“I don’t know if I’d be able to face an adventure like this again…”, a young woman wrote to us. Don’t worry! We’ll be returning to Switzerland in September, before Annemarie’s parents’ golden wedding anniversary to celebrate their big day with them. Together they have weathered sunny and rainy patches, and even a handicap could not take away their love for gardening. In Israel, we came across a group of people with and without disabilities one morning, who meet every Friday for a cycling tour. Their logo consisted of both the Hebrew word “be’yachad” and its meaning in German. A bit puzzled, we asked them about this. “It’s Yiddish,“ they replied. When we told them about our hike they were so thrilled they wanted to drink with us to it right then and there. “No, thank you. We never drink in the morning,” we declined, which didn’t stop them from thrusting two plastic cups of wine into our hands. To be on the road together is enriching, inspiring and broadens one’s horizon. How wonderful it is that there are also groups back home in Switzerland organizing trips and outings for disabled people. Annemarie’s parents, for instance, have just been on a retreat in Interlaken with an organisation called “Glaube und Behinderung“ [faith and disability] (http://www.gub.ch).
Our hike is over now. The last length of it ran along the Israel Trail (see video: From Carmel to Caesarea) (from Caesarea to Latrun) (from Latrun to Jerusalem) to our final destination, the Mount of Olives in Jerusalem (see video from Jerusalem to the Mount of Olives). After crossing the finish line, we felt we needed to give our souls a break from adventures which was spent housesitting – with a dog thrown in for good measure. We thoroughly enjoyed those 7 days even though our first encounter with the dog was far from endearing. A cat had apparently trespassed on its territory which our canine friend responded to by fiercely lunging at it. Thankfully this behaviour was the exception rather than the rule, so by the time the week was over and after lots of lovely walks together, which helped us to stay fit, we were the best of friends.
The place we moved to from there was again a miracle God had prepared for us well ahead of time. When we arrived in Israel, we had no idea where we’d be staying over the summer. In Haifa we met Judith and Isaak, a couple with an interesting story (see video). Since they were on their way to Switzerland, they asked us to look after their flat including a pretty cat in the neighbourhood. We were thrilled to find out that we had something in common with Judith: our love for Psalm 121 which holds a special meaning for us. Printed on Annemarie’s sunhat, we were constantly reminded of it on our hike. We are living proof of its truth. „He will not let your foot slip. He who watches over you will not slumber.” Of course, we did what we could as our strength allowed. But it was God who protected and kept watch over us day and night. A gift we accepted gratefully. All praise to Him!
In the course of our journey, one of the things we had to learn was to accept lots of gifts. For it is only if we receive something, that we can also be generous to others. God has given us strength and so many good things which we often were able to pass on in a different place in a different way. In Turkey, for instance, we could help a number of drivers by helping to push-start their car. From time to time, we asked someone to show us the way on the map, but at other times Hanspeter could return the favour by helping drivers or hikers advising them which route to take. We also accepted the gift of a great number of helpers who upon our departure at Basel had promised to be in charge of one thing or another. When you look at the photos of that time, we are right up front, but we would never have made it without our huge backup team. Together so much more is possible. We especially think of our ‘go-to people’. We knew, for instance, that Daniel would have been there for us should we have had Internet trouble, Bini would have acted if we had had problems with our reliable hiking poles and Käthy would have sorted out mobile phone issues. Others offered us help before and during our hike in case of an emergency which moved us greatly. Just knowing this was – beside our trust in God – a great source of comfort. Also, the fact that a great number of supporters were part of our adventure helped us to be generous with those of limited financial means. Someone whom we had met along the way wrote to us later: “The fact that you left us such a generous gift reflects your trust in our Heavenly Father and His care. What a great encouragement and motivation!”
In these months ahead, we will take time to summarize this past year in a book and share our experiences in churches and schools. Perhaps our story motivates more people to exercise in the great outdoors. “Today we went on a hike of several hours – which is down to you guys. It was fantastic,” someone shared with us. Brilliant! What’s also brilliant is that Renée and Walter, friends of ours, have offered us a furnished flat from late September to June next year. They were kind enough to let us store some of our belongings in the attic of their Rapperswil home. To us this possibility was one of God’s miracles and a marvellous help.
But a yet greater miracle awaits. Even now another apartment is being prepared: “In my Father’s house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you.” Jesus says (John 14:2). Isn’t it incredible how much God cares for us?
Still, we’re on this earth. We’d like to put our time here to good use and share what we’ve seen God do and about the encounters we had on our tour this past year. If you’re interested in organizing an event with us, please email us with your enquiry at this sender address.
