Friday, February 07, 2020

Winter Light

As usual, time flies by when you are not looking. And suddenly we are in the second month of a new year, having rushed through the last days of a decade (or do we still have one more year?). Although, to be honest, we did not really rush through December. We especially did our best to enjoy the few days we had with a Christmas visit from Sean and Jill. They could only spend a few days with us, but it was so good to enjoy meals together, laugh at some game times and just be able to hug on them before they headed back to the Big Apple. 

The end of December was a beautiful segue into the new year with Winterkamp in the Ardennes. In a weekend of winter sun, a intimate group of young people examined the powerful reality of silence - being quiet so that we can hear God and being silent so that He can do His work. It was a needed reminder of how mighty God is and how wonderful it is that He wants us to walk with Him. 
And suddenly, we were walking into a new year, a new decade (unless we have another year). But as always, this means simply taking one day at a time and giving that day to our King of kings. After a month of special get-togethers and activities, we returned to our ‘normal’ schedule of studies and days of service. As we have mentioned before, our week is never really quite ‘normal’, but it is an exciting flexible challenge where we are confronted with questions: What do you believe? What keeps you going? How do you serve? Who is on your team? 

I want to pay some attention to some of those questions in the coming days here as I find time. But for now, we are preparing for a Spring concert with Harding University chorus and looking at how we can help members from one of our supporting churches (Muscatine) serve while visiting us here and in Ghent. 

In the meantime, the crocuses have popped their heads out, down in the yard under the walnut tree. It froze this morning, after several weeks of warm weather, so we will hope they survive. Sunday is supposed to bring a storm (and many of you have already experienced challenging weather). But we walk in the light, as Jesus mentioned to His disciples. There is plenty to do. Thank you for your support and encouragement of us here, and thank you for your faithfulness in serving Him where you are. 
When Jesus spoke again to the people, he said, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.”  John 8:12

There are a few pictures up about our end-of-year activities (and some of Chester) if you are interested. 

Monday, November 11, 2019

Leave your jug behind

We have been reading through the gospel of John in our weekly study with the church here in Maastricht. This past Sunday the topic at the Lord's Supper mentioned the woman at the well (John 4). It was an interesting point I had not often stood still by: she left her jug. This woman who already had a difficult existence and was going to all this trouble to get what she needed that day (water) left her water there at the well after talking to Jesus.
This is the question for each of us as well. Is what we are running after, the ways we are trying to get what we think we want, really working for us? Are we willing, like the woman at the well, to give it up in favour of what Jesus is offering? Even more, do we truly understand, like that woman, that what he is offering IS much better? And that it is so important that we have to go tell others?
We have contact almost every day with people who are looking for love, looking for happiness, looking for fulfilment or acceptance. In their search, they end up in all sorts of places and positions in their lives that only make things worse. We know how it goes, because we have been there too. But we know better now. We know that what Jesus offers, really IS better, because He really is who He says He is. So we share this wonderful gift of grace - living water. A strength to be completely created anew - not into something we are not, but into that which we were meant to be.
Not everyone can see the reality of this gift. Some are too lost in what they have been doing all along for so long. "If I leave my jug, how will I get water again?" "If I leave this running-after-these-things that are supposed to make me happy, how will I be able to be happy ever again?" Some people have heard and go running, like the woman at the well, to proclaim to their neighbours: "Listen! This is important!" For us it is simply important to keep presenting what Jesus is offering: living water.

Jesus was simply himself, connecting with this woman. He offered her what is true, but unbelievable to her. We are offering what seems unbelievable, but is true. When she had questions, he answered honestly, without being politically correct. And he was clear without being judgemental when he let her know that he knew her real situation. He did not pretend it did not exist, he named it and left it with her. 

We are so very thankful for the people God brought into our lives to speak clarity and truth to us so that we could see the offer of Jesus. And we are so thankful that God wants to and is using us to do the same for others wherever we are. We keep praying for people to be willing to just leave the jugs behind.

Wednesday, October 30, 2019

Sweet Fellowship

We are so blessed to be in a place where so many countries come together. Geographically we are at the nexus of three countries and four language groups (the Netherlands, Germany and Belgium with Flemish and French speakers). We look forward to any time we get to gather with brothers and sisters from around the area. This builds us up and encourages the whole church. 
At the end of September we held our annual Family Day down at camp. Ardennen Bijbel Kamp is situated in the hills of the Ardennes where not too long ago soldiers died to defend democracy and justice. These days we gather as members of the church to encourage one another in living for truth and justice every day in the Lord. The congregation in Maastricht organized the day this year and it was great to be together with French-speakers as well as Dutch- and Flemish-speakers for the day. 
In October we spent time with our French-speaking brothers on our first Friday singing. Then, the very next day, we gathered in Cologne, Germany, with brothers and sisters from the Netherlands, Belgium and Germany for a day of fellowship and singing. How good is it to get to know and be encouraged by the family of God from all around us. We love using every opportunity to get together. 
Later in the month we got together again, this time in a more sportive atmosphere. The COPA Benelux is organized every year by members from the church in Ghent and is for all church members in the Benelux. This year I got to play on a team with members of the church from The Hague, Haarlem, Sint Niklaas (Belgium) and Maastricht. But we were also a mixture of Russians, Ukrainians, Dutch and American-Belgians. 
God has an amazing view on who we are and what we should and can be. We are made in His image, made to give, to share, to be together because we are created by Him. People are people, no matter where we are from or live. We are all able to become children of the King, no matter what we have done in the past. And then, suddenly, we are family. That is exciting news! Look around at the family God has in your neighborhood, at the family He has placed you in where you are. Be encouraged and be an encouragement. 

For this reason I kneel before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth derives its name. I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.   Ephesians 3:14-21