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Team Zach Europe: Adam Olszewski, AJ Nipper, Morgan Cleveland, and Jessica Weeks

Day One: Thankful for a Team

By AJ Nipper

Long but good.

I think this is the best way to describe day 1 in Europe. After leaving Mobile at 5:15 Monday morning, we spent the full day in airports before boarding a plane to Europe that landed at 7:15 Tuesday morning in Rome. Between the five us, I wouldn’t be surprised if we collectively tallied a meager 10 total hours of sleep on the plane. After deplaning with 2 hours of sleep in hand, we navigated the airport to the train station where we accidentally boarded the wrong train. After some corrections and a few misunderstandings, we managed to make it to our hostel, move our stuff in and begin the day. Through the rest of the day, we managed to also board a wrong metro and even get split between two metro stops at one point. Finally after visiting a few sites, the team, completely exhausted, decided to crash at the hostel at 7pm that night. No doubt it was long. No doubt it was challenging. No doubt it was trial by fire.

Yet even amidst the confusion, misunderstandings, mistakes and exhaustion, day 1 was more than I could’ve asked for.

On day 1, I saw the beauty of a team. Our mistakes led us to trust each other more rather than drive a wedge between us.

On day 1 I saw the beauty of patience. Through broken Italian our team never lost their tempers, even running off of 2 hours of sleep.

On day 1 I saw the beauty of grace. The Lord has given me more than I could ever ask through this trip and this team.

The Lord is truly grace upon grace through this trip, and I look with excitement to what He will continue to do.

Definitely long, but without a doubt good.

Day Two: Lunch in the Rain

By Jessica Weeks

Night 1 in the hostel brought with it some funny stories, not the least of which included 2 of our 5 teammates falling out of their top bunks in the middle of the night. Funny stories and a good night’s rest were all welcomed experiences after our long day of travel yesterday.

Today we went to see the Colosseum!

It was rainy and a bit cold but that meant the crowd going to tour the colosseum was much smaller than usual so we were thankful for that.

The colosseum was awesome. The fact that the whole thing was built without any of our modern technology and yet, so intricately designed was mind blowing to me. In the line to the colosseum we met a sweet couple from Columbus, Georgia who was traveling on a cruise and spending the day in Rome.

As we walked through the colosseum, it was sobering to think of how many Christians were killed in this place for their faith and that human life was used as a means of entertainment. It’s crazy to think that even as far back in history as this, people wanted to be entertained, whatever the cost of that may be.

After the colosseum we were trying to find a covered place where we could eat lunch... we didn’t have much luck with that so we just embraced the fact that lunch was going to be spiced with a little Italian rain water today. We made sandwiches and ate our lunches standing up, in the rain. We got a lot of funny looks from passers-by, and laughed at ourselves the whole time. One of many hilarious team bonding moments and definitely one of the highlights of today.

We headed back to the hostel after our little picnic to dry off and rest some before dinner. On the way we stopped in to this massive church (Basilica of Santa Maria Maggiore). There seems to be a huge church around every corner here, all equally as beautiful and impressive as the one before.

Back at the hostel we played cards in the lobby for a while and met a guy from England named Shane. He was really cool and a little later we found out he was a Christian!

We went to dinner and happened upon the pantheon on the way! If you have any idea the size of the pantheon you’d think it’d be pretty hard to just stumble upon it but there are so many massive buildings in Rome that we rounded a corner and this intimidatingly huge structure was right next to us. So cool! On the way home we went to the Trevi Fountain which, like everything else in Rome, is huge and beautiful.

We’re only 2 days in but so far Rome is beautiful, the food is amazing, and the people seem very nice.

We covet your prayers for more opportunities to meet people, build relationships, and share the gospel.

Arrivederci!

Day Three: Touchy Subjects

By AJ Nipper

Mentioning the city of Amsterdam never fails to incite interesting comments from those we meet. Although it is the last city that we will travel to, many of the people we meet have already traveled through or been previously in their lives. From my minimal knowledge of life in Europe, I know that Amsterdam has a similar connotation to our Las Vegas. It is the Sin City of Europe. Yet it is different in that while “what happens in Vegas stays in Vegas”, nobody seems to mind talking about what happens in Amsterdam. Prostitution runs rampant. Choosing not to smoke weed is rare. The red light district covers a large chunk of the city.

