Wednesday, November 29, 2017

Where were you born?

The baptism of Gijs in 2015 - washed clean!
I remember the births of my two sons very well – as should be. Although both of them were born in a hospital, they were both unique in their ways. Stephan was born on Halloween. If you haven’t heard my story yet, you probably will if you talk to me long enough. Sean was born in Genk, Belgium, which was different in it’s own right.
Just as we remember the births of our children well, we also remember the births into Christ that we have experienced. The ‘usual’ way might be in a baptismal pool, but there are all sorts of variations. Our Stephan was baptized in the (very) cold creek at Bible camp in the Fall. Sean was baptized in the outside pool of friends in a night in January (we removed the ice from the pool covering).
For some, there was quite a crowd (a whole congregation). For others it was something more intimate. But for all of us, we can remember (I hope) that choice that we made, the thrill of knowing that we were washed clean, the wondering about what our life would look like now.
On Monday afternoon, Tulay emailed that the baptism we had talked about recently (she called us and said she had recently come to faith in Jesus, and did we know anything about baptism) would not leave her thoughts. She went to bed with the thought and awoke with the desire to be washed. We had just seen each other the day before and worshipped Jesus as Lord and King.
In Maastricht we meet in an upper room, but do not have a baptismal pool. Sometimes we are able to go to congregations close by and use theirs (in LiĆ©ge or Genk). But this time, it was going to take too long. So we made other plans. A few years back, we had bought an inflatable pool – the kind you put in your back yard for the kids to play in (bigger than a little splashing pool). We have used it once for a baptism and it did well. Now was the time to use it again.
I took a bicycle pump, a tarpaulin, our garden hose and towels along. We stopped at a DIY store and bought the kind of pump and hose you use to empty your cellar of flood water. We didn’t have an electric pump, but I figured the bicylce pump would work just fine to blow up the pool. It didn’t. So I started blowing. The room needed to warm up anyway, so we had gone early to get things ready. How long could it take to blow this thing up?
Thankfully, Ruud came with a pump that pumps when you pull and when you push. Now (15 minutes before people would arrive) we could start filling the pool with water. The hose was hooked up to only cold water, so we filled buckets with hot water and dumped them in. This was going to take longer than expected.
In the meantime, Tulay arrived. Have you read what Cornelius’ house looked like when Peter arrived? (see Acts 10:24-27)This is what I was reminded of. There were 5 of us from the church who could be there – including sister Nel who does not go out in the evening (it was 8pm) and sister Kitty who had gotten permission from her non-believing husband. But Tulay brought her 7-year-old daughter, her mother and father, her best friend (who was now also a Christian) and her friend’s daughter, and the woman who had first introduced her to Jesus. Tulay understood how important this was and she had invited the people nearest her to hear what God had to say.
We sang, we looked at examples of this same birth in the book of Acts, and we saw a woman rise from the dead to new life in Christ. Now, as with all of our births, life would begin. Now would begin the learning, the struggles, the glorious little victories made possible only in Christ. Now we had a new sister. And we shared our hearts in prayer to the God of all who alone makes this possible.
Tulay went on her way that evening tired, but excited for her new life. Do you remember your birth? Where were you born?


Then Philip began with that very passage of Scripture and told him the good news about Jesus. As they traveled along the road, they came to some water and the eunuch said, “Look, here is water. What can stand in the way of my being baptized? And he gave orders to stop the chariot. Then both Philip and the eunuch went down into the water and Philip baptized him. When they came up out of the water, the Spirit of the Lord suddenly took Philip away, and the eunuch did not see him again, but went on his way rejoicing. Acts 8:35-39

Monday, October 30, 2017

There is a season

A time to toil, to mourn, to dance, to embrace, to search or throw away … there is a time. I want to share some of the things God has been doing in our lives as the Fall season began, but I must first unburden my heart over a sorrow and a joy.
This past week, as we were on a visit with Shirley’s family in Omaha we received news from California that our dear sister, Wanda Martin, had unexpectedly passed away. Should our passing ever be unexpected? But Wanda has always been there, from the first time we met the church in Long Beach. Our Stephan showed off superhero pajamas together with her son, Daniel. We remember the kids sitting at the kid’s table, saying grace before the meal. Wanda has always made sure that we were taken care of, when we are here in Belgium or back ‘home’ on assignment in California.
And now she has gone Home, truly. We are so very thankful for that assurance, for the certainty that we have of seeing her again. So we praise our Father for His salvation and we find comfort in this truth and reality. Even as we miss Wanda for now.

