(Blogger won’t take my pictures today … but I’ll keep trying)
I will take you to Buchenwald, I really will. And a walk through the Ann Frank House in downtown Amsterdam. But those tellings will only come when I push aside the happy-of-heart condition I’m in. You can’t type those words while feeling light and satisfied. You have to go deep and lonely to find those words … and I’m not ready.
Yesterday was too lovely a day to set aside for long. I’ll write about that first.
You know the story of Annika, the girl God placed in our path to save us from a life of Siegen-wandering, back when we first disembarked the train and took a walk on the wrong part of town. I’m quite convinced that had Annika not been working that day, we’d be cresting some distant green hill still waiting for a Calvary dove to pop out at us. But He had mercy.
Our first Sunday at Calvary Chapel Siegen, Inga-Lill introduced me to Annika’s beautiful mother, Marita. She was nervous about speaking English to me at first, and I liked her for that immensely. Up to that point, no one but me had felt nervous about the language difference. But Marita ought not to have worried. After talking a bit and hugging and telling her how grateful we were to her daughter, we said our good-byes. When I saw her next, though, she’d hatched a plan. “We would like to take you all to lunch.” “You all” meant the Guziks and us.
And yesterday was the day. David picked us up and drove us to a part of town that was familiar to me, as I had just been there the day before with Inga-Lill to drink cappuccino and ogle jewelry and sigh over yarn in a just-right-for-me yarn shop. When David drove us up that street, I experienced a rush of pleasure at feeling at home in Siegen. This no longer seems like a foreign city to me.
With no parking spaces in sight, David dropped us off and we went ahead into the restaurant, past all the potted greenery that outlined a front courtyard and made me want to be down on my knees planting kale or tugging at weeds. Siegen has reawakened a gardener’s hunger in me.
Our eyes adjusted to the shift in light and I took in table after table of rough-stained chairs and benches, most covered with a cushion of cowhide. Somehow, those splotchy seats and the lighting and the curved, space-separating arches worked themselves into a quiet sense of elegance. it felt like a room I’d visited before, and had missed.
Marita saw us and rose from her table to give me a welcoming hug. I introduced her to Dave, and then we both met Marita’s husband, Berndt. At Marita’s invitation, I slid into the center bend of the horseshoe-shaped bench.
“What would you like to drink?” Berndt asked.
“I’d love some water,” I said.
He looked disappointed. “Only water?”
It was going to be that kind of lunch. These people wanted to bless us–and they did. They recommended the steak, which we tried. And the salad bar. And after lunch, at Berndt’s pressing, I gave in and had a cappuccino. But I’m getting ahead of myself.
David Guzik joined us after several minutes. Inga-Lill, who was teaching a class at the Bible College, was longer in coming, but it gave us a chance to hear about how Marita and Berndt met. Back when Marita was a single mother of a nine-year old girl, Isabelle, she was in no hurry to meet a man. But Isabelle met Berndt at the coffee shop she and her mother frequented, decided he was just right for her mother, and invited him to come home for tea. And that was about it. The two have been married 20 years. All single mothers should have Isabelle’s–or the use of someone else’s Isabelle.
Berndt told us about coming to Christ–again, through Isabelle, who wanted to start attending the Free Evangelical church near their home, and kept asking her parents to join her. He told us too about the first time he walked into Calvary Chapel Siegen, and was startled to see so many young people, and startled further when Pastor Nick Long said, “Let’s turn in our Bibles …” and the room came alive with the whispery swish of rapidly turning pages.
I never get over the amazement I feel when I talk about Jesus with people from other places. Our hearts speak the same language. No time difference, no geographical space can separate those born of the same Spirit. And this day was no different. Love for my Savior shone in the eyes of these people, knitting us in a way that nothing else could.
Annika joined us next and I thought again about both her beauty and her resemblance to her mother. We chatted with her a bit about her plans for college (she wants to be a teacher) and about her trips to London, which we can now visualize ourselves. We told her to make sure she heads north during one of her planned touring trips and visit us; she promised to do so.
Inga-Lill arrived then, followed by our maitre d’, who told us they had steak available from Arizona. He promised it was very good, and we believed him. What he didn’t say, but could have, was that it would be the best steak we’ve ever tasted. We’re still talking about it–and I still find it funny that I had to go to Germany to find this incredible Arizona steak. The chef cooked it exactly the way we asked (which doesn’t always happen) and it came served with a round slice of herbed butter, which melted in flecked, opaque puddles that slid down the sides of the steak at a slow, enticing pace. I grieved that last bite … but you can probably tell.
And I grieved when it was time for Berndt to head to his meeting, and David to bring Dave back for his Revelation class, and Marita and Annika to leave for home. We all hugged good-bye and promised to write. The language barrier had been no barrier at all, and those who had been nearly strangers to us at the beginning of our afternoon now felt like close friends.
The afternoon held more leisurely wonders. Inga-Lill took me to Siegen’s own castle–astoundingly beautiful, and tucked into a residential area as though that were nothing at all. She then took me to the mall to pick up something for my computer. We tried on boots. We bought matching green earrings. We shared one perfect scoop of zitron (lemon) gelato and laughed about nothing.
I miss my children and our church family back home … but I’ve come to love this place and these people. My heart will hurt at good-bye.