On our last night in Rome, we met a guy from Toronto, Canada. He is 19 years old and is studying to become an engineer. As we were talking and telling him the route we were taking through Europe, his face lit up as we said the name Amsterdam. He gave us some helpful travel tips and then proceeded to tell us that we should all go smoke weed and look at the prostitutes at night when in Amsterdam. We all gave somewhat of an awkward laugh and said “yeah we’re probably not gonna do that.” One of the team members made a short comment about how prostitution was a sad and disheartening industry and then the subject was quickly changed. A few minutes before this conversation, when we said we were from Alabama, he brought up the new abortion ban and how it essentially took away all of a woman’s rights (I guess sweet home Alabama is making waves even in Italy). Again, not wanting to get into a conversation that could turn south quickly, we all kind of laughed awkwardly, dodged the comment, and moved to a new conversation.

The next day as I reflected on the dialogue, the Lord began to reveal some things about the ways I speak with people and how I reach people for His glory.

First, The Lord showed me that I am called to meet people where they are, not where I am. When Jesus sends out the 72 in Luke 10, he says “I am sending you out as sheep among wolves.” In the great commission, Jesus says “Go make disciples of ALL the nations.” Not just the ones that have similar or safe world-views. He sends us to the sick. He sends us to the hurting. He sends us to the empty. He sends us to the selfish. He sends us to the prostitutes and sends us to the adulterers. He sends us to these because we used to be these.

Tit 3:3 For we ourselves were once foolish, disobedient, led astray, slaves to various passions and pleasures, passing our days in malice and envy, hated by others and hating one another.

Tit 3:4 But when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared,

Tit 3:5 he saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit,

Tit 3:6 whom he poured out on us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior,

Tit 3:7 so that being justified by his grace we might become heirs according to the hope of eternal life.

Jesus has radically saved me, not so I can live in safety and comfort for the rest of my days, but so that I may be poured out for the glory of God and the good of those around me. And that means meeting people where they are in their lives.

Col 1:21 And you, who once were alienated and hostile in mind, doing evil deeds,

Col 1:22 he has now reconciled in his body of flesh by his death, in order to present you holy and blameless and above reproach before him,

Second, the Lord began to show me that I do not have good answers to touchy subjects. An awkward laugh and a change of the subject were my instinct reactions because I was at a loss for words. I was at a loss for words, yet the two comments he made (one about abortion and one about prostitution) were the widest doors given for a gospel conversation. At one point in my life, I may have agreed with him. I may have taken him up on his Amsterdam suggestion because I was lost and looked for pleasure and hope through what the world could offer me. But now, Jesus has saved me. Jesus has given me new desires and new affections. Jesus has radically altered the course of my life and given me a new purpose and trajectory. Tough subjects require tough responses. Tough subjects require us to share about what Jesus has done in our lives to bring us from the kingdom of darkness into the Kingdom of Light. We are not saved to be drawn out of the world but to live amongst the world and engage the world.

Only a few days in and the Lord is already revealing things in my life and the lives of my teammates that He is seeking to change and refine. He is good. I pray that He would continue to open doors of opportunity and give us boldness to walk through.

Day Three: Gorgeous Places & Cool People

By Morgan Cleveland

Today was absolutely gorgeous. We visited the Vatican and took in amazing views of the city, including the Colosseum and the Roman Forum, from the top of Palatine Hill. The tall Roman pine trees and overgrown greenery provided an excellent background for the genius architecture that still stands after over a thousand years.

Rome is a bustling city full of people from a wide array of backgrounds. This is evident from the moment you step into one of the many metro stations. Everyone crams into each train car with their own agenda - looking at their phones, reading books, or listening to music as they continue their daily routine - making it difficult to strike up a conversation. However, we ended our day by playing cards in the common area of our hostel (Nines of course) and met some really cool people. One guy we met, Javier, is in his 3rd year of traveling the world. He has visited almost every continent and just got to Rome today after spending the last 4 months in Australia. He hopes to “settle down” (which means stay for a few months for him) in Rome and is going to meet with his family for the first time since he began his journey. Another girl was visiting from Puerto Rico, Anjelica, to speak at a conference that was going to take place in the city. It was a lovely evening spent talking about the differences and similarities of the cultures represented and I am excited to meet more people along this journey!

