woensdag 7 augustus 2019

Chapter 12: Celtic Blessing

Our last stop in England before we would go island hopping to Ireland, was the beautiful city of Oxford. Our dear friend Bruce invited us to see the city where he lived and the Bible college where he used to lecture, Wycliff Hall. After an intensive week in community life it would be great to be among students again. For we were hosted at Wycliff in a guestroom – usually reserved for special guest lecturers – and taken under the care of one of the students, Romala.
We had a great time sharing stories, sharing dinner and watching TV shows together. At this time we were following the Dutch TV game show Wie is de mol? which was coming to a close and one of the students, Julian from Texas, was very interested to see if he could follow despite it being in Dutch. It turned out to be very funny to watch together.

Bruce guided us through the city of Oxford, and he turned out to be a great guide, telling us all about the history and buildings of the city of which he is so proud. And, being a member of Christchurch College, he could bring us for free to the school that was starred as Hogwards School of Wizardry and Witchcraft. However, Bruce was much more interested in the real heroes of Oxford, J.R.R. Tolkien, C.S. Lewis and Lewis Carroll, the writers of The Lord of the Rings, the Chronicles of Narnia and Alice in Wonderland. As we are both fans of books, the highlight was a five store high bookstore, Blackwells.
To add to our list of different Christian confessions we've engaged with in our journey, we were introduced to the Anglican church, The Church of England. What amazed us was how this church is able to combine an array of different church traditions in different church services together. So even when people prefer to express their faith differently, they are still part of one community and see each other at other church events.

After Oxford, we drove to Liverpool, to catch our ferry to Dublin. No stormy cancellations this time, only a rescheduling of our ship, which meant that we got a bed, even though we only ordered seats.
In Ireland we planned to visit our friend, Iris, who was studying together with us in Wageningen, and is now working on her PhD in Cork. When we asked if she could host us, she came with a surprisingly positive response: 'I can arrange a house for you.'
Members of her church community have moved from Ireland to England, but still could not sell their old house. And because for the insurance someone had to live in this house. So, our friend offered to live as a caretaker in this house, and therefore we could live there together with Iris for the next two weeks.

During the ferry crossing Irma felt very sick. But it was not from the boat, the next day she felt just as nauseous. Though it turned out to be good news; Irma is pregnant! We have a new journey ahead of us, the one of becoming parents. As for the sickness, the two weeks that we were in Ireland Irma felt sick most of the time and had a difficult time. We felt so blessed with this lovely house to rest these days, and the little we had planned. No busy weeks helping missionaries or working in the garden, being able to cook ourselves to see what Irma could eat. This was Gods perfect planning.
Though Ireland is too beautiful to only stay inside the house. Irma loves this country and wanted to show Gideon its treasures. We went to the west coast for two days to explore the ring of Kerry and the city of Killarney. Above that, we had a beautiful walk with Iris at cliffs in the south and visited Cobh, where the Titanic last made her last stop.

It wouldn't be us to only stay in the house and we wouldn't want to be somewhere without meeting people. We went together with Iris to her bible study group in Fermoy. For two weeks we were part of a very diverse group of people, coming from different churches together. When we joined they were watching a series of lectures by Danielle Strickland.
We joined the church services of the Presbyterian church on Sundays, but above that each Sunday they hold a praise night, which we gladly joined. Gideon joined the music team, switching from piano to guitar to bass guitar. We were also invited for the valentine diner of the church, so after two weeks we had met so many wonderful people. Many mothers shared their experiences and advice with Irma, and Gideon enjoyed making music together with others.
There is no other way to end this blog post than with this Celtic blessing:

May the road rise to meet you,
May the wind be always at your back,
May the sun shine warm upon your face,
the rain fall soft upon your fields,
and until we meet again,
may God hold you in the palm of his hand.

zaterdag 25 mei 2019

Chapter 11: Love your neighbor

After a busy week with the students in Exeter, we swapped the lively campus for the quiet rural area of Stentwood farm, only 45 minutes east from the city. On our last day in Exeter, it started to snow, and by the time we were in Stentwood, the snow was about 20 cm high on the meadows. So when we arrived, the fire was lit, and the we were welcomed in a cozy tea room where all the noise of the city flows away, and everything that matters is just here and now.
In this renovated farmhouse lives a lovely Christian community of about 30 people, called 'The Twelve Tribes' after the twelve tribes of Israel, and we planned to stay with them for a week.

We were lucky to arrive on the eve before Shabbat (Saturday), because they celebrate that day in a very special way. First there was singing and dancing of special Israeli circle dances. With our background in Balfolk dances, it was quite easy and a lot of fun to catch up these new dances. After that there was a special Shabbat diner.
The next day was Shabbat and everyone laid their work down for this day. It had snowed even more last night and the large blanket of snow looked very inviting, so the whole community came to play with the kids in the snow. We had a lot of fun sleighing from the hills.