During these weeks ahead, we’ll put new videos and photos online. Some time ago we received this message: “Since your departure from Basel I’ve been following your pilgrimage. I’ve been regularly and thoroughly enjoying your travelog (reflecting a strong faith in God) as well as your photos!“
On this note, have an enjoyable time –
Hanspeter and Annemarie
“I’m so glad you said ‚yes‘!“ Atalia cheers at least for the third time, grinning from ear to ear. She and Mark approach us after we learned shortly before reaching Netanya that the so-called ‘Angels on the Road’ were busy. What we’re referring to is this excellent network of helpers in place, offering inexpensive or at times even free accommodation, drinking water or other assistance to shvil hikers. Back up north, after our first night out in the open when we were left standing outside the locked gates of a moshav, Reut used our mobile phone to call an ‘angel’. So not long afterwards, we were told we could spend the night in what used to be a kindergarten in exchange for a voluntary small fee towards water and electricity. What a great establishment! When we were walking in the north, we had spent most nights in our tent or with friends, so we only had to make use of the network for the second time, the evening before we met Atalia. “Sure, you can stay with us.” Gil, a trail angel, reassures us at the other end of the line. “Fantastic!“ we cheer. We picture ourselves pitching our tent in their garden this night which is fine with us. Online we had read that there was a ‘shower facility’, which in our point of view didn’t necessarily equal a roof over our heads. Gil comes towards us on the beach and takes us to his home. Inside, he shows us to a room complete with a double bed and an ensuite bathroom. We can’t believe our luck! We are in for another surprise when Gil‘s wife, Anat, knocks on our door a little later saying: “Feel free to come and join us when you’re ready. Gil’s just making supper for us all.“ We’re speechless. Later Gil tells us this is the second year they participate in the ‘angel network‘. “Last year, we had around 150 hikers stay at our place.“ On the following morning, after Anat has encouraged us to use the network more often, Hanspeter phones two ‘angels‘. Sadly, both of them turn us down for lack of time. Shortly after that, it is already later in the day, we meet Atalia and Mark. They’ve just returned from a trip to Switzerland. “Do you know where you’ll stay tonight?“ Atalia asks. We shake our heads. “Well, then why don’t you come over to our kibbutz?“ she suggests. We spread our mats on the floor that night happy to have found a wonderful roof over our heads at such short notice saying to one another: “If the official angels are busy, God sends us different ones. Fantastic!“
“Unbelievable!“ Hanspeter mutters at least for the third time. We’re north of Tel Aviv and there’s no way around river Yarkon. The tricky bit is that the shvil actually leads across the river, but there’s neither a bridge nor rocks sticking out helping us to cross the waters. Again we marvel at God’s perfect timing: even though we’re on a rather remote stretch of the trail, we suddenly spot a parked vehicle by the river. There is no doubt in Annemarie’s mind that God is giving us this opportunity and immediately makes for the people standing by the car: “Taxi?“ she asks without further ado. While the two young men seem to be still discussing this, the driver motions towards us to jump on the step on each side. Having reached the other side, we’d hardly set our feet on the ground when the car roars off and the men have vanished out of sight. “Thank you, Lord, for even sending us a taxi at the right time!” Through God’s perfect guidance, we even managed to make it to the dedication of little Yonatan Grimberg, the newborn son of good friends of ours. Taking part in the service, we realized what a privilege it is to be able to worship with others. We’re also very grateful for the wonderful hospitality of Alon, Rajaa‘ and Alon’s sister Karin who also make sure we get sufficient fresh fruit and vegetables, which we highly appreciate. These three are angels of a different kind. They are dedicated to serving in various congregations and ministries fostering the reconciliation between Jews and Arabs. In the evening, Karin, who is originally from Germany, shares with us how a traumatic experience can be turned from something negative to something positive (see video).
The day after, we have another encounter that will leave an impression on us. Again we’re on a part of the trail in the middle of nowhere, when suddenly a van pulls over. The driver rolls down his window and asks the second most important question: “Got enough water?” Even though we have filled our water bags that morning, and refilled them at the only possible place, an industrial building, since it’s a scorching hot day we reply: “We’re not sure it’ll last.“ Before we know it, Hagay has got out of his car, opens the back door and lets us refill our water bags. “Thanks Lord, for sending another angel our way,“ we pray with relief afterwards. Again and again we thank Jesus for the great number of hidden ‘angels’ who have been supporting us. Some of them we don’t even know personally. Experiencing the love of God and of people is a privilege and a great source of encouragement.
After His resurrection, Jesus asked Peter three times: „Do you love me?” What a question! Until last summer, Annemarie underwent an English-speaking Bible College programme of several years (http://www.bsfinternational.org) together with more than a hundred women, a time about which she says taught her a great deal. One of the things she found striking when comparing Bible translations was that the German version says that Jesus wanted to do the will of the Father while the English translation reads: “I WANT TO PLEASE HIM.“ Jesus loves His Father so much that He only seeks to do what is pleasing to Him. Seen from this perspective, everything we do for Him becomes a privilege instead of a ‘must’. This way life is a joy.
There are no words to describe our joy about God’s faithfulness throughout our hike. We will still try to put it into words after our arrival. Tomorrow, we’ll pack our backpacks for the very last time to tackle the final stretch of our hike: the climb of Mount Olives. It was on that hill that Jesus ascended to Heaven, and it is the place to which He will return. What a gift it is that He is alive today and that we may already receive His blessings in our lives! We’re so glad He said ‘yes‘ to the way our Father in Heaven had determined for Him.
Two exceedingly grateful hikers about to cross the finish line.
Hanspeter & Annemarie
July 10, 2011 As you may have guessed from our photos, we have arrived on the Mount of Olives and crossed the finish line! We’re now roaming Jerusalem and will be back with more on our experiences soon.
June 26, 2011
“Where do you spend the night? How heavy are your backpacks? How much money do you carry with you? How many miles do you walk per day? Where and what do you eat?“ All these questions were fired at us by a group of pupils we met climbingMountTabor. When we get back to Switzerland this autumn, we will also be ready to tackle questions in schools, churches, home groups etc. Since we have benefitted many times from listening to other people’s experiences, we thought we might do the same for others. Our first encounter with wild boars in Israel made our hearts beat a bit faster. We then remembered what Judy Pex had mentioned about the bristly creatures in her book. Walking the entire 597 mile length of the Israel Trail or shvil, as it is called in Hebrew, from Eilat in the south to the Lebanese border in the north together with her husband, the authoress wrote down her thoughts and impressions along the way. Later, her travel log was published under the title “Walk the land”, where she mentions that boars do occasionally attack passers-by. Still, after chancing upon some of them at least five times in one day and each time watching them take to their heels quite voluntarily at our sight, our courage rose. So that evening, we thought nothing of pitching our tent out in the open. Around 1:30 in the morning, though, we heard boars’ hooves making rapidly for our makeshift abode which was, let’s be frank, quite insufficiently fortified against pig attacks. As we were pricking up our ears in terror, we heard it stop in its tracks right next to our tent, snorting heavily. In an effort to chase it away, Hanspeter gave several quick flashes with his torch which luckily had the desired effect: it was gone within seconds. But only a short while afterwards, one of its mates came to see us, apparently curious to find out who had dared to invade their habitat.
Just a couple of days before, following our visit to Banias (see video), we had met two young ladies who were like us about to start the Israel Trail. “Would you mind if we joined you?“ they asked at Kibbutz Dan. “We could spend the night on the sports field here and set off tomorrow” they suggested. We in turn threw in we’d prefer leaving right away thus making good use of the evening chill. So shortly after six that evening, we and our new travel companions, Yaara and Reut, hit the trail. On the following day, we had to take a bit of a detour due to water shortage on Reut’s part. Now we can understand why warning signs have been posted all around the edge of natural reserves here advising hikers to take a minimum of three to five litres of water per head with them. Fellow hikers told us they had carried up to eight litres with them while walking in the south.
