The Berlin Wall

This morning I ran across this interesting article about a previously undiscovered section of the Berlin Wall that was recently found by locals out on a walking tour.

Here’s how CNN reported it:

The Berlin Wall came down in 1989. But it seems that its story still hasn’t been fully told.
A previously unknown section of the wall was discovered in summer 2018 in a residential section of northwest Berlin.
Several locals on a walking tour came upon a 20-meter (66-foot) section of crumbling wall, covered in graffiti, in June. The wall had been covered by overgrown bushes, which is how it had escaped discovery for so long.
This week marks the anniversary of the start of construction on the wall in 1961. A few years back I read a fascinating account of the events that led up it in a book titled Berlin 1961: Kennedy, Khrushchev, and the Most Dangerous Place on Earth, by Frederick Kempe. Here’s part of the description from Amazon:

Much has been written about the Cuban Missile Crisis a year later, but the Berlin Crisis of 1961 was more decisive in shaping the Cold War-and more perilous. It was in that hot summer that the Berlin Wall was constructed, which would divide the world for another twenty-eight years. Then two months later, and for the first time in history, American and Soviet fighting men and tanks stood arrayed against each other, only yards apart. One mistake, one nervous soldier, one overzealous commander-and the tripwire would be sprung for a war that could go nuclear in a heartbeat.

On one side was a young, untested U.S. president still reeling from the Bay of Pigs disaster and a humiliating summit meeting that left him grasping for ways to respond. It would add up to be one of the worst first-year foreign policy performances of any modern president. On the other side, a Soviet premier hemmed in by the Chinese, East Germans, and hardliners in his own government. With an all-important Party Congress approaching, he knew Berlin meant the difference not only for the Kremlin’s hold on its empire-but for his own hold on the Kremlin.

Neither man really understood the other, both tried cynically to manipulate events. And so, week by week, they crept closer to the brink.

Berlin 1961: Kennedy, Khrushchev, and the Most Dangerous Place on Earth

It’s a fascinating read.

In all my travels I never made it behind The Iron Curtain, so I never saw the Berlin Wall. However, while on a visit to Iceland a few years back, I did see a piece of it standing outside the historic Hofdi House in Reykjavik. Hofdi House is where President Ronald Reagan and General Secretary Michael Gorbachev held a summit in 1986 that set the stage for the collapse of communism in Eastern Europe and the end of the Cold War. To commemorate that summit and what it led to, a piece of the wall stands on the grounds of the House.

By the way, an excellent book about the summit, written by one of Reagan’s aides is Reagan at Reykjavik: Forty-Eight Hours That Ended the Cold War, by Kenneth Adelman.

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A Rocky Mountain Fourth

One of the traditions at the YMCA of the Rockies in Estes Park Colorado is a Fourth of July Parade. Participants in the parade are campers, visitors, and various staff departments of the Camp and Conference Center.

I absolutely love this slice of American life — people organizing themselves to dress up in silly costumes and do silly things for no other reason than to have a good time while celebrating the birthday of our nation.

A good time was had by all!

Here are a few pics of the parade. Quite the setting, eh?

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A Norwegian Church in South Dakota

On our meandering trip across the prairie to Colorado over the past few days, we made a stop in Rapid City, South Dakota to see the Stavkirke Chapel in the Hills, a traditional Norwegian church.

Here’s how it is described on the website:

Nestled at the foot of the Black Hills, on the western edge of Rapid City, SD, the Chapel in the Hills is a quiet retreat open to all visitors. As a special ministry of the South Dakota Synod of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA), the chapel reaches out to vacationers and local residents alike, who look for a place to experience God’s peace in their busy lives.

The chapel itself is an exact reproduction of the famous Borgund Stavkirke of Laerdal, Norway. Our chapel was built in 1969 as the home for the Lutheran Vespers radio ministry (see “History“). Today, visitors from all around the world find the chapel to be a place of beauty and inspiration.

You can read more about the history of the chapel here.

Of course I was drawn to the stand alone bell tower in the yard at the back of the church.

I asked the volunteers on duty what they knew about the bell. They didn’t know much but directed me to a small souvenir book that had some information. Apparently the bell has a connection to St. Paul.

A separate bell tower behind the chapel houses an old bell, a gift from the American Lutheran Congregation, Presto, South Dakota. The project was initiated by the Lutheran Seminary Class of 1929, of which Pastor Gregerson was a member.