Every morning there is someone with a guitar playing, singing and walking around the compound to wake everyone up. Although it was often early in the morning, this was the best wake up alarm since the pancakes in O'coto. Before breakfast they have worship time, always with dancing and joyful songs, and some teaching from the Bible and other material, to reflect on the rest of the day. Breakfast was maybe one of the most unusual ones we had in our journey: cold sauerkraut with a honey-vinegar drink – it sounds worse than it is, and after a few days we could get used to it.
After breakfast it was time to work. Irma often helped with the women in the kitchen, preparing the food for the rest of the day, and Gideon often helped in the bakery, baking bread, crackers and cakes to be sold at the local market.
The group was quite divers, with people from England, Scotland, Ireland, USA and Germany. There also were some other guests like us, some people from the neighborhood, a guy from Switzerland (who is also traveling through Europe, visiting different communities) and a lady from the Netherlands.

At one point we heard that there would be a new guest for a few days. A young lady, together with her little dog had also been wandering through Europe in a small car, and was now in need of a place to rest for a few days. It was great to see how the community wanted to welcome her. They didn't allow dogs inside the farm, but her dog was very important to her and she would rather sleep in the car with the dog, than in a bed without him. They couldn't bear the idea of her sleeping in the car, so they turned a broom closet into a small, cozy bedroom, where she could be with her dog.

Though this place is beautiful, and the people are lovely and very kind, we felt stronger and stronger that there was something between us and the people from this community. The morning teachings were far from positive about Christians outside the community, and especially bad about any ecumenical (inter-church) movements, like Taizé. In conversations with people we learned more and more about the ways they read the Bible and how they see the world, and however much we agree about who Jesus is and what he did, we couldn't agree on what that means for our life today. They seemed to be very strict on their biblical interpretation, leaving very little room for input from outside their way of thinking – something that is quite hard for us, for a big part of our journey is based on meeting different people and learning from them.
We're not alien to discussions with people who think different than we do, but the discussions we had here were often emotionally very tiring. So however warm they welcomed us, this was the first time in our trip that we reconsidered if we really wanted to stay for the whole week.
We prayed a lot together and talked with our family about it. Jesus said to his disciples: 'Love your neighbor as yourself'. He encourages us to love the people around us, no matter if we agree with them or not. Now was the time for us to learn and deepen our love. We decided that is would be worth it to stay, to learn how to love the people of the community back, and to keep enjoying the good things that we share. 

On the final day in Stentwood Farm, we were shown to the Yellow Deli, a restaurant that the community is building in the nearby village, Honiton. Their idea is to make a place were everyone is welcome, can eat for a cheap price and can feel the serving love of the community members representing Jesus. It is called Yellow, because the first community in the USA wanted to renovate an old shop to a sandwich bar (deli), but they didn't have any money, and the cheapest paint was yellow. So the whole front was iconic painted yellow. The restaurant in Honiton, however, was in all different colors. We were amazed by all the creativity, handcraft and care that was put into building this deli. They used a lot of recycled materials, and the walls were decorated with beautiful paintings. This made the peace and care tangible from the moment we walked in.

We learned a lot from this community. They really inspired us in the hospitality, creativity, devotion and care for each other, but they also showed us how important is it to stay in contact with people that think different than we do, and to keep learning from them. It was good to continue looking for the love of Jesus, even if we are in difficult places.

maandag 29 april 2019

Chapter 10: Real

Our time has come to say goodbye to Spain, and to set out for the UK. The rainy weather and the Celtic like stone walls in Galicia already prepared us for crossing the sea to the British Isles. Our paper maps, that have been guiding us through Europe so far, showed us that there is a ferry connection from Santander (northern Spain) to Portsmouth (southern England). Sailing time: 24h. This seemed to us a perfect way to spend a day, a full day on the open ocean, with no where to go, but looking at the endless blue passing by. So we booked our tickets and prepared ourselves to set off for our longest voyage so far.
Once we drove down to the Santander port, we found that something was off. It was very quiet, although it was not to long till embarking. Once we were at the docks, we heard the astounding news: 'Your boat has been cancelled., due to the high winds on the open ocean. You were the only passengers we couldn't get in contact with.' Gideon asked: 'So what do we do now?' to which the lady in the booth replied: 'The next boat to sail will go in four days.' Four days! We didn't have four days. We were planning on helping out with a Mission week in Exeter, which would be nearly over by then. Moreover, we wouldn't have a bed for four nights.
'Is there maybe an other port where we can sail to Portsmouth?'
'I'm sorry, all ferries from Spain to England are canceled. The closest ferry that will take you is in Caen, France, a nine hour drive from here. I can book you for the 11pm, tomorrow, so that is 26 hours from now.'
This sounded possible, so we went back to the car. Slightly disillusioned that we couldn't make the longest voyage in our lives, but hopeful that we could still make it in time for the Mission week.

