mission trip. So, I didn’t build a well, a church, or school. I didn’t teach peacemaking principles to anyone. I didn’t evangelize to orphans, widows, and the impoverished. I didn’t help feed the hungry or do skits to empower and change this world. But, was this trip a waste of my time on this earth? Nope.
I went to Europe to visit my family. My brother is a Black Hawk helicopter pilot serving with the US Army, stationed in Sanshen, Germany with his wife Sonia and Great Dane, Diesel. I came to see them and the bonus was that my mom and step-dad had planned their trip around the same time so we all got to be together. That doesn’t happen very often. The last time I saw my family was Christmas.
Europe is this place that is exquisite with history, architecture, technology, and fashion. I felt a little behind in my clothing and wealth. I didn’t think it was possible to find a set of countries that appear to be more materialistic, than the United States (but they did). We walked the streets of Venice, Italy to find the most beautiful architecture but we were surrounded by shops and vendors. I was followed by a guy trying to sell me a fake Giorgio Armani purse for at least three blocks. In the midst of this beautiful architecture were billboards galore. They were on buildings and cathedrals. They were everywhere.
The detail in the cathedrals was breathtaking. Sculptures, paintings, and glass that made those places seem like an alternate reality. They were beautiful places of worship but now they are mostly museums. People from around the world come and view them, take photos of them, and some people may even worship their Creator as they walk through the artistic corridors. For .50 Euro I could light a candle, and in one cathedral I could purchase organ music on CD directly from a vending machine. We went into one cathedral where people were participating in mass. Some prayed while the minister lit a candle. They were still surrounded by curious visitors quietly circling the place of worship and taking photos of its breathtaking beauty. Another cathedral in Venice housed modern art, some nude, others just strange.
I found some places more interesting than others. Bavaria was filled with traditionally dressed men and women in their Dirndls and Lederhosen. We found many statues and paintings of Mary on the traditionally styled German store fronts. As Sonia and I walked the streets, I saw a little old lady who was walking her dog. “GruB Gott,” I said to her. Her face lit up, and she grinned wide as she walked past us. Bavaria is one of the few places in Germany where it acceptable to greet someone with “GruB Gott.” The meaning is translated to “God Bless you”.
I enjoyed the morning air, and found that the highlight of the day was to get up early, walk the streets, and explore. I found a bakery in Austria one morning as well as coffee shop that had coffee art. The owner allowed me to sit in his shop before officially opening. I sat and sipped on my tasty cappuccino and watched the sun rise while smiling. I found him watching me and doing the same.
We found a wonderful restaurant in Prague that had chairs and tables facing the water. We snuggled up under orange blankets that were provided for our comfort and warmth. But, I think the best part of being in Europe was being with family. It reminded me of the value of my relationships. Relationships are what make the journey exciting and enjoyable. When I allow myself to be the center, I lose sight of the reason for my existence. I get stressed, worried, and depressed. But, when I focus my attention on the glorious face of God and the people he has set before me to love, I have peace.
Thanks to all who covered for me while I was gone. I am so blessed to work for a ministry that strives to strengthen and re-build relationships.