Monday, December 28, 2020

Dog days and family fun

The holidays are usually a time of friends and family. Of course our time here has always been a bit different. We have chosen to live further away from our family. And now that our kids are grown and flown, they too have chosen to live further away from us. Part of that comes from the realization that distance is relative and that family continues over all distances. 

So we enjoyed our Christmas time by visiting with our boys and their girls via technology (for which we are so very thankful). In generations past this would not have been possible. Then it would have been cards, letters, perhaps a long-distance phone call. Now we are able to enjoy pictures and video’s and seeing one another. It is different, but it is still good. 


Here are a few pictures of the cute ones in our boys’ households. Both of our daughters-in-law are amazing photographers, so we are blessed with amazing pictures. Both ladies are also allergic to dogs, which means that they have chosen poodles - which have no dog dander and make them compatible with people who are allergic to dogs. 



Stephan and Natalie have a puppy mini-poodle called Mochi. She plays disc-golf with Stephan and they are enjoying training her and getting used to her in their home. 


Sean and Jill adopted a 10-year-old mini-poodle mix from the shelter. He was already called Pierre, which fits perfectly with them. Pierre has no teeth, so his tongue is always hanging out. He knows it just makes him look chill. 












Our own old man, Chester (turning 13 in February) still has fun with us every day. He knows when we are calling the kids and always wants to get in on the conversation. He still takes the job he learned form his first owner (Willemien) seriously and barks every time the phone or the doorbell rings. 


We have enjoyed seeing all of your pictures in the last days, receiving year-end letters and cards, seeing how God has blessed you in this past year - in spite of or perhaps because of the various challenges in the year. Hold on to family and enjoy each and every minute. Praise God for this past year and put your ;life in His hands for the coming year, living day by day in His grace. 

Monday, December 14, 2020

Thanks!



I know, Thanksgiving is well past. But remember, we do not celebrate Thanksgiving here. And I know that we all understand that giving thanks goes far past one special day in November in the United States (or a similar day in October in Canada). As is usual, some of us here got together - online - for “Thanksmas” - a day to celebrate and see each other in between Thanksgiving and Christmas. We did get to see each other - on a computer screen, but there was no pumpkin pie, turkey and all the rest. There was some good fellowship. It reminded us all that giving thanks is for every day. 

That’s why we want to take the time to let you know how thankful we are for the brothers and sisters who make it possible for us to be here, brothers and sisters who work together with us through prayer. We are immensely thankful for these congregations and individuals who have for so long been a part of this effort in Belgium and the Netherlands. Even in a year that has been abominable in many ways for many, God has blessed in beautiful ways. 


One of the blessings of this corona year has been our contact with one of our supporting congregations in Minnesota - Woodbury church of Christ. Every Friday morning the brothers gather for a men’s breakfast. Scott was able to attend some of these when we were back in Minnesota on Home Assignment (the last time in the summer of 2019). But since corona rules came into effect, the brothers have to meet online, which meant that Scott could also meet with them. Morning in Minnesota is afternoon in Belgium. So a new connection has been opened up. 

This congregation is also where Scott and Shirley spent time while on Home Assignment with a young couple from the congregation.This couple helped develop an app which Scott will now be using for Bible study with brothers in Belgium and the Netherlands (check out Edji.it). It was designed to help teach reading and more, but can be used in many ways. This is a blessing which we hope will bless many more in our outreach here. 

When we first married and moved to Abilene, Texas, for Scott to finish his studies, we became part of the 11th and Willis congregation. This group was influential not only in helping shape us as a Christian couple, but also in shaping our desire for missions. They have always been completely supportive of members who want to be and are active in reaching out with the gospel, no matter where they are. Because of this congregation we have also been able to let congregations in Europe know about what God is doing in Kenya and Burundi. God’s family is everywhere. 

And that means that God’s family is also along the Mississippi River in Iowa. The church in Muscatine has a unique connection to the work here in Belgium and the Netherlands. Not only do they support us as well as our colleague in Ghent, Sue Foster, they are also home to Rudy and Pam Schellekens who were both influential in both Scott and Shirley’s training in missions. During the first lockdown, we were able to meet with them on Sunday’s (Sunday morning in Iowa being Sunday afternoon here). 

