Archives for January 2014

Last Bits of Interterm on Campus

As I said before, I took Social Development and Social Justice this Interterm. This class involved many interesting field trips. In Wichita we visited this awesome place called “Dress For Success.” It was by far my favorite place.  I thought it was almost perfect!  I have to admit, before I walked in, I thought it was going to be a shabby little place with a lot of old, sub-par clothing piled up for people to take.  Instead it was super organized and clean, full of beautiful dress clothes, and made to feel like a classy boutique.  There were dress suits, dress skirts, purses, shoes, earrings, scarves, necklaces, and probably much more.  This place does not just give women some clothes to interview in; it gives women a whole outfit and hopefully a huge boost in self confidence.  Not that clothes should define you, but I imagine for many women it is hard not being able to look their best and it is easy to feel not good enough because of the clothing worn.

The women first get one outfit if they have a job interview, and then there are many more opportunities to get another set.  It is not just a one and done kind of deal.  These women are welcomed back to many meetings and events, and most of them include more outfits.  All in all I was very impressed with this social service.  Hopefully there is somewhere equally nice for men to go and get some clothing and hope.

Another place we went to was the “Breakthrough Club.” This is a non profit social and vocational program for people with severe mental illness. They focus on wellness and abilities rather than illness and disabilities. This place was really cool; they try very hard to make every one feel they are on the same level. They do not differentiate between “professionals” and “patients.” This program encompasses many areas for empowerment. They have work out equipment in the building, because they want to focus on the well being of the whole person, not just their mental health.

One other really cool place we went was a market-mall type thing. It was very easy to see the Mexican influences in this store. They had a lot of stores that were catered toward the Mexican culture. In one store they had an adorable little bunny! It was the highlight of my trip!


I got to hold him!

One Last Time – Concert Choir Home Concert

The Concert Choir gave a bittersweet farewell to our European choir tour with a final concert on Sunday, this time in front of the friendly faces of Bethel’s campus. While it was great to sing for familiar faces after singing for strangers for three weeks in Europe, it was an emotional performance for the 22 seniors of the choir. After not singing together since Wednesday, it was great to perform once more. I was already starting to miss the music and memories we were making together. Even though many of us were still feeling the effects of a jet lagged weekend, there was not a dirth of intensity and emotion in our music. At the end of the concert, all of the seniors received a special round of applause at the front of the stage, and two seniors, Ariel Silva and Taylor Stucky shared some reflections on their class and the music that they make. Ariel spoke of the diversity of the senior class – there is a very wide array of majors and minors. To me, this is one of the reasons why Bethel’s liberal arts education and the Concert Choir are so special. We each bring a special set of skills and interests, but we all share one thing in common – our love for music and our membership in the concert choir. The choir really did become like a family during our time in Europe. There is no doubt that the seniors of the choir will be missed, but they will soon be the shoulders upon which future concert choirs will stand.  – Braden Unruh

Interterm on campus

This interterm I took a social work class called “Social Development and Social Justice.” We had a great time in class and out of class; for out of class we took five field trips to Wichita. Throughout this class we were challenged to go and experience something that we were not familiar with. A small group of us decided to go to The Muslim Community Center and Masjid (mosque). I am a Mennonite and this was a very different and enlightening trip for me. Here is an except from the journal I wrote for class:

“We did not go in the right door of the mosque, but luckily there was a nice man who showed us to the main office.  We were then picked up there by a different man.  He was extremely warm and welcoming.  He sent the guys over to their part and then took us girls to a stairway.  It was kind of confusing, because he could not actually take us up to the women’s area of worship.  He found a female student to take us up.  We all took off our shoes and then walked up stairs.  We did not really know where to go then, so we sat in some chairs on the side of the room.  I was surprised by how much I liked the space.  I thought I would dislike being away from the main worship area.  But, this room was very peaceful to me.  The openness of it and all of the space were oddly comforting.  The sunlight was shining through the windows and it made me feel very relaxed.  A few young girls came over and asked us if we had any questions they could answer.  They were very sweet.  I asked them the best way to tie our scarves, but they said theirs had two different parts, unlike our scarves.

It was very different to just hear the speaker and see him through a TV screen.  They even had sheets over the railing so the women could not see the men at all and vice versa.  The atmosphere on our upper level was very interesting.  It was very casual; people came in and left whenever they wanted to.  Many of the women checked their cell phones, and some texted.  A young boy was running around the whole service.  I think it is harder for the women to get into the service because they are more physically removed from it.

