An invitation to the journey

I remember it well—the day I became a student of Eberhard-Karls Universität in Tübingen, Germany. Paperwork with official stamps finally in hand, I bounced through the cobble-stoned streets of the Altstadt toward the bridge that hangs across the Neckar River. Looking out over the old buildings of this once-walled city neatly reflected in the Neckar’s still water, I savored the day’s accomplishments. It was indeed a fine start to my second week of life in Tübingen, on Tuesday September 11, 2001.

Thirty minutes later at the campus computer lab, my upbeat mood came crashing down when I read with disbelief the headlines about the terrorist attack in my home country. Outside, students carried on with their afternoon, not yet aware that thousands of people had died or been injured when planes crashed into the World Trade Center towers in New York City. None of it seemed real; my heart sank, but I was not hopeless.

The next day, and in weeks following, I unleashed a series of emails detailing my perspective from abroad to a list of family and friends—revealing more than general updates and the life of a university student in Germany I had first intended. The email list began as a method to keep in touch, but evolved into a means to help others see their own country and the world in new ways.

During the year I studied abroad, I traveled within Germany and to 11 other European countries (Austria, Czech Republic, Estonia, Finland, France, Greece, Italy, Luxembourg, Norway, Sweden, and Vatican City), writing home about each adventure. Through my correspondence, my family and friends watched Germans grieve with the US in the weeks following September 11; they joined me for Christmas 2001 in Finland, with a Finnish friend and her family as we broke tradition on Christmas Day and took an overnight boat cruise from Helsinki to Talinn, Estonia; they felt my curiosity as I rid myself of Deutschmarks and held the Euro’s paper currency for the first time on January 1, 2002; and they discovered what German universities have to offer, especially Tübingen’s unique charm and history.

When I arrived in Tübingen in late August 2001, I was no stranger to travel; however, that year embodied more than study or travel, it heralded significant change in my own worldview in addition to those around me. In the years since, I have traveled to many more places, and I intend to continue that way of life wherever I am, inviting others into the journey.

neckarfront-reflection
Reflection on the Neckcar river in Tuebingen, Germany.

The above is a slightly edited version of something I wrote in early 2015 just for myself. Later in the year when I applied to the Peace Corps, I used part of it in my application essay. Now I post it to share that next month I will begin my service with the Peace Corps as an English Teacher in China.

More information forthcoming about what I will be doing and where I will be going, including a more formal announcement. Stay tuned…come, follow me on the journey!

Wise Words From the Past

journalTen years ago I was preparing to study abroad for a year in Tübingen, Germany. After a tumultuous sophomore year at Valparaiso University, I was both excited and a bit fearful of such a commitment to spend my junior year in Germany. My life was changing. I had changed majors from Meteorology to German, and a new adventure was ahead. No longer weighed down by high level calculus and advanced physics, I used the energy toward spiritual discernment, with some surprising results.

Today, while browsing through an old journal, as I am prone to do from time to time, I noticed the entry for this day, August 1st, 2001, ten years ago. Here’s a portion that the 21-year old me wrote:

My time in the US is growing smaller. Yesterday I was deep in thought about leaving. There are so many things I will not see for so long. There is joy in my heart, but I also carry around fear…I could doubt my talents all day, but there is no going back now. I just have to do it. I am going to live in Germany, speak German every day…there are so many things I will miss, but so much to discover…so many possibilities to learn, and so many ways for failure. Please Lord guide me and give me strength so I may learn, explore, create, challenge, and succeed.

They were profound thoughts, I think. I acknowledged fear and doubt, but did not let them get in the way of what I imagined could be an amazing experience; and cultivated the audacity to be challenged through learning and exploring. These thoughts were foundational to the life I would live in Germany, and an important step toward a life of ministry.

Ten years later, I am going through a similar process, as I prepare to spend 2 years teaching English in Indonesia through Global Mission of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America. However, this time around the process is going to be more intense, and the life and work will be very different. Instead of a student, I will be a teacher (yet I will be learning so much). Instead of going for myself, I am being called and sent by the Church. Instead of the familiar Western Europe, I will be in SE Asia. And so on.

There will, of course, be many details forthcoming about Indonesia—what I will be doing, the thrills of getting a visa, information on the country itself, and more as the months go on.