Trip Reflections

I had the privilege of traveling with this fine group of 36 students during the first section of the Europe trip; now that I am home, I have had opportunity to reflect on some of our experiences in relationship to history, current events, and our faith.
When one travels through Europe, history is everywhere: from the neighborhoods to the cathedrals to the city halls, even to city gates from Roman times. When one digs deeper, as our group does, one can encounter stories of intense struggle, whether it be the need to build castle fortresses for protection of territory, division between Catholics and Protestants, or struggles which cause kings to flee their opulent palaces and bring violent changes of regime. One of history’s more recent struggles, World War II, is explored by this group as it visits the Anne Frank house, an American military cemetery, the Dachau concentration camp, various sites where Hitler was active, various sites which were bombed and rebuilt, and Berlin’s Checkpoint Charlie.
While the group was in Paris, events occurred which remind us that the struggles of history continue. We are grateful for God’s protection as two separate hostage situations unfolded, then were brought to resolution. At numerous locations in the city signs were posted which stated “Je suis Charlie” (“I am Charlie”), to show support of the magazine which had been targeted by terrorists. On the day we left the city, millions of people marched the streets of Paris in a show of unity. We are reminded that in our world today there are still deep divisions, struggles for power, and the potential for violence.
My final experience with the group was a beautiful day in Heidelberg, Germany. For those of us with a background in one of the Reformed churches, the Holy Ghost church here had special significance. It was here that one of our doctrinal standards, the Heidelberg Catechism, was written. The Catechism was written in question-and-answer style, its intent to give instruction in church beliefs as stated in the Bible. One may assume that this would be a dry and dull document. On the contrary, much of it was written in a warm, personal style. I was reminded of this when one of the students asked me about the wording on the podium of the church pulpit. Here we saw, “Was ist dein Trost im Leben und im Sterben?” I recognized the first question of the Catechism, which in English reads: “Question: What is your only comfort in life and in death? Answer: That I am not my own, but belong—body and soul, in life and in death—to my faithful Savior Jesus Christ. He has fully paid for all my sins with his precious blood, and has set me free from the tyranny of the devil. He also watches over me in such a way that not a hair can fall from my head without the will of my Father in heaven: in fact, all things must work together for my salvation. Because I belong to him, Christ, by his Holy Spirit, assures me of eternal life and makes me wholeheartedly willing and ready from now on to live for him.”
Glory to God, who claims us as his own! My prayer is that each of the 36 students in Europe may experience a broadened view of history, an assurance of God’s care for them, and a vision of their place in history as God’s servants of peace.

One thought on “Trip Reflections”

  1. Janine,
    Thank you for the guidance and support you along with your husband provided for the group. It is apparent you were and are the answer to your prayer in that you broadened their sense of history, assured them of God’s persistent care, and encouraged them to explore their place as servants in the Kingdom of God. We have the same prayer as Grandparents (of Elliot Slenk) and are grateful to you for your help. Hope you are reunited with your husband soon. Ecko and Pat De Vries

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