In the summer of 1965, more than fifty years ago, I crossed the Atlantic for the first time. I did it alone, and I did it in style. Little did I know I was somehow preparing for the future.I was a young public school teacher, who had scarcely been out of her backyard, but once the idea began to foment, no one could talk me out of it.
I was a young public school teacher, who had scarcely been out of her backyard, but once the idea began to foment, no one could talk me out of it.
My older brother, Lincoln, won a Fulbright Scholarship to study Opera in Germany. He had already lived there for several years and was under contract to a local opera company, so I decided it was time to leave the shores of my native land, and check things out on the other side.
I knew it would take too long to save the necessary funds, and I was getting older by the minute, so I borrowed $1,000.00 from my local bank. I figured it would be easier to pay it back than to save it.
My ticket, on the S. S. United States, our largest ocean liner, at the time, cost $328.50. That was all inclusive of my cabin, three gourmet meals, daily, for a five-day crossing, tea served on deck morning and afternoon, room service, and entertainment, etc. etc. I was rich! I had $671.50 left for my tour of the continent. Can you imagine? How far could you go on a $1,000.00 today?
I was scared! I had never been anywhere alone. The ship sailed at noon on June 2, so I flew overnight from Phoenix to New York City. Arriving early in the morning, I claimed my luggage, suffered a wild Taxi ride through the city, and somehow wound up at the right Pier and the right ship. I remember walking up the gang plank, but I no longer have any idea how I handled the luggage or found my cabin.
In an elegant dining salon, lunch was served as we sailed out of New York Harbor. I ordered curried chicken. I had never eaten curried anything, but this was an adventure, so I had to be adventurous.
After lunch, weary from the overnight flight, I crawled into bed to rest. The sea was quite rough, and the longer I lay there, the more upset my stomach became. I blamed it on the curry, but actually, I was suffering from seasickness. That was a sad thing to discover on my first day out. Crossing the North Atlantic in early June can be treacherous. I knew if I nursed the problem, I would be miserable the whole trip, so I got up, went to a movie and forgot about it.
After navigating the boat train from Le Havre, France to Paris and finding a bus to Orly Airport, I finally arrived in Bielefeld, Germany, where my big brother swept me into his arms with a bear hug. He was relieved that I had made it. So was I.
The following weeks were a whirlwind of excitement. I attended my brother’s opera performances, ate with the opera crowd in quaint little restaurants, tasted, for the first time, octopus, pickled herring, and split pea soup with great chunks of German sausage. My sister-in-law and I traveled by train to Holland, where we walked the streets of Amsterdam, visiting the Riekes Museum and the home of Anne Frank. Lincoln took me on a road trip through Germany and Switzerland to view some of the most gorgeous sights in the world.
Lincoln’s father-in-law was director of the “Opera on the Rhine.” It was amazing to sit on the river back and enjoy the music from ages past, as it was performed from a floating stage in the middle of the river.
We toured nine hundred (more or less) beautiful, old cathedrals, where a multitude of religious relics, from the past, were on display. These bits of bone and earthenware, and even blood were hallowed by the crowds, but I missed the heartfelt, cheerful worship that I was used to.
It is no longer unusual for ordinary people to travel to Europe, so why am I regaling you with my experiences? For this reason: Though I didn’t know it at the time, I believe that trip was God ordained, a foretaste of what He had in-store for me.
I knew from childhood that God had a plan and purpose for my life. So, He started preparing me long before the plan was put in force. Toward that purpose, during that trip, He taught me some important things about myself.
I discovered that, with His help, I could overcome fear and accomplish my goal. I found that I was resourceful and able to navigate difficult situations, and I learned that, even alone, I am strong and determined. I don’t give up easily. I also became aware of a need for God in Post Christian Europe.
Little did I know that, a decade later, God would send me back to that continent, as one of His ambassadors to the lost and needy.
I am convinced that “things” do not happen randomly in the life of a believer. God has a purpose for everything. Those seemingly random events, you are experiencing now, may be God’s way of preparing you for future service.
Jeremiah 29:11, “For I know the thoughts that I think toward you says the Lord, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope.”
Remember, He is always thinking of you using His ways to move you toward His ultimate purpose for your life.
The sun will come out tomorrow!