From time to time I write about observations I have about the world around me. I do not pretend to be a proficient writer, but I do enjoy putting what I see into words. I have friends who stop by to see what I am working on or tell me about what they are working on. We end up telling each other our latest stories while standing in the driveway. I will add to this page when I write something. Hope you enjoy this page as much as I do creating it.
The last couple of years, I have posted about my backpack through Europe adventure I took in 1979. As the anniversary date approaches that I left the USA for this trip, this year I decided I would write something summarizing the trip instead of following the journal I kept. On 12 February I boarded a plane to Dallas, TX where I connected to an overseas flight to London. All I brought with me was three changes of clothes, my camera gear and bathroom kit in my backpack. I was at a point in my life where I needed direction. I graduated High School in 1977 and had started college at a local Community College. In the previous months I had lost several friends due to different kinds of accidents. I seriously began to wonder when my time was up. I knew of a place in Switzerland called L’Abri where young people went to find answers about life and God. My Brother Johnny had attended L’Abri a few years earlier so I knew I should go spend a few months there.
I arrived at L’Abri in Huemoz, Switzerland on Valentines day and moved into a boarding house to wait for a student spot to open. I had been to Switzerland a couple of times before on ski trips and fell in love with the Alps, so being back in the Alps was a nice change for me. I met some like minded people that first week who I keep in contact to this day. I was offered a spot as a student of L’Abri about a week later. The basic routine there was to study half a day and work the other half. Since I am a morning person, I chose to study the first part of the day and work the second part. After the first week, we got one day off a week.
L’Abri was started by Dr. Francis Schaeffer and his wife Edith. The first day as a student, we were questioned as to what we wanted to learn, and what we expect to apply to our lives. I said I wanted to learn about Faith, Prayer and Direction for my life. They drew up a study plan for me and I went to work reading books and listening to cassette tapes of lectures and sermons. There were no tests or exams, our only motivation is what we wanted to get out of being here. Studying here was life changing for me that I still apply to my daily life. The work part of L’Abri started out cleaning the Chalets, cooking and serving meals. It was not long before they found out my skill of working on cars, so I repaired, tuned up and even replaced an engine in a car. The cool part of working on the cars was I got to test drive them all. There were some cool places to drive and I really enjoyed my time behind the wheel. The time at L’Abri is limited to three months as a student, but if you wanted to stay longer, you had to become a full-time worker or Chalet Leader / Parent. There were many people who stayed and continued in those roles, but when my time was up, I was ready to explore Europe.
As I was preparing to leave, I told friends and workers that I plan to go south to see Rome and possibly out to Crete in the Mediterranean. I wanted to see some of the places where Paul had ministered and wrote about. Everyone tried to discourage me from going south since as a lone American this time of the year, it would be dangerous travels. This was the first part of May and the May Day activities that the socialists and communist celebrate, I would be going right into those areas. My mind was made up, and I had faith that I would be protected. This truly was a test of my faith and I faced it head on. When I arrived in Rome, the first thing that happened at the train station, was someone came up to me and asked where I was from. I told them I was from Texas. They grabbed my shirt and threw me up against the lockers and said, “... from now on, you are from Canada, there is no way you could fake your accent to be from anywhere else.” That guy let me go and walked away. I found shop near the train station and bought a t-shirt with the Canadian Leaf on the front. I figured that with my long blonde hair, wire rimmed glasses and this shirt, I did not look like I was from the USA, I looked more like my German ancestors. If I did not talk, I should be good to go.
I bought a ticket to Athens Greece, not knowing that the May Day activities there would be worse. After a long train ride to the south of Italy, then a ship ride across the Aegean Sea, then another train ride to Athens, I finally arrived. At the train station there was a guy asking people if they needed a Hostel to stay the night. I followed the small group that he had recruited. When I checked in at the Hostel, they put my passport in a safe. They were doing this only for the Americans in case someone came asking the guests to see where they were from. The next morning, I paid my bill, and walked around Athens for a few hours. I learned that they had just voted in their new Socialist Government and there was celebration in the streets. I knew I needed to move on to somewhere else. Funny how that is when Athens voted themselves to be socialist and recently had gone financially bankrupt. It always catches up sooner or later. Anyway, I found my way to the port thinking I could find a boat going to Crete. There were none that day so I asked the ticket seller where I could go to today. When he saw my passport, he said there is one destination you could go and be safe and that is the Island of Patmos. He said to be sure to get off on the right Island because all the other Islands were communist. I was about an hour out of port, I took my Bible out to read and it fell open to Revelations. When I started to read, I saw the name of the Island where I was going, it is where John was exiled and wrote the Revelations. I knew God had His hand on me. I could not have planned this any better.
After staying and exploring the small Island for over a week, I bought a ticket back to Athens. I made my way back to Italy where I took the trains up the west coast with a day stop in Pompeii, then on to Rome. I stayed in Rome for about week. I then moved on to Florence and fell in love with that city and stayed about a week or so while taking day trips to Pisa and other local sights. I then traveled to Venice, Salzburg Austria, then on to Paris. After Paris, I went to London by rail and ship. I had a standby pass for a flight home, so it took a few days to get on board a 747 to go back home.
As I reflect on that Adventure which lasted over 100 days, what I learned was exactly what I told them at L’Abri I wanted to learn: Faith and Prayer. I traveled alone with little to no money, I did not lack for places to stay or food to eat. Many times, people offered me food, and Hostels were a couple of dollars at most to stay the night. I spent many nights on trains since I had the Eurail Pass, I would pick an overnight destination and sleep on the train. When I got back home, I knew what I wanted to pursue as a degree and career. Through many talks at L’Abri I had talked with people who were in the film and TV industry. One early morning as I watched the sun rise in the Swiss Alps while sitting on a trail bench above Huemoz, I saw something in one of the villages in the valley below glisten in the sunlight. I finally saw that it was TV antennas on most all the buildings, and I knew then that I wanted to go into TV Production. One advice I got from someone at L’Abri on choice of colleges where I could learn about TV and Film production was John Brown University in Siloam Springs, Arkansas. When I got home, I applied to go to John Brown and was accepted. Since I had applied late, I could start in the Fall but there was no room in the dorms, so I waited until the next Spring. I ended up earning my B.S. in Communications with an emphasis on Television Broadcast Engineering in the Spring of 1983.
Everyone has their journey of some sort to find their direction in life. This was mine. As I look back on what all I went through, I can see the Hand of God the entire time. It was a time of learning and a time of faith. With the help of God, I think I passed. Even today I still learn about faith and prayer. Everyday is a learning experience. As I look out into the night sky, I know God is at the farthest distance my eyes can see. I also know God is as near as my next breath. When I take that last breath, I know I will be with Him through the Grace of Jesus Christ.