If you’ve been reading along, you know we spent the last day of our trip in Ulm, Germany. Ulm is a beautiful little city located along the Donau (or Danube) river. It was the birthplace of Einstein, and also happens to have the highest cathedral spire in the world (photo above). The lure of Ulm, however, had nothing to do with any of the above. Ulm is special for Brandy and I because we met at the Army base that used to be there in 1990. Some of you have heard about the eight year almost romance that led up to Brandy and I’s marriage. Ulm factors prominently into that story.

Another draw was that an old friend of ours is still living in Ulm. Inge worked as the youth director at the protestant chapel in Ulm when I lived there in 2nd grade. She used to baby-sit me. When we returned to Ulm in 1990, Inge was still there working hard in the chapel program. Now, at an 80 that is mighty reminiscent of 60, she is working at the Ulm Museum and visiting the “old folks” at the nearby retirement community for her current church. Our visit with her was fascinating. As someone who spent a number of years in the United States (while born German, Inge married an American Soldier in WWII) Inge has a unique perspective on American and German culture. She repeatedly expressed her support for our mission, and how difficult it had been for her to find another fellowship of believers in the German community once the Army closed the base. One of the more interesting points that she made is that while her pastor is constantly trying to reach out to young people, Sunday mornings at the church are devoid of any younger people. If I correctly interpreted the program, all the celebrated birthdays the previous Sunday were for people between the ages of 70 and 90.

Brandy and I had a lovely dinner and a long post-dinner chat with Inge after she met us at the train station and helped us navigate to our hotel via taxi. Then we slept, had a late breakfast and grabbed a bus downtown.

We wandered a bit. Explored the inside of the Cathedral, and actually got to go to an organ concert that they do everyday at noon.

Then we found lunch, and began to meander back toward the base. This was many miles of walking. We had done it 13 years ago when we were kids, but somehow memory left out what a long walk it was. πŸ™‚ As you can see from the photos, though, Ulm is a beautiful old city.

This picture was taken in the “Bicycle Park.” Just across the street from the base, this was always a favorite haunt. I can remember having to run here for PE class in 9th grade. It’s filled with beautiful flower gardens, pools, picnic tables, and playgrounds, all crawling along the length of an old piece of wall.

Something in the way this photo was taken makes it look a bit like something from a dream, and in a lot of ways it is. This is the main hallway of what was once the American High School in Ulm. It’s now a special high school for engineering students, and yet it looks just the same. It’s like staring into a magic window to the past.

Our last stop is the building that used to be Wiley Chapel. Oddly enough it’s an Evangelical Free church. (The chances of this given the statistics in Germany is kind of like the chances of the American woman in the Gasthaus being related to a close friend of Durand’s.) This is where Brandy and I met. In this building I first walked up and introduced myself. The doors were locked and we couldn’t get inside, but it was nice to have stood in that place again.

After another evening meal and a little sleep at the hotel, we began our 20 hour journey home, navigating taxis, trains, airports, and connections until we arrived back in Colorado Springs.

I’ve spent much of the day today preparing clips for Jason to use to produce transcripts of all the interviews that I will use in the editing process for the Spark! video. (That and hanging out with my kids for the first time in two weeks.)

Thank you all for your prayers, and your support! God has blessed us richly to have people like you supporting us.

Winding down

Well today was a very good day. It’s actually the first day of this trip that we really haven’t been under the gun to get things done, and so we were finaly able to relax a bit.

We started out the day with a quick breakfast at Durand’s before heading back to Black Forest Academy for our tours (of the High School and the Elementary School). The School is tiny, but the facilities are wonderful, and you can see the love of Jesus in all the little details. It will be a wonderful place for our children.

The next stop was Mullheim where we wanted to do some quick errands before we toured the Creative Works office. We changed some money, looked at prices on some used cars and houses, and picked up some kids movies in German to try to get the family into the language. The we wandered over to the office. It’s tight for three people, but it should do the trick for us at least for the time being. Durand is already looking at plans to expand the facility or move into something better organized for where Creative Works is going.

After that we made a brief sweep into France where we went to a huge store called Carrefour. It was oddly reminiscent of a Super Walmart. It was a great experience because we got to look at appliances, and little convenience items and get the feel for what is available here and how things are different. As Durand put it, “Everything is similar, but not quite the same.”

By about four pm we were back at Durand’s and able to relax on the couch for a few hours. Brandy wrapped up her cross stitch, I chatted with my nephew briefly(via Skype), and we just had a little bit of downtime before dinner. Dinner was the real deal. We went to the Gasthaus Sonne in Kandern and had Jaegerschnitzer mit Spatzle. It was so wonderful! I’d like to think it was the reward for all the hardwork we did in Cologne. πŸ™‚ Then a woman came over from another table to speak with us because we sounded like Americans. She was local enough to fool the locals, but it turned out she was born and raised in up state New York before coming to Europe on a mission, marrying a local, and slowly becoming German over a period of many years. Oddly she was related to a close friend of Durand’s and they were able reminisce for a bit.

Finally we walked the streets of Kandern for a while to digest all that food and just talked. It was a nice relaxing day. Tomorrow we’ll be heading to Ulm to visit an old friend. After a day or two there, we’ll be headed to Frankfurt, Chicago and Colorado Springs. It has been a wonderful trip. I think it has had a profound impact on our vision for Europe and hopefully we’ll have a chance to share that with all of you in the coming weeks and months.

This will likely be the last entry for the trip, since I have no expectation of Internet in Ulm. I’ll update if I can, but I doubt there will be access.

God Bless!

These fine gentlemen from the muppetshow are the current spokesmen for Citibank here in Europe.