In a Mission week, students from the local IFES communities organize different talks on topics related to Christianity. These talks are always during lunch and in the evening and include free lunch and sometimes also diner, which is the perfect setting to engage in good conversations with our fellow students. The theme of this week: 'Real – What is real to you?'

Gideon was once president in organizing such a Mission week in Wageningen, and one of the main speakers he invited was Bruce Gillingham from Oxford. So when we wanted to go to the UK, we asked Bruce if there would be anything that we could do to help out. As it turns out, he was very much in need of some help for the coming Mission week in Exeter, south-west of England. He asked the students of the Bible college in Oxford to sign up for any of the seven Mission weeks in the upcoming semester. Only one of them signed up for the one in Exeter. So our help was very welcome.
We arrived in Exeter nicely on time and could drop our stuff at our new hosts before going to the lunch talk. This time we were hosted in a student house, where four boys live, of which one of them, Jonathan, is part of the organizing committee of this Mission week. It felt good to be among students again, as if we never really left the student life. During this week we listened closely to speakers like Michael Ots (the initiator of Mission weeks in the UK) and Bruce that really inspire us. We had wonderful conversations with 'fellow' students and in this short time really got a click with some of them.

Bruce regularly holds interviews with inspiring people on stage as a break in his talks. One evening it was our turn and we were interviewed by Bruce about our christian lives and our journey. It is a nice experience to narrow down our christian life to a mere three questions and seek the core of what faith means to us and what our journey is about.
Special to this week was a very English concept called 'Tea with Bruce'. After the lunch talk there is the opportunity to discuss some more about the topic around a nice cup of tea. During the week several students kept coming back, so we could get more in depth with the questions they had. There was Tom, the mathematician, who was very intrigued by the 'impossibilities' that Christianity presents, and there was Zoé, who is always looking for interesting people that think differently than she does, so we can learn from each other.
At one such 'Tea with Bruce' we were in a profound discussion, when it started to snow. Suddenly Zoé said to us: 'I know people who are living on the street tonight. They are going to have a very rough time, we have to do something.' So she suggested to go and buy sleeping bags and blankets to hand out to the people on the street. We were very enthusiastic about this idea, because we've been thinking during our travels what to do to help the people we meet, especially on the street. We're also exited when some one asks us to think a little out of the box, and to see if it is possible. And we found out, it was possible, and apparently we had God on our side, for the sleeping bags were in reduced price, the shops were open for just another hour, and the people were very thankful to receive what we could give them. At the end of the evening we stepped in the dining hall with wet socks, cold and sore, but it was such a wonderful and rewarding evening and Zoé showed us a real piece of Gods Kingdom that night.

woensdag 10 april 2019

Chapter 9: Buen Camino

Our next stop would be Santiago de Compostella. We said goodbye to the sunny beaches of Almeria and headed out to the Northwest of Spain. But not without a few more stops along the route, starting with the beautiful city of Sevilla. A lot of people recommended us visiting this city, and we could definitely recommend you doing so as well. We didn't have half the time we needed to enjoy it to the fullest, but we certainly were amazed by all the beautiful buildings and the warm atmosphere of the city.

Travelling from the outer south-east to the outer north-west of Spain is more than we could drive in one day, so we decided to stop by another Ecovillage, Los Portales. They sent us the details of how to come there from Sevilla. So with the description in hand we set out. Looking for the right exit from the motorway, we passed the first, and then the second. Driving on, we thought: the right exit should be very close now. But without any sign of recognition we drove into the night. As the hour passed, we started to get worried, and finally decided to check on our Tom-tom if we didn't pass it already, only to find out that we passed the exit one hour ago. We called them to say that we would probably arrive in the middle of the night. They assured us that that was not a problem as long as we could find the key to all of the six gates (Los Portales).