The inscription on the bell reads: “O earth, earth, etrth hear the words of the Lord — Jeremiah 22-29 Presho Lutheran Ladies Aid of 1922.” The third earth is misspelled. The bell was cast by Stuckstede & Bros, St. Louis, MO.

The bell tower was designed by Spitznagel and Associates, Sioux Falls, SD, and a gift from Robert Dilly, builder of the Chapel.

The gift is especially appreciated since there is a bell tower adjacent to the Borgund Church in Norway.

While the bell is of special interest to the Presho community, it will share its clear musical ring with the thousands of visitors to the Chapel in the Hills.

For many years the ringing of a bell has opened the Lutheran Vespers radio program. Now the Chapel Bell joins in this tradition of “Bells chiming and ringing calling the young and old to worship.”

If you ever find yourself in Rapid City, South Dakota, this place is a must-see!

 

Driving Miss Gracie

It’s summertime, which means it’s time for another road trip. This week we are Driving Miss Gracie to Estes Park, CO for a 75th anniversary reunion of World Venture, the mission agency that my parents served with in Pakistan. Not only that, her father was one of the founders as well.

We are taking our sweet time meandering across the Great Plains, minimizing our time on the interstate highways this time. We love driving the back roads.

Yesterday we swung through Badlands National Park. It did not disappoint!

Today we are Driving Miss Gracie through the Black Hills and on to Cheyenne, WY.

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Remembering the Earthquake

On May 12, 2008 the ground began to shake in Sichuan Province. By the time it stopped, nearly 100,000 people had lost their lives.

Anyone who was in China at the time can say where they were when they heard about it. I was in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia at the time, attending a conference. I was in a meeting with a dozen or so others (all from China), when someone came in and told us there were reports of an earthquake in Sichuan. Obviously we had no idea of the magnitude, but we stopped and prayed.

As the days unfolded, the horror of it all became clear. The numbers were staggering:

  • The quake measured 7.9 on the Richter scale.
  • 4/5 of the buildings in the affected area were flattened.
  • In some cases, entire villages and towns were destroyed.
  • 5,300 children died, most of them in collapsed school buildings.
  • 375,000 were injured from falling debris.
  • 200 relief workers died in landslides.
  • 130,000 soldiers and relief workers were deployed.
  • The estimated cost of the quake in economic terms was $86 billion.

To commemorate the tenth anniversary of the earthquake, the mainland-based site Sixth Tone has published a collection of pictures in a post titled, 100 Photos That Shook China: Memories of the Wenchuan Earthquake.

They are, quite simply, astounding. I encourage you to take the time to view them.

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Image credit: Chris, via Flickr

What A Difference Two Weeks Can Make

Just over two weeks ago, we had a doozy of a blizzard here in the Twin Cities that dumped almost 18 inches of snow on top of what had yet to melt from the previous 4 months of snow. Here’s what the snowbank (which I had lovingly dubbed “Mount Gracewood”) in the cul-de-sac by my mom’s house looked like: 

This is what was left of Mount Gracewood yesterday (2 weeks later):

Good-bye, Mt. Gracewood. See you in 5 months!

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The Fake Cars of Beijing

On my last few visits to China, I have noticed an interesting phenomenon — the conversion of 3-wheeled motorcycles commonly used by the elderly and handicapped into what I can only describe as fake cars. Someone is making serious money converting these 3-wheeled motorcycles into vehicles that look like they want to be cars when they grow up.

Because they aren’t registered as cars, it seems that most traffic rules don’t apply to them. They can zip up and down the streets and/or sidewalks!

Here are some of the fake cars I spotted on the streets of Beijing earlier this month.

Next time you’re in China, keep your eyes peeled for the fake cars!

And So It Begins

Last week, while making the trek to Tiananmen Square through multiple layers of security, I spotted this display in a souvenir shop:

The return of the exalted-political-leader-on-a-plate souvenir, something we haven’t seen for a very long time.

Two weeks ago, the current leader of China orchestrated a change in the constitution that will allow him to remain in power indefinitely. It seems that Deng Xiaoping’s attempts to move the Party away from indefinite rule by one powerful leader was only able to last for 30+ years.

Here is some more about the rise of Xi Jinping art and propaganda, from CNN:

It certainly is a new era in China, but one that has a decidedly “old era” feel to it.

 

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