Into Germany

Saturday September 2 we arose early and headed for the train station. We hit our first train problem, a breakdown and long-term repair forced us from the train to a bus and then back onto the train. We arrived into Karlsruhe, Germany and checked into a modern economy motel just across from the station. That afternoon we met with Pastor Johnnes Spies and his wife Elizabeth. They took us to the Karlsruhe Castle. The castle, built in the 1700’s, sits in the middle of the city and the streets go out as spokes from the castle. It is surrounded by park and a arboretum.

We were going to hang around and watch a multi-media presentation that is displayed on the front of the castle. We opted for pizza and fellowship at their house before heading home.

We had met the Spies’ at one of our fellowship parties in Prescott years ago. (I mentioned those parties to Paul Arps once and he said with a far away look, “the Hansston parties”.) We have stayed in touch over the years with Christmas cards. Johannes was the first member of the first church planted in Germany so many years ago. Now he is pastoring, his son is pastoring and his daughter is married to a pastor. Church had hit a tough spot and he tried to bow out; but hopefully Joan and I could be an encouragement to them. They picked us up for church that morning. We would have people attend both services which was a blessing that went along with his sigh of relief.

Sunday would include the two services. After the morning service we had lunch at their house. Lunch was wonderful and they brewed up a wonderful cup of coffee. That evening we came to church and watched a clip from the Jesus movement days. This is the part I remember: “listen to your heart before your mind rejects”. After church that night we went with Marvin to the basketball court where we played some basketball and did a one minute bible study. Kind of cool. Here is Marvin and another disciple whose name I cannot remember.


Their life was busy. They were renovating the house they owned. That house’s rent underwrote their ministry. They took time off to take us up to the Black Forest on the Monday following church. We had visited the Black Forest in the 90’s when we took the girls to Paris for a Valentine’s dinner. Reiner and Louise had taken us into the forest where we bought a clock. The snow was coming down and we found ourselves pushing the car through the snow to get us along our way. This day would be much easier.

They have a route they take visitors that stops in several towns. You go up one way and come down another. Beautiful walks, good fellowship and then an excellent meal. It all added up to a good feeling share by all of us. Here are some photos:


Tuesday would be our free day in Karlsruhe. We had discovered a small café that we visited Monday and Tuesday mornings. The coffee was delicious in large cups and the pastry selection was worth the view. The fact that our hostess spoke no English just made it better. We had taken the tram to church that Sunday evening and we were finding the town easy to navigate. We eventually would view the media show at the palace. All I could think about was how this would look on drugs, and other than the dazzling display of technological wonderfulness there was no message. It’s like I used to tell my girls, protest on college campus seems to center on killing babies, after that what is it they want to communicate to me with any kind of passion?

I found when I would try to recount my Zambian trips the further and further out from the trip I waited to write the more details I forget. So on with our free Tuesday. We went up north along the Rhine to a little spot overlooking the vineyards. Great walk, great coffee with Joan getting her Black Forest Cake and me trying a plum pie dish. Took trains and trams to move around. Visited a fortress, or what remained of it, and enjoyed the days. Got home walked downtown and watched the light show and made ready for The Netherlands on the morrow.

One last German note. I have been enjoying the fresh fruit all along our trip. I always am looking for an apricot taste that usually escapes me. I had a few apricots in Italy and Croatia that were OK but nothing that was great (the figs were great). We would pass by a market and go through the zoo to walk to our café, the church and the castle. I noticed at the market “Turkish Apricots”. I knew Turkey produced the most apricots. These did not look like the standard apricot. They were smaller and had a more yellow appearance. I had to buy some and was pleased to find them quite delicious. Little joys keep coming. So we travelled on with sparkling waters, our delicatessen and Turkish apricots.





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Youth Literature, Dystopian Future

…Except the future is now. Robert Tracinski makes this point in an essay entitled: “We Live in the Dystopian Future Young Adult Fiction Warned Us About”.

Here are his eleven bullet points:

1. Speech Codes

2. Mobs Enforcing Vague and Arbitrary Offences

3. Punishment Without Due Process

4. Masked and Black-Clad Gangs Who Beat Dissenters

5. Requiring People to Accept Obvious Falsehoods as True

6. Dividing People into Groups by Race

7. Getting News from Entertainment Shows Run by Comedians

8. A Long Period of Dependency and Infantilization

9. Strange, Artificial Systems for Relationships and Sex

10. Employment Blacklists for Dissenters

11. Culture and Politics Are Dominated by a Corrupt Capitol

Welcome to the future now!