Day Four: Rome

By Adam Olszewski

The best way I can describe our experience in Rome was baptism by fire. Our first day consisted of 36 hours and only 2 hours of sleep in the middle of all that. In an effort to adjust our bodies to the jet lag, we landed in Rome and jumped right into our travels. Everything from that first day is kind of a blur. I remember grabbing our Roma Pass, heading to the hostel to check in, grabbing some cheap but fantastic Italian pizza, exploring the city, oh and Zach’s water bottle quite literally spewing half of its contents throughout the cabin of our plane. That first day we were tired and confused. We ended up going to sleep at 7pm our first night in the city. It was a fairly good night sleep despite the shuffling of fellow travelers in and out of our room... and both AJ AND Jess falling from the top bunks of our beds in the middle of the night.

The next day was much better. After much needed rest, we headed out into the rain to grab an early coffee and breakfast. From there, we headed to the infamous Colosseum. Thanks to our Roma Pass, we were able to skip the 2 hour wait line. Once we left there, we walked around the city a little bit more. Starving but with nowhere to eat because of the rain, we decided to set up camp in the middle of the sidewalk. The looks we received as we attempted to make our Nutella and banana sandwiches were quite hilarious. Soon thereafter, we headed home to get dry and warm. Later that evening, we went back out into the cold rain to grab a phenomenal Italian dinner.

Day three... day three was almost as long as day 1. In 13 miles of walking, we went to Palatine Hill, the Roman Forum, Vatican City, the Sistine Chapel, St. Peter’s Basilica, and Trastevere.

Rome taught me quite a few things. The first thing Rome taught me is that there is a very real world outside my very American bubble. For the first time in my life, I felt like a complete stranger in a completely foreign land. Personally, I was surprised how many English speaking people we came across in our very small hostel. There is most definitely opportunity for conversation with fellow travelers from all over the world. Rome was our city of growth. It primarily consisted of us getting acclimated to the outside world. What better city than one of the most historically rich cities in the entire world? At the end of the day, it is very clear that this team understands that God is sovereign and that he has given us people to converse with. The gospel is going to do powerful things on this trip. As you read this, I urge you to keep praying for our team and the remainder of this trip. Be praying for peace, be praying for opportunity, be praying that the Holy Spirit would sustain us, and be praying that God be glorified above all things. Tourism is cool, but the good news that Jesus Christ conquered death is much cooler. Sure, we would love to share our travel experiences with other travelers, but our true goal here is to share our salvation experiences with them instead.

“And he said to them ‘Go into all the world and proclaim the gospel to the whole creation.’ — Mark 16:15

In Christ,

Adam Olszewski

Day Five: Bonding Moments

By Jessica Weeks

Per Zach’s suggestion, we all went for a team run this morning... Because walking 50 miles in 4 days isn’t enough activity...

We ran to this old park (Villa Fabricotta) and sat at the top of the steps where we prayed for the people we’d met so far and the the ones we’d meet in the future. It was peaceful and restorative, as well as another one of those funny team bonding moments.

Other than our morning jog, today was restful. We did laundry, spent some time getting to know each other better, and met a number of people in our hostel. We ended up going to dinner with 3 ladies- one from South Africa (Nebreska), one from Korea (Ni Huyn (not exactly sure on that spelling)) and one from California (Emma).

Nebreska has been traveling for 3 months and said we were the first Christians she’s met the whole time. Pretty crazy! After dinner we hung out with Emma for a long time! She was raised by parents who were strong atheists but through friends, started going to church. We got to talk to her a good bit about our experiences growing up in Christian homes and how our faith became our own. She had actually been a student in New York studying abroad in Florence for the past 4 months and said one thing she was going to miss most was the slow pace of life here.

That’s definitely one big difference between Rome and Florence- In Rome, everyone seemed like they were in a hurry; there’s so much to see and so much to do. Florence, being a significantly smaller city gives you a chance to slow down and take in life around you.

I’m thankful for the rest Florence has given us so far, the new friends, and the adventure tomorrow is sure to bring.