Even though a bit thorny, the nature trails in the north offer views of outstanding beauty (see video). There were times we hardly made any progress since we just had to stop to marvel at some miracle of creation or another at every turn. Before the path climbs up Mount Arbel right on the stretch where the Israel Trail and the “Jesus Trail” meet, we could not take our eyes from a stunning rainbow (see video). And one morning, we marvelled at a curled-up centipede as it woke up and slowly set its multitude of tiny little feet in motion. We are glad we only have a pair of feet to think of each. On the first stretch of the national trail we asked fellow hikers coming up from Eilat about their footwear. Apparently, good hiking boots are essential. On the other hand, the heat in Israel at this time of year makes our sturdy waterproof shoes, which proved invaluable for the best part of the stretch now behind us, quite unbearable at times. After giving this some thought, we have now decided against experimenting with sandals or new hiking boots and to change our socks every hour instead, a routine we have been able to cope well with so far. Last week, our feet were given a bit of rest when we took a break and stayed at Beit Yedidia, a guest house in Haifa. We played tourists for a couple of days and took several drives to Biblical sites in northern Israel. On those outings we also went to see a couple who experienced God’s protection in an extraordinary way (see video). Nazareth Village, an open-air living history museum, was quite fascinating, too. There you can watch the way people lived and worked at the time of Jesus (see video).
Taking in the view of the village of Cana from a spot not far from Nazareth, exactly 10 months after starting out at Basel was a thrilling moment for us. At Cana, Jesus performed his first miracle at a wedding by turning water into wine. Standing there, we remembered the great number of miracles we ourselves had been privileged to witness throughout our hike up to this day. Before we set out, Marianne and Werner lent us their car at exactly the right time, while Christine, Katja and Rahel helped us with the cleaning and packing for one entire day. Fredi, Walter, Marianne and others helped us move our furniture. If we were to list the names of everyone who lent us a hand back then, we could fill quite a number of pages. When we gave a table to Laendliheim (a retirement home in Basel), they let us stay with them for free the night before we set off. Annemarie loves swap deals of this sort: lunch in exchange for cleaning, a haircut in exchange for babysitting, a reading session in exchange for a flower bouquet. A nurse at Laendliheim had someone tell us she would be the first one to buy our book. Others have also encouraged us to write one, but we kept putting the thought off. We have even been asked by a publisher three times, but we wanted to finish our walk first before making a decision whether or not to get involved in a book project. While climbing the highest mountain, Mount Meron, of our hike in Israel, it suddenly dawned on us how we could imagine such a book project to fall into place. What was special about that moment was that there was a cloud warding off the searing heat, even though we had been told up north there was no way we could count on any clouds at this time of year. It seems God gave it to us at exactly the right time. His timing is just perfect.
A fact we also experienced with the 20th anniversary festivity of the Kehilat HaCarmel congregation in Haifa to which we had been invited several months back. So we couldn’t believe it when we reached the highest point of Mount Carmel the afternoon before the festivity and in time to attend it. During the event (see video), we were surprised to find ourselves sitting behind a Swiss lady who had wished to speak to someone about her faith in her native Swiss German. Nothing is impossible with God.
On Monday morning we will resume our tracks back on Mount Carmel and start the final stretch of our walk. We would like to leave you today with the following verses from Psalm 92, which were read at the festivity on Mount Carmel: “It is good to praise the LORD and make music to your name, O Most High. How great are your works, O LORD.”
Hanspeter and Annemarie
P.S. If you would like to receive a postcard from Jerusalem when we get there, please email us your address at Obrist@BaselJerusalem.info. Thanks.
June 7, 2011
We’re in Salamis/Cyprus (see video). “No, you can’t walk across the border. But I’d be happy to give you a lift.“ Hanspeter almost takes the cabdriver’s word for it, but Annemarie has her doubts. “And you’re quite sure you’ve never seen any pedestrians passing through the military checkpoint,” she tries again. “No, I haven’t. Never.” he replies. “People say all sorts of things. That doesn’t necessarily make them true,” Annemarie muses a little later. In the end we decide to try it anyway. After visiting the town of Famagusta (see video), we’re headed for the border. One of the customs officials there announces that he will now search one of our backpacks and adds: “It’s up to you which one.“ We don’t really mind, so we suggest he look at Annemarie’s. “Let me check yours,” he says pointing at Hanspeter’s rucksack. Later, as we’re walking through the checkpoint, Annemarie says: “There was no real point asking us first, was there?” “He probably thought we’d suggest the one containing nothing illegal, so he would of course want to search the other one,” Hanspeter reasons. Whatever it was, the official confirmed yet again what we had heard before: the stamp in our passport acquired upon entry of Northern Cyprus might pose an obstacle later. Others had expressed their concern we might have to return to Northern Cyprus in order to be able to fly to Israel. An undertaking which would have cost us a couple of hundred euros more than flying from the South. As soon as we arrived in Southern Cyprus, Hanspeter got online to enquire about this at the responsible government agency.
Yes, it’s true. This island has a Turkish and a Greek part. When talking to people here, a big conflict can be sensed simmering between these two sides. The issue of the EU alone reflects the complication of things. An information leaflet about the island reads: “On 1 May 2004, Cyprus – including its occupied north – became a full member of the European Union. In a protocol of the treaty of accession it was noted, however, that in areas of the Republic of Cyprus of which the government of the Republic of Cyprus has (due to Turkish occupation) no control, the implementation of the EU body of legislation will be postponed until the Cyprus question can be solved. Negotiations and efforts towards a just and viable solution will continue.“ On the continent we heard a variety of remarks on the issue of the EU. In one country people said: “Let’s behave, shall we? We want to join the EU after all.“ In another country we heard them say: “It’s not our fault our country is in this state. The EU should have made more effort to hold our country in check.” But there are – voluntarily – nice people on both sides. And control is a necessary part of life. We can see room for improvement in this respect in our personal lives too. On a campsite in Cyprus, we heard the buzz of a mosquito but thought we were quite safe in our tent. On the following morning, however, we discovered that the tiny animal had not been outside after all. A distinct trail of blood gave evidence of a rather busy night. Other animals have other preferences. One day, we observed two dogs feasting on plastic (see video). Another beast we encountered on the island was – luckily for us – dead: a snake. Annemarie prefers to steer clear of these rather scary creatures. A number of years ago, in an effort to do a young visitor a favour, she had bravely held out her hands towards his pet snake. Everything seemed OK at first, but when the snake unexpectedly started to move, she pulled back her hands in terror – and dropped the animal. She was sincerely sorry, but what had happened could not be undone.
