Monday, May 17, 2010

Making the journey

Almost 300 years ago, Jacob Beiler (Beyeler), a native of Guggisberg, Switzerland, made his way to America on the ship, the Charming Nancy, with his wife, Veronica, and their five children. Veronica may not have survived the journey.

Two weeks ago, in the fog, I journeyed the other way, drove up around Lake Geneva, past Freiburg and to Guggisberg, a small village at the foot of the Alps. Nothing there much now at all that makes it stand out. Certainly no Mennonites. There is a Reformed Church at the center of town, and in fact, some would now say that Jacob was Reformed and didn't become Mennonite until he settled in Berks County in eastern Pennsylvania. He married again, shortly therafter, to Elizabeth and they had five more children.

I didn't find an old graveyard, just a new one, but it had plenty of Beyelers in it. That must mean that Jacob left many members of his extened family back in Guggisberg.

As I walked through the village, had a cup of coffee and a roll, stood and meditated in the Reformed church, I wondered what would have made Jacob sail halfway across the world on a small ship with almost 230 other people? Was it economic hardship? Religious freedom? A sense of adventure? And when he got to eastern Pennsylvania, did he think that it was worth it?
I haven't spent a lot of time thinking about Jacob, but as I drove back down into the valley, I thank God for Jacob and Veronica, who didn't survive the journey, for Jacob and Elizabeth and their children who made a new life in a new world, for the generations that followed, for my grandparents, Jesse and Elsie, for my parents, Robert and Ruth, and the rest of the family that has branched out from them.
I wonder if, in 300 more years, people will think of me in the same way as a person with courage and commitment, a will to do what needs to be done, of following through on my dreams?
Something to think about, at least...

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