How can you feel like you’ve come home – in a place you’ve never been? I’m not sure, but after ten days in Denmark and Romania, that’s how it felt when we arrived in Holzhausen, Germany, home of the Wycliffe Center and about an hour outside Frankfurt. I felt like I’d been there before, many times.

Holzhausen, Germany

"Downtown" Holzhausen, Germany

The truth is, I’ve never been to Holzhausen in my life. (Actually, there are three Holzhausen’s in the area, and I’ve never visited a single one.)

But my lineage is German, both sides, with a little Brazilian, Romanian, Russian and a smidge of Polish thrown in for good measure. Sort of like our family mutt—cute, but no purebred.

If you start climbing my family tree, though, certain familiar traits crop up: the ever-popular mile-wide stubborn streak, immovable insistence on black-and-while thinking and obsessive need to do things “right.”

In contrast, the base of my family tree is surrounded by ruthlessly manicured lawns and colorful, rioting flower gardens that could make an angel weep.

Wycliffe Center, Holzhausen, Germany

Flowers at the Wycliffe Center, Holzhausen, Germany

Sadly, I did not inherit the green thumb of my ancestors. My gardening philosophy is more, “If you survive the winter, you’re welcome to live in our yard. Good luck.”

 As for the other traits…hmm, I’m not going there.

But last month, being in Germany felt like I’d spun a kaleidoscope and a whole new pattern emerged. Random pieces of my life realigned and fell neatly into place. My family, my world, and my place in it became a little clearer.

I had this same feeling the first time I went to Germany on a summer mission trip as a teen. I remember gaping in shock, thinking, “There is a whole COUNTRY of people just like my family.” Bratwurst and bratkartoffeln are everyday dishes. Spicy brown mustard is the only kind that counts. The front porch gets swept clean every morning. Doesn’t everyone’s? You do certain things in certain ways because…that’s how it’s supposed to be done. Wurst for breakfast and company welcomed with coffee, cake and a warm smile.

Holzhausen, Germany

Holzhausen, Germany

Being in Germany made me appreciate my family and heritage all the more. The countryside was beautiful; the people so gracious and hospitable.

My German was a little rusty at first, but when a shopkeeper pointed me towards the German—not English—version of a guidebook, I knew I’d come full circle. 

Misty morning in Holzhausen, Germany

Misty morning in Holzhausen, Germany