Our five days in Scotland went by quickly. Janet and I had been to Glasgow and Edinburgh on many TourMagination bus tours over the years.
However, it is always interesting to return and revisit. For us, showing Albert and Mary Scotland was exciting since they were never here before.
The bagpipers welcomed us at each port of call! We also enjoyed the folk shows in the Princess Theatre. Local groups would come on board and perform while the ship was in their port. We noticed the different cultures from various regions of Scotland. Janet and I remembered our coach driver and friend Alex who drove many TourMagination tours for us. He was from Scotland and a Bagpiper. He told us the history and background to the songs they sing. It made the shows more meaningful for us.
Janet asked one of our guides about the beautiful yellow gorse we saw growing everywhere. She said we have seen it before on our visits to Scotland but not blooming so radiantly. The guide said it is at its peak in May.
Our visit to Dornoch was a new destination for us. We enjoyed seeing the gardens and walking around the town, the home area of William Carnegie. We know him for his promotion of literature and the building of Carnegie libraries all over the world. We saw the Dornach Castle he built. The Scotish are proud to remind us he was from here although he made his wealth in Pittsburgh.
He was very concerned about helping the poor and providing them with opportunities through education and libraries.
In Dornoch we visited the 13th century Cathedral, the smallest one in Europe. It is built in the shape of a cross. Today it continues to be an active faith community with a woman priest. We were told Madonna recently had her baby baptized at the cathedral.
We visited the Shin River with its beautiful small falls. Our guide pointed out local fisherman fishing so she was hopeful we would see some salmon jumping making their way up the falls to their spawning area.
How do they know their way home? God’s marvels of creation continue to overwhelm me!
Today our ship is docked at the Paris/Normandy (LeHavre) port. Albert and Mary are excited to see Paris, a destination they always wanted to see. We are very happy they get the opportunity today.
Tomorrow we say goodbye to each other. They will return to their home in Paraguay and Janet and me to Canada.
We thank God for safety in our travels, spectacular scenery and cultural experiences. We so much enjoyed having this experience with our friends!
On Monday we really enjoyed our tour in Dublin, Ireland.
We had a city tour which included visiting St. Patrick’s Cathedral, the National Cathedral of Ireland, and member of the Anglican Communion dating back to 1220.
Our guide showed us the Door of Reconciliation. There was feuding between two family lines in 1492, the Butlers and the Fitzgerald. They entered the Cathedral and argued through the chapter house door. Gerald Fitzgerald offered an end to the fighting by putting his arm through a hole in the door and the two families shook hands and made peace. This is the origin of the expression “to chance your arm”. This example needs to be shared more widely as peace is needed all over the world.
Janet, whose ancestry extends to the French Huguenots, was pleased to see the bell on display. The bell previously hung in a parish church dating to 1685 when the Hugenots settled in Dublin. We were told it is rung each year at the Huguenots’ annual worship service in the cathedral.
Yesterday was our day to travel through Wales. Peggy our guide was very enthusiastic. The drive from Liverpool through the countryside was magnificent as we listened to her stories and saw sheep grazing in the meadows.
In the afternoon we visited Chester, the walled city that dates back to the Romans. Albert said it’s amazing how far the Roman influence reached in Europe. We toured the Chester Cathedral and walked on the city wall as we enjoyed touring the historical section of the city.
Today we found our visit to Belfast, Northern Ireland very enriching. This city of 500,000 inhabitants looks very prosperous and peaceful. However, our guides reminded us of the history that created violence, death and destruction between the Catholics and the Protestants. The guide said that 90% of the students attend schools that are either Protestant or Catholic. It is only when they come to university that they become integrated. This causes a lot of political tension and debates.
Our guide expressed appreciation for President Clinton and his role on Good Friday 1998 when he assisted in helping the leaders in Belfast sign the Peace Accord.
We toured Hillsborough Castle. As we walked the red carpet to the entrance door we were told that yesterday Prince Charles and Camilla were in residence in the castle. This is the residence of the Royal family when they visit Northern Ireland. We saw their signatures on display in the guest book. Our guide was full of stories as he gave us a tour of this working castle and its gardens. The castle grounds cover 69 acres.
We are now sailing to Glasgow. What a wonderful way to visit the British Isles! The ship with its 4,000 guests is very comfortable. However, it takes willpower when choosing your food!
On May 19 Janet and I flew overnight from Toronto to London’s Heathrow Airport.
We are excited to have the opportunity to take a Princess British Isles Cruise tour with our friends Albert & Mary Hildebrand.
I am grateful to God that my body is back to full recovery following open heart surgery in October. Thank God for healing and for the prayers of friends from all over the world who prayed for me during this time.
Albert and Mary from Sommerfeld, Paraguay were traveling in Germany visiting friends. They brought the Chunnel train, traveling 220 km per hour, to England. Albert was amazed and enjoyed the 12 minute ride.
Today we enjoyed visiting Guernsey, one of the Channel Islands. It is famous for its Little Chapel, a miniature chapel made of simple materials and decorated with pebbles, shells and pieces of beautiful broken china. At the altar Mary’s eyes are focused down. We wondered what spiritual story the artist was remembering with this reflection.
Guernsey cows were seen in the meadows and originated here. They produce rich creamy milk products. Albert was the only one from our group who enjoyed the creamy ice cream at 10 am.
“Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God,” Matthew 5:9. In my father’s library in his home office there was a book called the Martyrs Mirror, a collection of history and testimonies of 16th century Christian martyrs. I on occasion read in this book and it had a profound impact on me as a young Christian.
Bishop Amos Martin and Deacon Ira Eby officiated at the time of my baptism. Eight years later they also officiated at my ordination to the ministry at the Chambersburg Mennonite Church. I sometimes muse at how these two leaders helped to shape my faith. Their faith in God and commitment to the teachings and doctrines of the Mennonite Church, in my opinion, were unshakeable. They helped me as a young person feel secure even though as a teenager I began to question some of the traditions in our church.
I recall that my father, who was a minister in our congregation, felt the church needed to get involved in missionary work. He along with several other leaders went on a deputation tour to Guatemala to begin mission work for our area conference.
On their return, the Bishop called a meeting of all the ordained ministers and deacons. I was the youngest member at age 18. I don’t remember much about the meeting except Bishop Amos’ question, Are we sure it is God’s will to begin mission work? After the meeting I went to talk with him. I reminded him of the scripture in Matthew 28:19-20, “Go make disciples of all nations.” He said, That is correct. However, how will this change our church? In other words, how will I uphold our conservative dress and the traditions we hold important.
I believe Bishop Amos and Deacon Ira provided tremendous stability for our church. They were honest with the issues we faced and were committed to provide Light and Hope in the Midst of Darkness.
The Courier magazine, a publication of Mennonite World Conference, reminds us that the Anabaptist community is now all over the globe. We have active faith communities in more than 87 countries. In many of these countries there is limited religious freedom. We regularly hear stories of our Christian brothers and sisters suffering persecution, placed in prison and being martyred for their faith. There is a committee collecting stories for a current day Martyrs Mirror.
I thank God for the church of my childhood and for the opportunity to serve in many capacities as a leader in the Mennonite Church. I grieve when we lose our way, and stray from our core mission as an Anabaptist Believers’ Church.
Let us remember as followers of Jesus we experience Hope in the Midst of Darkness. “There they strengthened the souls of the disciples and encouraged them to continue in the faith,” Acts 14:22