Somewhere on the wall in the place that we call “home” this week are the famous words of Dietrich Bonhoeffer:
Von guten Machten wunderbar geborgen erwarten wir getrost, was kommen mag,
Gott ist bei uns am Abend und am Morgen, und gans gewiss an jeden neuen Tag.
/Wonderfully sheltered by good powers, we confidently expect what will come,
God is with us in the evening and in the morning and certainly goes with us every new day.
When missionary families come “home” after a few years, it can take some time before they “landed” again. Our family knows about that by now. After our return from Osijek early this Summer we could stay in the vicarage of our sending church in Randwijk. But we had to leave that house at the end of September and our new home is only available on November 1st. So, the six of us are divided over three places, with friends and family as a climax of our wandering life.
Not that it is a problem. We are very grateful for the hospitality that we receive from parents and friends. But it is also slightly inconvenient as you lose all overview of a bit of family life, and realize how many details you actually organize between a few bites during a meal. We learn new things every day. To give our host families and ourselves a break, we decided to go to Germany. We stay at the Anglican Reformed Church in Swarzborn, Hessen, Germany.
In the seventies of the last century, an American family settled here in former Army barracks. This couple had a vision for the area and rebuild it to a camp area. This is a pretty strategic place as it is the highest place of the area (650 meters above sea level) On the East side you could look deep into Eastern Germany and at the West, North, and South just as far inland. A few hundred meters away from this campsite is a tower that gives a beautiful overview of the surrounding
Wanderers can get a cup of coffee or a simple meal. Dogs and dirty shoes are no problem. It is a basic place where everyone can feel at home. People from the wider area know this place and are happily coming back to receive a cup of cold water, a listening ear, and hospitality.
It is a campsite where for decades people come to receive rest and learn more about God. The host and hostess of this place are Bishop Meijer and his wife. We are impressed by their commitment and sober lifestyle.
Great Is Thy faithfulness
During one of the meals that we shared together, Miss Meijer told us this story: It was during a very rainy summer that they had 400 guests—200 inside the building and 200 in the fields camping. Black clouds were coming to the mountaintops, and the weather was very heavy. Everybody was worried because there would not be room for 400 people inside the buildings. Miss Meijer said, “Praying is a necessity here.” We prayed, and some people were especially assigned to pray that the storm would not reach the campsite. Their prayers were answered. Everyone could see how the clouds split in two. They blew over and did not harm the campsite. She added, “The song: ‘Great is Thy faithfulness’ has a deeper meaning for me.” This is just one of the stories she tells us out of many more that she could share.
The backbone of the campsite:
The backbone of the campsite is to be found in the daily morning prayer that takes place at 8.00 a.m. in the small chapel. My German is not so good, so it is a challenge for me to follow the morning prayer. But it is easy to follow the readings in my heart language.
Because morning Prayer follows the order of the Anglican Book of Common Prayer. There is an Old Testament reading, a New Testament reading, and a psalm that is either read or sung with singing responsively. This week, we go from Psalms 24 to 31 day after day.
On Wednesday, somebody knocks at the door during morning prayer. A young man in black with some metal stuff in his hands is standing shyly in the doorway. Bishop Gerhard explains what is expected of him as a chimney sweep. And he goes his way. We sing:
Mog die Gnad unseres Herrn Jesus
und des Vaters innig Lieb,
Mit des Heil’gen Geistes leitung
auf uns miteinander lieg,
so verbleiben wir in Einheit mit
dem Vater und des Sohn,
und erfahren die Gemeinschaft, die
da komt vom Himmelsthron.
May the grace of our Lord Jesus
and the Father’s heartfelt love,
With the Holy Spirit
be on each other,
so we stay in unity with
the Father and the Son,
and learn the community that
this unity comes from the heavenly throne.
After morning prayer, we have breakfast together, and everyone does what is expected of him or her. Running a place like this is quite a job.
This week, our duties are resting, a bit of writing, reading my journal and enjoying nature. I feel comforted here by the rest, routine, and the words of Bonhoeffer on the wall: The Lord is my Dwelling place. I realize once more that we do not need a house to feel at home. We are home wherever we sense His Presence.
Last Saturday we could see the house, that we hope to rent starting November 1st. We are very thankful for God’s provision. Stay tuned if you like to see more in the coming weeks. (but first: the move;-)
Thank you for these words of calm.