Day 6: Five Earths

By Adam Olszewski

Cinque Terre: Italian for “Five Earths.”

The team decided it was going to take the first half of day 5 to do some laundry and rest. In the laundry room, Zach, AJ, and I met a very nice woman from South Africa. She was a fellow believer which was extremely encouraging for me, personally. She shared with us that she was wrapping up her 3 month journey through Europe and we were the first Christians she met in Europe. Let that sink in. 3 months of traveling, and the last week is the first time you encounter fellow believers. During a little bit of more conversation, she told us about a little province on the west coast of Italy called Cinque Terre. With the weather being a little less than ideal for our last two days in Florence, we considered taking a day trip to Cinque Terre. After doing some research, the decision was simple, we were taking a spontaneous trip to one of the most beautiful places on the earth.

Cinque Terre—Five Earths... the name speaks for itself. The province consists of five little towns — Monterosso, Vernazza, Corniglia, Manarola, and Riomaggiore. Of course, we only had one day to do this before, so we only had time for two towns. Our first stop was Corniglia. As we stepped off the train in Corniglia, we were left dumbfounded. As waves crashed against the mountainside, we were overwhelmed with God’s beautiful creation. Cinque Terre was most certainly nothing like anything any of us have ever seen before. The deep blue ocean and the massive green mountainsides genuinely showed the hand of an intentional Creator. Our adventure begun. After a small stroll through town, the rainfall began. What better time to hike up the side of a mountain? We climbed, and climbed, and climbed. About halfway up, we were soaked. In total, we climbed 150 flights of stairs and covered over 9 miles. I stayed mostly in the rear for majority of the hike withdrawing myself from much of the conversation. As I climbed and looked out over the mountains and the village, I was overwhelmed by God’s creation. The intense beauty captivated me. The sound of the forest and the rain hitting the rocks sang of God’s glory. Creation was worshiping Him. I was reminded of Psalm 96 (vs 11-12) where the Psalmist speaks of creation worshiping its Creator. “Let the heavens be glad, and let the earth rejoice; let the sea roar, and all that fills it; let the field exult, and everything in it! Then shall all the trees of the forest sing for joy.” In our descent, we stopped to take a few pictures, but they simply do not do it justice. After reaching the town once again, we began a descent down to the marina. As we walked, the sound of the waves crashing against the rocks was magnificent. It too, sang of God’s creation. After walking across some rocks that overlooked the water, we were convicted to pray. We prayed for the trip, we prayed for each other, and we prayed for all the travelers that we have encountered so far across the way. We climbed back up the cliff, dried off, and actually ran into a couple that we had met on a train a few days before! We talked with them and took a picture before departing ways once again. It was really cool how just moments before we prayed for them at the marina, and then they crossed paths with us a second time in a completely different city.

We then made way for Manarola. After arriving in Manarola, we quickly learned that this village was the tourist destination of the five lands. The town was much larger and souvenir shops were scattered throughout the city. As we walked along the cliff side up to the top, we took several moments to take more of it all it. Starving from our hike, we stopped for a nice afternoon snack at one of the local restaurants that overlooked the city and the sea. The view was, as you could guess, incredible. Finally, the skies opened up and the sun beamed through. What a perfect ending to a perfect day. We left just before sunset, but the sun still beamed off the water leaving us awestruck as we departed the Five Earths. We hopped on and off a couple trains, arrived back in Florence, grabbed pizza from the infamous Gusta’s, and ended the night with gelato.

The big takeaway from Day 6 is that a good and sovereign Creator divinely knit together a beautiful world that’s sole purpose is to worship him. The world is fallen, but creation still sings of his glory. Mountains sing and trees clap (Isaiah 55:12), rocks cry (Luke 19:40), and the heavens declare the work of His hands (Psalm 19:1). Cinque Terre, the Five Earths sparked something in us Day 6. To recognize and revel in the magnificent glory of God.

Day 8: “Who even picked Salzburg?”

