Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Keep on talking

The other day I had a discussion. Now, in Flemish that could mean that I had an argument or that I simply talked about something with someone. Actually it was a bit of both. I have always been a bit of a fiery discusser (sounds like an interesting word so I thought I’d use it, whether it exists or not). But I need to learn to temper my temper so that I can communicate better.

It was a good talk with our co-workers. We talked about how much we have missed communication in the congregation. We know that things are going on in everyone’s lives, but no one talks about what is going on. We aren’t acting much like the family we want to be. But we DO want to be able to communicate better. It was so refreshing just to be able to speak openly with one another. We know that we care for each other, that we don’t want to hurt one another. So we were able to talk about some misunderstandings and were able to encourage one another to get on with being the family that God has made us.

One of the things we had to get used to when we first moved here were the differences between the Dutch, the Flemish and American cultures. The Dutch talk about being ‘honest’. An American would call it ‘rude’. The Flemings tend to keep their thoughts to themselves, but they are definitely thinking plenty. This all makes for an interesting mix when we are working with Flemings and Dutchmen in the church – and we are still American. Still, we are learning that there are good parts to all of these cultures. In this recent discussion it was good to be able to be clear, honest and open – without being rude. We just need to keep on talking – and listening to one another.

Sunday, February 19, 2006


If you’ve never watched darts, let me tell you that you're really missing something. Pretty much a bunch of guys in bowling shirts and beer bellies throwing little sharp things at a round board while a man in a tuxedo stands by and loudly announces their running score. (If you have ever heard the announcer scream “Goooooooaaaaaaaallllllll” during a Spanish-speaking soccer match, imagine the same announcer pronouncing the title of this article.)

But some of the best darts players in the world are Dutch. Barney (no not the big, purple dinosaur – am I glad I escaped him over here!) WAS the world champion four years in a row. This was to be the record-breaking year. But he was beat but a young whipper-snapper. Jelle is also a Dutchman. So darts have become, for the moment, even bigger than usual in the Netherlands (where Dutchmen come from). Stephan and Sean were already interested, since they got to throw sharp things at the wall (granted, there was a board on the wall). But this made it all the better. I even went out and bought a set of darts.

And I found out that this sport is good for all sorts of things. In Great Britain, where they hold the world championship, they used it to encourage young people to learn their ‘maths’ (that’s mathematics for the Americans). You have to be able to count down from 501 using the amount of the spots you hit on the board. And you have to go out on a double. Quick, how do you throw out when you have 51 left? (try 11 and double 20, or 15 and double 18 or any other combination).

For me it has just been another fun frustration. We try to go from 20 down to the bullseye, in order. It has certainly shown me the true meaning of ‘missing the mark’. As good as Jelle and Barney are, they still mess up all the time. Makes you appreciate grace all the more. Jesus Christ is the one who makes it possible. One-hundred-and-eighty!

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

I love you! (the day after)

I remember Valentine’s Day as a day of extreme stress. When I was younger, in the first grade, it wasn’t so bad. Everyone filled in these cards and everyone had one sitting on their desk. It was in later years that you were made to think that those cards measured how loved you were – and not everyone got a card (I am of course trying to put this delicately, but hey – let’s just say it like it is – I didn’t get any!)
Valentine’s Day is a relatively new thing in the Netherlands and Belgium. It came in along with the commercialization of some other holidays (Mother’s and Father’s Day, Christmas and even Halloween recently). So now everyone is told that they are only good people if they buy their loved one something special (and preferably expensive!) on that special day. And of course we drown in the reports in the media of how often men forget this day instead of caring for and thinking of their wives.

Well, you can believe it or not, but I have never really liked this day (as opposed to some of the other holidays) since I have always considered it commercial. Our family tradition is that we have a very special dinner together. Stephan usually helps Shirley cook a part of it, Sean makes a handmade menu and placecards, and we set the table. Sometimes I serve as a waiter. Mostly we just enjoy the dinner and evening together as a family, knowing and expressing how much we love each other.

And the nice thing is that the next day, when I am in a bad mood and biting heads off, I still know that my family loves me. And when I’ve cooled down and we’ve talked things out, we still express how much we love each other and are thankful for our family. And we don’t even need a card!

- Snuffles enjoying her first Valentine's day with us -

Monday, February 13, 2006

January Newsletter

LIGHT in the Lowlands
Reaching out to the people of Belgium and the Netherlands

January 2006

“I tell you the truth, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life and will not be condemned; he has crossed over from death to life. ... A time is coming and has now come when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God qand those who hear will live. John 5:24-25