We drove back and after more than an hour we found the place where the road would lead us to a dirt road, that would go on for another half an hour into the middle of nowhere. There we found the key, and one by one we unlocked all the six gates (and closed them after us). We even spotted some genuine Spanish wildlife, a wild Iberian boar, a small fox and a rabbit.
The ecovillage consists of about 30 people, living in several buildings on a compound spanning many acres. There is a huge vegetable garden, a solar farm, a Eucalyptus forest, a source and goats wandering the 'Holy Mountain'.
The next morning we were introduced to the international community, people from France, Germany, Belgium, Portugal and Spain. They follow the teachings of Dr. Jung, how a persons dreams can be analysed in archetypes, which show us something of who we are, and where we come from. The community originally started as a group of people that wanted to live closer together, to learn more from their and each others dreams, and to become better people. They bought a house, and later the farm in Spain and got more and more involved in environmental awareness along the way. So now they make their own cheese, olive oil, bread and provide for their own electricity.
Our stay here gave us more insight and inspiration on community- and eco-life, and showed us the importance of a shared vision.

Then at last we traveled to O'Coto, where we were welcomed by a Dutch family that runs a hostel along the pilgrimage route. We came in late, so we didn't had the chance to greet the whole family. But the next morning they took their chance. We woke up from a knock on our door, followed by five children walking in to our bedroom to give us our breakfast of delicious pancakes. It took us a few more mornings before we were able to rise up as early as they normally did, so that we could have breakfast with them in the kitchen. Until that time, our mornings started around eight with these lovely children bringing our breakfast on bed. Time to introduce them, there is Job and Arienke with their children Jet, Bob, Henk-Jan, Siebe and Maartje. Job and Arienke are homeschooling these children, which means that there is a school moment each morning, helping with chores in the afternoon and enough time to play in between. Each day was wonderful and energetic, it was very inspiring to see how they combined the homeschooling with their day to day life and it was a privilege to be part of this family for a week.

After a few days we prepared and set out to start our own pilgimage to Santiago de Compostella. From O'Coto it was (only) 58 kilometers to Santiago and we planned to walk 3 days. Since we set out in winter, there were not many pilgrims, so during the day we didn't meet many people. Nevertheless, each night when we arrived in a hostel there were other pilgrims. It was a very interesting experience. When you are walking, there is nothing else then your thoughts. So to keep going we shared many stories, memories and thoughts with each other.

The final evening of our pilgrimage we met with Jaime, from Spain and Sabrina from San Marino. They walked all the way from the French border. They met each other allong the Camino, and decided to continue walking together. Now the final stage of their journey arrived and Jaime was furious: 'We walked all the way, all the hostels were very nice and hospitable to us, but ever since we entered Galicia all the hostel kitchens are empty. How are we supposed to make our food.' He explaned to us that in all the other hostels the kitchens are well supplied with pots, pans and tools, the only thing you have to provide it the food. This is also what we experienced in the hostel in Vezelay. But here, because it is almost the end of the camino, the gouvernment, that runs these hostels, is worried that the pilgrims might take their nice kitchen equipement. So they provided it with only a stove and a microwave.
Jaime said: 'I have to channel my anger someway, so I want to organize a special celebration diner, to celebrate our final day on the Camino. Do you want to join? We just put all the food that we have together and make it into a nice banquet.' We're always in for a party, so we said yes.
We brought our food to the kitchen and saw that Jaime bought some pans from the local grocery store, to supply the hostel. 'The future pilgrims will be thankfull for this,' he said. So we started cooking a nice diner.

The past few days Gideon came up with the idea of having a logo for our blog and our stories: something that reflects the purpuse of our journey, and the basis of our faith. So Irma started drafting some ideas for a logo and showed them to Gideon and the other pilgrims. Suddenly the girl, Sabrina, said: 'Let me have a look at this. I study design, and do a lot of logo designs, just for fun.' We showed her our ideas, and asked if she would have any remarks. But then she said: 'Give me a month. When I'm back in San Marino, I will have a look at your ideas, and I will put a logo together for you.'
So, a few weeks later, while we were in Ireland, she told us that she read our blog so far, and that she came up with a wonderfull logo:
This once more showed us that if you need or want something, sometimes all you need to do is just ask.

That evening we were together with eight other pilgrims, we had bread, wine and a lot of different delicious dishes. Simultaniously, we both thought: Bread, wine, last evening together; Lets celebrate Last Supper! Many of the pilgrims were either non-believers or cultural christians, but as we still are on a religious journey, they agreed with us and thought it was a good idea. So Gideon broke the bread and shared the wine and prayed the words of Jesus, and we had a wonderfull Last Supper together. We found that many appreciated it or were inspired by this 'toast', and after a good party, and a short night, we were ready for our final day of walking.