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Great Insight

Mathew Continetti wrote a great piece entitled “The American Earthquake”.  Here is one quote of many good ones:

Finally, there is the ongoing decline of religion. Five decades ago, Kristol called this “the most profound change of all.” Today, the fastest growing religious affiliation in the country is Americans professing no religious affiliation. “All human societies have to respond to two fundamental questions. The first is: ‘Why?’ The second is: ‘Why not?’ … It is religion that, traditionally, has supplied the answers to these questions.” Increasing numbers of Americans, however, look elsewhere.

Add to technology, entitlement, intergenerational antagonism, popular culture, and secularization the changes that have eroded the bourgeois conception of the stable, married, two-parent family. “Among those who currently follow the old precepts, regardless of their level of education or affluence, the homicide rate is tiny, opioid addiction is rare, and poverty rates are low,” noted Amy Wax and Larry Alexander last August in the Philadelphia Inquirer. For her troubles, Wax was tarred as a racist and protested at the University of Pennsylvania Law School where she teaches.

I am hearing this formula more and more for how to properly live life.

Get Educated

Get Working

Get Married

Get Children

If done in that order, life will probably be worth living without all of the negative drama that happens when you don’t do it in that order.

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Zagreb to Zurich to Lucerne

On the train again! Early morning departure has us backpacking to the station and onto the train, even found a coffee stand with “coffee to go”; a new sales tactic for Europe. Saying our goodbye to Croatia as the train makes its way through Slovenia. There is still a slight third world feel to the train ride. That will change once we reach Graf. Showing papers, making sure our train schedule is filled out on our global pass and everyone being polite and friendly makes this a great way to travel. We were falling behind schedule, but the treats we brought onto the train would help us along.


My first surprise was a young man who wanted to know if I was “Kevin”. He had somehow gotten access to my computer and let me know that he couldn’t enter in unless he had my password. I told him I wasn’t going to give it to him. His name was Jacob. His mother was Croatian and his father was German. This little computer genius did a “Pokémon” bible study with me, as we talked about how big God must be. He would come and hang out with us off and on during the trip as we shared some chocolates and treats with him.


As we got closer to Graf both we and Jacob’s mother began to realize we would be missing our connections. We were told not to worry, so we didn’t.

Amazingly, the first world train system, aware of the slightly third world train system, were waiting for our train so that we could all make our connections. When I saw the schedules for our train rides I wondered how in the world we would make the changes in the time allotted. A couple of them would have been impossible if we were lugging luggage; but with backpacks it was a breeze.

As we climbed up into Switzerland we had our first rains. The views of the mountains would not be ours to see this trip. I mentioned our communication with Harold in an earlier post. It was nice and proper that he would help us understand how to catch the trolley to where we were staying. We made it to the trolley and another man, recognizing our circumstances, further instructed us on exactly where to get off. He gave us one warning: do not go over the bridge, it is the red light district. It has been a long day, it is late and we are tired; yet our spirits are not dampened. We get to our room, our check in is automated. We take a midnight stroll that brought us to a little store where the non-Swiss mid-easterner let us know he supports Trump. Kind of cool.

Groups of Somali or Ethiopian men (I think I can see the difference) roam around as we do. Just like every human being I have ever met we “cross the bridge”; but really nothing to see, got information about a cool place for coffee and breakfast. The marker for our apartment is the “pot” place next to it, I think the Eagles described it as “the warm smell of colitis”. When our friends would drop us off the next day after our day in Lucerne; they were shocked that we were staying in the same district where the Christian ministries reach out to the prostitutes and such. It was a picture of a 1980 American downtown. Not quite the Zurich, Switzerland I had imagined.

The next morning we took the trolley (more like a light commuter train) south to where Reiner and Louise live. Louise was doing a geological internship in Arizona in the early 80’s. She met Joan. One thing led to another and Louise would get saved and take her salvation back to Germany with her. She and her future husband would come through Wickenburg while Joan and I were dating with a German youth group touring the states. Years later, they would visit us in Seattle, as Louise would take a special creationist geologist interest in Mt. St. Helens. We would then take our three daughters to Paris for Valentine’s dinner and then onto Freiburg where Reiner had a dental practice. Since then Reiner has moved to Switzerland where he owns two dental practices south of Zurich.

