Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Family far and near


Good visit
Originally uploaded by sraabs.
We recently had some great family visits.
Louis Higgins and Tom McKleroy from Oxford, Alabama, came over to visit with Shadira. The church in Oxford supports work with the church on Curacao and realized that lots of members head over to the Netherlands, where they have difficulty with their faith. So they have made an effort to meet with the members of the church with ties to Curacao who live in the Netherlands.

On another evening we were all invited to dinner at Philip and Susanne's house in Liege. They have moved to Belgium from Germany and want to be a part of God's family wherever they are. Susanne, who is still studying about and considering what it means to give her life to Christ, has made friends with Mishell - a Philipino woman who has recently married a Belgian. So we had quite an international evening together with some good food and great conversation.

It is thrilling to see how God brings us together and helps make a real family - wherever we are!

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

February Newsletter

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

For we are God’s workmanship, created in Jesus Christ to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do. Ephesians 2:10

Dear brothers and sisters, family and friends,
As anticipated, this year started with a bang and has continued to be quite busy - which is exciting! We continue to look forward to all that God has prepared for us to do.

Home or away?
We had several times this month that our family was a bit split up. The Ladies Retreat which usually comes at the beginning of March was in February this year. This is always a good opportunity to get the ladies of the congregation together. We are thankful that several always want to and can attend.

Our young people went over to Antwerp for a youth weekend on music and how it influences our lives. This time we went to help out in the kitchen - a first for Scott, but he was in good hands with Shirley. God has made us a good team!

The end of the month brought the Advanced Bible Study Series (ABSS) in Gem√ľnden, Germany. This is usually organized by the Brazles, but since they are in the States for a year as visiting missionaries, Scott and Doyle Kee from Switzerland took over the organization for a year. This week and weekend retreat is a great opportunity for members in Europe.
Lessons are presented from teachers who have taken the time to dig deeper into a subject that will also help those who participate in the week. And it is participation! Although there are only four or five speakers, the listeners have plenty of time during meals, walks in the woods and fussbal games to chew on all the information and thoughts that the teachers passed on. It is always an invigorating week. We were glad to be able to help in this way this year and are looking forward to next year already.
One of the best things about this week is the contact that we have with Christians from around Europe. Traveling hours to get somewhere is not that common here. So when two brothers from Poland traveled more than 11 hours to be with us for two days (before turning around and heading back home), it was a privilege to get to know them. This year we fellowshipped with people from Switzerland, Slovakia, Poland, England, Germany, Belgium, the Netherlands and the United States. It is great to be a part of God’s family!
Outreach
Being gone during these moments did split up the month quite a bit, but this did not change the various studies we have going on. Let me update you on a few things that you have been praying about.
You may have seen all the news about the snow storms in China and the distress this caused travelers. We were worried about LJ because she had gone home to visit her parents (the first time in a few years!). We finally got to see her this month when she returned and heard that she had been affected, but that she was able to visit with her parents.
It was good to be able to get together again after she has had some time to be away and think about what we are reading and studying. She visited a few churches while at home as well, wanting to see what opportunities there might be. Amazingly, it was her father who directed her to the churches. Back in Maastricht we helped her move from one apartment to another and she shared a good meal. We are proud that she considers us her friends and continue to pray that we can be of even more help than moving her worldly good from one place to another. We want to see her again when we all get Home.
The study with Mr. W. also continued well this month. What do you do when you start reading in the Bible and find out that many of the things you were taught are not there? Mr. W. has some very strong opinions about all sorts of things. He respects those who will listen and be willing to change. It has been interesting to see him struggle with his own struggle to change or accept.
Scott was also contacted by people he had studied with in the past, but who had stopped. It is exciting then to see some initiative coming from them, wanting to study again. Please continue to pray for these efforts, these relationships and for the amazing things God can do in people’s lives.
In Maastricht we also took Willemien in to have her second knee replacement. Soon she will be ready to run again, without pain. She is pleased that this is all possible, even more with how it has brought people into her life. She found a neighbor who was willing to watch the dog for 4 weeks and with whom she now has a good relationship. God is amazing and gracious. Keep an eye out for what He wants to do with you!

