Sunday, October 30, 2011

Back To Good Old Germany

There have been many happenings in my life and there are lots of things to share - I just can't find the time to write down everything; so I have to make a selection now (I don't want to overwhelm you after all!).

This past Friday, I travelled back to Germany. The EU officials traditionally get November 1 and 2 off (All-Saints and All-Souls), and so I took Monday in addition to make a bridge.

My journey was very pleasant. I really like the colored trees at this time of the year. It was especially beautiful to watch the scenery from the train which passes alongside the Upper Middle Rhine Valley, also called the Rhine Gorge (between the cities of Bonn and Mainz), and I found out that this is even an UNESCO world heritage site.

Beautiful scenery along the River Rhine
One of the many old castles along the way
Here is another one!

On Saturday evening, my aunt Renate (my mother's sister) celebrated her 60th birthday, together with a good friend who turned 70 around the same time. Both my aunt and uncle as well as the other couple have been very active in traditional folk dance. So whenever they celebrate something, they like to involve their guests with this. I know this may be a bit foreign to most readers of this blog (especially to the Adventists who are in self-supporting work), but I really like it. I find it an innocent, pleasant and very convivial activity - and I actually wouldn't mind to have more opportunities to do folk dance.

We tried our best to follow the steps
And some would just sit there and watch - or talk
(like my mother and grandmother)

Whenever I get to visit my folks, I like to go to the nearby Black Forest. So today, my parents and I went for a trip to the famous city of Baden-Baden. I actually lived there for about five months during my secretarial training in 1999/2000; and this is also the town where this NATO summit meeting in 2009 was held. However, we went for another summit, i. e. we took a small cable car to get on the "Merkur" mountain. It was still foggy in the morning, but then the sun gradually came out, so our hike back down was just lovely. Again, the fall colors are very pretty.

View from an observation tower (while it was still foggy)

A great day for the paragliders
Almost ready to fly...

...and go!

Hiking down
The trees (picture above without flash, the other one with flash)
Loveley scenery - what else can I say?

On Tuesday, my parents are going to take me to Brussels by car and stay there for a couple of days. This will give us another opportunity for a hike - maybe in the hilly region of the Ardennes (no real mountains in Belgium after all, but pretty anyway). On Friday, I'll be headed to Geneva, respectively Collonges, France, where I'm going to spend a long weekend - but this is another story!

Friday, October 21, 2011

Golden October

The past week has been quite eventful to say the least. I've been extremely blessed.

Last Friday, I took the train to my home city passing through Cologne. There, I had over an hour lay over, so I decided to stroll a bit through the city center. It was such a lovely sunny day after all. I really like the Cologne station, as they have a nice shopping area there. It's also great to have the famous dome right besides the station. Well, the dome itself looks ugly from outside. The acid rain (and I'm sure other environmental influnces) have taken much of the beauty of this impressive building. In front of the dome, interesting things usually go on, especially on a day like this.

A knight in shining armour

Who is that?
Mr. King

The angels played their role really well
But the Knight in Shining Armour, Charly Chaplin,
and even the angels need some rest every once in a while

So I enjoyed my time there. In the evening, I arrived at my parent's house. It was my mother's 65th birthday, and she had invited family and friends for dinner. We had a nice time, but I went to bed early. On Sabbath, I attended my home church. It was good to see the brothers and sisters, although something sad happened in the meantime. My friend Paul lost his father last month and I had not known about it. Just a few days before I came did I learn that he had had a kind of a bloody embolus in his brain, collapsed, and was found only hours later. One week later, he passed away. Of course this was a very difficult and stressful situation for Paul, as well as his mother and sister. My friend Tanja (who also lives quite far away now) only learned about it very recently and informed me about it a couple days before I left for Germany. She was also upset that Paul didn't pass on the news. We were always good friends after all. He said to me that he had been so busy with everything. Ok, I said, but you could at least have written a short email or something. Even though Tanja and I couldn't have helped much, we could at least have prayed. Well, some people are not very good communicators!

On Sabbath afternoon, I had to continue my journey further south to our yearly business meeting of the German ministry. We had a very blessed time together at the Fickenscher's home. Our meeting was very fruitful. Marius' wife Stefanie took over the office of the treasurer. Now the board is complete again - and even gender-balanced! Fred and Alberto, and Steffi and myself.

Sonja, the wife of our late Thomas, also came - with her father-in-law and the two little ones. Katharina is such a sweet baby. Too bad that she will never meet her dad.