Dear brothers and sisters, family and friends,
Sometimes it is just amazing that time keeps marching on. A new year begins and life goes on, as if nothing had changed. Strange how we expect a change in a number to change things. But God is still the same, still the Mighty One who encourages and saves us every day.
New Years is a time for fireworks in the Netherlands. One of the most dangerous times of the year for young people (mostly boys) who end up blowing their fingers off or putting someone’s eye out. This year was no different. In the neighborhood of our building a telephone booth and a postbox were blown up. Since several of our members live right where these things happened, we decided to talk to the 5th and 6th graders at the local elementary school about it. They had already had a lesson from a national organization that tries to raise awareness about abuse of fireworks. We wanted to let them know how close to home it really is.
So Karla Verheijen and I went to the local school on a morning and presented a story about what had happened and what they can do about it. We challenged them to make a poster encouraging everyone to abstain from vandalism. And we offered a €25 reward for the best poster. The exciting thing about this whole effort is that the school is working with us as are the local merchants. The very next day one of the guys from one of the classes saw me in the shopping center and said hello. In February we will choose the best poster and hang up all of them in the local storefronts. Pray that we can continue to be of service in the community and that the community begins more and more to be aware of our presence.
In addition to this project we are hoping, finally, to be able to sing at the local nursing home in March. This was an initiative from 2004 which fell through several times. Now we are praying that we will finally be able to serve in this way and meet some more of the community.
Scott also continues with the eight studies he prepares a week as well as the English class he gives as a volunteer at the refugee center.
Youth activities
In January we held a ‘hootenanny’ and film evening for the young people. We had planned a youth weekend at first, to be held in Haarlem, but this worked out better for Haarlem. We had a great group of young people who stayed after the hotdogs and song evening with the adults. Once most of the adults are gone (after a great evening of fellowship), the young people watch a film and catch up on their friendships. We watched “The Incredibles” that evening and discussed the implications for our spiritual lives the next morning. (see “Incredible” at ravenraab.blogspot.com for more)
- good time, good food, good company -
In addition to this evening we had also had a great evening over at the Verheijen’s house for our local youth. For those of you who don’t know, the world darts championship was won by a Dutchman. In fact, the final was played between two Dutchmen. So now lots of people are interested in darts. Good reason to get together and throw sharp things at a board! Nobody hurt and everyone had a good time together.
- still need plenty of practice -
We are still looking forward to the youth weekends coming up in February and in March.

We also held our annual camp meeting in January. This is a formal meeting which we usually turn into a good fellowship opportunity. But this was also a time to announce that we will finally be renovating our camp facilities - hopefully this year. This is not only an opportunity to expand how we work with youth and church members, it is an opportunity for the churches to work together. Pray for this.
- the formal part of our meeting -

Please keep the following in your prayers.
- Pray for Yvonne and Roger who are regular visitors and for whom you have been praying. Yvonne struggles daily with alcohol in her life and recently had a bad health check-up. We continue letting her know that this is killing her, but that we still love her very much. Roger wants to get his life straight, complete, before giving it to the Lord. We continue to tell him, and let him see, that God is the one who gets our life straight when we give it to Him.
- Pray also for our studies: Angelique, Mieke, Cor and Titia, and Gerard.
- Pray for our outreach to the neighborhood through the elementary school.

New Years is a time for fireworks in the Netherlands. Although fireworks are illegal in The Netherlands until a few days before New Years, they can be bought all year round in Belgium.
Stephan and Sean both enjoy setting off some fireworks. This year they shared this experience with the Verheijen girls as the two familyies were together. The hardest thing is that it is always so cold - how do you light a fuse with freezing fingers in the wind?
- beautiful -
We of course are safe with our fireworks. What special things do you do for New Years? Do you do anything special in the winter?
Let us know.
e-mail Stephan at: greenleaf@tiscali.be
e-mail Sean at: dudeis2cool4u@hotmail.com

The beginning of this year seems years away already. I have even already gotten used to writing 2006 instead of 2005 (and it took me so long to get that ‘5’ down)! We started the year in the Christmas break of course, enjoying the time we could spend together. A lot of the time for the boys was spent at friends’ houses, of course, but we also had some good time together. (see ‘Taste is all in your mouth’ at ravenraab,blogspot.com for more)
As soon as school began we were very busy. At the beginning of the year Sean had had to decide if he would follow “Latin” or not. This is the highest level at school. It includes four hours a week of Latin - which is useful if you want to go to university and go into medicine or law. Sean wanted to know if he could do it, so he told us that - if we agreed - he would try the first semester and be allowed to drop out if he wanted to. In December, at the end of the semester, he had made his decision. He could do it (he was one of the few who passed the class) but he saw absolutely no reason for it. And in the place of four hours of Latin he would get two hours of gym and two hours of applied sciences. Difficult choice! So the first day of school in January we removed him from Latin. It was a frantic evening of parent-teacher conferences with hundreds of parents worried about the progress of their children (actually good to know that parents are concerned for their children). The director finally helped us, since all we were doing for Sean was dropping out of Latin.
Stephan was a different situation. We went to several of his teachers, talked about options and made a decision the next day. This after we had talked quite a few hours at home over the break and prayed quite a lot about it. Now Stephan is following studies that fit him much better and seems to be doing much better. It is still along the same direction, but with more options for the future. It has been good to see him less frazzled about school. He still has to struggle sometimes to keep focused, but who doesn’t, some days.
We were so glad to have a great visit with Sue Foster in the middle of the month! Sue is still trying to figure out how to get back to Europe to work with the Dutch-speaking church (and we are glad about that - keep praying!). We were just so glad that she was able to make it to Maastricht for several days. When she visits she has so many people to see. That is what is so good about the church in the world. We have so many family members all over the place - and it is good to share time together.
‘Our’ dog, Snuffles, also officially became our dog. Interestingly, she is actually NOT our dog - we are just renting her (see “Finally Ours” at ravenraab.blogspot.com). But she knows, and we know, that she is ours. She gets plenty of belly rubs, knows our schedule inside out, and has totally integrated herself into our lives. But when you come visit us, come in through the back door - that’s where family enters, and she knows it.

What’s coming up?
Youth activity and weekend
Listen Up! studio time
Ladies Retreat
Nursing home singing
Youth weekend

- For all the goodies that came with Sue Foster!
- For your cards and year-end letters
- For your prayers for the work here
- For your emails and encouragement

We say it often, but be sure that you enjoy all the time that you have with your family - especially God’s family. That is what is so special about every opportunity to gather - we are together and worshipping Him who brought us together. Enjoy!
Love in Him,

Scott, Shirley,
Stephan and Sean Raab