Coming to Kandern

Brandy Cross stitchingWe rose bright and early to catch the Inter City Express train to Basel, Switzerland. We were a bit concerned because our train passes don’t allow us to leave Germany, but it turns out that the Deutsche Bahn (German Train System) operated the tracks in Basel, and thus the Basel station is technically still German. Are you confused? We were. πŸ™‚ Brandy spent the trip cross stiching some bears (check left) and I mostly just watched the scenery roll by. Have a look at the guy behind Brandy. I think he was a spy. He looks very nervous. πŸ˜‰

Durand picked us up at the station, and the pouring rain kept us from exploring Basel, so we headed straight for Kandern. There we got to look at the Black Forest Academy where the kids will be attending school. They have both a Junior High and High School as well as a separate elementary school in a different village. Here’s a picture of the elementary school:
BFA Elementary
We didn’t really get to look around but we’ll be doing that tomorrow. Kandern is a lovely little tourist town. Here’s a picture of one of the two main streets:
Downtown Kandern
Finally we went grocery shopping. Durand thought it would be good for us to get a fairly complete picture, so we started by going to the small Mom and Pop type discount store where they do most of their shopping — the selection is very poor but the prices are great — and then went to the main supermarket. The selection there was impressive, they even had a little corner for things imported from America, but the prices were sky high. One begins to understand very quickly why Durand does all his shopping at the discount place, despite the poor selection. You might not be able to plan the meal you want, but you’ll be able to plan a meal.

Tonight we’re having dinner at Durand’s house and then having dessert with a few other GEM missionaries. It will be a very small rememberance for the forth of July. We hope everyone stateside has a wonderful and safe celebration. God Bless!

Name that movie…

Rear Window

Can you name the movie this picture is from? The answer is no, because it isn’t from a movie, but if you guessed Alfred Hitchcock’s Rear Window, your brain must work a little like mine. This is the view from Jason and Sue’s deck here in Cologne, and its pretty spectacular. They even have their own set of colorful neighbors making appearances in the varied windows across the street. I wanted to take a moment and show you what we’ve been looking a the last week, as we prepare for our departure. The truth is, the people out that window would fit just as confortably across the street from you in the states, as they would in Alfred Hitchcock’s movie. (And to the best of my knowledge their all law abiding, friendly people, so it would have been a very short film here). That, I think has struck me more than anything else I’ve seen here this week. The German people may speak a different language, have different traditions and holidays, and different rules of ettiquitte, but it doesn’t take 2 minutes to see past all that, to people not very different from the people in the U.S. The only difference that matters is that in the U. S. there are at least four churches right by my house where I can go and hear the Gospel. Here, I could live in a community of 20,000 , walk past a church everyday, and never get near the Gospel.

Enough of my sermon, let me tell you about our day. We got up this morning and visited a church which graciously allowed me to film their service. It was very similar to what you might expect from a small church in the US. Some of the songs were even the same (although in German). Then we came back to the Holm’s house to hit the translation hard. We just finished at about 10:30pm. While Brandy and I got a brief break to run into town and experience the Dome (the largest Cathederal in Europe) and to experience the Chistopher’s Day parade (basically a gay pride parade) Jason and Sue continued the translation work.

Let me digress a moment, and share about the parade. I saw a lot of things that I think I could have gone the rest of my life without seeing, but never in my life has my heart been so broken. We walked through literally throngs of people who needed Jesus desperately! And I’m not only referring to the Homosexuals, there were people of all stripes acting out in a desperate attempt to bring meaning to their lives. This is such a ripe mission field!

Back to the work… After many hours of typing, a soar back and hands, I asked Brandy to take a shift again. Her reply was as follows:


Not really. She offered to step in and help several times, and I kept putting it off, saving her for when I REALLY needed a break. Finally we made it, and then we went out and sat on the deck pictured above and watched the sun finally wink out over Cologne as we had dessert and shared a time of prayer.

Please pray for our travel over the next several days as we sweep across southern Germany and then head home. Thank you so much for your prayers thus far. We’re blessed to have such loyal friends.


Today was spent translating the interviews. It’s just a first pass through each one, where Jason is paraphrasing (very closely) the comments into English along with the video time code. Next week, he will go through and type up a German transcript, and then a word by word English translation for me to edit with, but for the moment, we are just trying to get a feel for what we have. I should reiterate that there are some powerful messages here.

Translating the hours of footage is intense and exhausting work, because for Jason it requires a great deal of mental effort, flipping back and forth from German to English in his mind, while trying to remember long sentences and for me because only understanding one word in twenty, it’s easy for me to drift off. By 10am, I found myself fighting sleep.

Brandy pitched in to help out for a few hours. (Once she finished another outing with Sue) And actually improved our system, taking over the typing and moving Jason onto the video editor where he could control how much material he wanted to try to translate at a time.

Brandy typing

Once she was done, I went back to work as the typist for a bit before we quit for the evening.
Jason and I hard at work

Once we had finished our translation work, I took Brandy out for rumpsteak mit krueterbutter. The steak is not so different from what we might get in the states, but the herbal butter that’s on it is truly incredible! I’ve been wanting one for about 13 years now, and boy was it worth the wait. Afterwards we hopped the S-bahn (subway) down to the Cologne Cathederal. Unfortunately it was closed, a somewhat unheard of event, and due to the rain, we made a dash back to Jason and Sue’s for the night. But on the way back Brandy saw her first snail… Many of you may be asking yourselves why this is significant. I understand. I wonder as well. But it was so important to Brandy she had to take a picture to share with you. His shell is about the size of a quarter. I few hundred kilometers west, and some Frenchman might be trying to eat this little guy.