We closed the car doors behind us, the after sunset chill was settling in. It was quiet, no one to be found. We started searching the grounds till we found the very first sister. Yes you read that right. I had agreed to come with my family to one week on “vacation”. Which meant, working half a day, each day, to help out some sisters in the north of Germany, volunteer work if you will. After five minutes I was seriously doubting my decision to come all the way up here.
It was cold, we were the only people to be seen and our house smelled like oldest East German building I had set foot on for a VERY long time. No, this was not what I had imagined… in fact I had not imagined anything, but at least I had expected a whole bunch of sisters running around the gardens and buildings. We were in a bible school and missionary organization, but it felt very much like time traveling. Time had stopped in some respect. In fact it was the place my Mamma had lived in some decades ago and she realized at least from the outside things still looked the same. What had I agreed too?!?!?
Next morning my mood was lifted in the greatest way since I was assigned to take care of the archive. I found my way to some dusty cabinets, searched ancient albums, dusted them off and digitalized a selection for the organization of this house. Basically I was staring at pictures the whole week. Don´t get me wrong. I was staring in awe. I was drawn in by time, by history, by the huge things these sisters had accomplished and by beauty. Sometimes I was simply marveling at my desk. So today I wanted to share some of my very favorite pictures I had stumbled across my last week.
Some moment it dawned on me how lame we digital photographers are in some respect. I mean, come on! Look at these beautiful images and imagine they had nothing, not one single button on their camera from the twenties or thirties which automatically adjusted. No distance measurement, no shutter speed adjusting, no focal point buzzing, no nothing… and without all these handy conveniences they created these beauties of photography:
My favorite beauty:
But my week did not end there. After my first day of warming up I was finally able to witness the sisters, how they live their life. I saw how they share and support. I learned that almost all the sisters on these grounds are retired but they support sisters who live outside, who are still working and are far way, sometimes in other countries. They call, write letters, share, listen and pray. Every.single.day. As sister Christa had put it, I can´t use my joints anymore, but who needs them if I can pray. I see this as my task now. On our third day, we were able to have some time with sister Christa and to be quite honest my Blog is too short to share the stories of this most amazing woman´s life. I will give you the short version: ;)
After being allowed to leave the former East German country (which was almost impossible) she was trained all the important things like speaking English and car repairing… to go to Tansania. She had travelled on ship to a country that at times still had been a colony. She had travelled on her own and arrived in a tribe where woman where inferior to men. She taught men in a place where woman where not even allowed to go to school. So of course she started a school for woman. After years of serving and teaching and building up a school for girls, her bishop asked her to built a Diakonie social welfare work. He had witnessed how epileptics are treated well and taken care of in Germany, so of course she found a social welfare work. She was busy creating, serving and building up. After all these years in a far away country she was called back home to lead her home bible school for another two decades. As sister Christa had stopped talking I was sitting on the bench beside her and I am one hundred percent sure my mouth was gaping wide open. I was sitting in awe once more this week, staring at a real face this time and I could not quite believe the multiple amazing stories which I heard. This woman had changed the face of the earth, she had touched lives and souls, she had gone out and done something, with the help of God. With her eighty-three years she resists to stop doing good and serving others. Because now, for her serving is praying. I hope with all of my tiny heart to have taken home some of the awesomeness, and selflessness and goodness these sisters beam into our world.
Look at them! They have truly magnificent faces. So many stories. So many smiles. So much hope.
As we closed the doors of our car the last day it was warm, the sun was out. We had shared lunch with all the jolly bunch of sisters and against my wildest guess I was a bit reluctant to leave. Because I had the feeling there is something bigger, a comfort, a bond, something amazing.
A very beautiful face on my stroll through the garden: