Over the past week in Reichelsheim we have done less work and more group activities. On Wednesday my work group continued to dig our drainage ditch around the chapel at the castle. We finished the digging process and were ready to start putting in the drainage pipe and fill it back in. On Thursday of last week it was a German holiday so we didn’t work; instead we played different group games. Ute, who belongs to the community, lead us during the games. We played a game where we had to keep multiple balloons up in the air and move from one side of the room to the other as a group. We also played a memory game with small items that represented us. This activity was good to try to bring us closer as a group. Thursday night we went to eat with different families in the community. Heather and I went to eat at the Wolf’s house; we had lasagna, salad, and ice cream. We had some really good conversations about the differences between German universities and American universities, about the towns we lived in, and the things that were most different here from the United States. They were a very nice family and I really enjoyed spending the evening with them. Friday morning we did not do our normal jobs but labeled 16,000 OJC magazines ready to be mailed out to friends and families of the community. We finished the task during the morning shift so we had free time in the afternoon.
Friday night a large group of us went to a Disco Tech in Darmstadt; this was a lot of fun! The club had three different dance floors in it that all played different music. The majority of us chose to stay on the dance floor that played Hip Hop music. This was a really good experience for all of us because we got to let loose and really have fun with each other. We were teaching the German students how to dance like Americans and they taught of how to dance like Germans! It was really interesting to see how different we danced.
On Saturday we got to sleep till 10 am and then went to Heidelberg for a group tour. We went to the castle that overlooked the city and then got free time to go into the city and go shopping and walk around. The castle was very beautiful and the views from there were amazing. The world’s largest wine barrel was inside the castle. It was about 25 feet tall and you could walk up steps and stand on top of it. We all split into groups and went walking around the city. The group I went with found a Pizza Hut and ate lunch! It was great to have “American” food again! After lunch we walked around the city and went into a lot of different shops. After we returned from Heidelberg we watched “Into the Wild” in the courtyard.
Sunday we had a late brunch and then a service up at the castle. The service was very different; instead of sitting and listening to someone preach we went to different places around the castle that had different tasks to do or psalms to read. It was very interesting to have a service this way and be interactive rather than just listening to someone the whole time.
Monday we were back to work in our groups. My group re-cemented the foundation of the chapel. We did not have to work in the afternoon because it started to rain. After dinner we had a presentation from Dr. John from Peru. He came to talk to us about his mission hospital he had built and the journey he went on to build it. He has traveled all around the world to try and get money for the hospital and has made some very important friends and business partners such as: the First Lady of Peru, the First Lady of Germany, and many top businesses around Germany, the United States, and Peru. His journey was very interesting and showed how God played a major role in making everything work out. Tuesday we worked a full day and started to lay the pipe and fill the hole back in. We got about 1/4th of the hole finished. Our goal is to finish it up on Wednesday.
Our roommates have come closer over the past week. We have been with each other a week now and everyone seems to be a little more open and willing to talk. We don’t really hang out in the rooms much; mainly the rooms are just used to sleep. The service on Sunday was very interesting. It was the first time I have ever experienced such a hands-on service. We were able to go around at our own pace and think of the things we were thankful for and look at things from our own point of view. I think this experience had a bigger impact on us than sitting for a regular service would have. After looking back at this week I realize that we all had a lot of fun and experienced far more than we expected too. Most of the group was ready to go home after Greece but I think most of us are happy that we did come to Reichelsheim.
We have finished our free travel and this week our cross-cultural brings us to a Christian community, the OJC, that is putting us to work. They have split us up into groups, all of which are working on refurbishing a castle. Some are scaffolding, others are working so that they can rebuild exteriors of the castle and the youth center, and others are painting an apartment for new tenants in the community or sanding doors to protect them from the elements. And I am trying to make myself useful by doing secretary work.
The OJC was created in 1968 as an experiment whose objective was to create a place where youth could interact with others while “living Christ centered lives and developing inspired ideas through dialogue and actions that impact society.” There are three objectives an individual strives for in this community. The first is that they aspire to find a home in Christ by making their life part of Christ’s life. Second, that they find fellowship in Christ by participating and being a contributing and productive member of the community. Finally, the most important thing for the individual participant is following Christ’s direction in order to have faith guide one through life. And all of this is done by giving one’s service to preserve history.
I’ve talked to a few of our people about what they are doing here and what they think of their experience. It is a consensus that the work is hard and people have made every effort to make us feel at home. A typical day is breakfast followed by morning worship,work starting at nine, a break for lunch, and afternoon prayer from twelve to two. Then work continues until four o’clock. We usually will have some kind of evening activity before or after dinner at six to build our community relationships. Regardless of what we are working on our experience here has been full of new things. A lot of us never thought we’d be able to do this kind of work or ever do it again. There are people here that have never held a shovel. It has also been a change for our bodies. Coming from relaxation to work is difficult. However, in this community they use God in worship as a tool of relaxation and nourishment to refuel their energy to work.
For me, my very new and different experience has to do with the element of faith here. Growing up in my youth group was an experience of exclusion so I did not get the same opportunity to grow in my faith. So the specific faith aspects of being here is a change for me, a nice one, but still I feel a little out of place. This atmosphere, really shows me how religiously involved Eastern Mennonite University really is. We are working hard, taking comfort in our Christian faith and experiencing good fellowship.
Just recently, we all took a trip to Heidelberg for the day. It was a nice day of relaxation, tourism, and shopping. My favorite, of course, was Heidelberg Castle. After we got back we all watched a film outside in our nice courtyard. It was the perfect ending to a perfect day. This is all very well and good, but it is the end of our fifth week and some of us are getting prepared to go home and some of us are ready now.