Sunday, September 30, 2012

Arrival at Last

Nathaniel Brown meets his veteran for the first time.

We are finally in Qingdao; still find it hard to believe we're actually in China, thousands of miles from the United States. Not only do I feel a sense of adventure from being in a country I've never been in before, but there is also a feeling of excitement that comes with meeting new people and building relationships while representing your country in a foreign land.

We were greeted by our tour
guide as we exited the airport
Today we met up with the rest of our group in Beijing. It was there I met my veteran, Carl Frost, along with Charlie and the rest of the group. As tired as I was from the 14-hour flight from Chicago to Beijing, I could feel my excitement increase as I was introduced to Mr. Frost. While we were waiting for our meal to be served, he began telling Sarah and I stories about him and his buddies and how close they were while they were in China. What stood out to me the most in our conversation was how eager he was to talk about God and about the impact his relationship with the Lord had on his life. It was exciting to see how much he wanted to share that love with everyone he came in contact with. We only had a couple hours together before we had to board our next flight to Qingdao, but I'm looking forward to hearing the stories that he has to tell.

After being gone for 29 years Charlie
looks once again upon the City of Qingdao.
 I haven't had the opportunity to spend much time with Charlie at this point, but as we drove on the bus from the airport to our hotel, I could see the memories flashing across his face as he admired the changes in the city, and as he reflected on the memories from his youth. Several times he stood up, pointing out the window at things that have changed since he was last here in 1983.
As we explore the city tomorrow, I'm looking forward to hearing stories and getting to know Charlie and the veterans better. The history they have been a part of is slightly overwhelming, but this is why I am here, and I am ready for the challenge!

Nathaniel Brown


Students Laura Lingner, Chelsea Paulsen, and Daniel Mallette 
 get their first taste of authentic Chinese food and struggle to use their chopsticks.

Carissa Westfall talks with her veteran as they wait for their final flight to Qingdao.

With Great Anticipation

Sarah Unruh and Nathaniel Brown enter
the first plane on their way to China.
I am on an airplane, flying to China.  I honestly never thought this day would come.  I think almost all children start out with the dream to grow up and have great adventures and travel to places all over the world.  I was no exception.  To actually be on a plane and outside of the United States for the first time in my life is a dream I doubted would ever become a reality.  Beijing, China is 4,041 miles away from our plane right now.  China.... the land so rich with history and tradition and beauty.

        Our first day was one of excitement and bonding for the eleven students, Dr. and Mrs. Mullinax, and nurse Lori Vanderpool.  We were not to meet any of our veterans or guests until the next afternoon in the Chicago O'Hara airport.  We had an exciting evening, with a lot of laughter and jokes that will not be forgotten as the trip unfolds.  As I look around at our group, I am so thankful for the bond we have already created.  There are so many different personalities on this trip, and we already encourage and enjoy each other so much.  Liliana Ovington will be my travel companion these next ten days.  I appreciate so many things about her already and although we didn't know each other well before this trip, I thank God that we are together and know that we will be a great team.

Mr. Liberatore wasted no time, and
 immediately began telling the students stories
from his past.

 Traveling is exciting, but there is a deeper excitement in my heart.  We are not just going to see the sights and taste the food, although we all look forward to those things.  This morning, as I shook the hand of Dominick Liberatore, the veteran that will be my companion and friend for the next ten days, and as he animatedly told some vivid memories of his adventures in China, I saw history for what it really is.  History is made up of experiences, feelings, courage and the process of overcoming one's fears. I could not have anticipated the thrill and excitement I felt as I listened to my veteran talk.  He remembers the exact times, to the minute, of so many incredible moments.  I was no longer standing in a Chicago airport with the noises of hundreds of busy people rushing by;  I was on a plane near the Statue of Liberty as Mr. Liberatore piloted it at wild angles, or diving in the Philippines for his lost ring. I know the things I learn here will never be forgotten, for this is the way history lives.  

- Nancy Kelley shares pictures and talks about growning
up in Qingdao.
        The veterans we met today, William Marsh and Dominick Liberatore, have already shared so many adventures and stories with us.  Another guest on our trip, Nancy Kelley, brought along a bag full of photo books and documents of her life in Qingdao.  Her excitement and shining eyes were reflected in the faces of the small crowd of students gathered around her as she showed us photos, explained Chinese traditions, and  told stories of her past.   I am so excited to see these places and hear the historical events that happened from the very people who experienced them.

I feel so blessed and grateful to be on this trip and cannot wait to share all that I learn in order to keep these moments in history alive.

 Laura Lingner

Mr. Liberatore wasted no time, and immediately
began telling the students stories from his past.