some posts from my Germany trip

Here are some posts from the blog I kept while in Germany.

The GoGrace Germany team has made it safely to Germany! Our flights went smoothly for the most part. Kip, Katelyn, Janell, Regina, Felicia, and Nate all arrived in Detroit just fine. Brittany was supposed to meet us in Detroit, but her flight was canceled. The airline gave her a direct flight to Paris and she ended up beating us there by 3 hours! The rest of us slept a little bit on the plane ride from Detroit to Paris, but not much.

In Paris we went back through security and the border crossing just fine. Janell left her coat on the airplane, (but got a great one for a great price here in Germany). We all ate some baguettes, cheese and meat for lunch in the airport, and then took a nap.

After our long layover in Paris, we boarded our flight to Stuttgart with everyone in tow. All of our luggage made it safely to Stuttgart. John Pappas picked us up at the airport. Janell and Felicia went with John and the luggage to the church. Kip, Katelyn, Brittany, Nate, and Regina all took a series of trains from Stuttgart to Aalen Germany! It was quite the adventure, and we made the train we wanted to catch (though there was some running involved). It was neat to see the train system and learn how to navigate the way.

John picked us up from the train depot in Aalen and we got together with everyone to eat dinner. It was a wonderful meal of bread, meat and cheese. The large soft pretzels were amazing! That night our host families came to get us and we headed home with them. I am staying with Regina and a young family from a  neighboring village. they have 3 boys (ages 8-4) and a 2 year old daughter. We chatted with them a bit, but then took showers and headed to bed.

We were picked up this morning at 8am (Germany time) to go to the school system to participate in the English classes there. Regina, Brittany, and I all headed to a middle-school type of school while Nate, Felicia, and Janell headed to a college-prep type of school. The public school system is different than in the states with students staying in one room, and the teachers switch classrooms.

The teacher I had was really great! She was very friendly and nice. She managed the classroom superbly, and the students were very responsive. We were even introduced to ALL of the teachers at the school. They seemed really happy to have us there and the kids cheered when they heard we are coming back to their classes. We spoke to 5th and 7th grade classes. They asked good questions (nothing too hard). My favorite was they asked how many fast food restaurants there are in Indiana.

While Nate, Janell, and Felicia were at the school system, Katelyn, Regina, John Pappas, and Brittany all headed to the little downtown of Aalen. Today was one of the two fresh market days they have a week. The fresh produce and meat and cheese was very interesting. We didn’t have our money with us, but we will be going back there sometime soon for a shopping trip. The others were able to explore a bit later too.

Right now we are just chilling out and taking naps (while I type this at the Pappas’ house). Nate is going to basketball practice with John later and the rest of the group is going to dinner together.

Tonight there is German Bible study at the church at 8pm (our time).

Tomorrow we head out to our first “day off”. We might go to this ancient walled city’s ruins.

~Katelyn Mithoefer

Thursday, January 13th, 2011
Today was a “day off” for our Go Grace Germany team. We decided to travel to Rotenburg (sounds like Routenburg). It is only 40 minutes away from Aalen. We got to ride on the “Auto Bahn” (the German equivilant of our highway). They do not have speedlimits on most of the Auto Bahn. There are certain areas were limits are strictly enforced (though not by police cars, but by cameras which take a picture of your license and they send you a bill).  It is a VERY old history part of Germany. Rotenburg was a walled city that has never been destoyed and rebuilt like most other parts of Germany that are historic. The wall is much like that of a castle. The village is still LARGLY intact from the 13-15th centuries with upkeep. It was never bomed during either WWI or WWII. The houses are colored deep reds, pinks, yellows, tans, and blues complete with sort of like tudor-style wood on the outside. My favorite part of the the buildings were the beautifully carved doors that are everywhere in the city. Such architecture!

Inside the city of Rothenburg, there are two towers that are highly photographed by tourists. The streets are all pedestrian and the cobblestones are still old and yet function well! We ate at a “Roten Hahn” (The red rooster). It was a very traditional german resturant. Very quaint and filled with charm. I had Schnitzel (our equivilant of Pork Tenderloin) and it was really good! (Zair Gut!)

We took lots of pictures in the town and we girls were able to go shopping later in the day while Nate and Kip went to walk all the way around the city  on the wall. We also went up on the wall quickly before we left. It gets dark here early in the winter (5pm our time). It rained all day, and most of us eventually gave up on our unbrellas because of the wind.

