Before this August, we had not been to the U.S. for three years. Yeah. Three years of not seeing family, close friends and associates from the homeland in person. And as much as I would like to blame all of it on the panicked and irrational overreactions of international governments to the COVID-19 wave (and they were a factor), money also played a role. With international travel and tourism industries all but shut down globally and the global economy forced into a contraction from which it still might not recover any time soon, demand for translation services dropped off a cliff. And even with the recovery the industry has seen in 2021-22 (so far), travel would not have been possible without the help of our supporting churches in Indiana (Grace Community of Montpelier) and Texas (Hope Chapel of Austin). So, with enormous gratitude, here are some images from and reflections on our trip.
I. Getting out of Munich
This was difficult, believe it or not. Some of the difficulty because of road construction in the Bavarian capital, but much more because of security. We went through security– including the outbound passport check – a total of four times. In part this was due to Munich’s airport authority having drastically underestimated the speed with which post-COVID-19-apocalypse travel would return to pre-Covid-19-apocalypse travel volume. They had the security gates shut down for two whole concourses. And then there’s the little added difficulty that American-bound planes, due to anti-terrorism measures, are boarded on tarmac in a nice little waiting area all their own, to which passengers must be bussed from the main terminal. We had allotted 3 hours’ time to deal with security and we nevertheless barely made our flight.
At least we dodged the strikes. Those had looked like they could impact us a week earlier.
On arrival in Detroit, it was a bit…odd dealing with security. Hint: Never travel with an emergency passport. You get questioned. It slows you down. Why did I have an emergency passport? The old one was going to expire and we weren’t sure I’d get it back in time to travel, so the kind folks at the U.S. Consulate issued me one of those thin, sort of Pepto-Bismol-Meets-Tanned-Barney-the-Dinosaur-Hide-colored ones. And…I had to explain why I had it to every single security agent from Munich to Detroit.
II. Arrival in Detroit
We arrived there early, to our delighted surprise. The flight to Detroit Wayne County touched down in the mid-afternoon and we found my sister and brother-in-law quickly. And this was the greeting we found waiting for us in their minivan:
The drive through southern Michigan to their home in rural northeast Indiana took longer than expected (road construction is an international constant in summer). Our time in the mostly flat Hoosier state, my lovely home state, was mostly spent with family. We attended two birthday parties, and on the first Sunday of our visit, I spoke about our mission in Germany at Grace Community Church in Montpelier, the very church where I came to faith in Jesus about 42 years ago. That was the first time in three years that I have spoken publicly, and, Felicia tells me, I had forgotten how to use a microphone properly… but it seems I was loud enough to be heard clearly.
We also went to the Gene Stratton Porter historic site in Geneva, Indiana, and to the Loblolly Marsh, where Stratton-Porter did a lot of her field work in botany and ornithology. It looked like this:
If you are not from Indiana, you may not have heard of GSP. In that case, here are two sites that can give you something of a Stratton-Porter primer:
Gene Stratton-Porter, Author, Photographer, and Naturalist (literaryladiesguide.com)
Gene Stratton-Porter (indianahistory.org)
She was a very popular and successful writer in the late 19th and early 20th centuries (she died in 1924) and one of those writers who wrote both fiction and academic non-fiction, specifically in the field of naturalism.
While we were the Berne/Geneva area, we also collected some proof that German as a language is not entirely dead in Indiana:
We also got to have the best pie in Decatur, Indiana. It was at the West End Diner. It looked like this:
We also found out that Adams County, Indiana, is even more Amish than it was when I was in high school, so we saw a fseveral signs like these along the road.
III. Texas- Austin/Elgin/Bastrop
We had quite been looking forward to returning to Texas. Thomas Cogdell, a friend from Austin House of Prayer, Hope Chapel and Wittenberg 2017, picked us up and, again, we got there not just on-time but early.
[Note: About the latter, the archive and the book on the initiative, written by Thomas and Amy Cogdell, can be found here: Home (wittenberg2017.us) . Read the archive and order the book for a better understanding of the call to reconciliation between the major streams of the body of Christ on Earth.]
And minutes after our arrival in Austin, we saw the brand-new Tesla plant, which is in the running for largest-area building in the history of the world. It, along with the still-under-construction headquarters of the Boring Company. Both were on the routes to Christ the Reconciler, the community ministry we belong to, and to the Help for All Nations Texas Mission Base where we stayed. Neither of these places was in the heart of Elon Musk territory when we left Texas for Germany in 2015 or even during our last visit in 2019. Oh, what a difference 1,095 days make…
The time in Texas was lamentably brief and also, as a by-product of that brevity, filled with appointments and visits. We had to take one day to visit Felicia’s real home town of Round Rock, where she wanted to see the public library and the Star Café again. They had been favorite places of ours when she was little and it meant a lot to see them again, even if the Star was now called the Lamppost and had run out of sandwich ingredients when we arrived that day. The most important part were the meetings with Hope Chapel and with our community at Christ the Reconciler, where the people who sent us out prayed for us. You could do the same, by the way. Pray especially for the ministry and work we are doing with the Gebetshaus Augsburg, Reasons to Believe, the Koinonia Community and Toward Jerusalem Council II.
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