Monday, December 21, 2009

A few years ago

A hug after a concert. Hours sitting together on the steps at York talking about the world, about good friends, about God and our relationship with Him. A few years with a few thousand miles separating us before we could finally be together. That one day, 25 years ago was the most beautfiul beginning of life together! Shirley – my very best friend, my lover, my wife – I love you! And I am so looking forward to the next 25 years!

Wednesday, December 02, 2009

Give thanks to the Lord!

Last Saturday, very close to the actual day, we celebrated Thanksgiving with friends and guests in Antwerp. This day is always special because we get to see one another again, remember all the things we have to be thankful for, and spend some great fellowship time together (and - oh yeah - there's some really great food!)

What made this year special was Adrian. Before we began the afternoon Carol Brazle mentioned that each year a turkey is pardoned by the White House, while all the other turkeys are eaten. Her point was that for us, One is offered and all are spared. So when I mentioned why Adrian had come with us, that was what I made clear. He came for the turkey. 

You see, Adrian came to us about a month ago. He had seen my name and number online and had called. He and his fiance live in Maastricht where she is a students (she just graduated). Adrian wanted to know what kind of christians we were. So he visited and had lots of questions. Recenlty he called up again - after a time that we had heard nothing. He wanted to talk - and seriously. He had been looking at things and wanted to give his life to Christ. He wanted to be free from all the things that had kept him captive in his most recent years (all sorts of darker practices). 

So Shirley and I sat down with him and opened up the Bible. By the end of the day he wanted to know what he could do to get this new life started. We knew we would be in Antwerp the next day with all sorts of brothers and sisters - a perfect opportunity (and practical place) to help him in his death and resurrection. 

So Adrian came for the turkey. He came for the One who gave his life that all could be spared. And it was a wonderful time for thanksgiving! He was a bit worried (he is turning his back on quite a hefty past), but thrilled once he had been washed clean in the water and the blood. 

Please keep Adrian in your prayers as he starts hs new life and immediately will face all sorts of struggles. Pray for us as we meet with him to help him grow and learn. And thank God with us for God's mighty power to save! 

(Thanks to Jim and Ruth Krumrei for the pictures!)

Thursday, October 01, 2009

A little thing

The other day when we showed Willemien this picture she was very surprised. "Look, the baby is doing just fine, and I am talking." You see, she was convinced (even after this had happened) that she could not hold or take care of a baby. When she was a child, just before a family picture (nephews and nieces included), her mother told her that she could not hold a baby (with the idea that the baby would be in trouble and that Willemien was not made of the right stuff). 

Willemien and Cor never had children. Somewhere in her head were still the words and thought of her mother - she couldn't handle babies. Even after holding Joelle on this day (this is the youngest of one of our members in Maastricht), she didn't think she could do this. When she saw the picture, saw that the baby looks quite comfortable, and that she is actually doing it, she believed it possible. 

I want to be careful that I am encouraging my children, being aware that even the smallest thing I say may have quite an impact on them as they continue to grow. 

Monday, September 21, 2009

Running the Race

This past weekend we had 17 young people "over the floor" for a youth weekend in Maastricht. We are always so thankful when we can have the young people down to our city - and that God has put us in a position to help. From the beginning of our time here in Belgium we have been able to use our house to host these events. 

This weekend we talked about "Running the Race" - a great picture of our life in Christ - and touched on four points: 
1. We must participate (no standing on the sidelines)
2. We need to hold on to the end (and we have good examples)
3. We run according to the rules (which help us get where we are going)
4. We must give our best to win - give our best to Jesus who makes us winners!
It was a challenge working with a group with quite an age split: there were 7 who were just 11 years-old and another 7 who were all older than 15. But everyone helped one another - what a joy to see!

On Saturday we went to the "kazematten" in Maastricht - tunnels dug under the city (these ones during the reign of Louis 14th) to defend the city. This was also where D'Artagnan (the 4th musketier) died in battle (defending the - at that time - French city). The beautiful weather held throughout the day, so that the kids could help with making dinner back at the house. They prepared a fruit salad and some vegetables for the hot dogs and "frieten". 

- Our group for the weekend (picture from Tim Bos) - 

It is exciting to see how longing these young people are for what God has to offer. We had three "visitors" the whole weekend as well, friends of our young people who came along to the weekend. God offers us so much, ever day. There are so many reasons for not participating or stopping, but it is good to know that we can run the race and reach the finish line, with His strength. We ar enot too small (Zacheus), we are not too sinful (Paul). We can be His - if we wish. The invitation is there, but will we accept and participate? 
(you can go here for more pictures of the weekend.)