But one of the most exciting things about this tour was “The Torture Museum”. This might sound strange, but it was really cool! The building wich functioned as the law enforcement center in the 12-15th centuries was this large builidng that had a dungeon and lots of tools used back then to torture people who disobeyed the law. This disobedience could be anything from laziness to murder and other heinious crimes. Though it sounds really morbid, it actually was very interesting and we were able to get through the museum in an hour. There were some English descriptions of what we were seeing and it was neat to see how everything looked back then.

Tonight we had chinese/Tai food and had great discussions over dinner. Regina and I have stayed up late talking with our host parents (a young couple named (Andi, and Annika). We are headed to bed here shortly because we need to get up really early to get to the school system to work in the English and Religion classes again. Tomorrow night we will be having a get together with the Young Adults and Teenagers of the church. We are looking forward to that! We are also preparing the English speaking service that will be held after the German service Sunday afternoon.

Saturday, January 15th, 2011

On Friday…

We went to the schools early in the morning and spoke in the English and Religion classes. This was a harder day for some of us because the kids were less willing to talk with us in the Religion class. But this is understandable because it would be like us having economics taught in German. Religion is taught in the school system like any other subject. Thankfully the teacher in the class that Nate, Regina, and I were in is a believer and strong Christian.

One of the coolest moments of the day happened in the Religion class.  In Germany, the population of born-again believers is around 2%. Many people say that they are Christians but really they just go to the State/Government church (the protestant or catholic church recieves tax money from the state). Young adult believers are under similar pressure to the peer pressure in the States. It can be hard for them to share their faith for fear of ridicule. It is even harder here because of the few number of people in the country who accept Jesus Christ as Lord and live accordingly. We have many many many free churches in the states while those in Germany are considered  like “cults” or “sects”.

In this Religions class, the teacher asked the students “Who was Jesus Christ”. Only a couple of students answered, but one girl (around 15-16) said “He is the Son of God”. The teacher replied, “Do you believe that?” and she said “Yes.” Under his breath the teacher said “Halelujah!” This was very courageous of her considering that the students dont even like to talk about what bands or pop culture preferences they have for fear they will be ridiculed in a group of friends.

Later in the day we had team time and Regina and I have been blown away (as I am sure others have felt) with the spiritual lessons we have been learning here. Sometimes it is hard to take it all in becasue of both the new things learned in another language/culture and those spiritual eye-opening experiences. But the group time with Kip and all of us has been very beneficial and our group talks A LOT. We have all gotten to know each other very well.

That night the young adults of the church came over to hang out at the church building with us and play games. THIS WAS A BLAST! We played lots of card games, table tennis, and fooseball. Talking with these young adults was SO encouraging and amazing. They are wanting to be bold in their culture and stand for Christ among their co-workers and fellow students. Please pray for them for it is very difficult here to do that because of the culture and the deadness of the religion. We talked about things that we have been learning (both German and American Christians). Dennis, a guy who is a strong believer talked about learning about wisdom in Proverbs and in Job. He speaks very good English and often opporates as a translater in our interactions with those our age.  The girls, Vivi, Angelica, Monica, Mellisa are all reading (if I understand correctly) in the Old Testament. I can tell that there is deepness to their thoughts even when they don’t express it because of being able to speak little English.

Today (Saturday)…

We got together as a team around 9:30 am. Our host family did not have heat or hot water this morning so Regina and I skipped showers and were able to have breakfast with the whole host family. Andi, Annika, Lucas, Aaron, Micha, and Judith. A typical breakfast is EXCELLENT bread, jam, and hardboiled eggs. They also will eat “bretzel” for breakfast (pretzel) because it is. offered in the region and not in others.

Our team practiced singing together to be able to lead the English worship service tomorrow afternoon. Both Regina and I are giving our Testimonies tomorrow. Please pray for us as we are really exhausted right now and have been up late the past couple of nights. God has been good and the jet lag is gone, but the late nights and early mornings are catching up with us. We also had our bible study with Kip leading and we have been learning about how “Jesus is the Real thing and offers people what they really need”. It is a study in the book of John. We just finished the Samaritan woman at the well story on Friday.

Then a few of us went to the Pappas’ house to call home and (for me -to get a shower). Their home is wonderful and looks out over a beautiful vally with lots of house rooftops and trees shooting up on the hills on either side.

We went back to the church where Janell, Regina, and Kip were. Then Leoni (Nate is living with her family) and Vanessa (who has VERY good English–very clear English), and Dennis all came to the church to go with us down into the village. We brought fliers to hand out to young people downtown to invite them to come to the movie we showed tonight at the church. It was “The Blind Side” and was shown in English with German subtitles. This was definetly stepping outside our comfort zone by just greeting people who do not speak the same language on the street,  but it was good. The group broke into two groups and while one group went shopping and to hand out fliers, the other group headed a different direction to hand out fliers. Later we met up for dinner downtown.

