Sunday Water Break, Ichenheim, Germany / 05.09.12


It was Sunday.  In Germany, at least along the Rhein river’s collection of small villages, everything is shut down on Sundays. Our bicycle touring group was winding its way southward along the river pathway for bikes, and we were in need of a drinking water refill.

It was also Sunday, and two weeks since we left Michigan toward this adventure.  By this time I was beginning to feel a longing for some spiritual rejuvenation.  It’s not that our experience so far had been devoid of spiritual encounters, or that somehow God was missing from the picture.  It was more that I felt a strange longing to be among fellow worshipers, acknowledging God’s presence. I kind of wanted to be in church. I wanted to read sacred texts, to pause in silence and prayer, to sing together, to let go of everything and just be…


We turned our bikes toward a small town that promised to be only 1 km off of the bike path. As we approached, Devin (with his GPS device) informed us that there was no gas station–our usual stop for a faucet, and our best guess for something open on a Sunday morning in provincial Germany.  We were tired and didn’t want to get too far off the path, so we decided to continue looking around for some sign of a pump, or a well, or a faucet we might be able to use to fill up our bottles.  Just then, I spotted a man getting on his bicycle outside of his house.  I pulled our heavily laden tandem to a stop in front of the driveway, and turned to look at Kallie.  (She was the German speaker).  She picked up the cue, and asked if he knew of some place where we might be able to fill our water bottles.  He responded, “You can fill them here.  Come in.”
His wife welcomed us at the door, even though she had just gotten out of bed, and bid us come in and never mind.  Her English was excellent and her demeanor calm and curious. Their house was beautiful.  I gingerly filled a few of our bottles at the kitchen sink while admiring the warmth and beauty of the place, as well as the open hospitality of this couple on a Sunday morning when they could be sleeping in.  We were on our way out with an armful of waterbottles, thanking them, when Johannes (the husband) asked if we wanted any coffee.  “It would be nice,” I told him, “but we’re trying to make it to Freiburg and we have many kilometers left to travel today–and we are planning to meet a friend.”
“Can you stay for only ten minutes?  The press is coming, they want to do a small story.”  To that I could only respond, “yes, okay.” Within minutes we were all sitting around the kitchen table, with coffees, bread, butter, jam, cold cuts, and a reporter asking questions.

This was turning out to be a water stop we hadn’t bargained for!

The couple turned out to be wonderful and easy hosts, and we conversed freely as they asked us questions about our trip and ourselves. I found out that between the time we arrived and had filled up our bottles, Johannes had called a friend at the press and somehow during the interview he had managed to buy a bag full of breakfast rolls at the local bakery.  Within the contours of their generosity I could feel my heart expanding.  We were even moved to break out the instruments to play a small concert in their living room.  Our first song “Ghost Riders” happened to be Ute’s favorite. After taking pictures and negotiating contact info, we bid them farewell and pedaled off down the road, strengthened and joyful, ready for the journey.

It wasn’t until well down the trail that I realized the significance of that Sunday morning hospitality to my own spirit, as a Christian longing for an experience of worship. Though it was not explicit, I realized that we had had a sort of holy communion.  We were welcomed to the table, we shared our stories and gifts, we ate the bread and drank the coffee, we sang, and we were sent off with a blessing and our bottles full of water.
Didn’t Christ say in a parable “I was hungry, and you gave me something to eat; I was thirsty, and you gave me something to drink; I was a stranger, and you welcomed me in”? And I was left with this strange and wonderful phrase echoing within my soul: He will be known in the breaking of the bread.

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  1. A. Spidahl said on September 5, 2012 at 6:14 pm

    Very moving, Andrew. Loved it.

  2. Kristen L. said on September 6, 2012 at 12:24 am

    This is the first post I’ve checked in at. Thanks for writing, Andrew. I hope this trip is full of encounters like these. The Peace of Christ to you and those you are journeying with. You’re in our hearts and minds.

  3. Rod said on September 7, 2012 at 5:35 pm

    Thank you, Andrew, for such a poignant and earthy slice of your encounter with those who bear the image of God, share it in such gracious and creative welcome and pass it along through fragile human forms–treasures of wonder, full of glory!
    “Give us, this day, our daily bread . . .”

  4. Randy said on September 11, 2012 at 10:01 pm

    Treasuring your vision, brother, as I witness your account — Within the contours of their generosity I could feel my heart expanding. Mindful of you daily, we are with you.

  5. judith said on September 13, 2012 at 2:57 pm

    Hospitality often creates serendipitous moments of joy…vaya con dios!

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