Switzerland (Tim)

Hi from Switzerland. I don’t have much time to introduce this post, but her are excerpts from my journal for the past few days.

Thursday, 5/6/08 : : 6 p.m.

We flew beside a mountain range as we flew into Switzerland today where I spotted several (open) ski resorts. I don’t think we’ll have time to make use of them, but it looked like fun!

We arrived in Paris around 5 a.m. today Greenville time after a 9 hour flight from Atlanta. Paris is 6 hours ahead of Greenville, so it was 11 a.m. here. Now it’s about 6 local time, and I am writing this in one of the vans we rented. We are stuck in a “stau,” german for traffic jam.

The landscape is beautiful. Lots of fields, and from above it looked a lot like Illinois, except the colors were brighter. They grow a lot of rape here, which is a bright yellow. Also, the shapes of their field are very unusual. Lots of angles and curves, so the patchwork looks pretty complicated from above.

I’m one of only 6 or 8 drivers for 4 vans (the 6 or 8 know how to drive a stick), though not one of the designated van “owners,” who do the majority of the driving. I don’t think reading the signs will be any problem – so far, most are more intuitive than American signs! Also, they are very large, and they have a lot of them, with arrows and pictures and sort of universal icons that are easy to figure out.

All of the announcements on both flights were given in French and then in English, and all of the airport personnel I encountered at both airports (Paris and Geneva, plus the AirFrance people in Atlanta) were bilingual. It was pretty amazing.

Thursday, 6/8/08 : : 7:35 p.m.

We driving through (or at least near) the Swiss Alps now. Immediately to our right a mountain range rises sharply. Immediately to the left, just a few feet beneath the edge of the road, is an enormous deep-blue lake with sailboats on it. It reminds me a little of Lake Dillon in CO but we are much closer here than we’ve ever been to Lake Dillon, and I think the mountains are higher here.

We filled up a little while ago for 225 cts/l. That’s 225 cents per liter. There are 100 cents in a Swiss Franc, so it was 2.25 francs per liter. Converted to $/gal, it was around US$9. Filling all four vans cost around US$600. I still won’t like it, but somehow paying $3.50 a gallon in Greenville seems more reasonable.

Oh. We just turned off the road. Apparently we’re not just driving by this lake; we’re actually staying in a hostel right next to it. So, not all of my pictures will have van window between camera and subject. Ashley’s only complaint about the prospect of pictures on the lake is that we’ve been traveling for more than 24 hours and not in ideal condition for making photographs. =) FWIW, I understand that they try to give us a nice place to stay to get started, but I don’t think all of our accommodations will be this nice.

Friday, 5/9/08 : : 11:00 p.m.

The hostel was wonderful. It was right on the lake, and the mountains swept down to the lake on both sides. The weather was perfect. And the food, though very different from what I’m used to, was pretty good as well. Bread with hard crusts was severed for breakfast today with cold cut meats and yogurt.

The girl who worked there in the kitchen was a believer; her boss was not. She later told us that her boss had noticed something different about us, and suspected that we, like her, were Christians, and asked her about it. She was excited for another inroad. Dr. Mom made reservations for us again next year. At first they said they were booked, but after we left they sent word to the Arche (our next stop) that they had changed things around somehow and that they wanted us to come stay there next May. This was an encouraging start.

After a beautiful drive through the mountains, often next to streams and incredibly high waterfalls, we arrived at the Arche in Ebnat Kapel (sp?) a little after lunch. The Arche is a Swiss Mission Haus, a hotel of sorts of Christians. They have quite a lot of property, a hotel, a conference center of sorts, and several houses. We’re staying in a house that was built around 1550! Although well-maintained, the age is fairly obvious. The furnishings are probably not from 1550, but are perhaps from 1950!

Before dinner we had several hours to settle in and explore. Ashley went into town while I helped the McCauleys move in to their room in the hotel and also carried some things to the auditorium where we needed to set up for the service tonight.

I also met with a college student that I’m trying to mentor/disciple this summer.

After stuffing ourselves at dinner (they kept bringing food) we had just a short time to pray and prepare for the service. Once there, we were surprised to find out that the conference theme was the Holy Spirit. This makes sense, because Monday is Pentecost, which is widely celebrated as a holiday even among non-Christians over here. However, it was not the theme that we were expecting: Promises. Fortunately, earlier today Dr. Kielmeyer decided to switch with me and preach tonight instead of tomorrow night, so he was the one having to decide how to react to this news.

We also found out that contrary to our expectation, we would be preaching 3 conference sermons and 4 evangelistic messages. We had planned on 4 conference sermons and 1 or 2 evangelistic messages.

It now appears that I will be preaching 3 messages in the next 3 days, none of which I had planned on, but I’m eager to preach just the same. Sunday afternoon I’ll preach from Phil. 2 and Rom. 6, and Sunday night I’ll preach a short evangelistic service which will build on themes expressed in “Wayfaring Stranger,” one of the songs the choir will sing before the service. Monday I’ll preach from Ephesians 1, about how the Spirit has been given as the “earnest” of our inheritance.

The service tonight went very well. Our German songs were apparently understandable most of the time (one person said she understood about 90% of it, and Dr. Dad observed that that would be good for an American audience listening to a choir singing in English!). We are grateful for the Lord’s help in communicating with these people in their own language even though most of us don’t speak it.

Sunday, 5/11/08 : : 10:45 p.m.

Yesterday (Saturday) we visited the Zwingli house. “By chance,” the caretaker showed up with the key and let us inside, even though it normally isn’t open at this time of year. All of the doorways were incredibly short – shorter than me, even! I felt tall. The beds were short, too. I didn’t get to do any work on my laptop because I was driving, but I discovered the view from the driver’s seat is a lot better than the back of a van!

In the afternoon we went to a nearby village and shopped. On the way I worked some on my sermons for today (Sunday) and enjoyed the beauty of God’s creation and took lots of pictures. I think we have taken around 700 so far and we have not yet been in Europe for a week. I’m sure we’ll throw out a lot of bad shots, but it’s better to have too many than too few.

Today I preached at 2 o’clock from Hebrews 11 and the citation of Abraham counting himself a stranger in the land, looking for a city whose builder and maker is God. This followed the “Wayfaring Stranger” song by the choir, in which one verse reads, “I want to sing salvation’s story/in concert with the blood-washed band.”

I built on both themes (traveling through earth as a pilgrim, and our excitement at the prospect of one day joining a choir of countless-millions as we sing salvation’s story and praise the Lamb. My object was to contrast the saints from the lost, and to demonstrate the reality of Christianity to those who may have been agnostic or atheistic or just apathetic. That is, we don’t just get together on Sundays, say a few prayers, listen to a sermon, and go home. No, we consider this life a pilgrimage, and we look forward to spending eternity in a literal heaven singing praise to God.

This evening I preached from Romans 7 and 8 about the results of Spirit-filled living. That is, what does life look like if you’re living in the Spirit. I briefly listed 8 or 10 characteristics and then further developed a them of hope. Again, my object was to contrast Christians with non-Christians. We have this hope—confident expectation—that other’s do not have. And it is this hope that sustains us in difficult times.

Tomorrow I preach on Ephesians 1, and I still have some work to do on it, so this will be all for tonight.

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