They are a refreshing couple to be with. Their children have grown, married and kept the faith. Louise does a special yearly tour of Provence with her daughter. They go to an international church full of expatriates from all over the world. Louise describes the Swiss as Germans on hyper-drive. There is a cultural divide that Rainer can move through easily as a competent dentist; it is a little more difficult for Louise; yet God is helping her. Reiner is fun to talk to. In the past his English was minimal but now he is able to communicate perfectly. He is a Trump conservative in a world run by the liberal “good people”. I had never heard the phrase before; it fits.

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We got a tour of his offices, some cookies and coffee and then a ferry across lake Lucerne with a visit to the city.

We were not able to view the mountains from the ferry as we traversed the lake. We would have to purchase an umbrella while we walked Lucerne. We passed by the Marc Rich estate. Rainer reminded me that he was the guy who gave the Clintons and democrats millions and then amazingly enough received a 12th hour pardon from the Clinton’s for his illegal business dealings with Iran. No worries, he is buried in Israel now. Life goes on as the rich and famous still come to Lucerne to purchase the things that the rich and famous purchase. We walked the wooden bridge that burned and generally enjoyed the sights, sounds (tourists) and tastes of the city.

The highlight was the visit to the Lion of Lucerne dedicated to the loyalty and bravery of the Swiss. Mark Twain call it “the most mournful and moving piece of stone in the world.” I have to agree. The Swiss guard, who still function for the Papacy, were charged with the defense of the Kings of France. It was Louis XVI, married to Marie, who would have their courage and faithfulness tested. The French Revolution should be taught side by side with the American Revolution. Without defending war or revolution there are some differences to behold. If this can be said; one with God the other without God. The Swiss in their fulfilling of duty were treated in a manner unworthy of praise by the people standing for “liberty, equality and brotherhood”. They had 900 go to battle to defend the King. Most would die in battle with about 200 dying in prison from wounds or executed. The engraving was put together by Karl Pfyffer von Altishofen, an officer on leave in Lucerne at the time of the attack.

We would finish the night off with a cheese fondue at a convent up in the Swiss hills overlooking their town. They gave us a ride home that night as we got ready to move north into Germany.

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Wednesday in Zagreb

Joan and I got up, made coffee and then I tried to get the water heater to work. I learned how these small water heaters work from our stay in Dubrovnik; but I couldn’t get this one to work so we boiled water and did our best. Made our way to the market area and enjoyed picking out some fresh fruit for the upcoming train rides. We went to the underground section and purchased three meats and two cheeses. About then we met up with the Connors.

Money was very easy all through Europe. My understanding via Rick Steves was to use bank machines at banks and you would avoid hidden fees. Card goes in, English chosen (sometimes automatic) choose amount and money comes out. Using the credit card or debit card for a transaction seemed as normal as could be with everything looking fine when I got home. The extra Kunas I would have from Croatia would be turned into Swiss Francs in Switzerland without missing a beat and then into Euro’s for use everywhere else.

We would spend the day with the Connors. We had some coffee together and then walked back toward the train station where we put our things away. We brought our church clothes with us; an African shirt for me, and a simple dress for Joan. We headed to the West side of the city, I think I have my directions right, by their church and apartment. They took us out into the countryside past the house they had lived in when they first got here out to a village they enjoy visiting.

While in Zambia I took advantage of every minute I could to spend with visiting pastors and evangelists. I encouraged pastors to bring their wives so that my wife could have some fellowship also. Every visitor gave us an opportunity to share our burdens and hopes along with the uniqueness of the culture we were living in. We were happy to get a little bit of that “American” thing on us. Tom carries that quiet confidence that seems essential to being American; and is certainly needed as a pastor.

We had already gotten onto a theme of “desperation” in prayer. We could both relate to the times in our lives and ministry that we were desperate before God and seemingly He would always respond to us during those desperate times. Might there be an issue of complacency that enters our life as things are going well that keep us from having that desperation? Can desperation be turned off and on? These thoughts were not thoughts in a vacuum.

Tom and Christine related their start here in Zagreb. You always arrive with high hopes and even that touch of messianic arrival. My three starts never fulfilled that messianic arrival thing; but you persevere and you manage as you preach and minister to the people God gives you. They started with no people, a month later no people, not even visitors. Three or four months in no people with the standard crazies showing up occasionally. At 8 months with no people they were “desperate”. The level of frustration can never be described fully. It is not like business where you try different advertising or sales approaches. It’s not about money, the best financed pioneer works can experience this also. What is it about? Does God not want us to succeed? What about all the money that people have given so that we can reach souls here in Croatia? On top of that there is the normal male ego and the wife’s desire for her husband to do well. “Desperation” doesn’t even begin to describe what we experience under these circumstances. We see though a “glass darkly”.

