Of Helvetia and Heimatwerk*

We had the opportunity to visit Switzerland this past weekend. We experienced so much – beautiful scenery, warm hospitality and some great sharing. Where do I start?

On Thursday morning, I picked up our small rental car, drove to meet Marla at our church to load it up with 32 tightly-wrapped blankets destined for Aleppo. We had been asked to bring these blankets (from a church group in Espelkamp) to Basel, where they will be packaged with other blankets and sent via MCC to Aleppo and other war-torn places. But first, we drove to Zurich.

Our friend Rob Friesen is a teacher at the Zurich International School. We had been invited by Rob for the weekend, which included a TEDx event, organized by the students. 11 speakers were invited to share about their “big ideas” on one Saturday afternoon. Our topic was titles, “A Modest Proposal for World Peace.” More on that later.

After arriving Thursday evening and enjoying some time with Rob, it was back to school Friday morning. Marla and I were invited to speak in some classes. I visited two German classes where we discussed aspects of volunteering and the refugee crisis. Marla joined Rob in two of his classes and discussed the topics of women in leadership and religious discourse in grade 9 Humanities and grade 11 Literature classes. We had some free time during the day, where Marla and I explored the area by bike. We learned that a) Switzerland has hills and b) when you go downhill, eventually you will need to climb back up. Despite this hard work, the sun was shining and the temperature reached 20 C, so we were happy to sweat a bit.

Saturday was our TEDx event. After a lovely lunch, all the speakers prepared for their talks. We needed to memorize or at least be able to speak with short notes, so all the speakers were reviewing their presentations. Our talk focussed on Friedenshaus as a model for relationship-building, so our sub-title was “World Peace in 5 ‘Easy’ Steps”. Our easy steps included Take a Chance (step out of your normal), Take time (needed to nurture and form relationships), Be curious (ask questions in order to learn), Listen (to stories and one another) and finally Be vulnerable (let yourself be known in order to get to know others). Once the video link is available, we will share this in our blog.



On Sunday morning we left for Basel where we met Maria Friesen. She was the organizer of the quilting workshop we attended a few months ago in Stuttgart and was gathering the quilts we were delivering. After joining her for coffee, we traveled back home.

Needless to say, after a weekend away, Monday was a long day. After classes in the morning and afternoon, the quilting group met again in the evening. I was thankful for warmer weather so I could take the children outside to play some games. I’ll have to ask my brother-in-law Brian (elementary school PE teacher) for some good multi-age game ideas. Meanwhile, Marla shares below how the evening went for her:

“Wow!  Today we had 17 women come together to work on patchwork quilts.  There was a lot of chatter, a lot of learning (how to cut straight, how to sew straight) and there were some priceless scenes.  I was at the two sewing machines the whole evening teaching people how to sew squares in chains.  While I did this I glance up frequently to watch a group of people decide how to lay out the quilt pieces we had cut.  I wish I could have had a time lapse camera on the process.  It began with two groups of two women laying down the pieces.  Clearly, there were different ideas between the two groups.  One group randomly put down pieces, the other group was working on a distinct pattern. Wondering how this might resolve itself, I went and got our computer which had pictures of a few sample quilts.  Sometime later, when I looked up, pieces were being shifted around and a new pattern was developing.  Over the next hour various people stood around the table at different times offering their opinion. At one point, Ben (a grade 9 native German) was explaining to several women in which direction he thought they should place some striped squares. All of this interaction was beautiful – and at the end of the evening we had our next set of quilting pieces ready to sew together next Monday.”


All in all, a lovely weekend!

German Word(s) of the Week: “Grüezi” (hello). For those of you familiar with German, you may be aware that Swiss German is a different dialect and quite interesting to listen to. For those unfamiliar with this, think of the Swedish chef from the Muppet Show. Swiss Germans speak in this lovely, melodious lilt that I always associate with mountains – I don’t know why. Maybe because it sounds a bit like yodeling?! Anyway, merci vilmal (thanks a lot) for reading and Widerluege (good-bye).

* Helvetia is the female national personification of Switzerland, often found on coins and other currency. Schweizer Heimatwerk is a branded Swiss craft business franchise. Needless to say, very nice and very pricey!

2 thoughts on “Of Helvetia and Heimatwerk*

  1. I’m intrigued with your 5 easy steps for world peace. Looking forward to the link and seeing the video.



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