Adam and Eve couldn’t undo taking the snake’s word for it that God had lied to them, wanting to deprive them of something good. The problem is that the enemy never stops lying to people and tries everything in his power to make them stray from the straight and narrow. When in Cyprus, Paul and Barnabas were summoned to the governor at Paphos (see video) who wanted to hear the Word of God. But Elymas, a so-called false prophet, bent over backwards to make the governor turn from his faith. But Paul wouldn’t stand for that and gave him a piece of his mind: “You are a child of the devil! You are an enemy of everything that is right! You cheat people. You use all kinds of tricks. Won’t you ever stop twisting the right ways of the Lord?” (Acts 13). Just as Paul predicted then, Elymas turn blind that instant for a period of time. And the governor believed in Jesus Christ. The slanderer didn’t stop at Jesus either. Matthew 4 tells us how Jesus countered each of Satan’s temptations by a word of Scripture from Deuteronomy. We enjoy reading the Bible but next to walking, doing our laundry, shopping and getting things clarified here and there, there’s frequently not much time to spare. But with today’s technology, that’s not an obstacle either. Paul, someone we met on the road, gave us an MP3 player containing the New Testament. That way we can listen to the world‘s best message on our hike. And that was not the only time we marvelled at God’s unique and wonderful care for us recently. The other time he helped us concerning the weather. When we arrived in Cyprus the weather was hot and humid. We both developed a rash on our legs. So this time we kept saying “Thank you, Lord!“, not like a couple of months before at the sight of a single sun ray, but whenever the sun hid behind a God-sent cloud. When the weather turned cooler, the rash disappeared. Sometimes we would overhear people saying: “Isn’t this funny weather we’re having this year?” We were grateful.
Meanwhile we’ve arrived in Israel. Upon leaving Cyprus, we simply showed our identity cards and were waved through without any further ado. Thank you, Lord! The political situation allowing, we will start the Israel Trail on the border to Lebanon by Thursday. Now we no longer follow in Paul’s footsteps but in Jesus’. In Christ „are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.“ (Colossians 2:3). So we’re in for a treasure hunt! We do hope you’ll also spot a lot of those treasures along your way. Life with God is and will always be an adventure.
Hanspeter and Annemarie
The scene is once again a petrol station. One of the staff is desperately trying to teach us a Turkish word. But it’s no use, we don’t understand what it is he wants to get across. He keeps repeating the term until we finally rummage in one of our backpacks for our dictionary. With fond memories of petrol stations and their amazingly kind and helpful staff almost all along our hike so far, we’re now anxious to learn the meaning of the word that is obviously of vital importance to the man. He points at the word in our dictionary: ‘terrorists’. “Where?“ we ask. “Here!“ he replies. We remember having been warned of Turkey’s East before. Something a local from Western Turkey had once told us came to mind: “You as tourists might be safe there. But to us Turks from the West, it would be too dangerous.” We also couldn’t help noticing that the windows of some of the houses were barred. One morning we were quite surprised to observe a man, armed and keeping watch over an open onion field. With a slightly queasy feeling in our stomachs, but aware of God’s omnipotence, we set off from the petrol station. Half an hour later, a white car pulls over in front of us. Three men get out. “Police!” they say. “Where are you headed?“ “To Tarsus.” “Where are you from?” “Switzerland.” After handing us five wet wipes, they get back into the car and roar off. Still affected by the warning from the man at the petrol station, we have our doubts about the genuineness of those policemen. Though in plain clothes, they neither showed their ID nor asked for ours. Also, we’d never seen all police officers get out of their car to question us before. We say to ourselves that next time we must pay more attention and at least memorize the car registration number.
To some Turkish people, we’re the ones to be doubted. “You’ve walked here all the way from Switzerland – you’ve got to be kidding! Where’s your bicycle?” a young man asks us incredulously. “We haven’t got one”, Hanspeter replies. “I don’t believe you!“ he says and changes roadsides. Someone else demands proof. “Show me your soles!“ A scene that reminds us of Thomas, one of the disciples of Jesus who refused to believe his fellow disciples that Jesus had risen from the dead. He said he would only believe when he saw and felt the scars in Jesus‘ hands and feet. Sometimes the miracles God works are beyond our comprehension. To us, the fact that none of us have been ill in a way worth mentioning and have been in good shape the entire nine months is nothing short of a miracle. Shortly before our trip, Annemarie had to undergo treatment following a knee inflammation. So far her knee hasn’t played up, even during our 50-kilometre stretch one day this past week. Last week there was another miracle, though it was about something more trivial, but a miracle it was. One morning, we were rather involuntarily woken up at 3.30 by our next-door neighbours. Having set our alarm for 4.45, we still could have gone back to sleep for more than an hour, except that Annemarie just couldn’t for the life of her. Around lunchtime, a thunderstorm erupted so we found shelter under the canopy of an office. “Last night was just too short. I need a Coke.” Annemarie said. A mere two seconds later, a man who couldn’t have had any idea of what we had just chatted about stood in front of us holding out two cans of Coke. Dumbstruck we stared at him. God surprises us again and again by His precision work, something we also experienced in Antioch/Antakya, the last major town for us before the Syrian border.