After three days of walking, our muscles felt sore, but our hearts were delighted by new experiences and new friendships. We celebrated this pilgrimage by joining the mass in the cathedral of Santiago de Compostella. Then Job kindly came to pick us up with his car and after an hour we were back home.
Afbeeldingsresultaat voor santiago de compostela

dinsdag 19 februari 2019

Chapter 8: Almeria Alegria

October 2017, Irma stepped in the plane on her way to a big adventure, a pilgrimage of trust. She is about to explore the life in a small community together with two other girls that she doesn’t know, to pray together, help the local church of Vicar and Roquestas and share the values of Taizé. She went in trust toward great uncertainty and returned with many good memories, experiences and friends. She was hosted like part of a family and promised to return one day. http://taizecomunidadvicar.blogspot.com/

That day has arrived now. How precious it was to see all the familiar faces of these friends again and introduce them to Gideon. How good to see the smiles of recognition, to meet pastor Antonio, to be in these churches again, and in Cosario. Cosario, our own little house, which felt so luxurious after a time of travelling. Our own beds, shower, kitchen and washing machine. And best of all, our own chapel, that still had all the Taizé decoration, like how Irma had left it. Antonio even was so kind to buy food for us, so that we had a full fridge upon arrival. During our journey, we believe that God leads us and provides for us. We left with a small but precious budget of money given partly by friends and family and we believe that in Gods hands this will provide for all we need. We felt so blessed by God fort he provision He showed through this gift of Antonio, and the kindness of everyone that invited us to eat with them these days. We even got bags full of fruits and bell peppers and fresh eggs from a woman who showed us around in Berja, because she got them in abundance from a local farmer. Here in Vicar we saw how rich we all are if we share from our abundance.
What did we give to this community in return, you might ask. First of all, the joy of seeing old friends. But also time. We gave our time to help with the social work, our time for everyone that needed a listening ear, a hug, someone to talk to or play with.

Every Tuesday and Thursday children from the neighborhood come to Cosario to do homework together with the Carmelite sisters, Carmen and Mila. On Wednesday these lovely sisters go to another quarter of Vicar to visit and play with children that live in poverty there. These weeks we joined them and it was so rewarding to see these children smile and to play and hug them. All the love that you give them comes threefold back to you. 

One of the difficult but beautiful places that we visited was the prison. Manolo, one of the pastors, has a weekly ministry to visit the prisoners and to engage with them, and every Saturday he leads the Holy Mass. This week we were invited to come along. It was the first time for Gideon to visit a prison, but Irma immediately saw some familiar faces from her visits last year. In endless joy we were received. During the mass we were amazed by the depth that the faith and hope in Jesus has in places like this. Together with the men we were delighted to sing, and we were invited to read from the Bible – in Spanish.
Prison can be a dreadful place, but when it is received as a time of self reflection, rather than a time of punishment and a place where creativity is stimulated rather than neglected, it can be a place of hope. And this we saw here in Almeria.

Another day we helped out with Caritas, the social work platform of the Catholic church that organises food distribution and other goods for the poor. Together with three ladies who work for Caritas we went to a village where a lot of Marroqui live, to hand out baby nutrition and other needs for their babies. We had some time to spare before we started the distribution and were invited by one of the Marroqui women in her house. She made some coffee for us and quickly baked a cake. After a while more people that knew we were there and we would soon start distributing would come and join us. This was one of our first experience of Arabic hospitality and I am curious what our time in Beirut later in March will be like. After this encounter Irma has a bit more of an impression of how easily welcoming people from this regions can be and we are looking forward to it.

Pastor Antonio is a man that knows many different people. Everywhere we come, people somehow know him, and he know the right people to get us in the right places. So one day he said: ‘Do you want to present the story of your journey to secondary school students? Because I know a religion teacher who would love to have you.’
So the next week we gave a presentations in five different classes in two different schools about our journey, and about Taizé, because that’s how we came to Almeria in the first place. First of all, we introduced the children with the Monastery of Taizé, and why so many young people go there every year, and secondly we explained how Taizé and many other people and projects have inspired us to set out on our journey. It felt absolutely incredible to stand in front of the classroom, and to encourage the students to find out what their dreams are, and what the stories of others are, because every one is interesting. To tell that their dreams are possible to realize when you have faith, for ours was made possible by having faith in God. We tried to convey the trust that we felt from the teachers – inviting two stranger from the Netherlands, and not knowing what they’re going to tell, is a real leap  in faith. For also trust is one of the pillars on which our journey is found.
We finished our presentations in a small Taizé-style prayer. This means, inviting all the students, and the teacher, to go and sit on the floor; sing some repetitive songs, read a part from Scripture, and let the silence inspire the children to think and pray over what they just heard.

