Although it isn’t until tomorrow, we’re celebrating our 33rd anniversary today by going out for a nice meal together in downtown Minneapolis..
We first met back in the summer of 1982. I was working in a refugee camp in the tiny village of Bad Kreuzen, 100 miles upstream from Vienna on the Danube river.
Donna had come to Austria with the summer missions program of Slavic Gospel Association to smuggle Bibles into what was then known as the “East Bloc” – Communist countries that were under the strong influence of what was then the Soviet Union.
I drove down to Vienna to help the summer workers settle into the former Jaegerhaus in Gablitz.
I still remember when I saw her first – on the back steps of the Haus. Whether you believe in it or not, it was love at first sight.
It took a year or so before we began dating by airmail between Bad Kreuzen and Columbia, Missouri. For years, we feverishly wrote letters back and forth on the thinnest paper known to man.
I finally proposed in 1984 during a Colorado ski trip with my family (they encouraged me to invite Donna). We timed our wedding around plans for me to go to seminary in 1985. We would marry during Christmas break.
Although those seminary plans fell through, our wedding plans did not. We married in Kansas City, took our honeymoon in the Collegiate Peaks of Colorado, and then settled into our first home in the lush rolling hills of the province of Upper Austria, in early 1986.
This is one of the earliest photos of me from 1980. It was taken shortly after I had touched down in Europe for a 6 month short-term mission stint right after graduating from college.
I thought I was going to spend those months visiting unregistered Christian youth camps and bringing Bibles to our brothers and sisters in what was then the East Bloc of the Soviet Union. And I did.
But that isn’t what changed my life forever.
The leadership of the mission sent me to see if there was opportunity to serve people in a refugee camp 100 miles from Vienna. I actually complained and asked them to send someone else as I wanted to spend my time in Eastern Europe. But they didn’t change their minds (for which I am forever grateful). I made several visits to the camp while in Austria that year. It wasn’t until I returned to the states in December 1980 that I experienced the surprising and unmistakable call of God to return to Austria and serve refugees full-time.
This photo was taken before all of that while in Germany en route to Austria. I had no idea what was around the bend. I probably still don’t.
The cheapest way to fly to Europe back then was via Icelandic Airlines to Luxemburg. We then drove iconic VW vans to Austria with an overnight stopover in Germany. The boy’s name is Arnie.