Katharina looks so much like her dad in this picture

Sonja is showing her little one to Kai, who is watching via Skype from Bolivia

On Monday morning, I went back to Brussels. At the station in  Cologne, I took a little video of the high speed train rolling in, and I managed to upload it on YouTube. This is especially for my American friends, since most of them might have never seen this. Click here to watch it.

On my way from Cologne to Brussels (which doesn't take much longer than 2 hours in these kind of trains), I had a divine appointment. I got to talk to a young mother who was also on her way to Brussels. We didn't talk only about health, but also about spiritual things. It was so blessed. I gave her my card, and I hope she will get in touch with me.

Now I'm so glad it's Friday again. The work week has been very exhausting, since I not only had to deal with ongoing things in our unit, but I also assisted our Director. He doesn't have a secretary right now, and the one who normally replaces in the front office went on vacation this week. So the Sabbath is drawing near and it will be sunny all weekend. I can't wait to be able to rest without a bad conscience!

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Never a Moment's Rest

Both work and ministry keep me running up and down these days. It's not that I would like to complain about my busy life (that's definitely much better than not having to do anything), however in the past few weeks, I think I have reached my boundaries.

Yes, I'm really longing for some time out, and this coming weekend will be a welcome change for me, as I'm going to travel home to Germany. It's my mother's birthday on Friday. However, the original reason for my travels is the yearly business meeting of the German ministry, which will be taking place on Sunday. I really look forward to it, although it will be a bit sad, since it will be our first business meeting without Thomas. Nevertheless, we have to step forward with the Lord's help. Important decisions will have to be taken, and I pray for God's guidance.

There is a song on YouTube that I've kept listening to lately. It was actually sung by the Nebblett family at our camp meeting. It's so beautiful. Click on the title if you would like to listen.

Before the Throne of God 
Before the throne of God above
I have a strong, a perfect plea
A great high Priest whose Name is Love
Who ever lives and pleads for me 
My name is graven on His hands
My name is written on His heart
I now that while in heaven He stands
No tongue can bid me thence depart 
When Satan tempts me to despair
And tells me of the guilt within
Upward I look and see Him there
Who made an end to all my sin 
Because the sinless Savior died
My sinful soul is counted free
For God the just is satisfied
To look on Him and pardon me 
Behold Him there the risen Lamb
My perfect spotless righteousness
the great unchangeable I Am
The King of glory and of grace 
One with Himself I cannot die
My soul is purchased by His blood
my life is hid with Christ on high
With Christ my Savior and my God!

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Brussels Everyday Scences - part II

We are finally having an Indian summer, and I'm thoroughly enjoying it! It makes such a difference when the sun is shining. This past week was quite strenuous, yet very blessed. Friday morning, I attended a very interesting meeting of the "AST network" of the EU Commission. The AST's are the assistants working in our offices, i. e. everybody who is not an Administrator. I'm part of the network of our Directorate-General, but this was an event of the Commission-wide network. I was able to share about health. What a blessing. Again, I have the feeling that I'm pushing at an open door. Will share more about it later.

The other day at lunchtime, I went for a walk in the park nearby my office.

I think these are Turkish men. They gather there every day to play cards
Interesting view. I had never consciously looked at this statue from this perspective.
The impressive building in the back is one of our services: It's called "OLAF",
the European Anti-Fraud Office

I also saw a muslim couple in the park. Apparently, they were on a date. He was dressed all in white, and she was dressed in dark blue, wearing black gloves (in spite of the warm weather). They were talking and holding hands. I found this really interesting to look at, so I took a picture hoping they wouldn't notice. However, the man then approached me and asked me politely to delete the picture. He watched me deleting it and asked me if I was sure that it was deleted, which I confirmed. I was impressed with his politeness: he was neither angry nor impatient with me. I wish all Christian men would be like this. Afterwards, it dawned on me that this couple was probably not married. Why would they meet in the park after all? Therefore, I guess they didn't want me to blow them off!

Yesterday, there was also my colleague Giovanna's "farwell breakfast". Giovanna joined our secretariat in August of 2009. She actually has a legal background, but she was interested in working for the European Commission, and so she accepted a three-years contract to work in the secretariat of our unit.

Anyway, she decided to end her contract earlier than originally foreseen. Her boyfriend has two children, and she has taken over responsibility for the kids. So for now she would like to spend more time with the family. I always appreciated her humble spirit. After all, she didn't get to do much work which would have been interesting for her according to her background, yet she never complained. In two weeks time, Cristina, the most senior colleague in the secretariat, will leave us. I'm a bit apprehensive of the weeks after that, as we are not going to have a replacement for her right away. And even when somebody comes, this person still needs to be trained. I hope it won't become too stressful.