Church should have started but they were not willing to sing songs together and have Tom preach to Christine. They continued in prayer. Loud, Pentecostal and desperate. They sensed someone’s presence. Caught! It was a woman. She said she had been Catholic her whole life and she didn’t know if she was going to heaven. They told her how she could know for sure and she prayed with them and started coming to church. That was a couple of years ago. Her son is now the main disciple and interpreter for the services. Her daughter plays the piano for service. They related all of this before we had church with them. In a moment of desperate prayer; one lady changes the dynamics of their ministry in Zagreb.

We took a pleasant drive out into the country. There was some castle remains we could have hiked to but we opted for the easy walk and coffee in the town square. This was the place where Tom wanted me to remember the taste from the night before and compare it to this restaurant’s version of it. It is a custard cake or a cream cake. In the city it had a thin chocolate icing. This one would have a sprinkling of powdered sugar. The pastry on both was perfect, apparently these are made fresh everyday throughout Croatia. It was the taste of the cream or custard that made the difference. Yes, I could taste the difference and yes, I was on Tom’s side, I prefer this one. This is an on-going debate between Tom and his disciples. Delicious!

We spent the afternoon with the Connors, opting to eat at their house with some fresh Croatian bread that Tom bought, rather than making them take two trips into the city center to get us. We walked their dog and enjoyed the time together. Church was at the edge of the Zagreb city limits. Nice looking building from the outside and everything in order on the inside. Prayed, sang some songs and preached. Any fears that Tom has about the job he is doing were put aside for me as I looked out at a congregation that included some men who were disciples.

The command is to go into all the world and make disciples. Find faithful men and teach them as I have taught you so that they can teach others. That is what was happening in the Zagreb church and it is always a wonder to behold. My landlord in Prescott Valley would quiz me as to why I was going to Sparta. He knew my church history and his comment was “How does Mitchell get you guys to do all of this?” Pastor Mitchell is doing what the bible says and so is Tom and we are planning on the men and women in his church to do the same. It was a great evening. I felt some Croatian roots as I was introduced and as I preached.

We took it easy after church, had some ice cream and got a ride back into the city. Blessings from God upon the Connors and their church is Zagreb.


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Tuesday in Zagreb

We arrived in Zagreb on Tuesday August 29. The train ride from Split was by far the most enjoyable train ride we took in Europe. (It was cloudy climbing into Zurich) Joan was a little concerned about our accommodations. Just like the apartment in Split; it was just across from the train station (easier to get to with backpacks). The Split apartment seemed to have been built at one time to house the workers on the rail line. It was fine, but it was just that: a place for railroad workers to bunk for the night. Our Zagreb room was even cheaper at $50 a night so she was expecting the worse.

We were pleasantly surprised to find a nice apartment with a sitting room and kitchen. To top it off we even had a big picture window to watch the street activity below. Tom and Christine Connors (Christine’s Blog) were going to meet us after we settled in. Tom is out of the Cape Cod church and I had preached for him when I was an evangelist. I would be preaching for him the next night, Wednesday. We rendezvoused outside of our building and began our walk to the market area. They were easy to be with and we enjoyed each other’s company as we journeyed to our first stop, a café for coffee.

If you do a search for something like “coffee in Croatia” you will find articles describing the coffee culture of Croatia. It is the social drink for the country. A visit to the café is meant to be a long, meandering event where the coffee is slowly sipped without any sense of impropriety at tying up a table without spending huge amounts of money. Paula, my cousin, (she put us in contact with our Dubrovnik relatives) had even suggested an invite to coffee might be one way of finding time to get together with them. We had sat with men at tables in Dubrovnik having coffee while we waited for our ferry departure. This café had more women fulfilling the description of coffee as the drink to share while you talked. The sitting area of the café was across from the actual café and we were served our cups of coffee as we continued our conversations. We got the only available table and I think this cup of coffee was by far the best tasting coffee I experience on our trip. Since, the Connors visit this café often I want to see if they can find the brand served and maybe I can find it state side. Or it was just the place and the company.