Then we headed to the church to set up for the evening’s movie watching event! We set up tables to look like a cafe’ and had candles lit on the tables. We also had german gummy treats (Haibro) and other snacks. The movie was a hit, and it seemed to be well recepted. Some had seen it before, but not many. there were not a lot of people who came from the community, but there were a lot of people who came from the church and it was good to hang out with those young people again.

Tomorrow is a full day. First there is the German church service that lasts from 1 1/2 hours to 2 hours and then a small break for lunch (provided by a  member of the church) before we launch into another 1 hour English church service (without translation). Kip is preaching, Nate is singing a song and playing the guitar, Janell is playing the guitar as we all sing some praise and worship songs (known and unknown to German people), and I (Katelyn) and Regina are giving 3-5 minute testimonies. Later after the church service we will go home with our host families to spend the evening with them as we have not had a lot of time to spend with them.

Sunday, January 16th, 2011

I titled this post Sun-day because for the first day since we came to Germany that we saw the sun! Previous days have been very gloomy outside. Though the country and the red housetops against the background of the valley is beautiful, the sun just set everything shining!

This morning we were picked up for church by John Pappas since the Schurr family (Regina and My host family) only have 7 seats in their mini van (with “children seats” it would have been impossible for both Regina and I to ride along). We were very tired because we were up late the night before, but it was good to see everyone at church. First was the German church service which was 2 hours long. We sang both German and English songs (including Amazing Grace). I have been surprized at the knowledge of English praise songs (though from the 90s) this church has! I was expecting to listen to German songs all the time. John Pappas translated the service for us. He is incredibly bi-lingual and even speaks the dialect of this southern-German region known as “Schwabish.” The Germans say that he does not have an accent (He has been in Germany more than 25  years), and he does not have any kind of German accent while speaking English.

The message was wonderful. It was given by John Pappas’ (the missionary here) son-in-law. Dietmar is German and married to Stephanie (Pappas). He is from a church in Stuttgart. he did a great job preaching on the topic of Obedience from John 14:15. I absolutely loved it. I can tell you all more about it later. It was one of the most mind-blowing things done completely by the Holy Spirit in my life on this trip so far.

We ate some pizza (provided by Dennis’ family) and then had a quick practice of our English church service. This is only the second English service they have had. They said that it was up to us to see if there would be more in the future (sort of kidding, sort of not kidding). We had invited people from the classes and the village to come to the service. There were quite a few people I did not recognize there. Some of the  highschool/college kids also came. There were 2 exchange students from South Africa (who will be returning to South Africa on Friday), and 1 friend of Lein Le (pronounced Le-own-ae) who was from Togo, Africa. We sang some praise songs to start off the service with all of us in front singing, and Janell and Nate trading off playing the guitar. The congregation knew part of the songs, and the words were in English on powerpoint behind us.

Regina and I both gave our testimonies. There was no translation, but we tried to speak slowly (although I think I went a little fast). Regina and I (Katelyn) were talking afterward and found a similarity between our experiences. Both of us had originally prepared something written down word for word to share with the church. However, when we got up there we skipped part of what we had to say and added other parts. This had to be the leading of the Holy Spirit because we did not feel like we ran out of things to say, or were at a loss for words during the time we were speaking. Praise God!

Kip Cone (our Team Leader) also spoke, but he did a 1st person narrative. It was great! He played the role of one of David’s mighty men, Abishi. He told the story of David taking Saul’s water jug and spear while Saul was sleeping. He said that desert experiences are hard and often lead us to want to do things our own way, a convient way that will get us out of the feeling that nothing is happening to get us out of our situation, instead of trusting God, doing the right thing, and then leaving the results to God. He did a great job and I know that for me, it was one of the best parts of the church service!

After the English Service, we stuck around to eat amazing German cake with the congregation after the service. AMAZING desserts, INCREDIBLE people! Then we went to spend the rest of the afternoon/evening with our host families. For Regina and I, this meant a wonderful trip to a German Ice Rink for some Ice Skating. We took two trips because of the lack of seats in the car and it was not a problem. I watched 3 of the kids (Micha, Aaron, and Judith) while Andi (our host dad) went back for Regina, Annika (our host mom), and Lucas (their oldest boy-8years old).

