Notes from Jan

E is for Elephant

May 24, 2016

For those of you who know geography, you must’ve puzzled how a cruise ship planned to dock in Berlin.  We didn’t.  Our port was Warnemunde, part of  the city of Rostock.   After days of exploring towns and cities by bus and foot,  we were to travel by train for the five hour round trip to Berlin. Jud loved trains so I imagined him traveling with me.

When I handed my tour ticket to one of the staff, she directed me to my assigned train car. I must’ve looked puzzled, without my hearing aid, she could’ve tossed any number of letters at me, C, T, E,  or V.  So she added for clarification, “You are to go to E for Elephant.” It wasn’t personal, though I wish she’d have looked me up and down and said, “You belong in S as in Svelte or T as in Trim or F as in Fit and Fine.”


For the first time on the trip, Stan, Judy and I were on the same train and bus for the day, which ended up being C as in Comfortable. It felt good.  Each of us at home with quiet reading, listening to our guide or looking about, choosing to save our conversations for lunchtime. And what a lunch we had at the Kafer restaurant adjacent to the glass dome atop the Reichstag.  Stunning architecture and panoramic views of Berlin.  Judy booked us at the restaurant weeks before the tour through Open Table.  Amazing access through technology and a super friend.

There’s so much to process. It’s been fifty years since I visited Berlin.  In 1966 Jud and I came to Germany via Icelandic Air with backpacks and high hopes. We met up with two Wheaton College/Denver Seminary friends, Mary and Marshall Macaluso.   The four of us traveled together for weeks, sharing their small tent(Don’t dwell too much on this fact.) and their VW Bug.  We’re still friends.

Seeing Checkpoint Charlie May 23, 2016 stood in stark contrast to 1966 when Jud and I crossed into East Berlin/East Germany from that prickly point in history.  Guard sniffing dogs, heavily armed patrols, barbed wire, walls and an air bristling with tension and fear,  replaced by tourist shops and landmarks instead of land mines and  No Man’s Land. Today you see familiar sights (blight to some) like McDonalds, KFC and an ice cream shop called the Cold War.

This morning I sat at breakfast with Anna and Peter, two fellow passengers from Australia. They’d been to Berlin yesterday, as well, and commented on how we don’t seem to learn from history.  New buildings crop up like spring plantings, but so do new wars and new ways to cause wide-spread suffering.

These days of travel and snapshots of people and places  remind me that it’s not the USA that Jesus loves but this WORLD.  One of my favorite bumper stickers  says my prayer,”God bless the rest of the world, too.”

Yesterday our guide said, “I’m thankful I was born in West Berlin in 1953.” And I’m thankful I was born in Chicago, Illinois in 1940. Most of all, I’m grateful that one day wars, tears and suffering will be no more.

We have it on the Highest authority.

J as in Jesus.




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  • Reply Dale Lefever May 24, 2016 at 4:00 pm

    Well, I think the message is to stop looking at the outward appearance, and, in this case, look at the mind. You see, elephants are among the most intelligent animals on earth and actually rival humans, although I still prefer my annual physical to be managed by my male counterpart here at the medical school. And, your observation as to how God loves the world is why I never quite understood the concept of “foreign” missionaries – foreign to whom?

    This is a wonderful trip and I am very happy for you, sister Jan.


  • Reply wendy lane May 26, 2016 at 11:04 pm

    Hahaha! So clever and fun! If she was bright at all she could have honestly said E for Elegant or Exquisite! Or Entertaining or Encouraging! yes, sooooo encouraging! Or Exceptional or Endearing! Goodness, so many “e” words that actually do describe you!

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