They toured us around. It is always wonderful to be with a missionary who loves the place he is at. They were very knowledgeable about the city, the country, the people and the road the gospel needed to travel in Croatia. I had been told by the American Baptist preacher in Dubrovnik that the percentage of Protestants in Croatia is less than 1%. Is there a place for honest, national repentance?  Is it needed? The Croat puppet regime of the Nazi’s in WWII decimated the Jewish population. Close reading shows it all happened with a nationalized, radical Catholic involvement in the nation. The Eastern Orthodox Serbs would be chased out as the Catholic Croats would be chased out of Serbia; with each group losing their land and possessions to the other as they departed. Catholicism, here, seems to be the shell of religion that it is for many Americans, they are Catholic, but they don’t really know what it means anymore, they are just Catholic.  

They showed us where the market would set up the next morning, as I was looking forward to stocking up for our all-day train ride to Zurich on Thursday with some Croatian goodies. We took them out to dinner to a Indian restaurant that they enjoyed. We followed this up with another café visit overlooking a plaza area. It was a joy to be with them and hear what they had to say about life in Zagreb. We walked home in the dark as they went to their car and we went to our room. We had visited one pastry shop (our third cup of coffee that night) in which I tried a certain dessert which was kind of a custard with a thin chocolate icing. Tom asked me to remember the taste because the next day they would take us to a village where we would try it again. It was an ongoing debate between his church members as to which one was better. We would meet them the next morning at the market.


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Dubrovnik to Split and Train to Zagreb

We would be catching a passenger ferry from Dubrovnik to Split on Monday August 28. The views were beautiful. A miniature walled city dominated one island, looking like the place to go. Got into Split around 9:30 that night. My maps showed our location to be in an open space on the map just north of the railroad tracks. We left the ferry and walked around and over the railroad tracks. I was using my gps and it was leading me down this alley into an area of apartments. I came to a dead end with our location seemingly right in front of us. We went out to the main road to make it around but quickly found ourselves moving away from our destination. I called our host who said we were close just come down by the railroad tracks. As we came down one set of stairs there was a spray-painted name and arrow to our destination. I walked the same path we had walked before and turned around to find another pathway in between the buildings. I had to call him. He had already told me I was close and seemed exasperated that I hadn’t found it. We agreed to meet at a neon lit hotel sign. There he was. He said follow me. And off we went. We navigated past some cars to an opening in the wall with a concrete block placed to help us through the opening separating us from the railroad tracks. We then walked along the tracks around a set of apartments. We then turned to one apartment on the far side of the apartments. I retraced this on video the next morning.

Safe and sound we stored our things and headed for the town. Split is the home of the Roman emperor Diocletian’s palace built in the 300’s. The palace is filled with shops and restaurants but still retains its Roman magnificence. The fourth season of “Game of Thrones” was filmed there. Apparently, Dubrovnik and this entire area serves as the location for the show. We walked about, listened to a couple of good sounding American musicians play for a crowd outside of a restaurant and made it home for a sleep.

Woke up and made it to the train station for our 6 and half hour trip to Zagreb. Enjoying the train rides. We had bought a Euro pass that would give us 7 days of free travel. Day one in Italy, two Split to Zagreb, three Zagreb to Zurich, four Zurich to Karlsruhe, five up and down the Rhine Valley, six Karlsruhe to Groningen and seven Groningen to Amsterdam with a trip to the windmills and a downtown trip from the airport on our final day in Europe. 

Croatia, my roots. I would see my mom’s face over and over. I might have already mentioned the stories that go with Dubrovnik women; but here goes again. My mother was one of seven children with five girls. The Ivancovich girls were known beauties in the Watsonville area. In the recesses of my mind I remember, especially my Aunt Marie, commenting about their shared good looks and embarrassingly referring to what is said about Dubrovnik girls. The story goes something like this. Dubrovnik, this independent city was run by a group of specific families. When they lost their independence; supposedly a vow was made that they would discontinue the habit of intermarrying among the ruling families. This unleashed the young men of the nobility to go throughout the countryside spreading their seed and thus the beauty of the peasant stock of Dubrovnik. Read it in two different books.

The train ride through the Croatian countryside was beautiful. We could compare the ride down the coast of Italy to this ride. The country could be harsh and I can remember my grandfather talking about the stones and rocks that made farming difficult in Croatia. Fields of olives, grapes and corn. The stones had been gathered to build small walls separating the fields all along the journey from Split to Zagreb. Each farm had a garden plot that mirrored mine back home. The groups of trees surrounding the farm houses would include apples, peach, apricot and figs; all memories I associate with my Grandfather’s farm in Watsonville. We went through some mountains and treated to the rich valley views. All pleasant, enjoying our grapes, figs and nuts and each other’s company.

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