Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Back in Belgium

There are so many things that we missed while in the States - and so many things we didn't miss! Looking at what you have at the moment - and appreciating that - is something that we continue to learn. This trip and return to Belgium has helped along the way.

We are back to sweaters and coats (the shorts went straight from the suitcase into the closet - ready for next year!), back to carrying the umbrella when you walk the dog AND back to rainbows almost any day at just the moment you need one (a promise from God!) and escape from stifling heat.

Getting up at 7 in the morning to go to school is a lot different than lounging in bed with friends and family close by with whom you can play BUT school means being back with your friends on this side, playing basketball and soccer, riding your bike, setting up your room with new team emblems.

Back to walking the dog every morning, rain or shine IS back with our wonderful little dog who missed us so much, to morning mists rising on the canal or impressionist sunsets painting the clouds and peaceful walks and talks with God.

Missing family who live so far away, BUT being back with family who are so glad to see us once again and whom we so missed. God continues to amaze us with how big, how loving, how giving his family is - because they are his.

These are the blessings of everyday, blessings we never want to miss, wherever we are.

July/August Newsletter

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

July/August 2007
This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. 1 John 4:10-11

Dear brothers and sisters, family and friends,
Wow - what a wild and wonderful summer! It was great to be able to see so many of you and to get to know so many new people as well. God continues to surprise and bless us.

Furlough tales
Many of you have been able to follow our travels around the States from the blog, so I will not go into detail on everything. I simply want to highlight a few things from each stop - things we learned or experienced while there. We flew or drove through 8 states and visited 12 cities in the 8 weeks we were traveling. We are so grateful that we were able to not only visit our church family, but were also able to spend some good time with relatives. This was only possible because so many of you were willing to sacrifice, risk letting us drive your cars and keep us in your homes. Thank you!

In Minnesota and Wisconsin we were touched by an eldership and church family that was concerned about wanting to be sure that we had the chance to rest and be built up. What wonderful hearts - from just making meals to playing discgolf.

In Iowa we were blessed to help with the VBS, so Scott was Elijah and Jesus, Shirley was Mary and Salome, Sean was Lazarus (which sounds really weird in Dutch!) and Stephan helped conduct the kids each evening. While in Iowa we also drove over to visit Scott’s brother and family in Indiana - meeting our nephews/cousins for only the second time. It was great to get to know them a bit better.

In Omaha, Nebraska, we spent some wonderful time with Shirley’s family. We have been praying for her sister’s family and it was good to see how God is working there. Our nephew is serious in sharing his faith and growing further. We were also able to visit a congregation where Shirley had been baptized so many years before. The links that God makes in peoples lives are so wonderful to see!

In Colorado Scott was able to have fun at Kamp Koinonia as well as present a lesson and sing some old songs with good old friends. But family is the most important thing when we come through this way. We celebrated Scott’s birthday, together with his younger brother, talked about his mom’s upcoming move and deepened the already tight bonds in Christ. It was hard to leave, knowing that there was still so much we wanted to be able to do.

California brought us new family. We stayed with a family which didn’t know us and vice-versa, but which has taken a special place in our hearts. With Kerry and Marisol Jablonski we worked together, shared, talked and learned. It was thrilling to see how God can make such a difference in relationships - something we know, but were able to experience once again.

In Texas we were once again overwhelmed with the love of a congregation wanting to give us an opportunity to recharge our batteries. Abilene always brings a sense of ‘coming home’ when we pass through. It was great to see the boys hook right in to the youth activities as well.

Meanwhile back at the ranch ...
This was one of the first times that we didn’t really leave our work in Belgium and the Netherlands behind. With internet everywhere (or almost) we were able to keep up on how things were going. This also meant that some of our work could follow us around the US as well.

It is exciting to see and realize (and be reminded) that God can use more people than just us. Sometimes we think quite highly of ourselves, but God shows us that He is the one in charge. In July the summer camp weeks went great, with some really good groups meeting. Once again we had several visitors to these weeks from outside the church - young people who were touched by the gospel and other young people who want to know God.

