Berlin. At last!

Long layovers and twenty-four hours of travel left me hungry, dirty, and bone-tired. Raising my eyes to Heaven, I took a deep breath, exhaled slowly, and relaxed. Profoundly grateful there were no more airports in my foreseeable future.

Because my travel companions and I didn’t read or speak German, it had been pure misery finding a bus to reach downtown Berlin. There were signage and bus routes, but all in German. My bones ached as we waited on the hard cement, praying for relief. Finally, with the help of our Lonely Planet guidebook, we located our ride.

Glancing around the bus, I slowly stretched while making sure everyone was on. From my point of view, we looked like a disheveled band of ragamuffin travelers slouched over our luggage with glazed expressions. I averted my eyes, avoiding eye contact with other passengers as I gathered my wits about me. I could just imagine the thoughts behind the smirking faces as they stared at our ten humongous suitcases, backpacks, and carry-ons. Something most likely starting with “Stupid Americans”. Overwhelmed, I ducked my head, considering my options for running at the next stop.

Insecurity flooded me. I grappled with my sanity for undertaking this new adventure at fifty-three. Skepticism circled round and round in my head, permeated my bones, and fogged my brain.

Had I prepared enough?

Was I up for this new life?

What difference could I possibly make in this world filled with corruption and pain? 

Aware I was spiraling downward, I turned my focus to the riders sitting along the walls. I tried eavesdropping, corralling my suitcases as we swung around street corners, straining to hear the different languages and conversations around me. My heart hummed with excitement as I took it all in. People watching was one of my favorite things to do.

A man across the bus caught my eye. He was thin, almost skeletal, with a haunted air about him. As if he had walked a long way and seen much sorrow. His hunched shoulders and bent back made him look much older than he probably was. I longed to hear his story, wondering where he came from and what sadness he’d witnessed. Although, I’m not sure my heart was up to what he’d say.

Wincing, I hoped I didn’t end up looking like that at this journey’s end.


We were a party of five. My husband, Jon, daughter, Calli, and new friends, Cathy and Sherry, bonded together in a prayer room on the campus of the University of Texas in Austin. We each felt called to reach our world with the love of Jesus. Calli, the youngest of our team, twenty-five and full of passion, led our quest.

It was 2011 and our western world was waking up to the fact that sex-trafficking and human trafficking of all kinds existed. Where humans stole other humans’ lives, taking their God-given talents and treasures for their own gain. It was happening unseen in our streets and neighborhoods. The fact it was going on in Austin fueled our hearts to bring awareness and training to eradicate this monster of modern-day slavery.

Looking to the future, we left loved ones, possessions, and vocations for missionary training. Youth With A Mission (YWAM) in Herrnhut, Germany was our destination. Jon and I would stay two-and-a-half months for Leadership Training. Cathy, Sherry, and Calli would attend a six-month Discipleship Training School, focusing on the world of human trafficking.

Over the heads of the other passengers, my heart filled with joy and satisfaction as my gaze landed on Calli. Nodding, I knew we made the right decision to follow her on this mission. In many ways, it reminded me of Calli’s birth. The intense preparation and labor it had taken to bring her into this world. As I looked at her, I hoped what I loved and left behind in Austin would be worth the blood, sweat, and tears it could cost me. As she had been.

I felt a big grin replacing my tight mouth as I thought about the courage it took her to leave everything she had worked so hard for. Her willingness to risk her time, treasure, and relationships to help the defenseless filled my lungs with pride. I knew in my knower, she would be great at this. And, hopefully, I would too.

Feeling the weight of self-doubt dissipating, I straightened up and turned my attention to the sights and sounds of Berlin. Large, oblong windows let in the passing tree-lined streets and old multi-storied buildings.

As neighborhoods raced by, I glimpsed the ancient city I’d researched and read about for decades. Dread and excitement simultaneously tugged at my heart, and I became intrigued. Berlin had never been at the top of my bucket list, but now it captured my imagination. After all, it’s the birthplace of one of the most horrific genocides in history. But now, Berlin’s a thriving, historic city, still recovering from war and rebuilding with innovation.

My maternal great-grandparents came from Germany, so I hoped to learn more about my heritage. Two of my great-uncles fought on opposite sides of World War II. I looked forward to living among Germans and learning from this culture that has influenced my life and DNA.

Gathering my thoughts, I gazed out the windows and became captivated by the passing view as we approached downtown. I daydreamed of feasting on a hearty German lunch at a charming sidewalk cafe and a long nap afterwards at our host’s home, who we had yet to meet or talk to. My curiosity peeked as I wondered if she was kind and if her place was comfy and clean. I held my breath considering mission trips I’ve taken where that was not the case.

The bus slowed as we rounded a curve. I looked up in time to see an ancient bridge we were about to cross. It was a lovely sight, with a wide, flowing river emerging beneath. As we drove over the bridge, my intuition told me we were leaving West Berlin. I sensed a distinct shift in the way the city looked and felt. My stomach somersaulted. Were we entering East Berlin?

And was I ready for it?