June 22, 1978 – Bamberg, Germany
After one night in Nurnberg, I decided to reboard the train and move on to Bamberg. I enjoyed chatting with the six Americans in my compartment. One man stationed here with the U.S. Army told me many of the German people hate the presence of the American military. He works long hours and endures constant pressure on his job. At this time I don’t have peace from God about working as a civilian nurse on the US Army base, but I want to pray more to make sure God is closing the door and not me. I never had a response to my application in April.
I arrived an hour later, checked my bags into a locker, and walked until I found the tourist office. The agent made me a reservation at a guest house for two nights for $20 total. I asked the Lord for courage and took two city buses for 40 cents to the guest house on the outskirts of the city. The charming flower boxes and tidy farm across the road delighted me.
As I strolled around the town I noticed schoolchildren with briefcases on their backs and clogs on their feet, children playing the fountain, and beautiful babies in large carriages that strangers helped the mother lift on to the trains and streetcars. A young man kayaked down the sparkling river. Feather beds were hung out windows without screens to air. The green Volkswagen bug police cars squawked with strange sirens. Bells chimed from church steeples every 15 minutes including all through the night. Dawn came at 4 a.m. A lady sat on a stool in the public restroom and demanded 30 cents before giving me some rough toilet paper. There were no soap or paper towels for hand washing. No drinking fountains were in sight. But the fruit stands, spectacular bakeries, and meat shops fascinated me.
I enjoyed a lovely stroll around the pond this evening while praying and meditating. I smiled at a sweet 80 year old lady, and we struck up a conversation. She gladly received the gospel tract I gave her. My German is slowly improving.
June 23, 1978 – Passau, Germany
After managing to catch my first “Schnellzug” (fast train), I arrived three hours later in beautiful Passau, a city on the Austrian border at the intersection of the Danube and Inn Rivers. I decided to try out a Youth Hostel for the next two nights located in a castle. It sounded so romantic and gave me visions of knights in shining armor. After lunch in a department store cafeteria, I finally figured out which city bus to take and drop me at the bottom of the mountain where the castle was located.
Weary from all the walking, I began trudging up the mountain, asking the Lord for strength to climb it with my two suitcases. An elderly man stopped his ancient rusty Ford Pinto and climbed out. He asked if I was going to the Hostel, and I replied, “Ja” (yes). He motioned for me to get in and put my bags in the back. My mother always told me not to hitchhike, but he looked friendly. My tired feet won out, so I climbed in and asked the Lord for safety.
He drove me two kilometers up the mountain and dropped me off at the door of the Hostel. I gave him a hearty “Danke Schon” (thank you) and bid him goodbye. The sign on the door stated the hostel opened at 5 p.m. Since it was only 2 p.m., I toured the fascinating castle museum across the road. Then I settled down on a nice bench to read. At 5 p.m., they unlocked the doors and I paid my $1.75 for two nights. I walked into the women’s bunk room and put my sheet sack on a lower bunk. There were no lockers for my bags, but I didn’t have anything too valuable. I met a pleasant German girl who spoke good English.
Dinner in the communal dining room was loud and rowdy with several high school tour groups. I have decided I would rather pay more for peace and privacy and that old castles aren’t really romantic. So much for all the fairy tales I read as a child. I feel lonely tonight even with so many people around, and feel the language barrier acutely, but it is precious to hide under the wings of the Lord.
He shall cover thee with His feathers, and under His wings shalt thou trust; His truth shall be thy shield and buckler. Psalm 91:4
I continued to pray about being a civilian nurse on the Army base, but God did not give me peace about going this direction. I never had any response to my application, so I continued working at the hospital on the diabetes unit when I returned home.
Since 1978, I have met many people here in the USA from other countries who struggle with communicating in English. Because of my experience with the isolation of being the foreigner in other countries I have visited, I can readily identify with them. I appreciated the Germans who spoke clearly and slowly to help me understand them, and I try to remember to do the same when speaking with foreigners here. Smiles and pantomime still go far in breaking down language barriers.