Although it seems as though living in China provides adventures in daily living, this has been my first adventure in Europe. My previous post described the mountainous ultra marathon I did last month, and here I’ll describe some highlights of the rest of my trip.
It’s not a good idea to sass the EU immigration officers. They take their job very seriously, so no matter what kind of mood you are in, mind your tongue. For example, they DO consider it their business to know what you are doing in Switzerland even if you are entering in Holland (even though Switzerland isn’t part of the EU). And when they say that the EU is like the US in some respects, as in one country, don’t retort with “and how’s that workin’ for ya?” You just might get pulled aside for a little special attention.
Also, if you are a bit emotionally strung out and tired, in need of a vacation from your work in service, you may want to skip watching the movie Precious on the plane lest you run the risk of fighting back tears the whole time and forming plans to move to inner city New York.
I wasn’t sure that I wanted to use the toothpaste with the brand name Candida, but I figured it probably meant something good and healthy in French.
The first few days in Switzerland were rainy, cold and very cloudy and I was terribly disappointed to not be able to see the majesty of the Swiss Alps during a couple days of free time before the Breathe Conference. I still did some hikes, however, and I was reminded that the majesty and glory of God are also hidden in the gray, damp cold of our days, but that doesn’t mean that it doesn’t exist or that he isn’t powerfully working. It just means that sometimes, although he is so close we can touch him, as I was to the mountains, we cannot truly see him. Eventually, as you see below, the weather cleared and revealed scenes I had never before taken in with my own eyes! Beauty beyond our imagination – that is just a small fraction of the beauty of God!
The story of how I made connections with my host families is one worth telling because it is a beautiful testimony of Swiss hospitality. When I was making plans for Switzerland, I contacted a Swiss friend (who is also working cross-culturally, but not with me). She wrote me back after a day or so and said that her brother Marc would pick me up at the airport and that I would be staying at Denise’s house, who happened to be away that week. Of course I was well-cared for and well-fed: fresh-baked multigrain bread and an amazing spread of cheeses, sautéed garden vegetables, and a syrup made from flowers in their backyard garden.
My Swiss friend also contacted someone in the Swiss office of our mutual organization and asked if they knew of anyone in a village near the place where my ultra marathon was going to start. The connections were made and Marc and Bridget in Morges drove me an hour to another village where I would spend the next two nights with Thomas and Therese Guyger. Amazing! A breakfast was prepared for me early in the morning and Tom took me to the race start. I was pretty sure I could use someone’s mobile phone to call when I was done, but Tom had come early to check out the race and he met me at the finish, running the final few meters with me. Therese washed my totally filthy clothes, and Tom washed my mud-filled shoes – as I said before – akin to washing my feet. The conversations with them were free and easy and spirit-filled. Beautiful!
I don’t know about you, but the time needed to wind down to actually start truly relaxing and enjoying a vacation is dependent on the amount of time since my last true vacation, and it had been some time for me. I was tired physically, of course from the level of training needed to prepare for the ultra marathon. But until I stopped and allowed myself to truly relax, I didn’t realize that my physical fatigue was nowhere close to the level of mental and emotional fatigue I was experiencing. I didn’t realize this until I was finally able to BREATHE.
BREATHE is the name of the spiritual retreat for cross-cultural workers that I attended in Switzerland. It is organized by Catalyst Int’l based in Ventura, CA and pulls together counselors, a worship team, child-care workers, and other support staff to give soul care to people like me. Each guest had been lifted up by the staff for the weeks and months leading up to the conference, sewing seeds that definitely sprouted amongst all participants. God did some wonderful work within me, and it was evident on the faces of the guests as well as the staff that he did a work within the others as well. Located in the Jungfrau region, the majestic mountains Eiger, Monch, and Jungfrau greeted me every morning and lulled me to sleep every evening. Ten full days of worshipful, intentional, guided, yet unprogrammatic care of the soul – so wonderful, I am blessed! Please support a cross-cultural worker you know to take part in a retreat such as this. More importantly, do not neglect your own soul care!
Currently, I’m in Holland (Go Orange on Sunday!) making some connections with counter-prostitution/trafficking organizations and learning about the situation here first hand. Although technically work, Holland has been a wonderful transition back to China. One of the highlights was visiting the Corrie ten Boom house. Corrie’s story is an amazing testimony of justice, freedom and forgiveness.