We had been contemplating the issue of whether or not to walk through Syria despite the political unrest for some weeks. From other globetrotters we had learnt that they had no longer been able to secure visas on the border. Prior to our departure from Basle, it wouldn’t have made sense to apply for a visa then since it is only valid for six months maximum. After giving the matter much thought and praying about it for quite some time, we have now decided to follow in Paul’s footsteps of his first journey and take the route via Cyprus. When we, on our first really hot day, got to Antakya, we walked on into town since the first hotel turned out to be too expensive. In the second one, shift handover had just taken place, and the receptionist on duty now spoke good English. In the course of conversation, he told us he used to work in Cyprus. He recommended not to take the more complicated route by coach and ferry but to go by plane. This possibility hadn’t crossed our minds until then, but now mulling it over it made perfect sense. Taking the coach would have meant going all the way back to Mersin as there are no ferries from Seleukia harbour to Cyprus any more. The man was a font of excellent advice on the subject and even organized us tickets at a good price for this Friday. If possible, we will walk the same route that Paul took on the island (Acts 13).
Not walk but drive did a group of rally motorists on the so-called Allgäu Orient Rally. We met the five men from Bavaria/Germany and their old cars in Tarsus (see video). It was with relief that they told us in the town of the Apostle Paul’s birth that arrangements for their alternative route on their way to Jordan had at last been finalized. They had decided not to drive through Syria since the border continued to be closed again and again. Now they were going to Cyprus by ferry. This wasn’t news to us, since we had heard the story before, told with the same relief by another one of their groups from Wedel in Northern Germany. We met them as they were stranded by the roadside after one of their cars had broken down between Mersin and Tarsus. Before we said goodbye, they generously gave us two pears that had been travelling with them all the way from Germany to Tarsus. They were delicious! 🙂
Not from Germany but Switzerland was creative Ursula (see video) who we paid a visit to in Iskenderun. Back when we ministered in Weinfelden, we regularly prayed for both her family and church whom her husband had founded in Iskenderun 50 years ago. As we arrived there at a weekend, we were able to attend the Sunday service. Since the murder of the Catholic Bishop last year, the current young pastor has constantly been accompanied by a bodyguard. Three years ago, not far from here three men were killed because they believed in Jesus Christ. It makes us sad that local Christians live in fear because of their faith, in a place that used to provide refuge for persecuted believers. What’s more, even the term ‘Christians’ was first used in the Turkish city of Antakya/Antioch (see video) [Acts 11,26]. It was from Seleukia harbour (see video), situated not far from the town itself, that Paul, Barnabas and John Mark sailed to Cyprus. The ancient harbour walls are still visible.
A most interesting country boasting a vast variety and quite a number of surprises (see video) along the way lies behind us now. Someone told us that until just a few years back, people here retired at the age of 45. Seen from this perspective, we passed through this country as pensioners. The rally drivers we met in Tarsus told us that a 40-kilometre desert stretch takes them around 10 hours. Since then we know that we can actually take on rally drivers – in the desert. J
Hanspeter & Annemarie
Köfte (see video)
Roman bridge in Adana (see video)
Fathers are important. We never doubted that. But we had no idea what a vital part our fathers, who are both in their eighties, would play on our walk to Jerusalem. Back in a Greek shop, when Hanspeter simply wanted to buy a 10-euro calling card, the shop assistant instructed him: “And this is where you write down your father’s name.” In Turkey, it seems that it is Annemarie’s father who people are interested in, especially his job. Recently, a woman came running our way shouting in English: “Where are you from?” Annemarie replied: “From Switzerland. Babam Tschiftschi.“ Not that we are fluent in the native tongue, but Annemarie has been using these two Turkish words, meaning “My father is a farmer” for weeks. Obviously happy with this information, the woman smiled, gave us a ‘thumbs up’ in reply and walked back to the cow she was looking after. The expression, which has already frequently come in handy, made its way into our active vocabulary during a photo stop in Turkey. It is Annemarie’s habit to ask people for permission before taking a photo of them, but with snapshots, it’s a bit trickier of course. One man who was working in a field expressed his irritation at being photographed. Luckily, just then a man was headed our way on the pavement, and Annemarie took the chance and asked him: “Excuse me, do you speak English, German or Italian?” to which the passer-by replied: “Italian.” “You see, I’ve just taken a photo of this gentleman, since my own father is a farmer.” she explained to him in Italian. A smile passed over the man’s face, and he was so kind as to act as our interpreter. This seemed to have a soothing effect on the man in the field. “Babam Tschiftschi“ – we had to keep these two words in mind. Since then hardly a day goes by without us saying “Babam Tschiftschi“ to someone, usually causing lots of sympathetic nodding and smiling all around. Sometimes people would point at our backpacks telling us they are way too heavy. Then we say “Babam Tschiftschi” to which they nod understandingly. One police officer, however, didn’t seem to be satisfied with our reply. After he had offered us cay (tea), he enquired whether we had drunk lots of milk back home. “Yes, morning and evening.” This seemed to please him, since he nodded. We got talking, answering his questions and were quite taken aback when he suddenly said: “Your passports, please!” We have come to realize that the motives for offering us cay can vary. Sometimes it is out of genuine hospitality. Sometimes though, people just want to get a closer look at us and learn more about us. At times we observed how someone, after we had talked to them, turned around or crossed the street to proclaim what they had heard from us to the four winds. It is when everyone across the road seems to be turning their heads to look at us that we know what’s going on. From kids and youngsters we often get: “Where do you come from? What’s your name? Money, money!“ Others try talking us into ordering a meal at their restaurant to follow our cup of cay or get us to buy something in their shop.
One of our favourite foods in Turkey is borek (flaky pastry with different fillings), and we love watching it being prepared (see video). Since it is getting hotter by the day, and even more so as it progresses, we’ve made it our habit to set off earlier than usual and more often than not without breakfast. After one or two hours, when our stomachs start grumbling, we usually either have some borek, hot soup with salad and quite frequently a loaf of bread, occasionally with some yogurt. It seems as if our heavenly Father makes sure we get enough vitamins. There are greenhouses all around (see video), and it seems we’re right in the middle of harvest time. Along the coastal road, we were given fruit or vegetables almost every day: cucumbers, strawberries, bananas, avocados, oranges, lemons, yeni dunyas (Maltese plums), mulberries and some other fruit unknown to us.
