Weierhof is a small village in region of Rheinland Pfalz. Its history goes back to the year 1682, when Swiss mennonites came over. Today there are about 300 baptized members. The church is active with a project in Rumania. A carpenter company is build over there with help of the members in Weierhof. They also host a volunteer from Brazil for one year. On Saturday evening there was a celebration of one of the members, who celebrated his birthday with a big garden party and rockband at his house. Own pigs and chickens went on the grill. Everyone brought something to eat. About more than hundred people gathered with so many different backgrounds: family, church members, neighbours, Harley Davidson bikers, Africans, elderly people, kids and big dogs. It was lots of fun. On Sunday there was a service. Afterwards we had coffee and a meal with the traveling table at the Mennonite community center. During conversations we shared that though Mennonites in Europa are small in number, we always can explain who we are and we have a message about peace and living together!
A very special Sunday! Early in the morning about 50 church members gathered at the lake. We all walked about 20 minutes to the place where 2 young adult would be baptized this morning. It was a long time ago that Bern had a baptism. The weather was absolutely gorgeous for this special occasion. Near the lake there were a couple of hymns that were song, it really sounded like a choir of angels. It was impressive. Special words were spoken. It was a true baptism, in the way that the baptized went all under water. Afterwords more youngsters took a swim! Then we all went back to our cars and went to church. Many other people were waiting at the church. Church service had last supper. Singing is very important for the people in Bern. We could hear that also during the service, really beautiful. The ‘trees of wishes’ were given. Afterwards we had coffee and talked about life. We felt it as a blessing to be part of it!
On Saturday evening we gathered with the youthgroup of the Mennonite Church in Bern. The building they use has a large kitchen. Together we prepared a very nice diner of fresh made pasta, salades, and for dessert ‘torte’ (cake). On Sunday two of these young adults would we baptised in the lake near Bern. For them we made two “trees of wishes’ . Those are wooden trees you can decorate. The youth was very active in writing beautiful wishes on different coloured papers. The trees would be a symbolic gift for the baptized youngsters. During the whole evening there was lots of laughter, fun and enthusiasm! What a beautiful group of warm , helpful and enthusiastic young people this is! We look forward to welcome them in the Netherlands!
We touched down with our Traveling Table in Bern in the weekend of the 12th August. The city of Bern is close related to the Mennonite history, while it had one of the oldest Mennonite communities. We were warmly welcomed by Kathy Gerber and stayed at her lovely house just outside Bern. We had an historic walk through Bern with pastor Jurg Braker. We learned that the Swiss Mennonites kept strong to their faith and identity. The Mennonites of Bern are very active in working with refugees in the so called ‘ Ziegler- Cafe’ . In this cafe people can meet, children can play, and also the German/Swiss language is learned. Today the city of Bern is UNESCO World heritage. The river Aare goes through the city. People swim in it, despite strong current. During this weekend the warmest temperature ever was messured of the rivierwater, about 24 degrees Celcius.
When we left Vienna, we left for the region of the Hohe Tauern. The nature here is very impressive. We stayed with Mennonite Your Way with a couple who originally came from USA. The family was already for 30 years in Austria. We talked about nationality. The man had a father from USA, a mother from Wales, and he was born in India. Now they live already for many years as Austrian citizens in Austria. They regard themselves as global citizens. Also the tourism changes in this region. They see that their region has now many tourists from the Middle East. So you can find Arabic on the road signs. It makes you think how migration and nationality have always changed the world. What stays the same is the impressive nature with its mountains. It made us aware that even this cannot be taken for granted. The glaciers are getting smaller and the climate is also changing here. In the winter they make, if needed, artificial snow for skiing. As Mennonites we have also a responsible in dealing with this issue of climate change and globalization. As a worldwide family we can learn from each other.
Friday we arrived in the capital of Austria, Vienna or Wien in German. The city is full of the history of the rich Habsburg monarchy that reigned from 1526 till 1804, part of the Holy Roman Empire. From 1804 -1867 it was the Austrian Empire and from 1867-1918 the Austro-Hungarian Empire. The Imperial Palace, the Hofburg, is enormous! The city also has lots of art nouveau buildings, very interesting musea like Albertina and Leopoldmuseum with beautiful art exhibitions. The most famous cake to eat in this city is Sacher Torte, named after the Sacher family, 1832 by Franz Sacher. Today, a big export product of Austria. On Sunday we were welcomed by the Mennonite Church of Vienna. This small church is very engaged with refugees. In the afternoon we had a lovely garden meeting with some members and shared stories and food. It was a warm welcome, not only because of 35 degrees Celcius, but most of all a warm welcome because of fellowship and friendship!
Before our trip to Vienna we are spending some time in Czech Republic We are staying in the district of Moravia. An interesting part of this country. The rural area is very diverse and in the south of Moravia the Mennonites have been staying until the early 1600. Now most of the villages have catholic churches. In the city of Olomouc one can see the Holy Trinity Column, a momument to celebrate the faith, to celebrate the Catholic Church and also to celebrate the end of the plaque that struck Moravia between 1713 and 1715. A city full of beautiful buildings in Baroque style. While driving in the country side, we could see the harvest machines doing their work.