By Morgan Cleveland

Yesterday, we took 3 different trains from Florence to Salzburg. Other than the fact that we had to change platforms to catch the train from Innsbruck to Salzburg in 1 minute (with our giant backpacks) (my legs burned from the stairs at Cinque Terre, and I thought I was going to topple over from the weight on my back, but we made it!) the train rides allowed us to rest, relax, and reflect on our first week of travel as we cruised through the countryside.

During one of our first team meetings back in December, we discussed and picked what cities we would like to visit. Some of us suggested certain cities, but for the most part we were just excited to go anywhere in Europe. However, while we were in the train station, Adam (who was in charge of planning this city and had no clue of what we were going to do) asked, “Who even picked Salzburg?” After an intense questioning, we realized than none of us knew anything about Salzburg, and that none of us suggested this city. After a few moments of confusions as to how Salzburg ended up on our route, we all remembered that Hannah, who ended up not being able to come on the trip, picked Salzburg - and now we are glad that she did!

Once we made it to our hostel, we got information about the city and met a new friend, Ethan. Ethan is currently a psychology/German major in the states and has been in Austria/Germany for a school program. He was quick to hang out with us, and proved to be a great help in navigating the bus lines. We began our day by going to Hohensalzburg. It was this massive fortress that sits on the top of a hill, overlooking the entire city. Next, we visited the birthplace of Mozart. The music education major in me thought it was cool to see original copies of some of his works, as well as some of his instruments. Then we took a cable car up to the top of a mountain. It had been rainy all morning and as we began to ascend we went through dense fog and clouds. There was a moment when we literally could not see anything around us, except for white. We went over one final hill and as we did we came through the clouds and all of a sudden you could see the snow-capped mountains and let me tell you it wasn’t anything like good ‘ole Rocky Top (go vols). We took in breath-taking views (literally the altitude made it hard to breath) of the mountains overlooking the city. We weren’t exactly dressed for the weather, so we didn’t spend too much time before we took the cable car back down.

Salzburg is proving to be an awesome city and I am glad we stopped here. The Lord is bringing people seeking a sense of community our way. Pray for our team as we look for means to love and serve those we come across, that they may see the gospel lived out through us.

“Dear children, let us not love with words or speech but with actions and in truth.” - 1 John 3:18

Day 9: His Timing

By AJ Nipper

Sometimes the Lord gives us years. Sometimes only months. Sometimes mere hours. As much as we would like to, we do not control the timing of our lives. We do not get to choose who we meet, where we meet them, and how long we have to get to know them.

People come and go. It is a fact of life. Yet it is beautiful in that it forces us as Christians to rely fully on the sovereignty of our King. He knows what He is doing. I DO NOT. The prophet Isaiah writes in chapter 55, “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the LORD. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.” I was reminded of this truth this morning sitting in our hostel in Salzburg.

On the way to Salzburg, our team has been praying for opportunities to meet people and love them as Christ has first loved us. Not even 10 minutes after checking into our hostel, the Lord gave one of many answers to that prayer. We met a guy from the states here for a study abroad program. Immediately we were able to connect and he ended up spending the entirety of the next 48 hours with us. We were able to visit the Salzburg fortress, ride a ski lift to the top of the mountain range, and tour the streets of old town Salzburg. Though the weather was raining yet again (day 7 of rain out of 9), spirits were high and we all enjoyed the company and time together.

As I reflect back on the two days, I pray he saw love in our team, both for each other and for him. I pray he saw grace in our team, as we continue to learn to work as a tight-knit unit. I pray he saw the testimony of lives changed by the power of a Risen King.

Though our time with him was short, I’m grateful for the few hours to get to know him and spend time with him. I know we all enjoyed it.

As believers, we are not called to worry about timing. We are called to rest in His timing and make the most of the time He has given. Paul encourages the church in Ephesus to “make the best use of the time, for the days are evil.”

So, as we come up on the halfway mark of the trip, I ask for continual prayers that our team would make the most of the time we are given. I also want to encourage everyone who may read this to seek to do the same. Wherever the Lord has placed us, we are placed there for a purpose. It may be for a few years. Maybe for a few months. Maybe for mere hours. Whatever you are given, use that season for the glory of the King. May the name of Jesus be lifted up always.

Day 11: Dachau

By Adam Olszewski

Dachau... one of the most sobering experiences of my life...