Once, a small lorry stopped right in front of us. A woman and a child got off and studied our backpacks. At the same time, two young men emerged from the driver’s cab and ran down the length of the load area towards us. They picked up 16 cucumbers and held them out to us saying: “Here you go!“ Quite overwhelmed, we replied: “Thank you! This is rather a lot, though. We might not be able to carry them all.” “Yes, you will. Please take them.” “But it’s way too much!” It was no use. The men had already climbed the lorry again and off they went. Actually we had wanted to break for lunch a little further into that day’s stretch, but looking at our cucumbers we decided we might as well have a bite to eat there and then and lighten our load. Using a variety of facial gestures and sign language of sorts, we desperately tried to palm off our cucumber surplus on the woman with the child, but to no avail. She would not have it. So each of us stuffed a couple of cucumbers into our backpacks, and felt we had no choice but to leave the rest on the bench, much to our dismay. We had hardly walked a couple of steps, when a car stopped beside us. The driver asked where we were headed. He introduced himself as ‚Dario‘, and we got talking. We were amazed by his story. He and his family had been travelling the world for many years. Since their two children were homeschooled, there was no need to stay put in one place. Occasionally, Dario worked for three months to make a living. Now that their children were taking up their studies at university, they were forced to settle down for a short spell. The family, who up till today gets by without a mobile phone, invited us to visit them in France some time. When we said goodbye, we remembered the cucumbers we had left behind. Being a travelling family, they could easily relate to our dilemma and accepted the vegetables gratefully. And we for our part were thrilled that God had given us so abundantly that we were able to share.
Only three days later, we had a similar experience. We were walking along the road, when suddenly a motorhome pulled over. We were thrilled when we saw Paul and Monika, whom we had met back in Selcuk, emerge from the vehicle. What added to our excitement was that just a road bend ago, a woman by the roadside had, having caught our attention by calling out „Gusa, gusa!“, held out many green fruits. We couldn’t have possibly eaten them all on our own, so now we had again an opportunity to share the blessings we had received with someone else. And this way Paul and Monika got to know a new kind of fruit. To us, encounters such as these are no coincidence.
Another time, in a shop, the assistant threw in two cucumbers for free with the fruit juice we had just bought. We stored them in our backpacks. Two hours later we stopped to have some soup. Rather atypically, it didn’t come with a salad. We remembered the cucumbers in our bags and marvelled at the way God had taken care of our necessary dose of vitamins at the right time. We’ve found that fresh vegetables are a vital supplement to the – to our taste – rather sticky white bread in these parts. We’ve come to call it “foldable bread”, since it can be conveniently folded up and easily stowed away in a backpack. Whenever we get to a town, we look out for the more nutritious wholemeal bread. When staying at Heidi’s house, who is from Germany, we were treated to a delicious homemade one. We had met her at church on Palm Sunday. That day we were engrossed by a short conversation we had had with a young Turkish woman in Antalya (see video). “Why do they call it Palm Sunday?“ she had asked. Hanspeter explained that one week before his crucifixion, Jesus had entered Jerusalem riding on a donkey. The crowds had welcomed Him cheering: „Hosanna!“ while waving palm branches and paving the way before Jesus with them (Matthew 21). “I’ve spent my entire childhood in Germany, but no one has ever explained the reason for Easter to me. I only knew that it was customary to hide eggs.” This set us thinking. Except for a couple of tourist resorts, the creed can be heard from loudspeakers five times a day even in the tiniest of villages here, while in Europe it seems that not a single word is lost on the central festival of Christianity.
We enjoy the fact that our hike allows us to spend lots of time talking to Jesus. He is the One who brings colour to our lives. We have also found that it is the kaleidoscope of experiences that adds zest to our day-to-day lives. Much like a woven scarf that becomes more beautiful with each new colour added (see video). Sometimes we marvel at new, wholly unexpected discoveries. Only recently we realized that goats and we have something in common: Just like we at times, they neatly deposit stuff that has been cleared away from the middle of the road in the kerb (see video). J
Our heavenly Father has given us so much these past few months. Our hearts are filled with thankfulness towards Him, but also towards our earthly fathers and mothers, our praying friends, our sponsors and everyone who has lent a helping hand!
Have a colourful spring!
Hanspeter & Annemarie
April 20, 2011
As we were walking in the Turkish mountains for an entire day, we felt so completely confident. Wrongly so, as we were soon to find out. At least four people had confirmed that the hotel 31 kilometres away and touted by a road sign was definitely open. Still we fall for taking something at face value just because it’s been written. And hadn’t it only been in Greece that we heard someone say: „Surely you don’t believe everything you read online?!” Having arrived at our destination, there was a hotel alright, though it was at least partly of the ramshackle sort. So we enquired whether there was some sheltered spot we could pitch our tent in. This started a discussion, in the course of which we threw in a variety of creative suggestions which, however, kept being turned down eventually. Finally, we were allowed to spend the night in the garden under the roof of the hotel bar. Even though a tree right in the middle of the allotted space prevented us from setting up our tent, we hoped our warm sleeping bags would help us get through the night OK despite the cold and rain. It seemed the best solution. Since we intended to get an early start the following morning and our food supplies were too scarce for the mountain stretch, we decided to have a bite to eat in the still-open restaurant. As the only customers, we were the focus of attention of the entire staff that kept discussing something – as were we.
Generally, we seem to be discussing a great deal of things on our trip. Presently, we talk about the life of the Apostle Paul. Initially a top-notch persecutor of Christians, an encounter with Jesus at Damascus turned his life around (Acts 9). From then on he kept spreading the word that Jesus is the Jewish Messiah wherever he went. In Antalya we hired a car and followed in the footsteps of Paul’s first journey. When he arrived in Perge (see video) at the time, he had to overcome his disappointment about the fact that John Mark was no longer willing to continue his journey with him and headed back to Jerusalem. In Antioch (see video) we realized that Paul and Barnabas, though first asked by the crowds to speak to them, were then driven away and persecuted. The reasons for this were not of a theological nature but sheer envy. Even in Ikonion (see video), they had to flee again to escape stoning. And in Lystra (see video), the incredible happened: Those envious people from Antioch and Ikonion followed them as far as Lystra, stirred up the crowds against Paul and stoned him. Shortly before, Paul had healed a paralyzed man, and Paul and Barnabas had to fight tooth and nail not to be worshipped as gods. How fast the tide can turn. Now the stones were cast, and everyone thought Paul was dead. But he got up again, and left for Derbe with Barnabas the following morning (see video). Even if you’re fairly fit, hiking in the Turkish mountains is quite an energetic endeavour. But to tackle such a trail after having been stoned is nothing short of a miracle. In Derbe, it was not the verdant hill without any excavations nor the rather chilly temperatures of around 4 degrees Celsius that impressed us, but Paul’s decision. How easy it would have been for him to head straight for Tarsus. Quite understandable too, after all the persecution and suffering he had been through. “Turning point Derbe” is what we called his decision to think the encouragement of the believers more important than his personal safety. Putting up with the possibility of facing yet more persecution, he returned.
