Saturday, December 28, 2013

Around the table

In the last months of the year we have had several opportunities to fellowship. I like that word. We share things with one another in times of fellowship. And, not surprisingly, many of these moments are shared around the table. It is at the table that we put our differences aside and try to be at peace with one another. It is at the table that we share our lives, our conversation, our food with one another. Normally we will at the very least try to be polite. But in times of fellowship we simply enjoy.

Here are some pictures of our most recent times of sharing around the table. We are thankful for good friends, Christian family and times together. 

This year we hosted our 'Meeting Jesus' group 
for a real Thanksgiving Day dinner (on Thanksgiving!)

At 'Thanksmis' (because we plan it in between Thanksgiving and Christmas) we saw people from all over Belgium and the Netherlands and got to see most of the new babies.

Having fun at Thanksmis. 
Yeah, probably scared the poor kid 
(although he did go to sleep not long after). 

For Shirley's birthday, which fell on a Wednesday, we had the group from Liege over at our house as well as the members from Maastricht who could be there. 

Christmas Eve we were welcomed by the Brazle clan for gourmet 
(cheese and meat cooked on a sort of hot plate, 
combined with lots of good conversation)

On Christmas Day we went to Willemien, 
since she couldn't easily come to us, and shared a nice afternoon.

Later on Christmas Day we invited some friends over.

We are so thankful for all of our family of all sorts all around the world. We pray that you too are enjoying fellowship with the Lord each and every day, in His wonderful grace. Our sincerest wish is that we can sit together with you around God's table.

Thursday, November 07, 2013

Speak to one another

What a blessed week this is! Last Sunday afternoon we drove over to Rotselaar (near Leuven, Belgium) to sing with the church there. We are getting together with them every month or so. Last night we had our monthly singing in Maastricht and sang with our brothers and sisters from Liége again. This coming Sunday we will go to the church in Brussels again to sing with them – a collection of the English-speaking and French-speaking brothers and sisters who meet there. And we did this last month as well!
Have you ever noticed? Perhaps I have mentioned it before. Ephesians 5:19 and Colossians 3:16 tell us something about singing. These are two places where we are clearly given a command to do something for one another. It is something that everyone should do, that the group is to do. They are among the ‘one another’ passages. Singing is where we speak to one another, teach one another, admonish one another, and, in harmony, praise and worship our God who is the reason for our harmony and life together. Everyone in the body can and is commanded, if you will, to do this.
I know that not everyone can sing well. That is part of why we are visiting these congregations – to help them in their singing and offer times to sing together that they usually would not organize. God presents this place – song – the only place where emotion and word meet. There is no other way to combine and communicate what we feel with what we think so clearly. We put emotion to words. We speak of our heart, from our heart even with our heart, but with words! And God has not only created this, he has commanded us to use it, knowing how valuable it is. Wow!
So we sing. We practice songs we know and learn new songs. We take time to look at the words and the melodies and talk about why they are written that way. We learn about dynamics and tempo and meter (a little bit) so that we understand this wonderful language God has given us to speak to one another. But mostly, we sing.
This is not a post about church politics, or maybe it is. I want to encourage everyone I can to join in this wonderful blessing and command that God has given us. It is at this siging that we are family. It is here that we share our hurts and joys. Last night we sang for Josette, your sister who passed away. You don’t know her and I had only recently met her, but we will see her soon and sing with her. Our singing now is not perfect, or great, or often even melodious. But it is where we can place all of our emotion in our words, together, as one body coming before the throne.

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)

Friday, November 01, 2013

For a time

Just a few hours ago, 24 years ago, I joined the ranks of those who have been blessed with this privilege of time and responsibility doused in love. I became a father. This small – no sorry, ‘small’ doesn’t define what I felt at the moment I first held him: he was tiny for a human being as far as I was concerned, fragile, wonderful, amazing.
And this baby was placed in my hands. Literally of course, at that moment. The nurse picked the baby up and placed him in my hands. Actually he fit in one hand, with his cheek on my palm, his legs dangling from my elbow. I didn’t hold him like that the first time. I doubt the nurse would have allowed it and I certainly didn’t know it was possible. At that moment I was afraid I might break him. But in that moment I first started to grasp this privilege – and I was immensely thankful. 
We can look back now on the hours, days, weeks, months, years that have flown by and marvel at how these boys have grown. Our two sons are both basically out of the house. Stephan, who just turned 24, is married and living in Ohio. Sean, who recently turned 20, is mostly only home on the weekends while studying in Brussels through the week. The time flew by. Everyone told us it would, but it did! And it is such an important time.
I realized that first moment 24 years ago what an immense gift this is, although I did not grasp all of the implications at that time – I don’t know that I have grasped them all even now. To be granted to care for this person for a time, to help them grow, to show them what it is to live – this is a privilege. We did not ‘make’ them. They are not ‘ours’ – even though we say that because that is how our language notes that the children are in our care. We have been blessed with this short time to influence and be influenced by this precious life.
We don’t ever really know how long we will have. We always think that we most certainly have until the great-grandchildren are gathered around our deathbed to hear our last wonderful words of wisdom passed on in our last breath. And we do have some continued influence even after ‘our’ children have left home. But the time we are given to be parents is precious. And short. And wonderful.
God has chosen us as parents and has placed this child in our hands where we wonder at his size and how wonderfully he is made. And then we begin to realize the reality of what this means – we are to care for him, teach him all that is good, not break him, let him become the wonderful person God has made him. As our boys grew we were periodically reminded of this wonder, this responsibility, this blessing. I am so thankful that they were placed in our hands – for a time.

