Week 18-  January 9-15 Week: Texas, Take Two

This week was our opportunity for a second take on our Texas impressions after the Christmas break.  Back in Harvey and now in the San Antonio area we very much enjoyed the mid to upper 70’s knowing our Minnesota family and friends were suffering through sub zero temperatures! 

Our smorgasbord of church experiences continued this week as we met my cousin Steve Fritsche and his family at the Church of Christ they joined after moving to San Antonio this summer.  The church uses no instruments in the worship service.  Everything is sung a cappela in four-part harmony.  I love singing the bass part and the service was excellent, especially sharing it with family whom I haven’t seen for a long time. 

After church, Steve’s wife Heather taught us Horsemanship 101 after we drove out to the farm outside of San Antonio where they board her horse Reez.  While the kids enjoyed the experience, I don’t see any of them as “horse people” as it seems some are cut out to be.  At the farm, the kids also got their first exposure to fire ants as there were mounds all around pasture.  If something disturbs their hill, they swarm after the source and can inflict multiple bites that can actually kill a person.   

Getting the kids back into the swing of schooling after a three week break has been a bit rocky, but there was definite improvement during the week.  Monday afternoon, we all got a lesson in the history of Texas and early Mexican American relations with a visit to the Alamo.  The building today called the Alamo was a mission church and was only one of a whole ring of buildings that comprised the Alamo compound that was defended by the Texas freedom fighters.  They held out for 13 days outnumbered something like thirty to one!

Neither Brenda or I remember much about the history of Mexico and the different wars and deals that eventually led to the land distribution between the two countries that we see today.  Santa Anna, the leader of the Mexican army that defeated the Alamo defenders also had a fascinating history!  We enjoyed a true Texas steak dinner that evening downtown on the Riverwalk.  Our Alamo visit filled in a lot of history gaps for Brenda and I.  Nate’s best memory will probably be the steak dinner.  The girls’ top memory of the day will probably be the discovery of the long sought-after “Chicken Pox Barbie” we found at a store liquidation we passed on the way back to the car...  

A huge highlight for the week was our personal tour of Randolph Air Force base given by my friend Jim Garrigan.  When I first moved to Minnesota he was one of the spirited high school freshman I attempted to shepherd in the small discipleship group I led at our church.  It is interesting how the years transform a person as now we were led around the base by our dignified, flight-suited, Air Force captain friend!   

Jim took us around the city-like base, beautiful with its historical architecture.  We went to the runways to watch the training jets in action.  Jim teaches other pilots  to be flight instructors of the T-37 “Tweet” trainers.  The T-37’s characteristic squealing intake and the chest shaking sound of the T-38’s afterburners on takeoff were impressive to all of us.  Jim also took us through the weather and flight planning center learning about all of those detailed aviation charts and maps. 

The grand finale of the tour was 15 minutes each in a T-37 simulator with Jim!  The kids were totally thrilled.  When my turn finally came, Jim let me the keep the stick on landing.  I was nervous as it has been more than fifteen years since I’ve flown a plane.  I bounced it pretty good on my first landing attempt, but did better the second time around. 

Another example of the unquantifiable aspects of the education the kids are getting, was our chat with Talaq, a charming Kuwaiti Air Force pilot who was training in the simulator area at the same time.  The kids got to witness our fascinating discussion with a citizen of a completely different culture as we talked with him about living in a monarchy and a country where basically everyone is a Muslim. 

Yet another highlight in the San Antonio area was our tour of the BSF (Bible Study Fellowship) headquarters.  I have been associated with this ministry many years during the past twenty.  The rigorous BSF curriculum I completed in my first five years in Minnesota is one of the highlights of my life’s faith journey.  The young adult chapter I attended in the late eighties is also where I met Brenda, so BSF has a been a double blessing! 

The BSF headquarters nestled in hill country beautifully reflects the inscrutable ethics and God-glorifying quality of the ministry.  We all enjoyed touring the printing area where lessons are printed, cut, collated, and shipped to over one thousand classes in 31 countries around the world.  Our tour guide June was so friendly and helpful and won over the girls’ hearts by giving them the stub rolls of colored paper from the presses for their crafting. 

Later in the week, we said goodbye to San Antonio and made it to Houston for a one-night stop so we could tour NASA’s Johnson Space Center before heading to the Texas Gulf Coast.  At the museum, we especially enjoyed the gallery of artifacts which included actual vehicles and other equipment from Mercury and Apollo missions and a training mockup of Skylab.  In another area was a good presentation on the current Mars missions.  Both rovers are still inching their way around the planet’s surface.  While we were there the Cassini space craft was landing on Saturn’s moon Titan so the speaker was quite excited. 

We also took a tram tour that takes you from the space museum to the working Johnson Space Center to visit the actual mission control center (“Houston, we have a problem”) that was used for Mercury, Apollo, and other missions into the shuttle era.  The tram stopped at the building that houses full scale mockups of the shuttle and international space station for astronaut training.  

Later in the afternoon, we headed out of Houston area to the Gulf Coast, southwest of Port Arthur.  To get to Sea Rim State Park, we drove through the port area and the huge refineries, a surreal experience.  Our kids’ reunion with the Goldfine girls (Kelson and Jael) was indeed a joyful one.  We had a day of great shelling on Saturday as a storm had come churned up the Gulf a couple of days earlier.  The two wandering families packed into the RV to celebrate Kelson’s twelfth birthday celebration in style that night!