. . . and then some more . . . More life. More Jesus.

How To Make Friends When Words Don’t Work

Eleven months ago, we landed in Germany and set up camp in a local hotel.  No place to call home, we quickly found a place, but it was occupied until the end of August. We needed a summer dwelling.

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That’s how we ended up on top of the mountain in a tiny place called Heroldsburg. Population approximately 100. That grew to 104 the day we moved in.

We lived in an apartment above an amazing couple who took us in like family.

She spoke no English. He knew a little. So when they invited us to the Johannis Feuer approximately six days after we arrived, we figured that would be the end of a short-lived friendship. We thought the language-barrier would necessitate a mere landlord/tenant kind of deal.

We were wrong.

All summer long, they kept inviting our company. Kaffee und Kuchen at least once a week. Grillen und Trinken more than a few times. (Translation: amazing grilled brats and steaks and drinks — water, beer, apple juice, lemonade, whatever you want.)

When my youngest turned eight on the first of August, we invited them up for her birthday meal. They gave her a gift and a card and a hug.

They treated us like family, even though different languages forces us to  leave so much unsaid. We could use our words to communicate little.

Our lives became our voices.

We learned that he had an older son who lived far away.

We found out she’d had a brain tumor that had been removed several years ago. It rendered her unable to drive. So she took the one-hour bus-ride to the city for work.

We met their extended family who lived atop the little mountain as well. They shared their garden and didn’t let me only take a little when I helped tend it one evening. Zucchini. Black green beans. (They were green beans, only black.) Potatoes. Oh, the potatoes!

We called each other friends. Then we moved to the city after three months’ time.

We exchanged phone numbers, birthday dates (birthdays in Germany are a really big deal), and email addresses. But, really, how do you call someone whose words you can’t really understand?

So when I passed him in the city-center last week, I greeted him with a huge hug. We had lost touch by virtue of the language-barrier that rendered us un-phonable.

“We must visit you before we leave!” I said in my thick American accent.

“Sunday!” He said. “Fifteen o’clock.” (Because they keep time like the army here in this land of the Deutsch. It means math in my head, but I’m starting to get it.)

“And how are you?” I wanted to know.

He answered with news that made my heart sink down low. Karin has another tumor. This one’s inoperable. They can only try with radiation to make it go away. He told all about it. Details I did not understand. And not just because he delivered them in German.

And then he said the word we knew was one of his favorites. He’d said it a lot when we lived near.

“Sheist!”

And all I could do was say the same. Because sometimes the only word you can say is the one you never do.

There is more to this story. So much more I have to tell you. But you’ll have to come back tomorrow. For I fear this post is turning into a book. See you then!

7 Thoughts on “How To Make Friends When Words Don’t Work

  1. I am thinking I can hardly wait to read the rest of the story. I am thinking even if you don’t speak the same language, some things don’t need words. Like love and friendship and sorrow.

    • It’s truly amazing how clear this truth becomes when I don’t know how to speak a language with words, Pamela. You are so right. The gift of communication is so cool — that we often don’t even need words. See you tomorrow… 🙂

  2. You are painting a personal reminder of how we can always relate to people, even if not in the ways we are accustomed to. I can’t wait for part two

    • Christa, living here has made me realize that so profoundly. I forget it so quickly when I’m communicating people whose language I can speak. But I truly believe God uses our living to say things much more loudly. Which, when I type it all out like that, kind of makes me shake in my boots because, well, words are often so much easier to pretend with. 😉 Know what I mean?

  3. Sharon on May 6, 2013 at 4:07 pm said:

    Sitting on the edge of my seat for tomorrow’s post . . . can’t wait!

  4. Brianna,

    LOVED it. Felt it in a special way since we lived in Germany for two tours, as I think I mentioned to you before. Also, when I had my daughter in a German hospital the doctor who delivered her came in one day to tell me the nurses felt bad that they could not speak to me because of the barrier. I told him to tell them I could tell how much they cared by their looks and their smiles.

    I SO miss Germany. Some day I want to show Jess where she was born in Birkenfeld. Father, I want to go to Germany. God knows I loved traveling. Can’t wait to hear part two.

    Your writing is so poignant and fetching. Your pictures are wonderful!

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