Their prayers were very interesting.  I liked how they were all together, like they were praying as one.  Later they told us that they don’t like any space to get in between them and they are very physically close during this time”

A Bittersweet Goodbye to Europe

By Abby Schrag

At 10:30 am, Friday the 24th (I would say yesterday but with the time difference and long time spent traveling it seems like 3 days ago), we began our 11 hour flight home from Frankfurt. It was sad to leave Germany after all of our incredible experiences there visiting historical sites, exploring German cuisine, meeting so many new people, and of course a lot of singing! Luckily all travel went smoothly. We made it on time to all of our flights and no baggage was lost!

According to our trip itinerary, we flew a total of 5,461 miles to get back home to Kansas! Our faithful bus drivers that were there with us from day one in Warsaw also informed us that our bus traveled a total of 3,880 kilometers during the trip! We are so lucky to have been able to travel to so many different places and see so many different sights.

It was a great trip, and now we have a day to recover from jetlag, reunite with friends and family, and (finally!) do some laundry! It’s strange to be separated from my other 44 choir members, Bill, and Merle, but we will all reconvene tomorrow for our home concert at 7:00 at Mem Hall. Hope to see you there!

Solingen Potluck!

By Madelyn Weaver

This is a small blog but a good connection to back home!

Today I had a little reminder or “taste” of home if you will.

We had a concert in a gorgeous cathedral in Solingen, Germany that also made gorgeous music with the great acoustics. Afterward, we got connected with our host families and we all went into another room to have a pot luck with the choir members and the host families! When I heard we were having a potluck I immediately thought of my church back home in Hesston, KS : Whitestone Mennonite Church and all the delicious potlucks we have. We had yet to have a “potluck” at any of the other churches in Europe so I had been beginning to wonder if it was just a United States thing.

A lot of the food was different than back home of course, but still just as amazing! I’m sorry I dont have pictures to share of the food so you will just have to take my word for it!

Tomorrow will be a busy day of traveling, touring and it will also be the day of our last concert. I can’t believe how fast time has gone and how quickly the trip is coming to an end. It has been a wonderful experience!

Some observations

By Abby Schrag


Jacob Brubaker and Clarie Koehn mimic a statue in a mall in Leipzig.

Today was mostly spent traveling from Bielefeld to Hamburg, which isn’t super exciting to read about on a blog, so I figured I would spend some time talking about some of our observations of Germany and German culture so far.

1. Sidewalks and bike lanes may look very similar, but are definitely not the same! Several choir members have had awkward encounters when they were accidentally walking in the bike lane and were yelled at by very angry German bikers.

2. Along the same lines as #1, there are many more people biking and riding the public transportation than driving here. My host families so far have attributed this to the high prices of owning a car and also concern for the environment.

3. Most people here are skinnier. I have yet to see many larger people in Europe – maybe attributed to more biking and walking?

4. German bread and chocolate is DIVINE. This is a pretty well known fact, but seriously, we have pretty much been living off those two commodities for 1.5 weeks and we’re not even tired of them yet!

5. Their showers are weird. There are often no shower curtains and our taller choir members have had to become contortionists to wash themselves under the short shower heads that most have. During our “Tales of the Tour” time there is always at least one story involving a shower mishap.

6. The German people are extremely generous. We have had 3 homestays so far on tour and everyone has returned to the group with stories about the hospitality of their hosts. We are always filled with amazing food and great conversation. It has been so incredible to meet so many fun, caring people who are willing to take in 45 college students for free!

When we arrived in Hamburg we took a 2 hr bus tour around the city and gave a concert at the Mennonite church in town. These last days of tour are back-to-back concerts everyday, so we are keeping very busy!

Travel to Leipzig

By Abby Schrag


Five choir members imitate a statue.

This morning the choir left Berlin and traveled to Leipzig. A stop in Wittenburg was planned to see the church where Martin Luther nailed his 95 Theses to the door. However, we unfortunately didn’t get to go inside because they are working on renovations. The trip was not in vain, though, because we decided to walk around the town for a bit and several of the choir members got recruited to become a part of a flashmob doing the Cupid Shuffle with a group of students from a college in Michigan!

There wasn’t time to do much sightseeing in the afternoon when we got to Leipzig because of our concert in the evening. It was a very special concert because several members of Dr. Eash’s family were able to come to hear us sing and wish him a happy birthday! We also celebrated another choir member’s birthday today, Taylor Stucky! There must have been some birthday magic in the air, because we rocked that concert tonight! The choir continues to get better and better as the tour goes on, so prepare for an epic home concert when we get back!