On our first full day in Germany, the team decided to take a day trip to the small German town of Dachau. About 80 years ago, one of the first concentration camps from World War 2 was opened. When we first stepped off the train, we all were a little quiet. It was a sunny day (one of the first we’ve had this trip), so you think we would be in good spirits, but the realization that we were about to head to a real life concentration camp really hit home. When we arrived, it was silent. All I can remember hearing is the sound of our feet shuffling across the gravel. We slowly made our way to the entrance making sure to read each plaque along the way. We took our time trying to really take it all in. Some of the things we read were rather gruesome. The torture and hardship that the prisoners had to endure was real and it was mind-boggling trying to wrap our heads around the fact that these type of things happened to real people. I won’t go into much detail, but there were very real things that myself and the rest of the team saw that truly opened our eyes. The world is fallen. War is real. And evil very much so dwells on this earth.

One thing that this team is very good at is taking it all in. When we decided to go to Dachau, I think we all were under the same impression that we wanted to experience this type of reality. We wanted our eyes to be opened. It’s so easy to get wrapped up in our fairly pleasant lives and forget that there was and is evil on this earth. Dachau’s concentration camp was one of those places. Thousands of people imprisoned, tortured, and even killed. In 1945 the camp was liberated, but the scars still remain. Millions were impacted by the atrocity of the Holocaust. This team has a far greater understanding of evil than we did before. There is one thing in this universe that triumphs over hate, evil, and death, and that is the love of Christ shown on the cross and his power in the resurrection. It is not only our mission on this trip, but it is the mission of our lives to share the love of Christ with the world. Christ’s love is perfect and his perfect love triumphs over evil. That is good news. That is the gospel.

“I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.”—John 16:33

Day 12: Neuschwanstein

By Morgan Cleveland

S-Bahn, U-Bahn, Tram, Train, Bus - any public transportation in Munich - you name it and we’ve used it. The city is set up in a way to ensure everyone can get around everywhere somehow. We’ve just about got it figured out, but it’s taken some wrong metros and having to turn around to get there.

Today we ventured out of the city to the town of Fussen to see the Neuschwanstein Castle everyone talks about. It was a beautiful day, (one of the few days it hasn’t rained on this trip) which meant it was very crowded. There is a small bridge (Marienbrüke) with a great view of the castle in the background that was absolutely packed with people. We’re talking people shoving trying to get across and get their perfect picture. We dodged our way through dozens of selfie-sticks and made it across with minimal injuries. Once through the crowd, we hiked on up and found a nice spot to make our gourmet PB, banana, and Nutella sandwiches for lunch as we overlooked the castle.

We walked back down the mountain (not to be dramatic but Zach lost his footing for a second and about fell to his death, but he caught himself and we’re glad he’s still with us) and threw frisbee down by the Alpsee (a really pretty lake at the foot of the Bavarian Alps) as we waited on our bus. The bus and train rides through the German countryside were relaxing before we made it back to the city. Tired from traveling and Zach’s near death experience we got Kebabs from a street vendor and called it a night.

Next up: the mountains of Switzerland!

Day 13: Strength in Numbers

By AJ Nipper

Adam: 1. My fiercely loyal best friend 2. ALWAYS has your back 3.Professional Chinese accent 4. Paragliding master 5. Go-Pro Guru

Jess: 1. Contagious positive attitude 2. Team physician3. World’s fastest hiker 4. Can fall asleep anywhere 5. Whistles 5,000 different songs a day

Morgan: 1. Nicknamed “Mountain Morgan” 2. Iron Chef of Nutella sandwiches 3. Lover of morning jogs before 7 am 4. Always ready to “square up” 5. World-class sprinter when catching trains

Zach: 1. Our fearless leader 2. Nicknamed “Red Lightning” 3. Professional linguist 4. Packs enough for 3 people 5. Will hurt someone for Gelato

These are the people I am traveling Europe with.