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Dig a little deeper

This whole year we as a congregation in Maastricht have been looking at how we are being made into a new creation (2 Cor. 5:17). As we have talked about trusting in God, discovering His will and putting that into practice in our lives with the help and strength of the Holy Spirit, we have also come up against plenty of questions. We all come from some kind of background. And here in Maastricht we are quite a mixture (cultures, countries and religious backgrounds). So it has been exciting to see the desire to get together more often and start digging together. 

Of course we want to read the Bible. We know that God is speaking to us through His word. But we want more. We want to understand. We want to understand as much as He wants to make clear to us. So we are taking time every other week to come with our questions, learning to use a concordance and look at passages with contextual questions, digging and letting God's word make its way into our hearts and minds. It's great to see us all getting dirt under our fingernails together, helping one another to know God better in this way, too. 

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

January-July 2009

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

January - July 2009

I will extol the LORD at all times; his praise will always be on my lips. My soul will boast in the Lord; let the afflicted hear and rejoice. Glorify the LORD with me; let us exalt his name together. Psalm 34:1-3

Dear all,

Amazing days and wonderful things have been happening! Most important is the birth of our brother Wim in April. He and Anita will wed in August.

Youth weekends and touching hearts

We try to plan a youth weekend at least  every 6 weeks. A weekend in January in Haarlem, another in The Hague in April, and two soccer tournaments in May meant wonderful times to encourage and challenge our young people. 

The soccer tournament in May was the first organized in the Benelux, fashioned after the tournament we have come to know in Switzerland. It was great to see teams from all over the Netherlands and Belgium get together to compete and encourage one another - and Maastricht won the trophy for amateurs!

In addition to these opportunities, we were also challenging and touching hearts among the Catholic youth in the village. We spent time examining if Jesus’ death and resurrection were real or not. It was especially exciting to see how we were able to integrate this group with our campaign group that came in May.

Campaign fellowship

In May we welcomed a part of the “Good News Singers” from Harding UNiversity for a campaign in Maastricht. They offered a Black Gospel workshop, teaching people new songs, if the people were willing to sing those songs at a local nursing home. We had three different opportnities, including one with the young people from our village. The reactions from those parents speaks volumes. “What have you done to my daughter? She doesn’t stop singing!” One of these parents also has started reading her Bible seriously. 

From the adult groups we had several people who were not only interested in the workshop, but also in who we were and our faith. K. has visited us twice and hopes to come more often. A. was a bit wary, but has come to our first Wednesday singing and is more open to talking now. J. wanted to know more for herself and her daughter. They both attended the Song Seminar from Listen Up! and plan to visit us more in the future. Keep these hearts in your prayers. 

Our campaign group ended their time with the yearly Spring gathering, this year organized by Maastricht. We chose as our topic to talk about how to talk with one another when there are differences of opinion or teaching in the church. It was a challenging day full of good discussions and good fellowship. 

Far away and close to home

The end of June took a group of our young people to Marseille, France for an intense week of sharing faith (in French!). I was so proud of our young people and their desire and ability to move out of their comfort zone to help others. It was also exciting that LJ, with whom we study and discuss all things biblical, decided to go along! Keep her growth and questioning in your prayers. 

Back in the Netherlands Listen Up! welcomed an group of more than 100 people from across Europe to learn more about and practice a cappella singing. This 15 year birthday celebration-turned-workshop was a great chance to encourage people to sing, write songs and spread the gospel through song. 

Camp and what’s coming

Before the summer ever arrived we took the opportunity to help fix camp up. There was a work camp and a “dig camp” where we laid a drainage pipe. Wonderful work together! 

The summer camp season included Teen Camp for us, where Scott taight about Paul’s missionary journeys and how we can go “to the ends of the world.” The following week, he and several other brothers taught about the Christian Family during Family Camp. Now we are slowing down and planning for the coming year - looking forward to what God will bring!


Please keep the following in your prayers.

Praise God and continue to pray for our new brother Wim and for Valéri

Pray for our contact with K., LJ., A., R., J & J., C&T., RW., N.,  and M.

Pray for our studies in the coming months with several of these contacts.

Praise God for our young people who have encouraged one another and have been an example in faith for so many in many places.

Praise God for His work in the  campaign, youth weekend and camp weeks this year so far and for the coming months.

Pray for guidance for world leaders, also here in Europe.


And life goes on ... this past half year has often been in the theme of change. With Stephan off at Harding, things were quite different here. We noticed that especially at “normal day” moments. Shirley would get dinner ready and set the table - for four. And there would always be too much food. Sean would get home from school - to find a much quieter house and no one to talk to (except parents, of course). Scott would walk in to Stephan’s room in the morning to wake him up - and find Sean, in Sean’s room. Things change. 

