As we leave Ludwigshafen, we have mixed feelings. One of our friends from Winnipeg wished us a “bitter sweet” farewell. And that is exactly what it is.
The “sweet” certainly includes moving back home; seeing family, friends, reconnecting with our church and Westgate communities, and moving back into our own house. The familiarity and comforts of home are always something to cherish. We will enjoy the Manitoba summer and even some projects around the house that will need attending. Marla will return to work before the end of June and is looking forward to seeing familiar faces and settling into normal routines. She’s not quite sure if the sermon preparation falls under the “sweet” category, but our time here has certainly given her some things to share, which should make this work easier. Although I officially return back to work on September 1, I will look forward to connecting with colleagues before the end of June to talk about the upcoming school year. Watching last year’s grade 11 students graduate on June 26th will also be “sweet”.
The bitter part of leaving is saying good-bye to all the new friends we have made here. It has been a pleasure getting to know Greg, Jennifer and Alex. We have worked with Greg every week and have appreciated his gifts of relationship building, teaching and his gentle spirit. We have shared with him that he has some great pastoral gifts that would serve any community of faith well. Perhaps this will be a future career path? Jennifer’s love for this work is evident in her support for Greg and Friedenshaus. When she is able, she has attended events and embraced the community. We hope her involvement with the sewing circle will continue to be a blessing to her and to all the participants. And Alex has been our surrogate grandchild. We have enjoyed getting to know his likes and dislikes through babysitting and shared meals. He is looking forward to becoming an older brother in the fall and we will be curious to hear about how he embraces this new role in their family. We will also miss the friendships formed with folks from the Ludwigshafen Mennonite Church.
There are so many people we have met through Friedenshaus during these months. It is difficult to imagine their future lives in Germany. For some, their fluency in German and determination to settle here will make life much easier. Others have struggled with not only the language but also life here in general. They are beginning to realize that the future may not be as bright as they had once imagined.
It seems especially difficult for those here on their own and worrying about family members back in Syria and other countries. Loneliness can be a real enemy for many as they try to create a new life. The German people have traditionally kept to themselves and are often hesitant to embrace the challenge of building new relationships – never mind approaching refugees that don’t speak German well, if at all. This can make integration difficult. But, we have met so many native Germans willing to embrace these newcomers and give of their time and hearts. This gives us hope for the future.
We have already been asked quite often, “When will you come back to Germany?” And our response is never quite the same. Our plan is to stay home for a while. How long depends on many factors. But for now, we are happy to settle back into a familiar routine and enjoy our time in Canada. We look forward to seeing our mothers, who have both been wonderful supporters of our work here. But, they have also worried about us and looked forward to our return. It will be good to spend time with them again. And, of course, we also look forward to seeing our children and granddaughter. We are planning to babysit the day after we arrive!
We have also acknowledged that our future is in God’s hands (or as our Muslim friends often say, “Inshallah”) and we don’t really know when we’ll be back. So, with that, we say farewell to Germany and Ludwigshafen. Not “good-bye”, as is often the English farewell, but “Auf Wiedersehen” – hoping that we will meet again.
German Phrase of the Week: “Mit einem lachenden und einem weinenden Auge” (literally, “with one laughing and one crying eye”, but probably best translated as “mixed emotions”). Do you really need more of an explanation? I didn’t think so.