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Get your game on!

I love that we can learn from others - and that there are so many to learn from! All around us we hear so many truths that can help us in our walk with the Lord. Yesterday we were at the COPA Benelux, a fun day of football (soccer) organized by the guys from the church in Ghent for the congregations in Belgium and the Netherlands. Fun teams, 'Pro' teams and time to sing and fellowship in between. What a great day.
But yesterday I also heard a great message from Luk Brazle during the singing break. He pointed out that all fields of play have lines on them. The lines are not to keep us from playing, theyt are to give us the perfect place to play. And while we need to be aware of the lines (and the rules), we don't focus on the rules or the lines - we play.
God has given us lines and rules so that we can take part in life in a safe way, in a way that makes sense, in a way that makes life right. We are not the line judges, checking to make sure that all is done correctly - that is His job. And of course we need to be aware of the lines so that we can live well, but our job is to play. Run the race. Do your best. Put effort and passion into getting it done. But take part!

Thank you Lord for life, for the ability to live well with You, for the lines in life that help us to keep things straight and play well. Thank you for being able to learn things like this at such a fun activity!

Friday, October 11, 2013

Where is my focus?

At the end of september we once again had the privilege of working with some of the young people from Belgium and the Netherlands. The congregation in Maastricht planned a youth weekend, but this time we held it down at camp. Since Ardennen Bible Camp was celebrating the renovations, we thought it would be a good chance to finish off the weekend with the young people.
It was exciting that we were able to work together as a congregation. And it was a good example of what we were wanting to talk about with the young people: what is our focus? With just a few activities focusing on three verses, we tried to encourage one another to look to Jesus. 
The reason I like these weekends is because I am always challenged by what we learn together. How can we tell young people to keep focused on Jesus and not do it ourselves? So when we held a race, saying: ‘let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus’, we are faced with the same exhortation. When we send them on a search in the dark for treasure and then talk about how your heart is where your treasure is, we, too must think about where we have focused our heart. And when we encourage them to ‘be transformed by the renewing of your mind’ (Rom. 12:2), then we are confronted with our own need to be transformed.

What a blessing to be able to do things like this with young people who are willing to listen, willing to be formed, willing to share in this transformation!

If you haven’t already, you can see some of the pictures from the weekend here.

Wednesday, October 02, 2013

Be Quiet! (3rd quarter newsletter)

Here are some of the things and thoughts going on over here. Thank you for the encouragement you are to us. Feel free to take some time and glance at some of these activities. Let us know what you are doing as well.

You can see most of our pictures by clicking on the pictures in the sidebar. Here are some you won't find over there especially if you are not on facebook. (click on the pictures to see a larger version).

Sean and his band, Karma Police, traveled to Sibiu, Romania, to play at the Imagine Festival there.

The evening was cold and rainy, but the music was great.

The guys had five days in this wonderful city (old, really old, quaint, sad, exciting, different, challenging).

Friday, August 30, 2013

A red thread, an upside-down world and the difference between a disciple and a fan

The summer is a busy time for us, filled with our summer Bible camp weeks. This year I was at camp for three weeks in a row, directing, teaching and participating. It was an especially challenging summer with many thoughts and challenges for our life that I am struggling to hold on to and make practical in daily living. Here are some of the things that amazed and encouraged me.

The red thread
In Dutch we talk about ‘the red thread’ that runs through something, the main theme. At Benjamin Camp (for the 8-11 year-olds) I was privileged as director to sit in on the lessons from Henk Rog about Genesis. Henk and Celia Rog have given their lives to Christ in all they do for many years and I have always been challenged by their example. During this week they were the teacher and crafts leader.
Henk’s lessons took 5 people in Genesis and made clear to the kids that God’s love and plan for us is shown again and again throughout his interactions from the very beginning. I was thrilled to see how he showed the gospel in each of these stories. Don’t ever let anyone tell you that the Old Testament is done away with! From the very beginning, it is in these stories of lives that God shows us His mighty love and His plan and strength to save us.
Take a look at how God dealt with Adma and Eve, at Noah – saved by faith through water, Abraham – receiving the promised life because of his faith, Joseph – who trusts completely even though he doesn’t see how it is going to work, and Moses (okay, we went a little into Exodus). Henk took the time to explain these stories, but also gave the kids some practical lessons to remember each thought. It is so exciting to see how the kids start grasping these ideas.