It was the first time I had ever babysat children who did not speak my language. Talk about a fun challenge! There were some minor bumps in the road, but it went pretty smoothly, and showed me once again how incapable I am of doing anything on my own. Take away the commonality of language and you realize how much you depend on it to get by! But I did discover during this time with the kids, that a kiss on a boo boo will heal all ills. The two boys were having a small argument over points in the Fooseball game they have. This was unusual because they are always very well behaved and hardly put up a fuss when told to do something. The older one put his hand down hard on the littler one’s hand and the younger one started to cry and fuss. I instinctively picked up his 4 year old hand (where the “boo boo” was) and gave it a quick, get-better kiss. He stopped crying and went back to the game. Kids are kids even when they are in different countries!

Later we ate dinner and after Andi and Annika put the kids to bed, we drank tea and talked with them in the living room. We talked more about German Culture, American Culture, how they met, and showed them some more pictures of our siblings. Tomorrow we head into the schools again for more English classes.

-Katelyn Mithoefer

Monday, January 17th, 2011

Today marked the first full week since we began traveling! It was a week ago that we sat in the Detroit Airport and began this great adventure to Europe.

This morning Regina, Katelyn, and Nate went with Kip to the Realschule (the school for average students) and spoke to a class of (I think) 5th Graders. The teacher said that they were very excited that we were coming. At first we could not find the teacher and were waiting outside of the classroom. But Kip went down to see if she was standing somewhere else to meet us and they came back up to the classroom shortly. She said that when she didn’t see us she began to wonder how she was going to break it to the children! They were a very attentive class and asked lots of great questions. They wondered if we had seen a movie star, what our favorite food, color, and animal was. Nate and Katelyn handed out American bills for them to look at, and explained what was on each bill and coin. Later, Brittany, Janell, and Felicia were in the same school, only in a different class later in the day. After the school, Nate, Katelyn, and Regina all went to the Gymnasium (see below for an explanation). Zach Pappas (John and Becky’s son.) leads a short Bible Study during the 15 minute lunch break between classes for a group of students and he wanted us to come tell the group what our favorite bible verse was and why it was important to us. He translated after a couple of sentances. Some of the students in this group are probably not believers.

While they were in the English class, Nate, Katelyn, and Regina visted “Kaufland” (the equivilant to our Walmart) which is right next door to the church. We browsed a bit. This store is set up kind of like a mall with the clothes in one section, the bakery as another store, etc.

When we all got back to the church, we ate Chili con Carne made by Stephanie (called “Shtephy”). She is the daughter of Sabina (Janell, Brittany, and Felicia’s host mom). It was delicious. After cleaning up the kitchen, our entire group walked to the Gymnasium (not gymnasium, but Gim-nahs-ee-um)-the school that Zach Pappas (John and Becky’s son) attends. This school is for the gifted students in Germany and starts in the 5th grade. We participated in a 1 1/2 hour long English class at this school. This was the class that Felicia, Nate, and Janell had visited the first Tuesday we were here in Germany. The teacher was very good and engaged the students in a discussion on the topic of money and it’s importance or lack of importance to people in society. They were reading an American drama called “A Raisin in the Sun” about African Americans living in Chicago in the 1950s.

After this class we went shopping in downtown Aalen. It is pedestrian, and our group split up after we went to a couple of stores. We shopped for 2 hours and then met up at 6pm at a designated meeting spot to walk to a resturant to eat a Turkish meal. It is called a “Doner” (Pronounced “Du-rn-a” -we still can’t prounounce it correctly and they laugh at us when we try to say it). Nate hadn’t had one yet while the rest of us had. It is a wonderful meal that consists of a pita filled with shaved meet and lettuce, something like ranch dressing (which they call “yogurt”), tomatoes, and curry sauce if you like. I am definitely going to miss German food!

After a wonderful team dinner we went to Kaufland again with everyone and happened to run into a girl from Colorado who speaks fluent English and is married to a German man. After hearing her story and inviting her to the English and German church services, we went back to the church for the prayer meeting led by Dennis.

 It is so cool to pray alongside Germans. Even though you don’t know what they are saying, you can still understand the emotion of their words as we both come before our Heavenly Father. Dennis opened the meeting reading and talking about Romans 12:1. John translated for us. We prayed for the persecuted church in different countries (which I LOVE to talk and pray about), missionaries supported by the church around the world, and for us as the people from Grace and Aalen -because we are missionaries also! We all went our seperate ways after the meeting. Regina and I talked to Dennis (who took us to our host parent’s house) about her church in the USA on the way home. (Also: Radom Fact: German people call any type of SUV a “Jeep”).