From Derbe we drove a little further into Central Turkey to visit Cappadocia (see video) and its truly fantastic rock formations, a unique wonder of nature. We marveled what works of art man chiselled out of tufa rock over time: apartments, churches(see video) as well as the up to more than 10-storey-deep underground towns (see video). Many times we have marvelled at God’s ingenuity reflected in His creation and the way it is used by man. We were also impressed by the large number of well-preserved churches and chapels. Not only did the persecuted Christians find refuge in those underground towns, but they also played a crucial role in extending them. It is nothing short of amazing that the Good News of Jesus has withstood countless times of persecutions. Our little travelling companion of eight months, the cuddly sheep, keeps reminding us that Jesus is the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world (John 1:29). Jesus also had to undergo lots of suffering. And even after His resurrection, lies were spread by some who had been bribed into it about why the tomb was empty (Matthew 28: 12-13). Now it’s Easter again, and we celebrate Jesus’ victory over death, even if we have to do without our traditional Easter lamb cake this year.
But back to the Turkish mountains. As we were having our dinner under the watchful eye of the staff who were constantly discussing away, and in expectation of a night more or less under the stars in wintery temperatures, suddenly our situation took an unexpected turn. They offered us a room where we could spend the night – for free. We were so grateful that we gave them a pocket knife we had been carrying with us since Greece in exchange. A day later then, Annemarie somewhat involuntarily ‘gave away‘ her green blouse in a moment of inattentiveness. But even a loss can add new colour to your life. In the evening then we met the first Turkish person to grasp straight away that we wanted no more and no less than some protected place to pitch our tent. That was at a petrol station located at a height of 1,500 metres and again at very low temperatures. Both in Greece and Turkey, the term ‘walk’ seems to be almost unknown. When going to the shops, for instance, some people park their car in the street directly in front of the store, possibly since it seems impossible to walk the distance from the car park. This may be the reason for their difficulties to understand what it is we’re doing. But Mustafa did. He served us warm tea at the petrol station and showed us a soon-to-be and structurally complete restaurant and told us we could camp there. On the following day, despite a breakfast à la petrol station and the drizzle, we made good progress. Having tackled 240 kilometres across the mountains in seven days seems to us a bit of a miracle.
Now the next challenge awaits. The coastal road towards the south sadly doesn’t lead straight ahead. The curvy road reaching considerable heights at several points will definitely save us a visit to the sauna. After our little car trip, we need to pluck up all our courage to face a stretch of this sort come Monday. A definite highlight, though, is that we can now finally get rid of our winter clothes which will lighten our load. While staying at Lea and Paul’s in Antalya, we were immensely grateful that we were able to spread out our entire possessions on five beds, do some sorting as well as a thorough laundry using their washing machine. Isn’t it amazing what one can be happy about in different circumstances?!
Hanspeter and Annemarie
In the German magazine „family“ (03/11) you can find an article about our hiking to Jerusalem.
March 28, 2011
A couple of days ago, we received this email from an elderly lady: “I thought you might like to know that it’s mostly thanks to you that I started using the computer in my ripe old age. I’ve just finished beginners’ class, and will continue with the Internet course in May. I’d never have thought computing could be such fun! And as a fantastic side effect, I’m increasingly finding my way around your website!” This is not the only lady of advanced years who amazes us. Before we set off on our hike, a 100-year-old woman whom Annemarie visited regularly asked a special favour of her: “Would you do something for me? I’d love you to read the last book of the Bible to me, the Book of Revelation.” Annemarie was delighted to comply with her wish, and from then on, every time she visited the lady, read a few verses to her. Chapters 4 and 5 of this special book of the Bible had already grown dear to her own heart as a great source of encouragement before.
And now we’re in the actual spot where the Apostle John wrote this passage (see video). One tourist leaflet describes this historic spot as follows: “In 95 A.D., John, the favourite disciple of Jesus, was exiled to the Island of Patmos by the Emperor Domitian. While there, John receives several visions from God showing him the world’s last days. This divine word, the ‘Revelation’, is part of the New Testament today. Though difficult to understand, the Book of Revelation contains a message of hope foretelling Christians the victory of Jesus Christ over evil and heralding a new world.” How very inspiring it is that on our journey to Jerusalem, we are now in the very place where John wrote about the new Jerusalem (Revelation 21 and 22).
The great many places and people we had encountered on our way before were also a vast source of inspiration to us. One time, a car turned around only to pull over to our side of the road. The driver enquired whether we were also on our way to Philadelphia (see video). We replied: “Yes, we are. We visit the places mentioned in the Bible.“ Holding half a loaf of bread out towards us, he told us he came from Brazil and also visited the towns mentioned in chapters 2 and 3 of the Book of Revelation.” We took out our card and showed him our route from Basel to Jerusalem on the map printed on it. “Are you Christians?“ he asked. After we had said „yes“, he gave us an apple and wished us a good trip. Then he turned his car around and was on his way again.
Laodicea (see video) was an inspiration of a different kind. We watched as the ancient giant stones were stacked up again by crane to show the town’s face in the old days. From there, we had a direct view of the extraordinary sight of huge lime deposits of the former town of Hierapolis, today’s Pamukkale (see video). In ancient times, water from the hot springs was conducted from Hierapolis to Laodicea. When a special kind of root was added to the water, black cloth could be dyed purple in the mixture. Hierapolis is also mentioned in Paul’s Epistle to the Colossians. Colossae was among the places we visited (see video), but sadly pretty much everything of the ancient town is still buried underground.
