Day One: Happy Europe Day!
By Autumn Rudolph
This is the greeting my teammates said to each other on Tuesday morning as we met in the parking lot of Weaver. It’s finally the day we leave for Europe! So much excitement and nerves come with preparing for a trip like this. We left campus at 9:30am and boarded our flight at 3pm out of New Orleans, got to Philadelphia at 7pm, and landed in Paris at 10:40am Wednesday morning. After a restless plane ride my team navigated customs, train rides, and finding our hostel easily. I am so encouraged on this very first day of how cohesive our team is, I feel so blessed to be a part of this team. As we sat by the canal eating French pastries, I felt overwhelmed by God’s provisions. I could’ve cried, but maybe that was just exhaustion. After checking into our hostel we conquered 26,000 steps, according to my Fitbit, walking to the Sacre Coer Cathedral that had one of the most beautiful views I’ve ever seen. Day one in Paris was phenomenal, this team encourages me to love on others as they love on me. I love Paris and I love this team!
Day Two: Saint Lazare
By Noah Whittington
“We began the morning by taking the Metro to Saint Lazare, a huge train station in the middle of town. We then made a trek through town toward the Louvre. On the way, we passed the Paris Opera House. I was blown away at how insanely massive the opera house is! The Louvre was quite impressive. We didn’t go in it, but there was plenty of good scenery to enjoy around the Louvre. Then we were off to Notre Dame. On the way, we came upon a bread festival. France is known for their bread, and we’ve already enjoyed plenty of amazing bread since we got here! We grabbed some lunch at the bread festival and went on to the Notre Dame. Despite being damaged by a fire recently, the cathedral was still a sight to behold. I felt awe and sadness at the same time because of what I knew the building once was. It was simply amazing to look at.
Then, we began the journey back towards the hostel. We still had plenty of time, so we searched for a coffee shop (I can’t remember the name) that has connections with Chaleur in Mobile. We thought we were going to the right place, but when we found it we discovered they had moved. All that walking for nothing! But thankfully we were walking toward the hostel already, so we just found another coffee shop along the way. After supper, some people we met in the hostel told us about a light show at the Eiffel Tower for its 130th anniversary. So naturally we had to go see this! Seeing the tower up close was so amazing! The size of it really blew me away. Then, we headed home, catching the last train of the night at the Eiffel Tower station.”
Day Three: Exploring Paris
By Emmy Ruff
Today was our final day in Paris, and it was also my favorite. Despite plans changing yesterday, my teammates have been flexible and patient. I was reminded of how our team was picked with prayer and intentionality; I’m so thankful for that. Spending time this morning with Autumn, coffee, and my journal was the perfect beginning of the day.
My friend Victoria is living here, and we were able to spend the day with her exploring this beautiful city. It’s been so great catching up with her and introducing her to my team. She jumped in alongside us to see the Luxembourg Gardens, Eiffel Tower, Arc de Triomphe, and showed us her favorite gelato shop. I see connections being made, and it’s been an encouraging end to our first city.
I believe that my team’s community is going to carry us through the days that we are exhausted and discouraged. I feel more prepared for traveling to our next city because of how I saw my team loving each other, and the people we’ve met along the way.
Day Four: Travel Day
By Josiah Pruett
Today was our last day in Paris. We woke up early to check out and make our trains to Munich. We packed all of our bags, checked out, stopped by our favorite bakery for fresh pastries, and were on our way to the train station. We made it with time to spare and got situated on the train only to find out from strange glances and rough English and French that we were in the completely wrong seats. So after being all settled down and free from our backpacks, we picked them up to go to our correct seats. That train ride was something straight out of a movie as we rode through the French country side. We switched trains in Mannheim and didn’t have reserved seats so we found ourselves yet again in someone else’s seat, but were able to find ourselves in a cabin with an older German gentleman who was kind enough to let five Americans sit in his cabin I’m sure he had to himself. We conversed back and forth for a bit until he dozed off for the rest of the trip.
We arrived in Munich, Germany in the later afternoon and got train passes and made it to our hostel which is SO much better than the one in Paris. It’s pretty close to Olympic Park so after settling in we walked around and walked through trying to find some great German food. After thorough investigation we found ourselves in Pizza Hut- and while we were all expecting a Pizza Hut that we would find in the States, we found a fantastic pizza diner with a line out the door. We thoroughly enjoyed some delicious ‘za. We took a different path home and found ourselves atop Olympic park overlooking Munich with a full moon over downtown, a sunset behind us, and the alps off in the distance. It’s so hard to compare cities like Paris to Munich. I’m praying to encounter people in our time here, for wisdom in what to say, for energy, and for help with this language because I’m stuck in Germany just getting used to French phrases. All in all, not a bad first travel day. Josiah out.
Day Five: Munich, Germany
By Justin Dillenschneider
Today is our second day in Munich and we took a day trip to Dachau to visit the Concentration Camp Memorial site in the morning and then spent the evening in Munich's Englischer Garten in the afternoon and evening.