After our first day of presentations, we still had a few hours of spare time to waste before we had any other plans. And what is a better place to waste it than the Spanish beach. On our way down to the beach, we encountered a small Dutch camper van, and as we just preached that every person is interesting, we tried to see if there was someone in the van. To our luck, there was. We introduced ourselves to a bright, blond lady, who has been traveling from the Netherlands down to Spain, for about the same time as we have. She was surprised that we stopped by her because ‘nowadays couples are way to much into each other, with no eye for the people around them,’ she said. To which we replied: ‘We believe that everyone we meet has an interesting story, and if your traveling in a van from the Netherlands, even more so.’ We explained the purpose of our journey, and she was amazed by our zealousness for following Jesus. She wasn’t too religious herself, but in the past few months, when she needed some time away to sort her life out, she felt strongly that Jesus has been revealing himself to her and guided her from place to place. Especially in the Basilica of Vezelay, France, she felt a strong presence of Light that gave her rest and hope. To which we told her our stories of Vezelay, and that this doesn’t sound unfamiliar to us as well. Before we left, we prayed together with her, and we were very glad to have met her, and she with us.
This is one more encounter that tells us: everyone has an interesting story, as long as you’re willing to step out to them, and listen.

Our days in Almeria came to an end, but we couldn’t leave just in the shadow of the night, so we decided to organize a little fare well party in our little house in Cosario. We invited Antonio, Manolo, Marie-Angeles and the Carmelite Sisters. We had a wonderful meal and prayer time afterwards.
During the evening mass, Antonio asked us to come to front and to give us a blessing for the rest of our journey. Together with the whole church he sang a blessing for us, and laid his hands on us as a sign of sending us out in the name of God. He then asked every one in the church to come forward and to bless us and pray for us. We felt like the first apostles Jesus being sent out to share His words. And in our best Spanish, we thanked the church, saying that we really have found a family in Spain.

zaterdag 19 januari 2019

Chapter 7: Hospitality in Madrid

From the 28th of December till the 1st of January we joined the 41st European Youth Meeting of Taizé, in Madrid. Every year, between Christmas and New Year, the brothers of Taizé are invited to spend these days in one of the major European cities. Together with the brothers, thousands of young pilgrims, like us, from all over the world come together to pray in this city. The pilgrims are welcomed in the different churches and sleep these days at a host family. 
Even though we’re not in a monastery, we join the brothers in prayer three times a day. In the mornings in our host church; in the afternoon in several of the major cathedrals of the Madrid and in the night everyone together in a huge conference center, IFEMA.

We could join the meeting two days earlier, to help with all the preparations. Gideon joined in the choir to prepare and practice the songs; and Irma helped one of the host parishes, Nuestra Señora de Sagrada Corazon, to prepare the welcome together with Lukas from Germany and Manolo, the priest of this parish. Because we worked in two different teams, we were also assigned to two different host parishes and families, which meant that we would suddenly have a lot less time to be together the coming days.
Gideon was welcomed by Theresa, an elderly woman, and her brother, Javier. Even though they didn’t have a lot of space, they invited Gideon in. Because, it only takes 2 m² to host a person.
Together with Lukas, Irma was welcomed at the home of Juan Pedro and Silvia, and their kids Paco and Pablo. This family was very welcoming and we enjoyed our time together. For them, this meeting was the first time they got in contact with the community of Taizé and they were very interested in our experiences. They also went to the prayers a few times.

We were very happy to see some familiar faces again. One of them is Lukas, who we met last November. He is now volunteering in Taizé for a longer time and during this meeting he worked really hard for food distribution. Thus we didn’t see him long, but promised to give him a hug every day that we saw him, to make his work more pleasant. We spend most time with Kim, from the UK and Yasha, from Ukraine, two girls that Gideon met in choir different years. They also came earlier to join the choir this time and from the first day when we introduced them to each other, it was nice to be together. It was great for Irma to get to know them and for Gideon to get to know them better. During a week in Taizé it’s easy to connect to people, but during this time in Madrid we really got to share more about our life stories. In the beginning they were people we liked, but a precious friendship blossomed after this week. These meetings are also a good place to meet new people, and our days in Madrdid wouldn’t be complete without meeting Miriam, a German girl from Australia who is currently living in The Netherlands. Together with Kim and Yasha, the five of us often ate together and we had a good time together. Miriam also sung in the choir.
At a certain point everyone left for the choir and Irma didn’t want to say goodbye already. Kim said that it would probably not be a problem to sit together. We talked a bit more about singing and how to learn it, and Kim convinced Irma to stay in the choir to see what it was like. Irma loves singing, but doesn’t know how to. For Irma this moment was really special, to be able to learn how to sing and get more confidence in it. During one of the songs she heard how her voice mixed with the other voices and the instruments, and it touched her that her voice contributed to the beautiful song.
Of the many beautiful moments that we had, we want to share with you how we celebrated New Year’s Eve. This evening started with the last evening prayer in IFEMA. At the last prayer, the city where next year’s European meeting will be revealed: Wrocław in Poland. So all the Polish people went completely crazy.
After this prayer we went back to the parish where we were hosted. Gideon was hosted in a different parish, but for this evening he went with Irma to her parish. Around eleven o’clock we held a prayer for peace in the world. One of the ladies of the parish was so exited that there would be so many young people and she invited an elderly woman to join in the prayer. This was a beautiful way to live towards the new year.
According to Spanish tradition, on the strokes of midnight, we all ate 12 grapes, one every stroke. Manolo prepared about 100 cups of grapes for us. 12 grapes signifies 12 months of good luck in the coming year. Then it was time for a party. All the countries present in our parish presented a song, dance or piece of theater, typical for their country. So we had Polish folk dances, and Portuguese songs and even Egyptian music.
The next morning we celebrated a very special New Year’s mass. Before the mass, we had an interesting presentation and discussion about welcoming immigrants in Europe by an organisation called Karibu (Welcome). The people from this organisations, from different countries in Africa formed a choir together. So the mass was a collaboration of the parish, the pilgrims of Taizé and the choir. Which ended in a lot of singing, clapping and dancing.