So it has been a thrill to have Stephan back with us since May when he arrived at the same time as the campaign group. We only just brought him back to the airport back to Harding last week, after a wonderful three months. It was great to hear him and Sean with their infectious laughter again. To hear them playing guitar together or telling stories to one another. To count on his strength when Scott needs to lift something (which was quite often) or his spiritual strength during youth activities. 

It was especially nice to have both boys here while all of the renovation works were going on in the house. As some of you have been able to follow, since the end of February we have been in the middle of fixing up our house. The back section of the house (with 3 rooms, the bathroom and the toilet) have made way for a smaller, but better and healthier section for the kitchen/dining room. But we are not yet done. The kitchen still has to be placed, the electricity finished and connected, and the outside taken care of. Plenty to do in the coming months. And to think that we thought this would be done in a few months back in October!

It has been very nice, however to have the new section when it is wonderful weather - as we have had several times this summer. It has helped make new memories with the family. Sitting in the peace of the backyard eating lunch or dinner together outside, chilling in the chair playing guitar while a cool breeze plays around the house, enjoying the morning sun before getting going for the day ... the addition has been worth most of the trouble. 

And now the year continues. Stephan and Sean both finished their school year last year and are ready to begin another year. Stephan as a sophomore at Harding University, Sean as a junior in high school. Stephan is looking forward to playing rugby (oh no!) and singing in the chorus. Sean is gearing up for a gig with his band and realizing that he will need to work hard at school this year. And we are taking advantage of every moment we have together as a family. We are so thankful for this family God has given us. 

Did You Know?


What do you do with your trash? Well, it actually depends on what kind of trash it is. If it is glass, you put it aside in separate containers, which you later bring to a large central container in the neighborhood - the “glasbak”. Once a week this glass is collected by the city and recycled. 

If it is food scraps, you put it in a green bucket which is also picked up once a week. This bucket might be big (if you have a house) or small (if you live in an apartment). Both stink quite a bit when it is warm weather. 

If it is certain kinds of packaging, you separate it and put it in plastic sacks which get picked up once a week and recycled. Otherwise, you simply throw it away. What do YOU do with your trash?


For your contact - email, fb, calls, cards and letters!

For your prayers for our work! New life is exciting!

For your faithfulness in living for God in your life

What’s coming up?


Youth weekend

Camp meeting


Fall Camp


Friday, May 29, 2009

Long time, no see!

It has been a very long time since I updated the blog. As you will hear in the newsletter (which has also been a long time coming), we have been preparing for a horde of exciting activities - many of which have started taking place. So here are a few pictures to show you what we have been doing. You can always check out more photos by clicking on any of the pictures or clicking on the link in the sidebar. 
Thanks for continuing to drop by to see how we are doing! 

A group of more than 50 from Belgium and the Netherlands went down to Switzerland to play football (soccer) with teams from churches from all over Europe (including Austria, France, Switzerland and Germany). Great fun, but also great fellowship, getting to know family and encouraging one another. I was blessed to be able to preach on the Sunday there. 

In the meantime our house renovations have continued. When the wall came down, everything had to be put into one room - a bit cramped! And this was just before our campaign group was to arrive (half of which would be staying with us).
But the windows have arrived, the floors are almost here (maybe next week) and we are able to breath a little again. Soon we may even have a kitchen!

Check out those low-tech earphones! A few threads, a spoon and you're ready to go. Just clang them against something hard, with your hands over your ears, and you've got an amazing sound!

Mid-May we went over to Antwerp for a youth weekend on Science and Faith. I taught some lessons, we looked at some science and we had a good time encouraging one another. Our campaign students from Harding (and Stephan!) also went with us. 

In between Stephan, Sean and Scott went up to Eindhoven to celebrate Jan Blaakmeer's 50th birthday - he "saw Abraham". Jan and Nit are good friends and loved brother and sister for many years. 

By Ascencion Day weekend it was time to head down to camp for our yearly clean-up, fix-up of camp, getting it ready for the summer. In the last few years it has been a miserable, wet, muddy bit of work (with plenty of good fellowship to outweigh all the negatives). This year was still muddy, but full of sun. 
Quite a bit still needs to be done, so it was great to have so many there to help! On to the summer camp weeks!

From May 11 our campaign group has been working hard. A part of the Good News Singers (from Harding University), with director Chuck Hicks and his wife, Melinda, has come to offer Black Gospel Workshops. We have had two groups in Maastricht and another with the kids in Veldwezelt (this picture). All of the groups learn to sing, learn about the message of the songs, and then sing for a nursing home in the area. 
It has been a great time to meet people from the neighborhood, sing some great songs, and really be an encouragement. As a matter of fact, many of the participants want to know if we can continue. Keep this in your prayers. 

