Recently, I took one of those online facial recognition tests you see floating around on your favorite social media sites. This one claimed it could decipher my ancestral heritage simply by analyzing a full-frontal photo of me. You’ve seen memes like it flow through your “news” feed. You know–the ones that entice you to learn what celebrity you look like or what famous person you most likely would be if you were to be famous or how old you’ll look when you’re ninety-nine. Of course, there’s no guarantee you’ll live to be ninety-nine, even if you take the test. Just like there’s no guarantee that if you and that famous person you look like miraculously switched places at birth that you’d be any more famous today than you are now. Maybe they would have gone on to be the famous you and you would simply still be you. Aside from that ol’ Cajun Gourmet Justin Wilson, life don’t offer any of us much on guarantees. Besides…notoriety is overrated.
Justin Wilson “Duck Hunting”
Curious to see what results it would come up with, I took this facial recognition ancestry test. Answer? According to the test I’m 50 percent Viking, 40 percent Native American and 10 percent German.Yep. I had the same reaction.
Quite an accomplishment for a kid raised in East Texas and born in Switzerland to German parents. But then, God is always at work.
My parents where both born near the coast of the Baltic Sea (or Ost See). Family legend says that’s where our ancestral roots first dug in eons ago. My Mom was born in the seaport once known as Danzig. After the Second World War, Danzig became part of Poland and is now called Gdańsk.
My Dad is born in Königsberg, East Prussia. His family lived in the seaport fishing town of Pillau. Shortly after Christmas in 1944, my Dad and his Mom boarded a boat to flee Pillau ahead of the rapidly advancing Russian Red Army. After nearly flattening both communities, the Russians gave them new names along with a Communist face-lift. Königsberg is now Kalingrad and Pillau became Baltiysk. Both are part of what is known as the Kalingrad Oblast, a central point for the Russian military. If there are zombies, I’m sure they make them there.
It is highly probable that Viking sailors left their home ports and landed at the seaport towns my parent’s forefathers called home. But for the American Indians to make it over there….now that would be an interesting twist of history. So maybe the test is right…but I’m not banking on any guarantees.
My Mom is a tough cookie. Gentle soul, but resilient and brave. Imagine losing your older brother to the whooping cough before you could barely talk and then at three packing up everything you can and leaving home and then at five or six packing up all over again.
So Sweet T and I weren’t shocked when my Mom told us that after falling on the stoop of her doorway, she crawled on the ground GI Joe style to her bedroom. We were heartbroken, but not shocked. Initially, Mom didn’t think she’d hurt her ankle all that bad. Mom planned to sleep it off and wait to see how she felt in the morning before maybe going to the Doctor. Frankly I’m surprised she didn’t just snap her bones back into place. Thankfully, she pressed her Life Alert button and paramedics rushed out in the middle of the night to take her to the ER. That’s my mom…toughest woman I know.
Publicly, you won’t see that side of her much. She’s a sweet gentle soul that eats like a bird and gushes kindness from every crevice of her soul. Sweet T calls her “our social butterfly”. Mom lights up the room and brings a ray of sunshine to people’s lives. Mom doesn’t wear her past on her sleeve for all to see and admire. “Life’s hard sometimes,” she might say. “You take the good with the bad. In the end, life’s what you make it.”
Mom’s older brother Peter Eckhart, died of a whooping cough before he was two years old. They didn’t really even have time to get to know each other on this side of Heaven. What a reunion that will be.At age 3, escaping the advancing Red Army, my Mom fled Danzig with her Mother and Grandmother, a few suitcases and a set of keys. Mom’s mom, my Grandmother, hoped to return one day. They made it to Nakel an der Netze. That’s where Mom’s brother Gerfried was born. A couple years later, Mom was getting ready to start school before they found themselves on the run again, boarding a train in the Bahnhof Nakel and heading to the Harz, living in the small village of Förste, outside of nearby Osterode.
Bahnhof Nakel an der Netze
Meanwhile, shortly after Christmas 1944, my Dad and his Mother boarded a ship, sailing to Denmark to escape the advancing Red Army. Eventually, they headed south towards Baden-Württemberg, setting the stage for my parents to meet one Summer day at a Baptist Bible camp.
War always has more than one side fighting it. Casualties of war fall on all sides. Innocent victims having nothing to do with the differing ideologies and agendas of grown men are impacted by the decisions of their leaders. In war, no one escapes without any scars or wounds. Some are just more visible than others. Until we fully understand the cost wars carry, I imagine we’ll continue to have them.
Through it all, God remains at work. It took the dispersion and dilemmas of war to bring my parents together. Apart from the War to End All Wars, it is unlikely that they would have met and highly unlikely I would be here.
The price of freedom is tremendous. No greater price has been paid than by those who have died so that we may live free. Sure, we have our problems and our disagreements but don’t mistake that for failure. Don’t let that lead to hate. Don’t let that end in war. Freedom doesn’t come easy. Like marriage, liberty takes work. And yes, to preserve it, sometimes you do have to be willing to fight for it.
Have A Blessed Labor Day! Don’t forget those who came before you and remember God is always at work. Even if at times, from where you’re standing, it may not seem like it…Godspeed.
Goat Rodeo Sessions Live | Here and Heaven | PBS