In the speeches of Fr. Alois, the prior of Taizé, the returning theme was hospitality, the difficulties and limits of hospitality, but at the same time the blessing that hospitality can bring for everyone involved. And we experienced this blessing of hospitality during our stay in Madrid. We were welcomed by people that gave up a bit of their comfort and found joy in hosting us. Together with young people from all over Europe, we thought about the question, would we welcome people like we are welcomed here. And we would like to let you think about the same question:
Would you welcome pilgrims like we were welcomed?

zaterdag 12 januari 2019

Interlude: Verhaal van de 2 koningen

Er waren eens twee koningen in een land hier ver vandaan. Ze hadden een droom gezien over een ster; een rijzende ster, die schiet hemelhoog. Ze gingen op weg om de ster te volgen. Zo reisden ze van dorp tot dorp, van stad tot stad, door landen en over bergen.

De droom ging als volgt:
Er lag duisternis over de aarde,
Toen hoorde ik een stem die zei:
‘Er moet licht komen’
en ik zag dat er licht kwam.
Van over de horizon rees een ster
die verlichtte heel de hemel.
En ik vroeg ‘wat is dit licht?’

Weer hoorde ik een stem die zei:
‘Ik ben het licht voor de wereld’
Toen zag ik een man,
met kleren als de zon
En overal waar hij liep
groeide het licht als rijpe aren,
die de bergen vulden.

‘Daniël, Daniël’ riep de jongste van de twee koningen, ‘wat ik nu toch heb gedroomd.’ Hij rende door de grote hal van het paleis naar de ontbijtzaal, waar zijn broer rustig de krant aan het lezen was. ‘Wat is er, Jozef?’
‘Ik had een fantastische droom! Eerst was het helemaal duister, maar toen kwam er licht en dat was een ster, maar eigenlijk was het…’
‘Een man, en overal waar hij liep groeide het licht.’ vulde Daniël aan. ‘Ik geloof dat we vannacht dezelfde droom gezien hebben’.
De beide koningen waren gegrepen door de droom en besloten naar de grote bibliotheek te gaan om in de geschriften te zoeken naar de betekenis ervan. Ze lazen wat ze konden vinden over licht en sterren, tot ze ontdekte wie de man uit hun droom was. Ze zagen het beeld nog heel helder voor zich, daar liep hij langs de rivier en langs de bergen, en overal waar hij ging, kwam het licht uit de aarde omhoog. Er groeide een verlangen in hen om te lopen waar hij gelopen had, te gaan waar hij gegaan was. Ze pakte de landkaart erbij en lazen de verhalen erop na. ‘Emmaüs, daar is hij geweest, daar moeten we heen.’ En zo begon hun pelgrimstocht.

De eerste dagen van hun reis was het licht ver te zoeken. Ze ploeterden door de bossen en ze leken maar niet verder te komen. Soms dachten ze licht te zien, maar bleken het vuurvliegjes of dwaallichtjes te zijn. Zelfs het licht van de sterren was door de bladeren bedekt. ‘We volgen toch de Weg? Waarom is het dan allemaal zo duister?’ vroeg Jozef, terwijl hem de moed haast in de schoenen zakte. ‘Kom op, broertje, als we het vinden is dit het allemaal waard. Ik wil die gouden aren met eigen ogen zien.’ Zo hielp Daniël zijn broer weer overeind, en ploeterden ze verder.Toen ze die nacht het bos uitliepen zagen ze het: Emmaüs, het verlichtte klooster boven op de berg. Het was nog te ver om er die nacht heen te lopen, maar de aanblik van deze schoonheid vulde hen met vreugde. Ze zochten een mooie open plek en zetten hun tent op. ‘Oh, kijk de sterren’ zei Jozef. ‘Ja, ja’ reageerde Daniël die druk bezig was met de laatste haringen. ‘Nee serieus, kijk omhoog.’ Daniël keek en zag wat Jozef bedoelde. Het waren er zo veel en zo helder, ze zagen zelfs de Melkweg. ‘En morgen’ zeiden de broers tegen elkaar, ‘morgen gaan we de Ster uit onze droom zien. Die is nog helderder dan deze sterren’  

