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Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Paint Fight and Brussels Goodbye

Paint Fight and Brussels GoodbyeI maintain to this day it was an accident, but I was painting on a ladder at the top of a door frame when my tray tipped a little. Colleen happened to be painting below the ladder at the bottom of the door frame. When the white paint drizzled into her dark hair, she let out a loud gasp and half-feigned protest as to why I would do such a thing.

Five great questions of life: Life * Love * Learning * Labor * Leadership

Love: Who Will I Spend My Life With?

Paint Fight and Brussels Goodbye


By Evan Nehring


Gare du Midi Station

Gare du Midi is a train station in Brussels, Belgium. It’s a simple station: just a few tracks and a couple of platforms. It seemed especially quiet, almost deserted, as our host and I saw Colleen and Evelyn to their train. Their flight itinerary was different from the rest of the missions team, so we said goodbye a day early.
 
Gare du Midi Station, Brussels

A friendship had been struck, but now Colleen was returning to the United States to a marriage in the throes of divorce. Here we were, an ocean away. There was space. Room to consider. The train would take her to Paris’ Charles de Gaulle Airport, where she would fly to New York and on to Minneapolis for the long car ride home.
 

"Meet at noon at the Eiffel Tower"

Ten days before, we were getting ready to head to Europe. I had stayed up all night finishing church business to clear me for being away. Boy scout! The team met in the parking lot and we sped off to Chicago O’Hare for the trans-Atlantic flight. Colleen and Evelyn would follow a day later on a different airline.
 
“We’ll meet you at noon at the Eiffel Tower.” That was the plan. Maralyn Mathias graciously hosted our first day in Belgium with a sightseeing trip to Paris before we would tackle our renovation job that week. Our train would meet up with the metro (subway) in Paris, which would bring us to the stop for the Eiffel Tower.
 
We were unprepared for the immensity of the tower grounds. We walked for blocks through reflection pools, fountains and statues as we approached the famous landmark. What slowly dawned on everyone was how difficult it might be to find our little American friends in this sea of humanity.
 
Before we had long to worry, there was Colleen standing on a post waving her arms at us. I’m not sure who picked up Evelyn’s things, but I carried Colleen’s massive, purple Samsonite hardshell suitcase to the top of the Eiffel Tower and for the entire day of sightseeing. Have you been through the metro turnstiles? People are in a hurry, to say the least! I would approach, put in my Euros and hoist this huge piece of luggage while pushing through the gate. It was a workout!
 
We made our way to the Notre Dame Cathedral. I spent most of the stop working on a sermon on a bench out front and took only a quick walk through. Boy scout! Then we had a quick stop at the Champs d’Elysee and saw the Arc de Triomphe from the sidewalk. Got a nice group picture there.
 
Brussels Team in Paris
 
We took the train back to Brussels for a week of work, but first a Sunday trip to Waterloo. I preached at the Philadelphia Assembly of God church in Waterloo, Belgium. Yes, that Waterloo. My time on the Notre Dame grounds was well spent and the message went well, French interpreter and all. We visited the breathtaking Waterloo monument that afternoon.
 

Paint Fight!

Monday morning we began our part in renovating the 800-year-old dorms. The team was commended for a fantastic work ethic…which might have been jeopardized as we painted one day.
 
Our worksite: Continental Theological Seminary
 
I maintain to this day it was an accident, but I was painting on a ladder at the top of a door frame when my tray tipped a little. Colleen happened to be painting below the ladder at the bottom of the door frame. When the white paint drizzled into her dark hair, she let out a loud gasp and half-feigned protest as to why I would do such a thing.
 
Paint Fight and Brussels Goodbye
 
I wonder now if an angel rested a finger on the edge of my paint tray and pulled it down a little.
 
My claims of pure motives notwithstanding, Colleen returned moments later with a loaded four inch paintbrush. Thwack! It left quite a mark on the back pocket of my jeans. The rest of the paint fight is a bit of a blur, but the crime scene gathered plenty of evidence on our persons and on the floor. We stayed late at the end of our workday to clean brushes and floors, faces and arms.
 
Once again there was a single mom in my life. I saw Colleen come down the lobby staircase for some quiet devotions by the unlit fireplace in the CTS commons. There was so much I didn’t know, but I knew how respected she was in our church for having the strength to raise her two young children alone.
 

Goodbye

We arrived at Gare du Midi the next day a bit early. There were, after all, international connecting flights involved. Evelyn and Maralyn found a place to chat as Colleen and I waited on a nearby bench. The sky was overcast, somber. She was leaving the European dream and the beautiful castle grounds at Kasteelstraat 48. I remembered Hillary and knew very well the weight of my decisions to be made in the weeks ahead.


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