PRAYER WARRIORS
Please keep the following in your prayers.
- Continue to pray for Mr. W. He is asking lots of questions and is willing to listen.
- Pray that LJ will think more about what Jesus wants to bring her life.
- Pray for our plans in the neighborhood: WoW course, our church study weekend, and our Bible studies as well as our daily contacts.
- Pray for our regular visitors A., S.,V. and M. who are all deciding whether they want to give their lives fully to Jesus. For some this is a difficult cultural decision as well.
- Pray for Ruud and Karla, our co-workers. Ruud is in terrible pain. He continues each day, making it through the pain. Thank God for the strength Ruud finds to still be such an example.
- Pray for our young people heading out near the end of this year to start university far away - that they will continue to grow.

DID YOU KNOW?
Tidbits of information about Belgium and the Netherlands
Belgians and Dutchmen in the world
You may not know much about Belgium or the Netherlands, but odds are that you know some of the things they produce.
You may have had contact with Dutch companies in the supermarket (Unilever), at the bank (ING), the gas station (Shell), in travel (KLM) or in electronics (Philips). The Dutch have also been involved in rebuilding the area damaged by Katrina, using their know-how of how to keep water at bay.
While Belgian companies are less well-known in the global sense, they are no less prevalent. Belgium has many middle-sized companies working in lower-profile areas: textiles, dredging, languages (translating software). Best-known are perhaps their beers.
Have you come across something typically Dutch or Belgian? What did you think of it? Let us know. s.raabs@tele2allin.be

What’s coming up?
APRIL
WoW course
Youth weekend
Single’s Retreat
MAY
Work camp
Maastricht study week

THANKS!
- For extra funds - you take great care of us!
- For all the contact - Facebook, blog, email or otherwise
- Your prayers for all that is happening here and in Europe

ON THE FAMILY SIDE . . .
Every year Shirley has the opportunity to go to the Ladies Retreat in Germany. This year was going to be different. We heard back in October that everything was already full and that there was no room left. This meant that our ladies could not go. We put them on a waiting list and hoped for the best. Sean was especially distraught - it is when Shirley comes home from the Ladies Retreat that we have received such wonderful gifts from Americans in Germany as Oreo cookies, Pop Tarts and Kraft macaroni and cheese. Now, it seemed, this would not happen.
Thankfully, room opened up and four of our ladies got to go. And yes, Shirley came home with arms full. Thanks to the ladies at Kaiserslautern we had once again been spoiled (although I like to see it as a blessing!). The ‘guys’ survived just fine at home alone. By now they have learned to get along just fine and take good care of each other.
At the end of the month Scott and Shirley went off together to the Advanced Bible Study Series (ABSS) in Germany, leaving the boys behind to fend for themselves. We had seen that they could do this quite well when we went to Switzerland last Fall with Listen Up!. Now Scott was organizing the week in Germany with Doyle Kee and needed some good support. And we form a good team together! The boys joined us in the weekend, so we had a good little break together as well.
ABSS is always a great time to see people we don’t see so often and to meet new people. This year we met some brothers from Poland and Scott got to play basketball as usual with Doyle. He even played some mud-soccer with the young guys from Marseilles. Probably practicing for May when several from Belgium and the Netherlands will travel to Switzerland for a tournament with teams from various churches of Christ around Europe.
Stephan got to meet one of his future classmates while in Germany. Justin Smith (son of Brady and Stephanie - Stephanie was cooking for us and Justin is studying at Marseilles) will also be attending Harding. It is neat to see how Stephan is getting to know his future classmates online already. This should help when he gets there. But for now he also needs to be focusing on his studies here to make sure that he passes the year well.
Sean has struggled this month with the weather and his health as far as his sport. His team’s field is underfunded, so when it rains or freezes they cannot practice or play. This has meant not much working out and that leads to slight injuries and frustrations. His growing like a weed probably doesn’t help much either (with the injuries). Sean is getting nearly as tall as Scott.
We hope that your month was a blessing, bringing plenty of challenges - and the strength to meet them. We are so glad for the days we have together, realizing that they are quickly changing. Enjoy your day today as you follow where God is taking you!

