The truth of the matter is that we learned a lot more than we ever expected by living in Europe. Little did we know when we accepted the posting to Germany that we would spend two years witnessing history in the making.
Moving To Europe
In 2014 we moved our family to a little village just outside of Ramstein Air Force Base, Germany. My husband Anas was posted there with the Canadian military.
The American base was a big part of our lives for the two years we were abroad as it felt like home interacting with English speaking people and shopping in a North American environment. However, it was always clear that we were far from home as there were always new and unexpected things to encounter.
Anas and Colleen Raja and their three children, Julian, Gabriel and Lily are a big part of life at North Pointe. In 2016 they were re-posted from Germany to Ottawa and in 2017 back to Edmonton. I asked Colleen to let us in on what being a Canadian in Europe felt like, especially during such tumultuous times.
Comradery And Diplomacy
Each day at 5PM a horn would sound and all outdoor activity on the base would stop to pay respect while the German and American National Anthems were played over a loud speaker. This and other displays of comradery and diplomacy were common for us to see and, when appropriate, participate in.
Two of our kids attended a year in the US school and the third worked at Starbucks. That said, we spent most of our time in local German communities.
Doner Kababs and Dogs
In my experience, Germany, like many other European countries, is delightfully unique. German people are friendly, literal, frugal and hard working. They enjoy Turkish Doner Kebabs almost as much as sausages and schnitzel and every town has at least a bakery, a local grocery store and a walking path.
Germans are not allowed to shop on Sundays and most businesses really do take a two hour hiatus in the middle of every weekday.
Dogs are truly loved throughout Germany so much so that you’ll almost certainly be eating next to one at any restaurant on any given day.
History In Front Of Our Eyes
Unprecedented occurrences seemed to follow us at every turn. From the Charlie Hebdo attacks of 2015 to the Paris Massacres and then the Brussels Airport Bombings that followed all too soon. We were often traveling during or within a week of the attacks which, of course, lead to interesting conversations and extra caution that we probably would never have imagined back home.
Canadian military members were forbidden to wear their uniforms in public (as a safety precaution) and our children often did lock-down drills in their schools. We witnessed many countries trying to deal with the fallout from ISIS and the migrant crisis that saw hundreds of thousands of refugees and migrants walk across Europe.
We learned that history does not just come in a book. It will be revealed before your very eyes if you happen to be in the right place at the right time.
Triumph Of Good Over Evil
Yet, we were not victims in any right. I remark on the negative, or the challenging circumstances we faced and witnessed to give credit to what I want to share next.
The inspiration of the human spirit and the willingness of humans to see good triumph over evil is the hope and encouragement of the future.
Everywhere we went – to church, to mess functions or to the mall – we witnessed people choosing to take an active interest in those around them. One friend started a mission work in Greece to attend to the care and needs of refugees. Another worked with an international organization to persuade prostitutes to leave their brothels through support, encouragement and care.
We saw entire countries open their arms to the downtrodden and bewildered. Allied countries embraced each other’s flags in friendship and solidarity (the list could go on and on).
Charity Over Malevolence
In spite of its secular underpinnings we saw that Europe is very friendly to Christians. The church down the road from our house rang its bells at least once a week and almost every store and market we encountered in December didn’t recoil at, but embraced and used the word, “Christmas”.
There was caution before fear and charity over malevolence.
I think that that kind of inspiration is something we could all use a little more of in our lives.
APPLICATION: Please leave a comment for Colleen and her family below. Thank you.
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Very nice! You captured the good in what could have been an account of dark forebodings and fear. As I read, I thought of the written accounts North Americans received from family and friends who were in Europe during WW2. Your post had the same tone, but instead of providing us with a sinister report of suspiciously evil events, you treated us to hopeful accounts of human beings who continue to do what is right, even when thing seem to be so wrong. Instead of leaving us with heavy hearts and the feeling there is little we can do because these world events are out of our control, you have given us concrete examples of what we can do to reassure ourselves and others that God exists, and He is good and in control no matter how things look and what happens in the world. Thank you for a lovely Christmas greeting from Ottawa.
By the way, I enjoyed your posts from Europe and marvelled at the educational opportunities you were able to provide for your children. God blessed you and kept you safe. Merry Christmas and continued blessings in the New Year.
“There was caution before fear and charity over malevolence.
I think that that kind of inspiration is something we could all use a little more of in our lives.”
I love those lines!! They seem to go hand in hand with 1 Corinthians 13:13 And now abide faith, hope, love, these three; but the greatest of these is love.
Saying “amen” to your comment.
Thank you for your perspective from history. Good hearts see good things. They don’t ignore the evil – they acknowledge it, aren’t paralysed by it and move on to find good and do good.
Hallelujah! I want to find good and do good like you do.
Thanks, Shirley for the lovely comment. You are right that it is so easy to focus on the obvious problems. It blessed my heart continually to see people step out to help others who had nothing to offer in return.
Merry Christmas to you too!