Category Archives: Germany 2009

Report from Reichelsheim

Germany 6Over 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. Charles and Kyle digging the foundation of the Old Chapel 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.

-Charles Metz


Leslie working on her journal 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. 

On the way to the castle in Heidelberg 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. 

-Leslie Singleton 

Travel to Greek island of Rodos

Germany 5Free travel on the beautiful Island of Rodos! We spent our days relaxing, swimming, and enjoying the beauty, the friendly Greek people and their fantastic food. While on the island, we went on three tours.

The first one was to the island of Symi, which, according to our guide, has the most beautiful harbor in Greece. On either side of a steep-sided fjord rise tier upon tier of houses, some white, some pastel yellow, but virtually all in Neo-Classical style- a reminder that 100 years ago this was one of Greece’s most prosperous islands. We learned that they have to import all of their water from Rhodos and that they have lived off the sea sponge industry for centuries.

Julie about to go on her carpet ride Our second tour was to Marmaris, Turkey. There we found out that the magic carpets associated with orient are not just a myth: Julie got the privilege of going on a carpet ride. We enjoyed the hospitality of the shop owners who served us some traditional tea and visited a Turkish delight factory -a true delight.

The best of all three was the tour to old Rodos and Lindos, where we got a feeling of being in the true original Greek culture. At Lindos we enjoyed fabulous views from the Acropolis. We also drove north of the Island where the Aegean and the Mediterranean Seas meet, a breathtaking sight.

Although originally we were disappointed to have our original free travel plans cancelled, we were so glad to have this opportunity to visit Greece. It was all what I had imagined it to be. I was particularly impressed at how they make every effort to preserve their culture and traditions. I am very grateful for the friendliness of the people. It will surely be an unforgettable experience.

 -Laira Alba

The Turkish community near Marburg

Germany 4We recently arrived in Marburg, Germany. It is a beautiful city, home to a castle where the Grimm brothers based many of their fairy tales on. The university town has 80,000 people of which about 20,000 are university students. The atmosphere at Marburg is very friendly and we were greeted by our host families with open arms.

On our second day in Marburg, we visited Stadtallendorf, the home of a small Turkish community just a short train ride away. Stadtallendorf office for IntegrationThere we learned about the integration of Turkish families into the German community. We were invited into the homes of three different Turkish families where we were able to witness how the program works. We also visited the Suni-Mosque where we learned more about the Muslim Religion and the place where they worship. 

Overall we admired the program and how it helps the Turkish people integrate into the German culture without losing their own traditions. Hearing about the Muslim faith was interesting because we were able to see things from their perspective but at the same time, it intensified our own beliefs. 

– Heather Wilkins and Katherine Taylor

Seminar in Sustainable Urban Development

Germany 3On Wednesday, May 20th, we had a seminar on alternative energy sources and sustainable city planning. We met our guide in a classroom under a solar tower in the city of Freiburg. We began with a powerpoint that had many facts about energy usage in Germany as well as the rest of the world. We saw, as we expected, that America was using far more energy per person than the rest of the world. We then spoke about transportation in Germany versus America. Our guide stated that in Freiburg almost a quarter of the people ride a bike while even more use public transportation. This cuts down on energy costs, pollution and the depletion of natural resources.

After the powerpoint presentation, we went on a tour of two special communities in Freiburg. Each of these communities was unique in that the people opt to live in smaller apartments without their own yard or garden. Many also forgo a parking space as they don’t have a car. Instead, there are many public areas such as playgrounds, parks and public indoor living rooms where people can gather to spend time together. There was also a market in each community which had venders selling local goods. Each community has schools for the children, stores for most things you would need as well as access to public transportation. They all work together to cut down on energy expenditure and are cooperating to further a more sustainable city. I found these ideas intriguing and challenging.

Although many of these ideas would be difficult to begin implementing in America, I believe we should work to incorporate these more conservative and Earth-aware lifestyles and mind frames into our day. One example of a way we could cut down on pollution is the idea of carpooling. Another idea would be to encourage the use of separating waste into plastic, glass, paper, aluminum and biodegradable items. This way we could recycle more things and cut down on the amount of useful things we dispose of. America could also work harder to make better use of the space that we have. We could build our towns and cities in a more earth-friendly way by incorporating solar energy and less paved and cemented areas. This is important to us as Christians, as it is being a good steward of what we have been given. Overall, we as Americans have much to learn from the rest of the world on what things in life are truly necessary and what luxuries we should spare.

-Julie Davis

Germany group worships in Basel, Switzerland

Germany 2On Sunday, May 10 we went to Basel, Switzerland. After walking along the Rhine River we went to church at the Mitenand Fellowship. They were very welcoming and excited to have us there. The service was unique from many other services I’ve been to. They included many languages besides German and English. Also, they put together a drama of the scripture they performed during the service. Following the service, we were invited to join then for dinner. Much of the food was new and different to us, but we were thankful for their generosity.

 We were invited back the following weekend for their Friday night meeting. A few of us decided to go. We met in a house the fellowship owns. The group was made up of all ages and many different backgrounds. We
joined in their singing and bible study. Many of their songs were familiar tunes and we would sing four verses, each one in a different language. We read the scripture passage in both Spanish and German, but people contributed to the discussion afterwards in their own language.

It was an awesome experience to be with this group of people from all different backgrounds who did not let their language get in the way. Many of us on the trip are struggling with the language and feel lost not being
able to communicate with our host families. It was great being able to worship the same God each using our own language.

Gott ist gut, die ganze Zeit.
Die ganze Ziet, Gott ist gut.

God is good, all the time.
All the time, God is good

-Maria Zehr

Week 1 in Germany

Germany 1The past few days have been very interesting. On Friday, I ventured away from home with 16 other EMU students, Moira, and our helper Salomé to discover the people, cultures, challenges, language, and great aspects of Germany. The plane ride was great relaxation and gave us some preparation time for our adventure ahead. We then arrived at 7am on Saturday in Frankfurt, Germany, and hopped on a train ride to Freiburg which was a lot of fun. The most nerve wrecking part happened when we arrived at the train station in Freiburg and our host families were waiting for us. We then parted and went to our new, beautiful homes. Some of us, for the rest of the day, either went shopping in the big city or went to sleep exhausted from our long journey.

Meeting my family was very interesting. The son came and picked us up from the station and then when we got to our home, we met our mother, Gabriele, and the Japanese exchange student. The next morning the first challenge arose- I set my alarm wrong so we were late for breakfast and most often, Germans are never late for anything! Our host mom was not happy at all and then pulled out the “rule book” and began explaining every house rule. The most exciting part of the first day or so was being able to explore the city. There were so many beautiful sights to see and little shops to venture into.

On Monday we started school. Class is 3.5 hours, which is very long, but the teacher is fun and does a fantastic job at teaching us the important things needed to know about Germany and the important vocabulary needed to communicate.

Team building, Freiburg history tour, and reflection on the mountain are a few of the many activities we have done as a group. This allowed us to learn many things about this amazing city and gave us a view from the sky lift we took to the top of the mountain. That was breath-taking.

Communicating with Germans and learning their customs have been the biggest challenges but get better by the day. All of these experiences have allowed us to grow as individuals, a group, and as more diverse people. I am so grateful to be a part of this group and couldn’t imagine being anywhere else. This cross-cultural has been, is, and will be a life-changing experience for me and hopefully for everyone else.

– Jackie Collins