“Go from your country and your kindred and your father’s house to the land that I will show you.” Genesis 12:1 (from Bread for the Day devotional book reading for May 11 given to rostered leaders in the synod by Bishop Gohl)
Today marks the first day of the rest of my sabbatical journey. After 11 days of touring the Lands of Luther (and a few other places as well) with 56 of my closest friends including Marc and Julie Howell, Karen and Terry Sewell, Nicki Cojocari, Carl and Michele Hyde – not to mention Pastor Ron Reaves – from Good Shepherd I am now on my own. Yesterday morning we waved goodbye to our travel companions as they headed off on a bus to the airport in Munich for their return journey. My daughter Brynn and sister Karen were also on the tour (which was wonderful!) and saying goodbye to (almost) everyone – especially them – left me feeling a bit bereft.
I say “we” and “almost” because one couple who were heading off on their own next stage of the journey stayed one more night in the hotel in Garmisch Partenkirchen as well. After a day of walking around Garmisch we had a wonderful dinner together with the incredible beauty of the Bavarian alps shining through the window. I had my most full experience and taste of “Spargel” (aka asparagus – but big thick white asparagus) with hollandaise sauce. Spargel was a huge thing everywhere we went in Germany as it was the two or so weeks a year of Spargel Wochen.
Gary and Barbara and I all took the same train from Garmisch to Munich but then parted ways. I’m now headed to Crimmitschau (between Nuremberg and Berlin) to stay with my mother’s first cousin (Marianne) and her son Lars (my second cousin) for the weekend. As many of you perhaps know my mother was born in Berlin to a German mother and American father (who both worked in the American Embassy). When the war was about to break out the embassy personnel were told to send their families home (to the US). So my German grandmother with three children in tow (my mother being the oldest at 4) sailed off to Brooklyn to live with my grandfather’s family until he would join them a year or more later (when there was an exchange of embassy personnel after a period of interment).
One of my mother’s most powerful early memories was seeing the Statue of Liberty as they entered New York harbor. Another was singing a solo of Stille Nacht for the Christmas Eve service at the Lutheran church they went to in Brooklyn. Soon she would lose her German language ability as WWII was not a great time to be speaking German. And fairly soon she would also lose her mother who died in 1952 – years before I was born.
The German side of my family was from the Rostok area which after the war became part of the DDR – Communist East Germany – so the connections were pretty much lost until the wall fell in 1989. Following my mother’s death in 2002 It has been an especially meaningful part of both of my sabbaticals (2008 and now) to reconnect with these (to us) lost parts of my mother’s family. One of the great things that has already happened on this trip was a dinner at my cousin Jens’s (Marianne’s younger son) house near Nuremberg when we stayed overnight there during the tour. Brynn and Karen were able to be a part of that as well. We not only saw Jens but met and got to know for the first time his wife Antje and two little girls Elisa (6) and Lenya (2).
“Take off your shoes. You are standing on holy ground.” Exodus 13 (from Daily Bread for today May 12)