In 1979, I was assigned to the Wiesbaden Military Community Headquarters. For the first few months of the year I shared a room with Air Force Sgt. Cliff Almes. His discharge date was May 2, 1979, my 26th birthday. He did not go home like everyone else. On that day I drove Cliff from Wiesbaden to Darmstadt in my 1969 Renault TS with a 4-speed shifter on the column.
Also on that day, Cliff began 10 months in the novitiate of the Franciscan Brotherhood at the Land of Kanaan in Darmstadt. He later became Bruder Timotheus. He is still there. He is also an American so he fixes things at the monastery and for the last 15 years has been the network administrator for Kanaan Ministries.
Every week from May until I left for America in November, I visited Cliff in Darmstadt. I worked for the base newspaper at that point. It was printed in Darmstadt so I volunteered to go to the printer each week. I would have lunch at Land of Kanaan and eat with the novices. Kanaan was created in the rubble of Darmstadt after World War 2 by two women who ministered to bombing victims during the war.
Seeing these young men from all over the world training for a life of poverty, chastity and obedience opened another world to me beyond America.
Bruder Timotheus is another friend who I have kept in touch with and occasionally visited since our time together in Wiesbaden. It is one of the stranger aspects of modern life that Abel and Cliff, two men I consider the best friends I have, are a continent and an ocean away in Germany and San Diego. But the modern life that allows us to be so far apart also lets us keep in touch no matter where we are. Going to Iraq in 2009 was no interruption in our monthly phone calls.
I visited Cliff in Germany twice in the past 15 years. I hope to do it again someday.