As many of you know John Horn and I recently were in Europe where we were studying history and the Providence of God through Rome, France, England and Scotland.
"...When people spoke of my Bonnie land I didn't know what they meant,
but then I took to travel and I roamed far and wide
and now when I sing of my native land I sing with love and pride!"
After 33 days of travel and adventure I have finally returned to San Antone, my home territory, more grateful than ever for the state and country in which I live! The flight home this afternoon was one of very mixed emotions for me. On the one hand I am so excited to be returning to this greatest of states and to once again be joining in the battles of life here. On the other hand I am dearly missing the home of my heart and imagination, Scotland, as well as the journey which I was part of for the last month. Truly, that journey through Europe is still fresh on my mind and heart, and I have no intention of letting it move to the back of my mind. From May 26th, when I last stood in my home, to today it has been one of the most incredible journeys of a lifetime. Tonight I will once again put foot in my room. But it's important to catalogue the things of life as well.
From these United States to Europe. From living in airports for three days to Roman dinners. From the Coliseum to Pompeii. From Rome to the Overnight train through Switzerland. From the Arch Di Triumph to Notre Dame Cathedral to the Eiffel Tower. From American tourists in Paris to largest American Reenactment division in Normandy on June 6th. From the beautiful Norman countryside to wonderfully grouchy ol' Brittish customs agents. From Les Miserables to the British Museum to Fish and chip shops. From Glasgow to Iona. From climbing the crags and cliffs of death during a rising tide to on a whim belting out "Flower of Scotland" at the highest point of Iona. From the Wallace Monument to Edinburgh. From Stirling Castle to playing "I hea seen the Hielands" with Sam on the green. From the Sir Walter Scott Monument to late night excursions. From late "Alba Gu Bragh" parties to making new friends with a "broad scot" in the local McDonalds at midnight. From the very last book store visits to running to make our plane, very late and very overweight with book purchases.
Today as I look back on the last month I want to consider the things I learned and experienced. If you were to ask what my very favorite part of the last month is, it would certainly be hard to specify one particular point. But as I think about it now, of all of the Europe we visited I would have to say that the two places I loved the most and learned the most from are Normandy and Iona in Scotland. They are now two of my favorite spots on earth, after the South which I love even more. Both these places are spots which I have studied for the last year, yet in both Normandy and Iona I learned more in the three days we spent in each place than I had ever dreamt of learning before.
To visit Normandy on the actual anniversary of D-Day (June 6) and to stand with the dozens of veterans who had returned to the battles of their youth. To be part of the hundreds of reenactors gathered to honor the men who died. To sing songs with old men who had been little boys in the villages during the liberation. To storm the bridges and fields of the same countryside that was stormed 66 years ago. To stand before Omaha beach and witness the iron warriors weep at the graves of their brothers and friends. Though it seems cliche to sum it up in a word, it truly was incredible.
My brother Justice, and two of our best friends Samuel Turley, John Horn and I were in 101st Airborne gear with the other reenactors. At one point I heard one veteran point to our group of men and boys in 101st and say "That's just how I looked this day, 66 years ago..." Justice and John are sixteen, I turned eighteen in mid May, and Sam had just turned twenty on the 31st. Its a strange thing to think that you're the same age that these old heroes were when they hit the beaches and fields. But it was true. Theres no way to study history as well as it is to live it out, we saw this first hand in Normandy.
As I sit here remembering, I also think of sweet Iona. Iona in the Northwest of Scotland. Iona, two miles by one mile in size. Iona, the home of the first explorers to Scotland, possibly the descendants of Gathelus. Iona, the haven of the Druids. But in the 5th century it became the manger bed of Christianity in Scotland, and then in Europe, when a man by the name of Columba cleaned the island of Druidism and began the spread of the unvarnished Gospel in the North. Over time it became a type of holy spot for Christians, far away from the Luke warm-waterings down of the Gospel. On Iona would be buried between 47 and 60 kings representing at least four different nations. These kings wished to be buried on Iona to identify with its great legacy of Christianity and Heroism.
Much can be said of Iona, but it would fill pages here. We spent three days and two nights on the island. Several of us stayed in tents on the mountain side. It was a memory never to be forgotten. While on Iona we read of Columba and visited the island bookshop. We saw the life of a dear friend spared from the jaws of death. We prayed for the Legacy of our children. We climbed the tallest mountain and spied out the whole island from it's top. We sang the songs of Scotland, heroism, exploration and manhood from the Abbey. We made plans and plots for the future and walked together as friends.
As I walk away from these two wonderful memories, Normandy and Iona, I can't but help feel incredibly blessed. Blessed and thankful, both to my heavenly father and to my earthly father. I am now thinking about everything else there is to learn about these two place! There is more than I can ever hope to fully understand. But the research will continue, the reading press forward and my thoughts will always be grateful for this opportunity. In this journey of a lifetime we solidified friendships, traveled fast, learned faster and were able to see the providence of God over and over throughout history. From this journey I walk away not simply thankful for the legacy of the men who died before us, but also realizing that we need to leave a legacy as well. And I thank God for my home-land, truly I hae seen the highlands and I hae seen the low', but I will sing of my native land wherever I may go!
Praise God for the legacy of history he has given us! It truly is history that teaches us to hope!
~Joshua Titus Phillips
Addendum: There are four more spots which now come to mind as I consider the great points of the trip: The Protestant Cemetery in Rome where R.M. Ballantyne is buried. The Sir Walter Scott monument in Edinburgh, Scotland. The William Wallace monument in Stirling. And our visit to London's Queen's Theatre where we watched the "immortal" performance of Les Miserables. But I will have to write on these another time...
From Europe, the Phillips family arrived in the Atlanta airport only to split in preparation for the next leg of the trip: half the family heading home, and the rest of us (Dad, Jep, Lib and Me) flying directly to the Denver homeschool conference without even setting foot outside the airport in between jaunts. (Oh, and did I mention that our flight was cancelled and we once again spent the night in the airport? But it was great fun anyways...) We arrived in Colorado had a wonderful and very profitable time with the folks from CHEC (Christian Home Educators of Colorado) and on Sunday heard a wonderful message from Dr. Sproul on Mathew 6.
The next day we headed directly to CHEF's homeschool conference in Missouri. The conference had a fantastic line up of speakers including my father, Vodie Bauchom, Bill Potter, Samuel Turley, Herb Titus and John Dwyer. On Tuesday Dad gave a fantastic message on the Christian Life of Stonewall Jackson. Then Wednesday night Dad and Mr. Potter gave a slam-dunk joint message on the Legacy of D-Day and the Providence of God. While in Missouri we stopped off at the home of Dan Ford, bibliophile, where we filmed several clips on the legacy of Liberty and Property in American History.
Finally we headed to South Carolina where we were honored to be part of a special multigenerational celebration and 13th birthday of Harrison Weir, a good friend and fellow traveler. While there we were reunited with several of the friends who we had traveled through Europe with. It was a wonderful and joyous occasion with great friends, great music and good times all around. Today, June 28, thirty-three days after we departed our home in Texas, thirty-three days since we last had our beloved Tex-Mex food, we once again boarded a plane to head south. To head home. To sleep in our own beds. To raid our own pantries. And to remember the stories of our grand, grand adventure!