Buchenwald Concentration Camp

By Erin Regier

Today was a day that I was both looking forward to and dreading. Today we visited the Buchenwald concentration camp. Located right outside of Weimar, Germany, this camp is nestled into a gorgeous dense forest on Ettersberg (Etter Mountain) According to the informational video we watched before touring the camp, over 56,000 people died in this camp. It was unreal to me that such a beautiful setting could hold such an ugly past.

For the duration of our tour of the camp it was overcast, drizzling rain and quite chilly. Although it was not great weather for being outdoors, it somehow seemed fitting. As I walked through the area that used to hold the barracks and holding cells, I tried to imagine what it must have been like to be prisoner in this camp during the winter. Here I was, shivering in my snow boots, fleece lined leggings and ski coat (not to mention a full meal in my belly!) and I was miserably wet and cold. The prisoners held here had nothing- just ill-fitting shoes and clothes and an empty stomach. Yet still they were expected to put in a 10 hour workday or face certain death. I can’t fully comprehend how terrible that must have been.

Although it was an unsettling and difficult place to visit, I feel like this was an important and moving experience for the entire choir.

Tonight we gave a concert in the oldest church in Weimar, the Evangelisch-Lutherische Kirche St. Peter und Paul. This church was built in 1200s and has such a rich history. During one of the breaks in the concert, Open Road (the men’s a capella group) sang a song that I found especially meaningful for today. The lyrics are taken from an inscription found scratched into the walls of a hiding place of Jews during the holocaust and are as follows:

“I believe in the sun,
even when it is not shining.
I believe in love,
even when I don’t feel it.
I believe in God,
even when He is silent.”

After a rather emotionally draining day, these words bring me hope!

Horsche Tour & Weimar

IMG_20140115_102847_783By: Madelyn Weaver

Today was an eventful day. The previous night we had our first home stay experience of this tour. From my experience and from what I have heard from others it went great and the people were so kind, hospitable and gracious and filled us to the brim with food!

This morning we all met at the Horsche factory. This factory makes farm machinery and is owned by the extended Horsche family who helped set up our visit and concert in Schwandorf. When we got there they had more food and drinks awaiting us along with free hats! They gave us a short presentation of an overview of their history, who they are, the various things they do and where they are located (including the headquarters in Schwandorf and a few areas in the US one being Harper KS!). After the presentation they took us on a tour of their facilities and then brought us back where they served us even MORE food! Being sent off with happy hearts and tummys because of how kindly the people of Schwandorf had treated us, we started on our way to Weimar, Germany.

This was a few hour bus ride and upon arrival we were given the afternoon and evening off. Because of the location of our hotel and it being towards the outskirts of town with no restaurants or shops besides a market in reasonable walking distance, we were also given the option to take our bus downtown at 4:30 to explore and find something to eat. A lot of us took advantage of that and then came back to the hotel for the rest of the evening.

That’s all for now,

Tomorrow is a busy day filled with tours and a concert so there will be much to tell!


Traveling to Schwandorf today! We’ll be spending lots of time on the bus during our last week and this is the start. Our drive today is almost four hours. After we arrived in Schwandorf we had about an hour of free time and most of the choir went and walked the main street of the town to stretch their legs and see the city. Schwandorf is absolutely beautiful, even though it was raining pretty steadily! It’s a bit bigger than Newton in population and has what I would call a small town feel. After our free hour we headed to the Mennonite church in town where some of our host families had provided snacks and supper. We had some amazing soup and salad along with coffee and tea; it was incredible how generous all of the people were!

Our concert actually took place in the Catholic church in town due to size restrictions. When we arrived at the church I was taken aback by the amount of people who were already there. We arrived at the church about an hour before the concert was supposed to start and many of the pews were already full. By seven o’clock, thirty minutes before the concert, there was standing room only! The balcony was full and every pew in the main area was full, we even opened up the pews that had been reserved for us and there were still people standing for the entirety of our concert. I have never felt as blessed as I did in that moment.

After our concert we went to meet our host families, tonight was our first homestay of the trip! Some of us were in groups and others by themselves; it was amazing to see how many people were willing to open up their homes for us to stay. I stayed with a family of three along with Kyle Riesen and Tim Regier. They were so incredibly gracious and kept offering us food and drinks. Even though they didn’t speak much English we still managed to have conversations about their work and where we go to school and many other things. It was nice to be directly immersed in the culture and I’m looking forward to many more homestays in the next week! Tomorrow we tour Horsch and then move on to Weimar! More to come soon!