The benefits of a two day layover in Frankfurt, Germany…
Months ago, as we began to plan our trip to Angola, we looked at several travel options to get to our ultimate destination of Malanje, Angola. While we originally looked at spending a few days in South Africa, ultimately it worked out for us to layover in Frankfurt, Germany for two nights. The layover proved fruitful on multiple levels. Not only did our time in Frankfurt offer an opportunity for our bodies to begin the process of adjusting to the crossing of multiple time-zones, but it also afforded us the opportunity to begin the process of adjusting to one another as travel companions. In addition, we were able take in a number of cultural experiences, quite different from what we are accustomed to in Montana, as well as discuss the nature of our trip to Angola, our expectations for the trip, and our hopes for desired outcomes of this ‘Missional Immersion.’ My time in Frankfurt with Jeremy and Kristen proved to be more fruitful that I could have ever imagined it to be.
Personally, I have only traveled out of the United States a few times… a mission trip Reynosa, Mexico to build a house, a mission trip to Pital, Costa Rica to help with a building project for the church there, and a cultural immersion to China and South Korea to explore theology and evangelism as part of a seminary course…. each time, my international curiosity and appreciation of unique cultures has grown tenfold. Each adventure has opened my mind and heart to the reality of what it means to be a participant in a global context. Each of us, in our own way, add a unique flavor to the reality of the Kingdom of God. While the parts of Germany that we visited felt very much like home in many ways, there were very distinct differences that reminded us that we were far from home. From our taxi ride to the hotel (at 170 kph which translates to 105 miles per hour) to the moment we came up out of the subway station into central Frankfurt, all five of our senses were washed in the German urban culture. Although none of us speak German, we were able to communicate enough to order food, purchase items from various stores, and make our way to various historical sites. While knowing a bit of German would have been nice… from a theological perspective it could be said that ‘Kingdom Language’ is universal. Numerous times we were exposed to a German form of theological anthropology, or what it means to be human in a German context, and numerous times we were exposed to a German form of ecclesiology that sparked a sense of enlightenment within each of us.
When John Wesley spoke of ‘Tradition,’ as an element of spiritual formation, I believe that he was pointing to a sense of spiritual depth and growth that is a byproduct of an immersion into the rich traditions that have shaped humanity and Christianity over time. From a macro level, engaging the Jewish tradition and early Christian traditions as well as embracing moments in time like Wesley’s exploration of the Moravian tradition and my own recent opportunity to be exposed to German culture and religious tradition, it could be said that there is an element of spiritual enlightenment that can only be obtained by looking closely at where we have been in order to understand the path that we are on and the Kingdom that we are currently exploring. To have bypassed our stop in Frankfurt, Germany would have been to have bypassed valuable planning and relational time with my travel mates and would have caused me to bypass an invaluable opportunity to physically be exposed to a culture and context that has shaped Christianity in ways that are sometimes incomprehensible to those of us with western biased lenses.