There were also some concerns and difficulties, but our brothers and sisters have the same mighty Father as we do. It has been good to come back and hear how they dealt in a spiritual way with these difficult moments. When we left at the end of June, there was no one to organize the usual Family Day at the end of camp. But this too was taken care of - the young church in Ghent took it on themselves to organize the day. Although the weather didn’t always cooperate, it was a great time to be challenged.

We always see September as the beginning of the year and we are excited about what is on our path this year. As we look back at the summer and see how richly God blesses us, we know that He will continue to strengthen us through the task before us.

Please keep the following in your prayers.
- Give thanks for our safe trip in the summer and all the wonderful meetings we had with God’s family.
- Please keep our families in your prayers as we are away from them and want to help in so many ways.
- Praise and thank God for the summer camp weeks - there were several young people from outside the church who experienced God here.
- Pray for Listen Up! and their upcoming concert in Haarlem - this will be for a largely non-Christian audience.
- Pray for Mr. W. and LJ as we try to get back to our studies. Also for upcoming plans for classes and outreach.

Our summer furlough trips are always a bit of a blur - so much happening in so many places! We were so glad to be able to see so many people. We only wish that we could be in more places and in each place longer, but then we would have to hang around in the States for much more than a summer. And we were missing all of our family here as the summer came to a close. What a wonderful dilemma - to have so much family that you want to be everywhere!
Our traveling went basically without too much trouble. We had a bit of a hiccup on the way over (“What do you mean, we’re on ‘standby’ - I bought those tickets months ago!”), but arrived safely and with all of our luggage. Here are a few of the things that hit us as we traveled around the country and visited family and friends.

Sean was thrilled to be able to play soccer in so many places. Most of the places he was able to play it was with girls teams. This gave him a different respect for girls. In Iowa and Texas he trained with some pretty good girls teams. He was glad to be able to play. And in the meantime he bought shoes - cool shoes, soccer shoes that cost way more in Europe, shoes that he chose.

Stephan had a good time meeting new friends and seeing old friends. He seems to be able to get along no matter where he goes. And he still loves being with his family as well! But this trip was different since we were also looking at the future. Hearing college recruiters tell you about there school and what you can do there, what it will be like - it all brings the future awfully close, awfully quickly (or was that just the parents’ reaction?)

Scott was able to go discgolfing in every city they stopped in (except Indianapolis - next time!). Most of the time he went early in the morning with Stephan. New discs were part of the luggage making its way back to Belgium. Shirley enjoyed finding garage sales (remember - we don’t have garages in Belgium, let alone garage sales). She was able to find some super deals and have a good time as well.

We saw fields and fields of corn, vast stretches of Colorado nothingness and mountains climbing to the clouds. We stayed in beautiful old homes, family homes with voices we love hearing and even a little place that seemed to be more of a resort - but was definitely a home. We were able to visit almost all of our family and even met some friends from the past who we hadn’t expected to see. We were blessed to stay with people we just met, and people we had never met before - simply because we are family in Christ.

The boys went to Universal Studios, Scott and Shirley went to Santa Monica and beautiful downtown Burbank. We were blessed with swimming pools, discgolf courses, fireworks, Bible camp activities, guitar playing, VBS and evening walks with good conversations. And we were challenged with family needs and desires. We may live far away from so many, but we are not removed. Some pain and frustration, a need for encouragement - God wants to use all of us anywhere we are. And He is able!

Thank you all for such a wonderful visit! What a wonderful family we have in Jesus Christ!

In the United States people are used to the 2-party system. Politics in Europe is much more complicated.
Belgium has three different governments: Flemish, Walloon and the federal government. There are at least 5 different parties in each of the two regional governments. Then they also have to work together in the federal government.
The Dutch have at least 6 different parties making up the government (not counting the really small ones). They have had to learn to compromise.
Have you come across something typically Dutch or Belgian? What did you think of it? Let us know.

Listen Up! concert
Listen Up! tour of Switzerland
Fall camp
Youth outreach
WoW course

- For all the help with this summer and your special gifts
- For so many who put us up and put up with us
- For your encouragement and care of the guys