These assurances are what motivate us in our daily life, in our activities together. God’s grace is why we so want to share with those around us. And God gives us those opportunities. In September Scott organized a Men’s day, since the men’s retreat was not possible due to work down at camp. Instead of spending a weekend together the men got together to talk about and practice a time of prayer in Antwerp. Instead of the beuaty of the Ardennen, we were blessed with seeing how God wants to live in the city, where so many can experience His grace. 
Both in September and October we had an opportunity to sing. We gathered in Aachen again with members from the church from Cologne to sing in the rain. It was a bit wet and cold, but our hearts were warm. We have, however decided to gather next year at the building in Maastricht. In October Scott organized the Song Workshop for the 3rd time. A time to learn how to sing, learn how to read music (thanks to Luk Brazle teaching) and a time to record new songs so that members can teach them at their home congregations.

At the end of the month we headed to York College for Scott’s 35 year reunion. This was definitely a time to embrace and laugh and sing. Friendships that truly have lasted so many years and have been the basis of a life in the Lord are very precious. It was good to look back at how God brought us together, at what that time has meant to us. It was good to be reminded of how God is active in our lives. And it was great to sing!
So we enjoyed a few days together, laughing about past exploits and getting to know each other again. ‘Friends’ was a group, but it was also who we were, and are. You can watch the concert here – if you are willing to put up with cracking voices and our stories. It was good to be together.

Here are some pictures of our quick visit to the US to see family and church family.
Sing these wonderful truths together with us, hear some challenging truths and enjoy the YC chorus here.


Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good. Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves. Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord. Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer. Share with the Lord’s people who are in need. Practice hospitality. Romans 12:11-13

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Seasons

Seasons come and seasons go, we move from one set of challenges to the next. As we transitioned into the Fall season, I realized I had not taken the time to look at the summer that flashed by.

As July started we as a church planned a youth weekend. Although most of our kids could not attend, we had some of the kids from the Catholic group come over for a great although dreary-weathered day. The misty rain simply added a veil of mystery and excitement to our discovery. It was great to have Mario and Tonia there to help and experience the day.
Our biggest task in the summer is Ardennen Bijbelkamp. This year Scott taught for a day at Jongerenkamp (15+) and then spent two weeks directing the following camps. Shirley joined him during Benjaminkamp (8-11 year-olds) to help with two kids needing special attention. This was also a week to train two young people who came for the first time as counselors.
The following week saw Scott directing, Shirley in the kitchen and a new team being trained, from assistent director to teacher. Once again we were impressed with how much God can do in young hearts (and older) no matter what the weather or situation – if we are willing to let Him work in us.
Most of the summer was filled with grey days and muddy games outside, but the word of God was still a challenge each day. Who is God? And where do we find Him? At Benjaminkamp one of our campers was a young muslim girl. During Tienerkamp it was encouraging to see how the lessons on the law of Moses were made practical and led into clear discussions about salvation and the gospel. 

After two full weeks of camp, you might think that we’d had enough, but Family Camp is always last in the summer and Scott didn’t want to miss anything there. Challenging, lesser-known stories from the Old Testament gave us good food for thought and conversation. The week ended, as always, with Family Day. But this is one of the things that will soon be changing.
Scott is one of the members of the board for camp and plans the evaluation meeting each Fall. But we also live the closest to camp, so if something needs to be done, we are often the ones who are able to do it. Scott went down on a Monday to make sure that the trash sacks that had accumulated during the summer were finally picked up. Later in the month, those who had directed and taken part in camp met to evaluate and plan for the next year. And there are plenty of changes coming up.
In the meantime, September had arrived and we moved into the next season of our work. But that is for the next time. As the leaves are falling and the temperatures cooling, we look back with contentment at what was done in the summer months and look forward to all the activities waiting.


Devote yourselves to prayer, being watchful and thankful. And pray for us, too, that God may open a door for our message, so that we may proclaim the mystery of Christ. Colossians 4:2-3

Do you want to see more photo's? Check out the albums here.