Monday, March 10, 2008

Prayer opportunities

Not that you need to hear from me to know that there are so many wonderful opportunities to speak with God, but I wanted to share these things in our work for which we would greatly appreciate your prayers.
- Last year I told you about the opportunity we had with our colleagues in their village. Karla was asked to help with the Catholic confirmation group by teaching them about the Bible. I was able to help out during a weekend retreat where we talked about faith. This year they have asked me to help again, specifically to talk about prayer and what it is. So I will be able to talk to these young people (and also to the adult supervisors) about how and why we can pray. Talk to the Father about this. So many people miss out on what prayer really can be and this is an opportunity to give this to these young people who aren't even yet sure if they want to know who God is.
- P. called Ruud (Karla's husband) last week and told him he wanted to be baptized. Ruud called me and we discussed how we should continue. We made an appointment to talk - so that he could see what we were saying and we could see what he was thinking. He lives up around Nijmegen - a good 2 hour drive from us. We went up last Sunday and talked for several hours, finally leaving, understanding that P. would let us know what he was going to do. He called this past Friday to let us know that he is very serious about his desire to give his life to God, but that there are a few more questions he is examining. He has a yearly vacation in France at this time, so this will give him a good opportunity to think, pray and study. Pray for P. and his wife, N., as they are making this consideration for their life.
- We have a new couple in the congregation in Maastricht. Philip is a Christian from Togo, via Germany, and his wife, Susanne, is from the Orthodox church. They are bringing a regular visitor who just moved to Belgium. Susanne's desire to know the Lord in her life, along with the visitor, along with two other regular visitors are all putting a strong emphasis on the decision we all make to belong to our King, Jesus. This has also been good for our young people. Pray for our discussions and the decisions of those considering giving their lives to God.

Thank you for your faithfulness and encouragement!! It is so good to know that we are striving together to have a wonderful family in our Father's kingdom.

Wednesday, March 05, 2008

ABSS

At the end of February we got our annual portion of abss - that is the Advanced Bible Study Series. This is a wonderful week of lessons and fellowship held in the beautiful Taunus area of Germany. From Tuesday to Friday there are at least 5 challenging lessons a day on various topics from qualified speakers. On Friday we switch over to a more family-friendly schedule for those who can come for the weekend. But every day brings new thoughts and challenges, and new opportunities to discuss this all with new friends from all over Europe.

ABSS is usually organized by Paul Brazle, but he is in the States for a year as missionary-in-residence, so this year was organized and run by Doyle Kee and me. Although, to be honest, we didn't leave Paul alone much, either (we are thankful for email). I am so thankful for people who are willing to help (like Stephanie Smith from Lausanne, Nicole Hoffman from Bern, and Brandy Svensson from Wiesbaden who took care of the kitchen) and for all the opportunities to meet brothers and sisters from so many places. This week brings some really challenging lessons (this year from Philip Slate, Jim Krumrei, Craig Young and Bob Eckman) and serves to train, equip and encourage church members in Europe.

This year Shirley was able to come along, since we have seen that the boys know how to take care of themselves (they did such a good job when we went to Switzerland). The boys joined us at the weekend (as you can see in the pictures). We met brothers from Poland and Slovakia as well as from Belgium, the Netherlands and Germany. We saw a whole herd of deer, took some really wonderful walks, and I played basketball AND football (soccer) this time (although there was no snow - maybe best for the basketball playing).

Some things never change. ABSS is a week of study, but there is always time for some fun and fellowship. How can we learn without those also being a part of the process? The "Gemundener Follies" are always the highlight of the week session - the moment when the real talent floats to the top.(?)

One of the biggest changes we DID see this year was in the available technology. The speakers were checked - while speaking - on their information thanks to being able to 'google' on a laptop while listening (stop and listen to that sentence again - where is our language going!). Instead of copying the lessons on cassette, or making them available on cd, we can now simply place them on the internet for everyone to download. If you are interested in hearing the lessons, you can download them here. We are already looking forward to next year. If you are in the neighborhood next year, be sure to plan to drop in for the week!

Saturday, March 01, 2008

On its way


SinglesBeauty07
Originally uploaded by sraabs.
I just uploaded a few more artsy pictures from Stephan that he took during the Singles Retreat last Spring. The beauty he can see astounds me!

And it also reminds me at this time that the winter is over and spring is on its way. March came in like a very angry lion last night (lots of wind and rain)! But that means we will soon be enjoying more sunny days!