And throughout the years, from the very beginning of our time here, the Long Beach church of Christ has been our supporting congregation. There has always been a group of members there who pray specifically for us and the needs mentioned here. They email and ask how things are going - being specific in their questions because they know what is going on here. During this year we have been able to follow the worship time there on Facebook. 

In addition to these four congregations, there are several individuals who not only financially support the efforts here, but who regularly check in with us to see how they can help in any other way. Some have lived here and know people we work with. Others simply love the Lord and know what it means to reach out with the gospel in any way possible, no matter where you are. You know who you are and how God is using you, too. 

We have had to readjust how we work this year. We have had to re-evaluate how we can reach people with the gospel and how we can encourage and equip members in faith and grace. As far as changes go, 2020 has been a doozy (is that how you spell that?). But we are so thankful that we are blessed with brothers and sisters in these congregations who for years have been adapting and changing with the challenges that God allows. They - you - know that as long as we are keeping our eyes on the King of kings, that we will be able to do what He wants. 

Thank you, Father, for your amazing family in all the world. Thank you that you want to use us as living stones to build a temple of praise everywhere we are and in every day and moment that we live here. 


We always thank God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, when we pray for you, because we have heard of your faith in Christ Jesus and of the love you have for all God’s people— the faith and love that spring from the hope stored up for you in heaven and about which you have already heard in the true message of the gospel that has come to you. In the same way, the gospel is bearing fruit and growing throughout the whole world—just as it has been doing among you since the day you heard it and truly understood God’s grace. Colossians 1:3-6

Monday, November 16, 2020

Sing to the Lord

One o the most frustrating things for Christians during the lockdowns has been the restrictions to our being able to meet together. Not only have there been restrictions on how many can meet, where and how, but what we can do if and when we meet. Singing was one of the first things that was canceled in these situations. 

And as congregations went online we realized that we could not sing together. Anyone who has tried to sing with others via Zoom or Skype has learned very quickly that it is simply frustrating. And within a very short time it felt like we had been cut off from our lifeline, our heart moved from our lives in the Lord. Does that sound too dramatic? 

Perhaps for some. Sermons were still available. As a matter of fact, it has become even simpler to access sermons from all over the world. Thankfully, this crisis is being used mightily to reach people with the word of the Lord. But the elements that hold us together, that are the very heart of fellowship - and fellowship is the very heart of our faith, for we are a body - all of these elements were crippled. 

Even before corona times we had been working on strengthening singing in our congregations in Belgium and the Netherlands. Song Workshops were held to help members learn how to sing and become comfortable with singing. Members were encouraged to learn new songs and even write songs themselves. As corona time hit, these efforts became even more important. 

So now we have been doing our utmost to make songs available. Scott and Luk Brazle have been making lyric video's and placing them online. These video's not only help members learn the songs, they can be used during digital worship times as singing. Sitting at home and singing with one of these videos is like singing with your congregation, though not nearly as good. No matter how poorly your congregation sings, being able to be in the same room together singing is immensely better than sitting behind a computer screen singing with a video. 

Now, in several places on Youtube and on a dedicated website, members can find these songs. 

There are songs that members themselves have written during one of the singing workshops. These are most often scriptures put to melody. Ik ben verzekerd

There are songs written more than 30 years ago by evangelists and used for camp which are still sung every year during Bible camp. Elk van God

There are songs translated into Dutch which are better known by all members. 

There are children's songs so that the kids are not left out. Eens was er een jongen David

These are tools which will be used outside of corona times, when we are able to join together again. That is why we will keep working on getting even more done. It has been good to experience the working together to make these songs and this effort available. We are so thankful for the song that Jesus has put in our hearts for Him and for each other in this life. 

Would you like to hear these songs and sing along? Visit the Youtube site. 

Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful. Let the message of Christ dwell among you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom through psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit, singing to God with gratitude in your hearts. And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him. Colossians 3:15-17