In the town of Ephesus (see video) we were met with the complete opposite: magnificent excavations all around. The remains of the Church of Mary were quite memorable owing to the fact that the Council of Ephesus was held there in 431 A.D. Issue of debate during that assembly was Jesus’ statement “I and the Father are one.” Not far off this excavation site, you can find John’s grave in Selcuk. Just a few hundred metres away, we went to see Doris and Mihail at their café (see video) and were treated to delicious rösti, a Swiss potato dish similar to hash browns. On Sunday, we went for a drive to Izmir (see video) together. In what was formerly known as Smyrna, we attended a worship service. In Milet then, on our way to Patmos, we were treated to a rather unique frog concert which we almost couldn’t tear ourselves away from (see video).
These past few weeks we couldn’t complain about the lack of change. Refreshed and strengthened, we feel ready to face the second highest point of our trip (1,460 metres) – after the Gotthard back in Switzerland. But before heading to Antalya, we need to cross over to Bodrum by ferry, then get to Ephesus and finally to Denizli where our side trip to the islands began.
Hanspeter & Annemarie
Our laptop reached its limit again and again these past few months. Whenever two tasks needed handling at once, it didn’t seem up to it. In an effort to still get as much done as possible, we decided to have our computer do all the producing of the edited film overnight. After visiting Pergamos (see video), we checked out all the filmed material, put it together and got the process going. At four o’clock in the morning, Hanspeter realized the screen had ‘frozen’, and no matter how many keys he pressed there was no response. “That’s a first” Hanspeter muttered. After we had prayed together for the situation we tried to go back to sleep. On the following morning, we were happy to find that we could restart the computer after it had reinstalled itself. We thank God for protecting us from worse and that our PC crisis has been overcome.
After a delicious breakfast of our presently usual fare of olives, cucumbers and tomatoes, we are greeted by strong headwinds as we set out on our walk that morning. Around lunchtime, we decide to just have a quick snack by the roadside for want of a place to sit and since it’s fairly chilly. A little later, though, we spot a long wall running along one end of a car park with perfect sitting height and make straight for it. We welcome the pleasure of finally being able to sit, make ourselves comfortable and take our shoes off. Hanspeter has just dug into some lovely almonds and dried apricots, when suddenly a car that – until a few seconds ago – was parked at the far end of the car park is making its way towards us. The driver gets out talking at us nineteen to the dozen. We don’t understand a single word. In a frantic effort to make himself understood, the man grips Hanspeter’s legs. We still don’t get what it is he seems so desperate to communicate. The man’s facial expression hardens. He points at the house situated far behind the wall and again clutches at Hanspeter’s trousers. In the distance, we can make out a dog. Does the man want to warn us we could be bitten by it? “Get out of here!” he seems to say. We’re reminded of a similar situation some weeks back in Montenegro, when it was Hanspeter who had muttered something along those lines after someone had tweaked Annemarie’s cheeks and suggested we come home with him to spend the night. Again we prefer to take to our heels. Back on the road, we spot a petrol station-cum-restaurant. Sadly, a man informs us that it’s closed. So again just a short break. “It seems we’re continuously urged forward today,“ Annemarie says. We learnt that day that headwinds can also bring out strength you didn’t know you had. We’re amazed that we actually make it to the next town on our route, a stretch of 37 kilometres. When we proffer our pedometer at the hotel reception, we’re actually given a discount on our room price. The room turns out to be very nice and spacious on top of it. And if we draw the curtains, we can shut out the view of the landfill site at the back of the hotel. Since there’s still some work to be done on our Pergamos video, it doesn’t really matter what’s outside our window. Little do we know then that it will take more than one night’s work to finish the film clip.
After a good night’s rest, we have breakfast at the hotel. Two TV screens allow us to watch two different programmes at once. We’re familiar with this phenomenon from all the countries we’ve passed through – except Croatia, where we never stayed at hotels: the ubiquitous exposure to TV – like it or not. The screens usually present us with either pictures of tragic events from around the world or sparsely-clad women lounging to the beat of hot music. We’re not particularly keen to let those images penetrate our souls. So we’ve made it our habit to find seats as far away from the glaring screens as possible. Jesus says: “What you say flows from what is in your heart.” (Luke 6:45 NLT) We make a point of daily trying to fill our hearts with good and uplifting stimuli which at times requires to go against the flow and to overcome headwinds – from within and without.
Overcome, this is what Jesus, through John, the Apostle, in his letter, asked seven churches in Asia Minor to do (Book of Revelation, chapters 2 and 3). Presently, we visit the places where those churches were located. When we heard snow had been forecast, we overcame our weaker selves and walked the 150-kilometre stretch from Bergama to Sardis (see video) via Thyatira (see video) in four days. Once we spent the night in a room with – not snow – but white paint trickling from the ceiling. So we just wiped it off our sleeping bags at night and again the following morning. Sometimes we sleep like kings, at other times like beggars. Similarly, we keep hearing extreme contrasts around us: Everything ranging from “Please, give me something to eat!” to “We could get millions this way!” In Sardis, one word of Scripture spoke to us in a special way. “Wake up! Strengthen what remains and is about to die” (Revelation 3:2 TNIV). How grateful we are for people who have shared stretches of our walks of life and faith, strengthening and encouraging us along the way. It is our experience that it pays to trust Jesus anew each day.
“Impossible!“ This is a designation not to be taken seriously all too often. How good it was that Paul – when asked at Troas (see video) in a dream by a man to come to Europe – did not think this a mission impossible. In Assos (see video), a young man shook his head at our sight telling us it would be impossible to walk to Bergama. And yet, six days later we reached that very destination, where we then treated ourselves to a day of rest. Had we used the ancient Roman road (see video), it would probably have taken us a bit longer. Even back then, people will have spotted all sorts of interesting things along the way such as the cockfight (see video) we witnessed. What a picture for what happens if no one is ready to yield. Animals can teach us quite a bit.
Greetings from a country of contrasts
Hanspeter and Annemarie