Het was op een zonnige woensdag dat de twee koningen in Emmaüs aankwamen. De klokken luidden, tijd om naar de kerk te gaan. De zusters van het klooster hielden hun dagelijkse middaggebed en de reizigers deden mee.
Na het gebed groetten een aantal van de zusters hen hartelijk en maakten de koningen het zich gemakkelijk op het plein voor de kerk. Ze keken wat rond, zagen het klooster en een paar pelgrims en wat zusters rondlopen. Een van de zusters ondersteunde een oude man, terwijl ze samen naar de eetzaal liepen. Een tijdje hing er een stilte tussen de twee broers in, totdat Jozef zei: ‘Dus, is dit het?’ Daarop had Daniël geen antwoord.
Hij dacht bij zichzelf: Ik had er inderdaad ook meer van verwacht, het klooster is wel mooi, maar eenvoudig. En de zusters zijn wel aardig, maar zulke gewone mensen. Toch heb ik het gevoel dat we hier moeten zijn.
Uiteindelijk antwoorde Daniël: ‘Laten we aan de zusters vragen of we hier nog een paar dagen kunnen blijven, als het uiteindelijk toch niet is wat we zochten, gaan we weer terug naar huis.’
Zo bleven ze enkele dagen in en rondom het klooster, ze spraken met de zusters en pelgrims, en deden mee aan de getijdegebeden. Ze bekeken alle schilderijen aan de muren aandachtig, maar er was niets wat hen verder leidde.

Een van de oudere zusters uit het klooster, zuster Ruth, had hen zo al een aantal dagen bezig gezien. En toen de koningen op de laatste dag zo verslagen uit hun ogen keken, liep ze op hen af en vroeg ze: ‘Wat heeft jullie eigenlijk hier gebracht? Waar zijn jullie naar op zoek?’
Ze vertelden haar van de droom die ze beiden gezien hadden, van het licht en de man. ‘Dat is wat we zoeken. Deze man waar we over gedroomd hebben is hier in Emmaüs geweest en we hadden gehoopt hier iets van dat licht wat hij bracht terug te vinden.’ Er verscheen een twinkeling in haar ogen. ‘Ik denk dat jullie iets over het hoofd gezien hebben. Er is een plek die ik jullie wil laten zien.’ De koningen werden nieuwsgierig en volgden haar door het klooster heen.
‘Die man die jullie zagen’ vertelde zuster Ruth, ‘Hij heeft mij ook hierheen geleid. Hij is wat ons allemaal verbindt hier in Emmaüs en onze reden om te doen wat we doen. Ik volg hem ook.’ Terwijl ze zo vertelde liepen ze door een poort en kwamen in een prachtige tuin die uitkeek over de vallei en de bossen die rondom het klooster liggen.
Zuster Ruth vervolgde: ‘Het gaat niet om de plek waar hij geweest is, de grond die hij heeft aangeraakt. Het gaat om de mensen die hij heeft aangeraakt. Als je hem wilt volgen kun je het beste doen wat hij deed. Wat deed hij in jullie droom?’
Ze dachten diep na en toen zagen ze het duidelijk voor zich. In hun droom liep hij en langs de weg waren mensen, hij hielp hen overeind. Een van hen liep kreupel, maar toen hij hem aanraakte genas hij. En wanneer hij dat deed werd het licht.
‘Als je hem wilt volgen kun je het beste doen wat hij deed’ had de zuster Ruth gezegd. De broers dachten terug aan de zuster die een man ondersteunde terwijl hij naar de eetzaal liep, en ze zagen het licht. Opeens werden hun ogen geopend en zagen ze dat de berg waarop het klooster stond omringd was door gouden korenvelden.

Er waren eens twee koningen in een land hier ver vandaan. Ze hadden een droom gezien over een ster; een rijzende ster, die schiet hemelhoog. Ze gingen op weg om de ster te volgen. Zo reisden ze van dorp tot dorp, van stad tot stad, door landen en over bergen. Overal waar ze kwamen deden ze wat hij deed, en het licht groeide als rijpe aren, die de bergen vulden.