As we write this, we have just completed our twelfth day here in Kandern, Germany, home to Black Forest Academy! Twelve days…this feels like a surprisingly long time - some things have already become so familiar - and yet it also feels like no time at all. This morning, we paused to reflect a little as a family on some of the more meaningful experiences we’ve had during these few days, and here is a summary of things that have stood out to us (in a mostly random order)…
1. Walking through the door to our new house. As we did, we were bringing to a close an 18-month journey of applying and waiting and praying and packing and saying goodbyes and travelling. Finally, we could stop. One journey is over and, in its place, a new one starts - a journey of settling, of exploration and hellos and adventure here.
2. Lots of stairs! Forty-five of them, to be exact. Our new home is narrow and tall, split over four levels, so stairs have already become a major part of our daily lives. (Funnily, it was the simple wooden stairs that first attracted the girls to this house. With their bedrooms up in the roof, they’re both getting to enjoy these stairs intimately now!)
3. Roses in the garden. Both girls said how much they love the fragrant, pale pink roses that are blooming beside our back door. As well as simply being so pretty, their gentle aroma is a welcome reminder of God’s sweet provision in giving us this home.
4. Sunday night soccer. For Phil, playing soccer with “the old guys” on Sunday night exemplified continuity: new town and new people, same building of relationships through playing together. Of course, these relationships are just forming and do not replace the friends Phil left behind, but they are good and meaningful in themselves.
5. “Hochblauen.” 15-minutes’ drive away is one of the tallest hills in the Black Forest. We can see it from our house. A few days ago, new friends (another US/UK family) invited us to join them to watch the sun set from the top and it is an incredible view! From there, you can see across The Rhine well into France and, turning south, to Kandern and then on to Basel in Switzerland (and on a clear day, all the way to the Alps). Watching the golden glow of the sun creep across the hills and valleys as we talked was a magical time. To make it even more special, our friends brought their German neighbours along and also introduced us to the hotel’s new Turkish owner who seems as keen to get to know people here as we are. (We are here to invest in BFA, but a prayer of mine has long been that we would get to know and engage with local families as well.)
6. Bumping into someone we know in town. I remember the first time I happened to meet someone I knew as I walked along a busy street in central Nairobi. It was an unexpectedly meaningful moment. It told me I was known, I had a place there, that I belonged. Recently, Sophie and I walked to the supermarket and bumped into, not just one person we knew, but three separate people! It was such a fun surprise and we were deeply encouraged. We do have a place here. Although this is still so new, we do belong.
7. Brunch with the ladies (and other such coffee invitations). Last Thursday, I joined a group of BFA ladies for a relaxed brunch. Although I knew no-one at the start, I felt incredibly welcome. And this is just one example of the warm welcome we have received overall. People have been very intentional to reach out in numerous ways and we are thankful. We miss our friends in Kenya deeply, of course, yet simultaneously we are grateful for the new people the Lord is bringing into our lives, people with whom we can share life.
8. Sharing our story of how we were called here. Multiple times already, Phil and I have had the joy of recounting the amazing way in which God has brought us here (see one of our early posts called, “Our Journey”). It’s a huge privilege to share such a story and each time we tell it we are every bit as awed by His grace and faithfulness as the people who hear it. We have never felt so clearly directed as we were to come here, and it is deeply meaningful to now be walking through the consequences of that decision along with Emma and Sophie in a way that is expanding their own faith, too.
9. Sophie’s skylight. The girls’ bedrooms are nestled way up in the roof. While Emma’s skylight faces south to the forest that covers the hill behind our house, Sophie’s has sweeping views over the entire town. And it’s well worth the climb to see the sun set from here! She loved it when it rained a few days ago as well, and happily watched the drops splashing against the window above her. She’s eagerly anticipating the wonder of watching snowflakes settle gently on it and of lying in her bed and gazing up at the stars (once we’ve moved her room around).
10. The beauty of Kandern – Kandern is small and intimate and cosy. The houses are crammed together, all of roughly the same style and yet different enough to be unique. Flowers are everywhere. The small Kander river runs through the heart of the town and winding streets peel off it in all directions. We have thoroughly enjoyed meandering through the main streets and back alleys (sometimes it’s hard to tell which is which), in fascination of one beautiful view after another.
11. The Internet Guy. On Friday, ten days after we arrived here, a technician showed up to finally connect us to the internet. (Until then, we had been piggy backing off our very gracious neighbours who invited us to use the signal from their Wi Fi through our shared wall!) Having our own router working symbolised the practical side of settling into a new home – registering with the Town Hall, arranging for our refuse and recycling bins, getting new phones up and running (and the headache of switching over contacts, etc.), insurance (Germans love insurance!), the first big grocery shop (and numerous follow up runs), looking for a car… These all take time and energy but are a critical part of settling in well.
12. No ants or monkeys invading our home! Enough said.
Bonus point 13: Phil’s office. Phil begins his work officially this week. Today, the girls and I joined him in BFA’s New Staff Orientation and, just a couple weeks after that, school begins with students arriving who represent Christian outreach work in approximately 40 nations. We are excited (and a little nervous) about this next phase. Things are about to get very real, so please be in prayer for us, for Emma and Sophie as they meet lots of new people and begin to form friendships, and for BFA as we begin this important work to which God has called us and the rest of the BFA team!