I don’t think I’ve laughed more in any 2 week span in my life. Each day is an adventure filled with more experiences, more new friendships and more laughs. One day it is Adam almost hitting the mountain during our paragliding excursion. The next it’s Zach almost falling off the mountain or me eating barbed wire after falling off my trotty bike in Switzerland. After that, maybe it’s Jess and Morgan head-bobbing while nodding off to sleep on the train. Or maybe it’s Adam slipping in the park while chasing a frisbee. Or maybe Morgan squaring up the mountain after saving herself from falling. Or maybe Jess walking in completely muddied after a solo hike turned into a solo rock slide. The possibilities are honestly endless. The quote “laughter is good for the soul” has definitely come to life for me over the last few weeks.

The word grateful falls ever so short in describing what I feel for this team. Each member has played a vital role in the team, and through them I have seen biblical community come to life in both how they treat each other and how well they treat the people the Lord has allowed us to meet. Each of them is a daily encouragement and a constant example of love for the Lord and the people around them. It is the body of Christ simply being the body of Christ and it is incredible to be a part of.

Col 3:12 Put on then, as God's chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience,

Col 3:13 bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive.

Col 3:14 And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony.

Col 3:15 And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful.

Col 3:16 Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God.

Col 3:17 And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.

Day 15: Wipeouts and Hypothermia

By Adam Olszewski

It was a cold rainy day... Temperatures ranged from low to mid 40s... the sound of the rain pelting our jackets loomed with us the entirety of the day. As we left the comfort of our hostel, we began our trek up the mountain. Several miles and an hour and a half later, we reached about the halfway point up the mountain, we reached our destination, we reached the the trotti bikes. We strapped on our helmets, zipped up our jackets, and scootered our way down... a mountain... in the freezing rain and cold.

Day 15 consisted of by far one of the stupidest, yet most epic things we have done yet. Yes, you read that correctly, we rented 5 trotti bikes (basically a hybrid of a scooter and a bike) and rode them down the Swiss Alps. Well if you didn’t think that was epic enough, we didn’t have any gloves and lost complete feeling in our hands. As we zoomed down the mountain, we had to stop a couple times to regain feeling. I remember holding down the back break the entirety of the ride and still gaining speed as we flew down the mountain. After a fairly smooth turn, we had our third near death experience of the trip. As I turned the corner around a tree, I look up just in time to see AJ fly over his handle bars (easily moving 30mph), catch his footing for about 3 steps, then get absolutely clothe-lined by the barbed wire that lined the road. Yes, you read that correctly... barbed wire. The same barbed wire that prevented him from plummeting down the rest of the mountain. Miraculously, he bounced right back up, turned around to flex, and let out a mountainous roar. I have not laughed that hard in a VERY long time. With only a few scrapes on his arm, we continued on our way down the mountain much more hesitant this time. After nearly being hit by 2 cars, we finally reached the bottom. We returned our bikes and immediately found the nearest bathroom for hot water to rewarm our numb hands. It was then that we realized that Zach was on the verge of hypothermia. Zach was blue, he stomach turned as if he was going to throw up, and he couldn’t speak. We went to a coffee shop to warm up and once Zach regained his speech, we headed back to the hostel and called it a day.

There is only one group of people that would willingly decide to scooter down a mountain in 40° and rainy weather. It just so happens that this team happens to be that group. Was it miserable? Yes. Would we do it again? Absolutely. To good times, my friends.

Day 17: Crepes anyone?

By Morgan Cleveland

Our 36 hours in Paris came and went just about as fast as the metros running throughout the busy city. We spent most of our time at the Eiffel Tower either throwing frisbee, eating crepes, or sitting in the grass talking and watching the thousands of people come and go. Our first night we made some friends, Stephen and Justin, who threw frisbee with us and got to witness Adam busting it on the slick grass.

Shortly before we left for Europe, the Notre Dame Cathedral caught fire. Today we were able to see the cathedral and the effects of the tragic event. While it was sad to see the damage on such a beautiful and historic site, it was also encouraging to see that people are already working to renovate and restore the cathedral.

It’s hard to believe that we are about to be in our last city before returning to the States. It seems like just yesterday we were trying to figure out the metro system in Rome. I am thankful for this team and for the people the Lord has put along our path. The people on my team have quickly became like family to me. I’ve watched us grow together spiritually, encourage one another, and live out the gospel along the way. I can’t even begin to recount the memories we’ve made and the laughs that we’ve shared. While we are quick to roast each other, I know that they will always be there to encourage me and lift me up in prayer.

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