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Weit, Weit Weg von Mir

Filed under: — jen d @ 10:49 am

The German mission team is in Hamburg this week. This is the third German mission team I thought I might travel with, but didn’t. Last summer, when I thought I’d be going back down to Greenville for grad school, I wrote my German professor and asked him if there were any chance I might be able to travel with the team in 2005. He said that yes, of course there was. It was something to look forward to. Something I had been looking forward to for five years, or so, actually. But it never panned out. In 2001 I decided to wait to apply for the team until my senior year, when I’d be more prepared with the language (amongst other things). My senior year, I decided to go to Germany as an Au Pair, instead — a choice I’d make again, even though there are certain things I regret about those nine months abroad. And then, last summer, I decided to stay in Boston. No regrets there. Can there be regrets in the center of God’s will? I don’t think so. But there can be a sweet sort of longing for places, people and experiences that might have been good and blessed, if things had turned out differently.

After the New Year, I got a handwritten letter from Herr Adams. In one paragraph about the team, he said they’d been holding a spot for me until that autumn, when they’d heard about my decision to stay in the city. It ached a bit to read that–in the best possible sense.

And so, I may never get to travel with the German mission team. My hopes were briefly resurrected when I was accepted into the Masters program last year, but I no longer anticipate many more revivals of that dream since I turned the offer down. The window is closing, and that’s okay. I’ll always have my memories of German class, in any case, not to mention the relationships made because of it. I stay in touch with the Adamses here and there; I speak German to myself when I’m driving; I have Mels, and a dozen others.

I also have memories of my rendevous with the 2003 team. I was there, afterall, when they came to Hamburg, and I met up with them later for their week in Salzburg. They saved my life when they came to Hamburg; they were a refuge when I fled to Salzburg. Funny that the team I’d so long desired to minister with had instead been such a ministry to me.

One memory rises above the rest from that week in Salzburg. We had traveled as a group to a smaller town outside of Salzburg and rented an assembly hall where we’d put on a concert for anyone who would listen. The Mondsee was just a short drive away, and we’d planned to go for a midnight swim after the program. But by the end of the concert there were charcoal clouds and electricity in the air, thunder, blue spider veins of light across the sky, and rain. In faith, we changed into our t-shirts and gym shorts, piled into the van, and made our way to the Mondsee, despite these omens. We were rewarded with clearing skies.

Under the fresh stars and a bright midnight moon, we first made our way on foot to visit an old church plaza. Herr Adams told us that, due to the situation of the flat-fronted church at the head of a small, oblong stone plaza, the acoustics would be magnificent. We’d see the church and sing one of our German a capella Lieder. When we approached the square, we could hear that someone else had beaten us to it. There along one side of the plaza, seated at a long banquet table outside of one of the cafes, was a group of older Austrians, singing. They must have been some sort of professional group; they sang clearly, confidently, in one blended voice that bounced off the walls of the plaza and the church face like a ball against the insides of a bell. We stood there in our gym shorts, gaping under the stars at this moment of pure atmosphere that was costing us nothing.

One line of their song is stamped across my memory:

“Jetzt ist so weit, weit weg von mir…”

Now it’s so far, far away from me…

I carried that song with me when we left the plaza, and later when we swam at midnight in the Mondsee together; it was the most carefree, perhaps, that I’d felt in five or six months. But it was a bittersweet moment (aren’t those amongst the best?); I knew it wouldn’t last, but that I’d have it forever. My team, my little family; friends with wet faces, painted silver-blue in the moonlight, and music. Like the words of the song, the moment was mine, but it would soon be far, far away from me.

And now it is. Inspired by the imminent departure of this year’s team, I did a quick online search to see if I could find that song. Perhaps it was a classic German or Austrian folk tune. To my surprise, I found it. It’s not exactly a classic folk tune, but it is a popular Bavarian song. When sung without accompaniment, in four-part harmony, it’s quite poignant. I found only one link that played a snippet of the song (make sure you’re sound feature is enabled); take away the tinney keyboard accompaniment in the background, then add a few more mature voices, particularly a rich tenor and bass tone; sprinkle on a little Austrian moonlight and the sound of water lapping on a shore, and you might come up with something comparable to one of my most treasured memories.

In the meantime, I wish the team the best. Unity, laughter, maybe a even a few well-placed tears among them; ministry, moonlight, and plenty of music. Who knows? Maybe stars will align and I’ll once again meet up with them along the trail. But for now, the dream and the memories will suffice, remaining close and yet so weit, weit weg.

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