There is something about going places and experiencing something new, that makes one feel life in a way that is bigger than one ever imagined. To live outside a comfort zone and see things that has withstood hundreds or thousands of years of history, not only increases our knowledge but, helps us understand all the implications and momentum that has brought us to the earth we live in today.
This past week, with the MNU Europe experience, we had the opportunity to go to Paris. While Paris is famous for things such as the Eiffel Tower and Notre Dame, I became captivated with one of the largest museums in France–the Louvre. Here I saw astonishing works of art that captured the history, beauty, and truth that France has had to offer in the history of the world. Paintings that were as big as an entire two-story wall, and as detailed as a photograph, stood proudly side by side. Some attempted to reveal the glory of heaven, while others told of important historical events. I saw paintings that showed Jesus sitting on his thrown next to his twelve disciples, and, Napoleon taking his crown from the Pope so he could crown himself.
Art is not France’s only attraction; France also had several mesmerizing monuments. Cathedrals, built in the 19th century, tower over 200 feet tall. Even with the limited technology of the 19th century, one can not help but feel in awe at the grandeur their greatness. Walking into these chapels, I couldn’t help but feel tangibility to God that I’ve only felt in prayers and scripture. I could see Beautiful stained glass covers entire walls of this enormous cathedral which only highlighted by the Gothic architecture that it was built upon.
MidAmerica has always been a great college for me and being able to experience Europe for my last semester has seemed to be a real blessing. While Paris was only one of our many trips planed, I have been enlightened by different cultures. Europe may have some struggles, but they are different from the United States. In this day in age we can now look to the Europeans as brothers who we can learn from the mistakes, but more importantly their strengths. College is supposed to be a time of expanding one’s mind and finding truth in life and knowledge. What better way to expand one’s mind then to delve into something radically different from anything one has experienced before. I can say that going to Europe for the semester has certainly pointed me towards a more knowledgeable and meaningful life.
Written by Bryce Leatherman, MNU class of 2013
Leading up to the visit, we were prepped with how to act in order to show respect to the place and the other people visiting. However, once we entered, it was not hard to quiet down. Going in the front door was like a cemetery. It was so still and quiet. We arrived pretty early so there weren’t crowds of people. We walked up a path to the front gate. On the gate was the inscription “Arbeit Macht Frei” which means “work will set you free”.
When we entered the camp we received a map and a small handheld remote that we could press numbers and listen to information about different buildings. It was nice to have the background information alone at my own pace. It made the whole experience more personal.
This camp was one of the first ones established. The layout of this camp was duplicated for all other camps built. The place that effected me the most was the crematorium and the gas chambers. The gas chambers in this particular camp were never used for mass killing. Prisoners sentenced to death were sent to other camps for the mass murder. However, there were still over 25,000 prisoners killed in the Dachau concentration camp. The bodies were cremated in brick ovens and as the story goes, it was always running. Being in the room where thousands of bodies were cremated was incredible. The feeling of the room was like none I had ever felt. It made me think of all the lives lost. Every single body that was burned had a mother, father, wife, husband, child…every body had a story.
I walked through this building. I was 10 feet from the place of death for so many people. I stood in the room where the bodies were stored until they could be cremated. I was there in the middle of it all.
There was a long building that used to house “special” prisoners. Prisoners that were high officials or priests. It now is a huge museum packed with information. I spent a whole hour just walking, looking at pictures, and reading accounts. One account stood out to me. It was written by Walter Adam on the treatment of the ill at Dachau: “When in retrospect I try to find a general principle for how the medical services were conducted in the concentration camps, I can only locate one: the more prisoners die, the better.”
Medical tests were done on the prisoners. There were tests on how the body would react to low pressure/high pressure, infectious diseases, extreme temperatures, and many more inhuman tests. The cruelty to these people was unreal.
I had always been told of the Nazi concentration camps in Germany and Austria during WWII. I had been shown pictures, heard accounts of prisoners, and watched movies on the subject. This does not do it justice.
Written by Hayley Pankratz, MNU class of 2015
It all began a little rough for me. Due to an unexpected set back, I was forced to leave the States to come to Büsingen at an earlier date than the rest of my classmates. This was also my first time leaving the country. Needless to say, I was a bit nervous about it all and wasn’t exactly sure what I was going to do with my free time. Upon arriving, the first person I met on campus just happened to be one of sweetest ladies there–her name is Judy. Because I didn’t have groceries yet, Judy decided she would take me out to eat some Kabobs (kind of like gyros), and they are amazing! After lunch she introduced me to another incredibly sweet women named, Hilda. Fortunately for me, I now had two ladies showing me around! We drove from town to town spending the entire day sightseeing.