I have visited the Memorial Site for the Dachau Concentration camp twice now; first in 2014 and again today. The site hits each of us differently in the emotions that we feel and in the time we need to process the overwhelming amount of sights and information. It has been difficult to explain to those who have never been to one of these sites the frustration and disappointment that I felt in walking through the camp. Its difficult to wrestle with how such atrocities could have been committed by anyone, much less in a systemic manner that dehumanizes entire people groups. As a group we debriefed over dinner and discussed how the trip affected each of us. We all were reminded how recently the Holocaust happened and how we must fight against any and all actions that dehumanize those around us.
The evening in Englischer Garten was calm and peaceful, and after dinner we walked to the Eisbach River near the entrance to the park to watch some locals surf in the rapids there. This beautiful park and the dinner we shared as a group was exactly what we needed after a tough morning.
In all of this, I am reminded that we are all created in the image of God (Gen 1) and that those who are separated from God by sin have had their eyes blinded to this truth (2 Cor. 4:4). Only the light of Christ and the salvation that we experience because of His sacrifice on the cross can change this, and I hope that by our time with those we meet that they can see evidence of this change in each of us.
Day 6: Old Town
By Autumn Rudolph
Today we’ve explored Old Town Munich and there’s no other way to say this, but it’s just beautiful. Munich is a much slower change of pace. It reminds me of Belle’s little provincial town in Beauty and the Beast, but it has way more to offer. I think our team needed this kind of slow paced city for some quality rest. Even though it was cold and rainy, we made the best of it! Sitting at the cutest cafe for breakfast, exploring the most beautiful churches, window shopping, and eating gelato. We climbed up St. Pete’s Tower for 2€ (yay for a student discount!) and though I was winded, at the top the view was unexplainable. You could see everything we had adventured to that day from ten stories up. Today was pretty great, but sometimes things don’t go according to plan; that’s just life. However, what is important is how you handle yourself and the situation when things aren't meeting expectations. Weather isn’t always perfect, museums close, hostel laundry machines are complicated, and sometimes crepe stands only take cash when you simply don’t have enough euros to give. This makes me think of the verse Habakkuk 3:17-18, “Though the fig tree should not blossom, and there be no fruit on the vines; Though the yield of the Olive should fail, and the fields produce no food, though the flock should be cut off from the cold, And there be no cattle in the stalls. Yet I will exult in the Lord, I will rejoice in the God of my salvation!”. My team was an encouraging example of this verse. Flexibility is literally so necessary on YHM. If I’m being honest, I hate the rain and being cold. We got a little turned around walking back from Old Town and it was down pouring. I felt mentally tested. A couple of “You're doing great” from Justin and humor to keep the situation light was needed. I said it last time and I’ll say it again, this team encourages me to be better and serve others better. I love this team and I love Munich, but very excited to adventure to Budapest tomorrow!!
Day 7: Budapest, Here We Come!
By Noah Whittington
Justin’s day began well before any of ours, as he left the hostel at 5:30 to pick his wife Danielle up from the airport. We’re so excited that she’s finally here! The rest of us took the tram and met them at the central station in Munich. We prepared for a 7-hour train ride, which ended up having a lot more stops than I anticipated. We left a rainy Munich shortly after 9 and arrived to Budapest at 4:30. On the way, we passed through Salzburg, which happens to be our next city. I’m starting to love the idea of taking trains everywhere. I didn’t grow up around trains at all, so to ride them from place to place is a new but exciting experience. The trains we ride in between cities are quite fast and very smooth. Plus, WiFi is a bonus!
Anyway, once we got to Budapest, our goal was to find the hostel. That may seem trivial, but in a city where none of us know the language or have been to before, it’s quite a tough task. After a little stress, we managed to get tickets for the metro and made it to the hostel. After checking in, we found an Italian place close by for dinner. Of course we had to get gelato for desert! Then, the exploring began. We walked first past St. Stephen’s Basilica. That was one of the most magnificent buildings I’ve ever seen! Such beautiful architecture! We walked just past the church to the Danube River, which splits the two sides of the city. Once the lights came on at dusk, the city looked even more magnificent than it already did. You’ll have to look at the pictures to get a grasp at how awesome the view is from the bridge over the river. It’s hard to describe. We simply stood and stared for a while, taking it all in. There are several famous buildings along the river that really emphasize the scene. I’m excited to explore more of the city in the coming days and to meet some people who are also enjoying this beautiful city.
Day 8: Exemplify Christ's Love
By Emily Ruff
I’m not going to lie, today was really rough for me. I was grumpy before we even got to breakfast this morning but my team still showed me grace. Autumn made me toast and while I had quiet time, my team got to know Diego and Denis at the other table. We ended up going on a walking tour through the Jewish neighborhood and learned more about the history there.
While on the walking tour, the person next to me started asking me questions about the United States and what my team was doing in Hungary. His name is Sebastian, and we talked throughout the entire tour. My team, Denis, Diego, and Sebastian ended up having lunch together and had a lot of fun talking about our different home countries. Denis and Diego ended up staying with us for the rest of the day while we toured Cold War ruins and the Opera House.