Tomorrow we head to the schools again and then we are going to a woman’s house for dinner. She is part of the Aalen church and has a set of triplet girls our age and two other daughters whom we have already met. I can’t wait!

Tuesday, January 18th, 2011

One week ago today we started speaking English in the German schools. It is amazing that we have had so many experiences and learned so much in the time we have been here.  There are so many little things that make up the culture that we have been participating in. We wonder how we are going to communicate all of our discoveries and understanding to the people we love at home. What will it be like to integrate back into American society as Americans who have been living in Germany? Time will tell!

Today we went to the Realshule (school) in the morning and all of us ended up classroom. After the class we went on our “official” tour of Aalen with John Pappas as our tour guide. He showed us around the little town and told us about how the town was originally a Roman Outpost in ancient history. He also included some town legends which were very interesting as well.

After this, Felcia, Regina, and Janell went with John to the Hauptschule (the lowest type of school in this society for those who do not learn as well as others -there is a great stigma if you attend this school instead of the Realschule or the Gymnasium schools). But on the way we stopped at a bakery that a girl who lives with Brittany, Felicia, and Janell’s family works at. We had different kinds of pastery and one that had marzipan (delicious!) and hot chocolate/coffee. Hiking up the hill, we went up to the school. The class was AMAZING! It was probably one of the best so far. They asked tons of questions and always had their hands in the air to ask more questions. After the class the principal wanted to sit down and talk with us for a bit. We shared some conversation, and he fed us coffee and Bretzels (big soft pretzels that are made specifically in this region of Germany).

Meanwhile, Nate, Kip, Janell, and Brittany all went back to the church/ or shop and got pastry also. When we all met back up at the church later, we ate lunch (Maltashen -AMAZING FOOD, kind of like ravioli only not) Cleaned up the dishes, and then headed out for our next adventure….

Gummy Bear Land.

Yes. It does exist. It is a large store filled with gummy candy. Oh yes, it was great. Never had I seen so many different kinds of gummy bears in one place in my life. We had been looking forward to visiting this store, and enjoyed ourselves.

Then we drove to this church that used to be an Abbey…I’m sorry, I can’t remember the name right now. It had beautiful frescos and it was overwhelmingly beautiful. The outside of the buildings were great as well, and we got some great pictures. As, we left, the sun was setting. It was gorgeous.

We got back to the church, and some took naps while others headed into town. An hour later, John, Becky, and all of our group were headed to a woman’s house. She is from the church and has 5 daughters that she has raised by herself. Their family has had a lot of struggles, but they are the sweetest people. Three of the girls are triplets! They had prepared a great dinner for us, and showed us around their beautiful home.

Tomorrow is our last day in the schools  We are already missing parts of Germany, but are determined to make the most of the couple of days we have left.

Saturday, January 22nd, 2011

The entire Germany team would like to thank you for following us in our adventure to Europe. We can’t even begin to express how much your prayers have meant to us. We know that God has done amazing things in us, and right now we struggle for words to adequately express all we thought before and all that we know know about ourselves, God, and this wonderful people group called Germans. We are back in the states now, but Germany is still a part of who we are, a part of who we always will be.

We visted a historic town, toured a castle, and stood in awe inside a beautiful church. But the things that made the trip beautiful were the wonderful truths that I was reminded of, and the beautiful people that cared for me, and showed me the grace of God.

I’ll be honest. I really wish I was back in Germany right now. I love the US, but miss the Pappas family and our Young Adult friends from the church more than I can say. I am looking forward to this semester for the fact that I know God has a plan,  but I am waiting for my heart to catch up with where I am. I really want to return to German and work with the church there. I keep praying that God will clarify and teach me what He is wanting me to do in regard to missions. Please pray for all of us as we continue to understand what God is wanting to do with this new knowledge we have about ourselves and the world around us.

We have learned so much about who God is and what it means to be apart of the Body of Christ. The Church around the world is amazing. I love that we have Christ in common. Pray also for the opportunities that have opened up because of our conversations in the schools. Pray that the students would be curious about Christ and want to know who He really is. Pray that the youth in the Church would be strengthened as they are bold for Christ, and would be given the words to say as they tell their friends about this God who has saved them.

Leaving Germany was very difficult for me, and I really miss the people there. But I know that God is working in us in this country as well as in the one we just left. He has an adventrure for us here as well.

Pray for us in the transition, and for the church in Aalen Germany. Pray for the Pappas family that they would be strengthened and given grace as they continue to minister to these people.

-Katelyn Mithoefer


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