Summer seems to be racing by, yet I continue returning to my spring holiday travel stories. There are so many to tell though!
I spent the majority of our two-week holiday in Germany, mostly in a small village called Herrnhut close to the Czech and Polish borders. This town is the centre of the Moravian church (Zinzendorf, anyone?) as well as where the 26-point Christmas star was created and is still produced.
My friend Scott lived here with the Novak family for several months last summer while volunteering with the Jesus-Haus. Jan and Ulrike were kind enough to welcome us into their home for a week, including an extra six university students for the weekend. The boys stayed in their attic room and us girls shared the beautiful guest apartment connected to their house.
It was really nice to be a part of the daily life of the family: helping with cooking, playing in the snow, going to church, and getting to know the family. The four children–Natti, Hanni, Joshi, and Elli–were so wonderful! Elli is Scott’s goddaughter and the three of us spent a lovely afternoon building a gigantic snowman in the courtyard of the Jesus-Haus. Scott did most of the heavy lifting and hard work, while three-year-old Elli chatted away to me in German and built mini-snowmen to be the family of the daddy snowman. We did help Scott some by making the head and throwing snowballs at him. Little is cuter than hearing a ruddy-cheeked three-year old exclaim, “Bauten wir eine große Schneemann!” while she claps her hands.
Another afternoon Scott and I took four-year-old Joshi to the Ethnographic Museum in town which was quite interesting despite two-thirds of the descriptions being solely in German. And Hanni and I got along quite well; we spent some quality time together playing with each other’s hair, reading or playing games, and helping Ulri with preparing meals. Ulri is an incredible cook! Our first night she made traditional Czech dumplings which were beyond delicious. We had so much amazing food that I cannot choose any one favourite. We also gave the Herrnhut baker a fair bit of business. Aside from France, I’ve never had such good-tasting bread. It was the week before Easter so Scott and I went one evening and bought some sweet Osterbrot, or Easter bread.
Friday night the members of the Jesus-Haus celebrate [a slightly Christianised version of] Pesach, the Jewish Passover. Our friends from St. Andrews had joined us by this point and the eight of us spent Friday afternoon cooking and baking dishes before celebrating a trilingual Pesach. (If you have never made an apple pie from scratch, you are truly missing something in life.)
We met everyone in the Jesus-Haus and talked a bit before it started. Jan and Ulri had their turn leading the celebration that night and words cannot express how moving it was. I felt connected to God and His people through thousands of years, through all of our history. It wasn’t just living history, it was living part of the Bible. It’s truly an experience that I will remember and treasure forever.
Jan and Ulri have a huge heart for the Jewish people, culture, language, and history. Both of them study Hebrew (and know quite a few other languages) and have done a lot of work with Israel. I learned so much from them! It is always inspiring to talk to people about the opportunities they have had in their lives and to hear about their passions. It was also really interesting to hear stories and perspectives from a couple who grew up in eastern Europe during Soviet times. Walking around parts of the former USSR made a huge impact on me: history became much more real.
One of the most exciting parts of our stay in Herrnhut was when I learned to ski! On the Saturday we were there, the eight of us university students, Ulri and her father, and the three oldest children spent the day in the Czech mountains skiing. None of us girls from St. Andrews knew how to ski so after everyone got fitted for boots & skis, we made our way to the baby slope. Scott, James, and Nick took turns coming over to give us pointers; none of us were too horrid, but let me just say that learning to ski in jeans means extremely cold, wet legs. I absolutely love snow and the day was great bonding time for all of us. We even managed to order ourselves food and drinks from the little café in Czech! Cultural experiences for the win!
We were so blessed to be able to live, work, pray, and fellowship with this wonderful family and other members of the Jesus-Haus. They were perfect examples of hospitality and love and I will always be grateful for that week. I dearly hope to return some day!