Throughout the day I saw moments when my team was loving me a little bit extra, and I am so thankful for that. Whether it was Autumn making me toast (she’s a queen), Josiah letting me take the first shower, or Noah hanging out with me at the Opera House, they showed me grace. As I typed this, I may have banged on Justin’s wall and woken him up to send me these pictures. He could have been annoyed with me but he still sent them and starting joking with us. I hope that our new friends see how my teammates exemplify Christ’s love, and that we have the opportunity to hang out with them again tomorrow.
Day 9: Faithfulness
By Josiah Pruett
What a time Budapest has been. Today was cool because the majority of our time has been spent on the “Pest” side of Budapest. So today, we finally went over to the “Buda” part. And as we learned yesterday, it’s not the oriental religion Buddha, but a rough translation of lots of water. Or hills. I would think hills cause I feel like that’s all we climbed today. We went to Buda with our friend Denice from the Netherlands today while our pal Diego but Brazil went on his cruise tour. We started the day at liberty statue which is at the top of a huge hill that overlooks all of the city. Twenty minutes later of hiking up the hill we made it to the top where they had set up local shops of desserts and handmade goods. We walked around taking in all the views-which were incredible- and hiked back down the wet slope. We traveled towards Buda Castle and explores the huge palace. We left and went on to lunch at a cool buffet style place where they had delicious, traditional Hungarian food. We kept working our way down the river side to St. Mathias Church and Fisherman’s Bastion. Apparently, there was a delegate there so most of the place was blocked off. So, we walked and saw what we could, went to Margaret island, and finished the day with Italian food and gelato in true European fashion.
We got back to the hostel and said our farewells to Denice and I finally realized the full impact of what this trip is capable of. For a bit I was discouraged at the lack of conversation and people we were meeting, but Budapest was different. It was cool to see how God ordained the people we met here, the conversations we had on topics of faith and life, and the love we got to show to a complete stranger who now feels like a good friend. What we are doing is not a get away from “the real world” but ways of finding what it means to live on mission and be intentional with conversations and situations. My time today has shown me that this is not a “get away from reality.” Life is still going on for myself back in the States with pressures of jobs and living and school. Today, though, God has shown me that he listens to the cries of his people and answers in His timing and in His way. He is faithful in all He does and I’m blessed to be experiencing that.
Day 10: Saying Goodbye
By Justin Dillenschneider
Budapest was a difficult city to leave. From the first day, it was full of surprises and we really had no idea what to expect as we are the first team to have gone to the city. As we leave the city (and head to one of my favorite cities in the world), I am thankful for the opportunity to travel with and lead this team of students. At every turn, they have been flexible and open to changing their plans to travel alongside people we meet and spend time getting to know them and share their stories. My prayer for the city of Budapest (and every city that we visit) is that our hearts and minds will stray towards the city and that the Holy Spirit would stir in our hearts a desire to see the Gospel continue to be proclaimed in these places.
When we arrived in Salzburg this afternoon, we were welcomed by a UM alumnus Jessica Robbins. She has been serving as a missionary in Berlin with Reach Global since February 2017, and she came to Salzburg to meet with us. As an alumnus of both UM and a former YHM team member, Jessica has been an encouragement to us as a team and a reminder that the ultimate goals of YHM are personal spiritual formation and the spread of the gospel through missional living. Ultimately, YHM is meant to be a gateway that leads each of us into a life of intentionality in the way in which we live out our faith anywhere and everywhere that God leads us. I am so thankful and I am excited to see what God has in store for us in this city and I pray that we can be an encouragement to Jessica as we are here!
Day 11: Salzburg
By Autumn Rudolph
My best friend from back home once told me that Salzburg was named one of the most beautiful cities in Europe and Justin told us he’d live there he loves the city so much. When I heard these wonderful things about a city on our route I thought “okay cool we’ll see a beautiful city”. I had no idea exactly what we were in for until we got off our train yesterday. There are truly no words to capture the beauty of the fortress, the old town, or the alps in the mere distance.
We started our day enjoying a cable car ride up a mountain with the most incredible view of the alps in the distance. We stayed up at the top for quite a while to enjoy the views and some snacks. My first thought was that I’ve been missing out on this view for 20 years. It’s a view you never tire of. My second thought was what an incredible God we serve that He created these views for us. I included pictures, but I’m sorry they just don’t do it justice. Switzerland is gonna be ridiculous because we’ll actually see the alps up close, but anyways back to Salzburg. After a cable ride back and a little walking, we took a train ride up the mountain to the Fortress. I felt like I was in a medieval castle that included another crazy beautiful view. Traveling along with us was one of Justin and Danielle’s college friend Jess. She lives in Berlin now doing mission work and joined us in Salzburg for the weekend. She went on yhm her sophomore year at UM. She was so willing to share her story and pour some wisdom into us about international missions. Jess, if you’re reading this it was so wonderful to have you on our team this weekend!