This weekend we as a congregation are organizing the annual spring gathering of the churches in The Hague. Our theme this year is unity. This will also be the last activity for our campaign group, after which we will have a preparation month of June, getting ready for the busy month of July. Hopefully I will get some news up here again before then!
Thanks again for stopping by! Praise God for all that He is doing in our lives (yours and ours). 

Monday, April 13, 2009

Wim's birth

Wim's birth
Originally uploaded by sraabs.
Sunday morning, just before our services began, Wim came up to me and asked if he could ask a question. "I want to be baptized." I asked him when he might want to do that and he anwered - "As soon as possible."

So after some calling around (my French is not very good, but somehow Jozef in Liege understood what I needed), we were able to get things set up at the church in Liege. What a wonderful relationship we have with this church family!

Dutch, Italian, French, German, English - they were all present. God knows all the languages and hearts. Wim was only interested in giving his life into Jesus' hands. So good to see his trust and desire. Praise God for this new "baby"!

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Champions of fun

Last Saturday was the inaugural "Copa BeNeLux" - a football (soccer) tournament for the churches in Belgium and the Netherlands. We got this idea from the Swiss churches last year. Thanks to Pieter Good, Luk Brazle and Dennis van Erp a local variant was organized. 

There were 10 teams from 6 different congregations and plenty of friends of members taking part. It was a great day! The teams were either "fun" or "pro" depending on how serious they wanted to be. In Maastricht we put together a fun team, decided which color to wear and headed out to just have some fun. 

It was great to see how our young people worked together. A lot was learned that day: keep going, even if you are afraid; perseverance will get you where you want to be; be fair and honest - it is the most fun. I was so proud of everyone!

Copa Benelux 2009

And in the end, we were the "fun" champions!

(Thanks to Elisa van der Oest for the picture of team Maastricht ready to play)

Wednesday, March 04, 2009

Demolition man

Renovation / Verbouwing
Originally uploaded by sraabs.
You may have heard that we are working on our house. Actually we are demolishing part of our house. This picture is a good example of why.

For years we have struggled with dealing with smells, heating the whole house, keeping it dry, wondering what is going on behind the wooden panelling on the walls. We considered trying to fix the problems with the walls, but after examing all it became clear that it was more cost efficient to demolish this section and rebuild.

I can't build very well, but I am good at demolition. So before the builders come, we have torn out all the wood, all the extras, taken out the windows etc in preparation of the new section. That is when we found out why we really do need to demolish this section. Mold in most of the walls, walls that were not correctly built. And a heating system that was pouring money out the walls trying to keep everything warm and dry.

Now we have an efficient heating system for the whole house and soon the old, sick section will be surgically removed - to be replaced by a clean new section.

Check out the pictures by clicking on this picture here.

Monday, March 02, 2009


It has been a while since we've talked. Sometimes I want to wait until there is something BIG to announce. Something exciting happening. But the last two months have all mostly been preparation for things that are coming. 

How much "stuff" do you have? Do you have stuff in which to put your stuff? We have lots of stuff, with lots of stuff in it. God has always blessed us with enough, and people bring us things, knowing that we will be able to get it to those who need it (or sometimes simply because they didn't want to bring it to the trash). And we have been blessed with a house large enough to hide things away. But now we are removing a whole section of that house, and that meant getting rid of stuff. 

Stuff in the form of papers and pictures, books and folders. What do you do with all those things you were going to read? You can't throw "that" out, it could come in handy some day! And that memory means so much (which is why you found it under a pile of books under a pile of papers, at the back of the cupboard you hardly ever open). It needs to get sorted!

Stuff in the form of clothes ("remember those jeans!"), shoes and boots ("oh he was soooo cute in those"), coats and socks (do you have one of those sacks of unmatched socks too!!!) Stuff in so many forms - things. It all needed to get out of the way, because they are coming to demolish soon. But in order to put it somewhere, we needed to make room where all the other stuff was. 

Short story long, (or is it the other way around), we have gotten rid of lots! And boy does that feel good! Clean it up, sort it out, move it, throw it, junk it. You can gather so much over the years. And this was a very good time to think about what was gathering dust in our spiritual lives as well. It's good to check things out, sort things through, throw away the junk and keep what is really good and necessary. 

Wednesday, January 07, 2009

Thank you!

Looking back on the past year while preparing our information for tax situations, we were struck with how stable our financial situation has been in the years we have been here. We have had some ups and downs, but have always made it through - and have never really suffered as we know so many do in the world. And we know that this is only possible because so many of you are so faithful in giving. 

We know that we do not have to worry about our daily needs - God will always continue to take care of us (and you). But this is made even easier because you are so faithful - even when it is difficult for you! Thank you for helping us to be able to be here, for making these efforts possible, and for the peace of mind that you encourage. You are such an example for us and for so many. Thank you for your faith and trust in God.