The next day, Judy gave me a tour of Büsingen, where we walked to the 1,000-year-old church, the Rhine River and also explored the entire village from top to bottom. Later, I also met some missionaries named the Firestones, who invited me to go on a float/swim down the Rhine River.
It is safe to say…Busingen, Germany is the most beautiful place I have ever been to! I also am having an amazing time and feel so blessed to have the opportunity to meet such phenomenal people who love to serve our Lord!
Written by Robert Murphy, MNU Class of 2014
Brady and I went on a run tonight. There’s a lovely sidewalk/trail that stretches alongside the Rhine River all the way to the next town–Schaffhausen. Brady was a gentleman and always made sure to run on the street side of me so that he would be between the road vehicles and myself. Me, being self-conscious of my shorter legs, tried to set a good pace for the two of us. Alas, I’m afraid after about ten minutes of running, my thoughts were consumed with the achievement of each breath…and I had no extra energy to contribute to a pride of pace. Despite my struggling athleticism, over the course of our few short “walk breaks” we had good conversation. Approximately halfway back to Büsingen I commented that I have always felt the second half of a run seems to go by much faster than the first…then there was a long pause…so obviously I began rationalizing how my statement had profound philosophical implications for life as we know it.
I continued to contemplate aloud that perhaps why the second half of my runs goes so much faster is because I’m aware of the distance to my finish line. See, when I take off for a run without a destination in mind, I don’t know exactly how far I’ll go. At first this may seem more exhaustive, but I’ve found that it is in these moments when I experience the true fullness of a run: the trail, the sky, the wind, excitement about what’s around the next corner, etc. Eventually, when I decide to turn around I automatically change my mindset and begin calculating: where I’ll break on the way back, my stamina levels, if I’m halfway, two-thirds, or five-eighths done…just kidding…sort of. Over the course of the run, my brain unwillingly shifts from appreciative to analytical. I recognize that both have their pros and cons, but for simplicity’s sake, allow me to articulate how I applied these observations to my life’s story.
I speculated to my running buddy that since I’ve never had one “dream job” or specific “ladder” to climb, it’s kind of been like running through life with no certain destination. I realize this mentality isn’t the best method for a lot of people, but for me, it works. I’m able to soak in my environment rather than be distracted by deadlines or my relentlessly competitive mind. It helps me to be vs. looking ahead at where I will be. I believe that if I were career minded right now, I’d be reducing life down to timelines, formulas, and never pleased with my progress. Therefore, I’m delighted to say, at this time in my life I do not see the finish line…and that’s ok. Frankly, it saddens me to think that there are people out there today who are so consumed with their destination that they “forget they’re running next to the Rhine” (Franklin, 2012). If I knew all the answers, I suppose I’d be God. Not knowing makes Him that much bigger to me…and I’m loving it. I know this running revelation isn’t anywhere near flawless, but I hope these thoughts may resonate with you in some way. My prayer is that you take time to recognize the beauty of whatever “Rhine” you’re running next to.
Women’s Resident Director & Social Director
Every time I think back over the two weeks we spent in Europe, I am impressed by how much Busingen really felt like home. Coming back to the little village campus was definitely a relaxing breath of fresh air after the longer trips to places like Paris and Vienna. From swimming in the Rhein, (which is definitely a GREAT experience!) to shopping around the small stores in nearby Schaffhausen, the location really couldn’t get more perfect. The German culture emphasizes things like environmental stewardship and enjoying meals. They also seem to do it naturally, without patronizing “green energy” campaigns or family-togetherness public service announcements. The attitude made me reflect on my habits, and inspired me to enjoy what I have a little more.
The last day of our trip, we travelled to Interlaken, Switzerland, which sits between Lake Brienz and Lake Thun, at the foot of the swiss Alps. We took a cable car to the top of a smaller ridge, where we ate lunch and took some group pictures with the mountains as a backdrop. As some of the others took the train back down to shop or relaxed at the restaurant area, I took a 30 min. hike along the ridge. Alone on the trail, I was overwhelmed by the sheer beauty and age of the landscapes around me. As I stopped near the top of the ridge, I couldn’t help worshipping out loud, singing God of Wonders and How Great Thou Art. God has given me some great opportunities to travel, experiencing his beautiful world and several different cultures. In all those experiences and relationships, I’ve learned a lesson I’ll never forget: Don’t worry, God is great, and enjoy your surroundings.
1st Timothy 6:17:
“Command those who are rich in this present world not to be arrogant nor to put their hope in wealth, which is so uncertain, but to put their hope in God, who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment.”
