The bells of St. Jakob’s church chimed with exuberance announcing the new day. Outside the air was crisp, cold, laced with danger. But nestled in this sanctuary , I was safe, warm, loved, for the sacred air of His presence enveloped me.
Morning light filtered through the mosaic panes seeming to light my way into the new day. God brought me to this day and place through a strange series of events. The meeting of Barbara Schacht at the Christmas market in the Marktplatz. The purchase of her brother, Wilhelm Schacht’s painting “Bauerngarten”. Meeting the face of danger that spoke with a deep menacing German voice. My flight through underground tunnels of Rothenburg. Away from the face and voice belonging to an art crime ring targeting me, an American college student on holiday break in Europe.
When the metal door leading from the tunnels to the church shut last night, my heavy sigh sent up an offering of thanks. God had provided sanctuary. Lingering near the High Altar, I treasured last moments at St. Jakob’s church, then stepped into the courtyard, following the cobblestone path to the guest house. Today would bring more challenge and I need only look back on yesterday’s escape to breathe hope into today.
“Sister Karen, time to get dressed for morning prayers!” exclaimed Margaret, my dear friend and college roommate, as I entered .There she stood, reverently arrayed in nun’s clothing, pointing to an identical set laid out on my bed.
“Eek, Sister Margaret, is this how we’re escaping from Germany?”
“That’s the plan, according to the real sisters. We leave in half an hour with a stop at our pensione , then on to the train station.”
“Can you believe this suspense we’ve been caught up in? Beats sitting in biochemistry class, doesn’t it?” I quickly donned my “disguise”, adjusting the nuns habit at the mirror.
“Our families won’t believe our stories, Karen. Let’s take pictures in front of the church for proof.”
Gathering in the courtyard, Sister Mary snapped our photo with the twin spires of St. Jakob’s looming in the background. A moment in time not soon to be forgotten.
Within minutes we exited the St. Jakob’s compound gates with the aid of Sister Mary and Sister Ingrid. Driving down winding cobblestone lanes flanked by ancient stone houses, shops and cafes. Approaching the Marktplatz, I spotted Herr Schmidt opening his shop; he answered our plea for help last night and guided us through tunnels to the church.
“Sister Mary, may we please stop at Weinachtsdorf a few minutes to thank Herr Schmidt?”
“Sure, Sister Karen”, she said smiling.
Door bells jingled as Margaret and I entered the shop and Herr Schmidt turned to greet us with a cheery “Guten Morgen, schwesters!”
“Herr Schmidt…it’s Karen and Margaret, we only have a few minutes here before we leave town.”
“Oh yes, now I recognize you,” he said peering over his wire-rimmed glasses. “ I’m so glad you’re safe and on your way back to America. They have taken good care of you at St. Jakob’s?”
“Very good care. We thank God for your help last night getting us to safety. We will always remember the kindness you’ve shown to us American pilgrims,” I replied with a wink.
“Here…a bag of chocolates and something to remember your time in Rothenburg,” he said, handing each of us a sketch of St. Jakob’s church.
“It’s a wonderful remembrance ,” Margaret added.
“Yes, thank you again, now we must hurry.”
“Godspeed, schwesters!”he bade as door bell jingles filled the shop again.
A short drive down Herringasse brought us to our pensione , where we quickly gathered our belongings and exited with suitcases. Soon we were at the train station, observing schedules.
“Choose a route leading out of Germany,” advised Sister Ingrid, “…perhaps Switzerland. Here’s an overnight to Lucerne, leaving in twenty minutes.”
“Perfect, now quickly girls, you must get to track seven,” Sister Mary added, then offered a short prayer as we hugged goodbye.
“Eek” I thought… almost to safety. Spinning around, there was the face which spoke with the deep menacing German voice, holding what appeared to be a gun within his coat pocket.
“Aahhh!” Margaret’s hot chocolate splashed across his face as we raced toward track seven, leaping onto the train just as its door closed.
The sacred air of His presence enveloped me once again. The shrill train whistle sounded as we began our journey home, safe within His sanctuary.
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