Saturday, November 17, 2012

Europe Pt. 7 Switzerland, Belgium and the trip home.

   Wow! Well the last several days of this journey have been a great story. The last time I wrote I told of my opportunity to visit the family in Sicily and I am still floored by that story. I feel as though I’ve retold it countless times, and it is still thrilling!

   After returning to Catania, Sicily I took a night train to Napoli where I was able to get “La Feccia Rossa”, the fast train, to Milan. My plan was to grab the soonest train leaving for Zurich, Switzerland. It was there I planning on meeting up with Laura and Darryl. I had the opportunity to meet Laura while in Zambia and share several things about the Lord with her. She invited me to come and visit so that I would see her church and meet her boyfriend, Oh and of course visit the Alps! I arrived last Friday night to a chilly Swiss night, and I was excited. A new country and new adventure had now begun. Laura eventually was able to find me at the train station and we made our way through the dark streets to her apartment. I was graciously offered a delicious meal and an extremely comfortable couch to crash on, both of which I gratefully accepted. After meeting Darryl and sharing a wonderful conversation I crashed.
My friends Darryl & Laura
The village in the Alps where Laura was born.
   The next morning I awoke excited about our plans for the day. We were planning on going to visit the village where Laura was born and raised. We were a bit late as we reached the station, but we were able to run and catch the train. The views were breathtaking as we made our way from the city into the Alps. Trees painted with the colors of fall blanketed the base of each snow-capped peak. The lakes teemed with blue waves while its banks hosted the quaintest of villages. One of these towns, backed by a rigid cliff, requires its habitants to access it only by boat. I couldn’t snap my camera fast enough to catch each sight as the train hummed toward our destination. We walked out of the station and I stared up at the Alps peering over the valley like the noblest of watchman tirelessly gazing over the towns therein. Laura’s mother, Heidi J arrived and after a quick stop in at her apartment we began the journey to Weisstannen, Laura’s childhood home. The road was long and winding; we crossed rivers and passed sheer cliffs that created scenes no artist could capture. By the time we reached the tiny village I was ready to go explore! We first stopped in for some coffee and conversation at the home of dear family friends and even though I understood very little to none of the Swiss-German conversation it was extremely pleasant. It was then off on a hike out of the village and into the Alps. It was brisk and cloudy as we trampled the path through the most scenic of landscapes. I stopped every few minutes to try and capture the beauty. Laura at one point asked me if I was exaggerating my awe, wondering if I had been so expressive in every country I had visited. I explained that though many of the other places were truly beautiful, very few things captured my eye the way these snow covered mountains, dotted by log cabins, and surrounded by autumn kissed trees did. As I walked I wondered how I could describe what I was seeing for the readers of this blog, and I was left a bit speechless for once.
   We arrived back to the vehicle right around dusk, but the day was far from over. Our evening was to continue with a Swiss tradition. I had never tried fondue before, and in my mind there was no better place for a first taste than Switzerland. Laura, Darryl and I together with her mother and her boyfriend sat around the table dipping our bread into the tasty melted cheese. The smell of fondue isn’t the most pleasant, but my stomach was full as the evening drew to a close and we made our way back to Zurich. I still can’t think of a better way to spend a day than with great friends, beautiful views, and great food.
   Sunday was full of surprises that began after our first church service and finished at the last one. It was once again a great day of worshiping with the church of yet another country and language. We ate a late lunch in downtown Zurich and we arrived to the realization that it was November 11th, a Festival day in Switzerland, as very strangely outfitted participants wandered the rainy streets. The sound of big band music was around each corner and I couldn’t help but step in time with “When the Saints Go Marching In”. It took awhile for our food to arrive, but when it did I was in no way regretting the wait. It was a traditional plate from Zurich and it was de-LISH! That evening we headed to ICF (International Christian Fellowship) for another church service. This one, as opposed to the morning service, was geared more for young people, and it ended up being a blast! At the end of the service a guest from Dallas/LA, named Coffè Anderson, surprised us. I had heard about him quite a bit and was thrilled to finally see/meet him. He is an extremely talented and vibrant guy who loves Jesus! We went home that night singing his songs.
     I slept a bit too late the next morning, but still made it to the station in time for my train. It was time to leave Switzerland and go on an eight-hour train ride through France and Luxembourg to reach Belgium. I was to stay with Vincent and Priscilla my new friends I had met in Italia, at the conference in Caserta. It was so great to see and spend time with them again. They welcomed me like an old friend and made me feel completely at home. Our conversation was engaging as we talked late into the night. I was to speak at their church the following night and I knew it was going to be something special. I rested really well that night and woke in time for brunch. We spent the afternoon working on translating a song from English to Italian. Vincent did a majority of the work, I helped with a few small things, and we ended up with a beautiful version of the worship song “Waiting Here For You” (Written by Chris Tomlin and Martin Smith). Before heading to the church that evening we visited a small yet very intriguing town. Binge (pronounced Baunge or something close to that in French) is very old and also very spiritually dry. Vincent was born there and wanted to show me a traditional Belgian town. So we walked the cobblestone streets to the old city wall talking a bit about its history and current state. 
   We arrived at the church, which was already beginning to fill. There were many introductions before worship started, and in Belgium everyone kisses once on the cheek for a greeting, men too. This is actually a note that I seemed to have forgotten to mention in my previous posts. So here are the greetings as I found them. In España it’s one kiss only for the women, in Italia its two kisses for the women and some men, in Sicily its two kisses for everyone, in Switzerland its three kisses and from what I noticed its only for women. Ok so back to the church in Belgium. Worship started and it was great. Then it was my turn to share the message, which was simply my testimony and verse from Jeremiah. I spoke for about twenty minutes and was done. Afterward began a ministry time that last for an hour maybe less, maybe more. At the end I was blown away by how God moved and spoke to so many people through such simple word. He is just SOO good! Afterward we went out to dinner and I enjoyed an authentic Belgian plate, once again it was delicious. It was then home to rest; the next day would be a long trip to London. It was late morning by the time Vincent and I headed into Brussels. I was taking a bus due to a strike on the trains in Belgium and most other countries in Europe. It proved to be a really cool experience. I had the opportunity to meet a gentleman from Afghanistan now living in London. I was captivated as he shared his story of how he escaped from Afghanistan seven years earlier and walked for two and a half months all the way to England. Though it had happened so many years ago one could tell the images were still quite vivid in his mind. It was an honor to meet him and hear about his adventure, even though it was much more gruesome than mine. His was one of hope and determination, and I was honored that he shared it with me.
   It was late by the time I made into London. My goal was to get the tube to Watford my friend Jason had invited me to crash at his flat there for the night. I would have to get up at 5:30AM to catch the bus to London-Heathrow so after chatting a bit I slept.
    My trip was coming to a close and it was becoming a bit clearer even in the fog that covered London that morning. I ate breakfast, bought a few souvenirs, and made my way toward my gate. It was time for the nine-hour trip back to Dallas and home. I would say bittersweet is the best way to put it. So much had been experienced, so many memories made, and even more amazing people had affected my life. It was all a bit surreal as we finally touched down at DFW, but I was home and it was good. I don’t have words to sum it all up yet, but I know they will come. I didn’t want to come back the same, and the good news is I don’t feel the same. A work has begun and I know He “will be faithful to complete it”!

Homeward bound.

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