Written by Matthew Borger, Class of 2013
MNU Europe, for me, was an adventure and a growing experience. The EuNC campus where we stayed was incredible. I was able to have a room to myself that overlooked the Rhine River and the food was delicious. The town Büsingen where the campus is located was quant, easy to navigate, and filled with beautiful scenery.
I was able to see and experience so much of Europe in just a few short weeks. We went to Vienna in Austria, the Eiffel tower and the Louvre in Paris, the Palace of Versailles, a concentration camp in Germany, and my favorites the Rhine falls and the Swiss Alps. The cites were unbelievable and beyond what I could describe on paper.
EuNC also created an atmosphere of community. Friends were easily made because everyone occupied the same area and we were all sharing once and a life time moments together. Even though I was only in Europe for a few weeks I felt like I made close friends and that I had known people for a great deal longer. I’m so glad that I went to Europe- this was the perfect season of life to have this experience and one of the best and safest options to travel. I’d go to Büsingen with MNU Europe again in a heartbeat!
Written by Elizabeth (Lizie) Ayers, Class of 2014
It hardly feels like I’ve been in Europe for 4 days, but it has indeed been that long. At times, it feels like we’ve packed a lifetime in this short period, but we still have 10 more days!
We spent the first day (which was preceded by about 14 hours of traveling, no sleep!) walking about Busingen, the small German village in which EuNC is located. We went to a 1000 year old church, the Bergkirche (St. Michael’s). To pray in the way the Lord taught us to pray in a place that has heard those sacred words spoken by countless people for over a century was both humbling and exciting. It truly brought to life the phrase “For Thine is the Kingdom and the power and the glory FOREVER.”
The next day was full of classes and a trip to Schaffhausen, the closest large city, about 10 minutes by bus. We first went to a cloister that was also a century old. The originally Catholic church had changed hands at the Reformation and was now a Protestant church (See, Mom! I’m learning!). The reformers whitewashed over the paintings depicted on the wall, and the modern caretakers have attempted to uncover the beautiful images once again. Part of me was so mad at those reformers! How dare you not think about me wanting to see those paintings in 500 years! To them, though, the stories depicted were idolatrous. So I let it pass :) Then we headed to the Munot, a fortress in Schaffhausen. The view from the top is truly picturesque. I was with Kailene Cloud at the time, and she remarked that it truly felt like we were in a movie. These are the views you see in movies, and we are living it!
That night, we traveled to Zurich by bus then train only to board another train to Vienna, only this train was a sleeper train! We were 6 to a room with 3 bunks on each wall. Talk about a tight squeeze! It was an unforgettable experience, for sure. We arrived in Vienna, or Wien, at 7:30am and began our day at St. Stephen’s Catholic Cathedral that is located right in the middle of the city. If the soaring gothic columns and flying buttresses were not breathtaking enough, we entered into the cathedral only to see the morning light filtering through the stained glass windows, making multicolored light dance across the wooden benches. The church was huge, with multiple towers and catacombs that some of our group were fortunate enough to explore (7.5 hours is not enough time in such a culturally rich city!). After St. Stephen’s we headed to the Schönbrunn Palace, the home of the Habsburg monarchy. The place was massive! We did not go in very far because it cost quite a bit of Euro (which means a pretty penny in USD), but the architecture and gardens were phenomenal. The rose garden smelled as beautiful as it looked!
My group then split off to find Sigmund Freud’s apartment. As a senior psychology and sociology major, this might have been the best part of the trip so far! I got to see the actual rooms in which this giant of modern psychology not only treated clients, but also formulated theories that changed the course of not just psychology and the behavioral sciences, but really, all of culture. For lack of a better phrase, IT WAS SO COOL! I will never forget that! (or should I say I will never repress it?)
We left Vienna that afternoon and took a train to Munich. We were all pretty exhausted by that point, so we mostly just went to sleep. This morning we woke up and took a train then a bus to Dachau Concentration Camp. Again, this is an experience I will never forget, but definitely not for the same reasons. It was such a sobering experience to see the places where literally thousands upon thousands of human beings were systematically murdered by starvation, torture and execution. The film and photographs of the emaciated bodies will forever be burned in my brain. As one of the liberators said, “How could human beings do this to other human beings?” The horrific history of the grounds is just too much to truly comprehend.
In general, the experiences so far has been extremely varied and different from any sort of adventure I have taken before. From amazement at public transportation to societal norms, the student in me has not stopped learning since we touched down in Zurich Wednesday morning. I am anxious to continue our journey and to relive all the history housed in these wonderful places!
Written by Natalie Eick, MNU class of 2013.
Check out a new post from student Natalie Eick here and read
about our Summer experience thus far!