An upside-down world
In the following week I was the teacher for the Teen Camp (12-14 year-olds) and we were looking at Matthew 5-7, Jesus’ sermon on the mount. What a challenge! Jesus tells us that the world is completely different from what we think and are told by our society. And he shows us how to be different and make a different world.
But trying to make that practical is the real struggle, the real joy. I warned the young people each day that what we were learning would bring some real challenges that very day. And indeed – trying to use our tongues to build up, turning away from revenge, making Jesus our true treasure (instead of the ‘snoepwinkel’, the candy store time each afternoon) were real challenges.
Above all, I tried to emphasize that following Jesus was the best and most important thing they could ever do in their lives. 1. Follow Jesus. 2. Get to know him – read your remarkable library (the Bible). 3. Talk to God (pray). It has thrilled me that God has touched many of the hearts of the young people from that week who were already thinking about their future. We have seen two of these teens give their life to Christ in faith through baptism since then and I have seen and heard how the others are encouraging one another. That is exciting!

A disciple or a fan?
The theme for the Family Camp was simply ‘Being a disciple’. I presented the first lesson on ‘How do we become a disciple?’ Throughout the week we had some really challenging discussions about what it means to be a disciple of Jesus. Are we only dedicated fans? What does it look like to follow Jesus? Are we actually saints? Or disciples? And how do we look to those around us?
This fit right in with all the other things I had been struggling with earlier in the summer – the lessons from Marseille, the gospel theme in Benjamin Camp, the upside-down world that Jesus knows and shows is real. I want to follow Jesus. This means I need to get to know him, to fall in love with him, to listen to him and to obey him.

As we round out the summer and start into our various activities, it is these lessons that are shaping my thoughts and actions. What a wonderful challenging summer! How did God bless and challenge you this summer? 

If you would like to see some of the pictures from the three weeks, check out these links: 

Friday, July 12, 2013

Who's the king of the jungle?

MY dominion, my decisions, whatever makes ME content. We don’t really think of things in that way in our lives, but this is what is truly happening. And let’s be honest, when it’s all about ME, I think I’m happy. But is my life really better? And the world around me?

At the beginning of the month we drove down to Marseille, France – Sean, Shirley and our colleagues’ daughter, Semiye. Chretiens en Mission (Christians on Mission) or CEMété is a week of active serving and learning. Each day is filled with lessons in the morning, activities in the afternoon and a mealtime with new friends and church members in the evening. Each day offers various opportunities to serve in ‘big’ and ‘little’ ways. It is a time of hearing, and then experiencing, that living for Jesus Christ is real and everyday.

These days in the warmth of Marseille (wonderful after the overly cool weather in Belgium) challenged us to consider how good it is to be in God’s dominion instead of having him in our dominion. Jesus talks about kingdom and how the world can be turned upside down if we step into God’s control and do things as He intended. Afternoons trying to speak and understand French (easier for some than for others), get to know people, look for chances to encourage and serve – putting into practice what we heard in the morning – all helps us to experience the reality of life with Jesus Christ.

Singing was a major activity in the week. The whole group (more than 40?) formed a chorus that sang at various homes around the city - meeting and encouraging seniors, mentally handicapped residents, autistic children, residents of a home for the blind and many others. The singing itself was a challenge, but trying to converse with people afterwards was often the real challenge.

In one home I was talking to a son (perhaps 40 years old) who could speak English and translated for his mother sitting next to him (84 years old). When he heard we lived in Belgium, he said, ‘My mother is Belgian.’ We turned to her and asked, ‘Spreekt u Nederlands?’ (Do you speak Dutch?) In an instant, the afternoon was completely different. Francoise (the woman) lit up, realizing that she could speak Dutch to us (she was originally from Antwerp and had married a Frenchman). Semiye, who had wanted to be an encouragement but spoke very little French, lit up at the possibility to have a real conversation. Emmanuel (the son) was thankful that his mother had someone to speak to in Dutch, since her most recent friend, who spoke Dutch, had passed away a few months before.

Sometimes we think that we know what is best, that we know what we can do. But we do not always value things the way that God does. In our eyes, speaking French was the highest value at these moments. When actually, here was a woman who needed someone who could speak Dutch, in the middle of Marseille. When we simply keep trying to be the children God has made, serving others, looking for ways to help – God will provide the opportunities. It is this realization that reminded me again how good it is to live my life in God’s dominion instead of thinking I have it worked out. Trusting Him and serving others – this is love as God created it and lives it.

Who is your king? What do you really want in your life? How can you get it? Good questions with one best answer.

Saturday, June 29, 2013

July Newsletter

Here is the newest update on what we have been doing and are planning in the coming months. Take a moment to read it and let us know how you are doing, what you are experiencing and how God has been blessing your life. You can also check out some of the pictures that go with some of these activities by clicking on the pictures on the right of the blog. 
Thanks for stopping by! Enjoy God's blessings TODAY!

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Every age, every tongue

God’s family is amazing! Even though I grew up in a military family - moving fairly often and living far away from aunts and uncles - family still always meant everyone together. Old (I considered my parents at that time ‘old’ although they were only mid-30’s) and everything in between. There was an age-range of 10 years between us all as kids as well. Family is the group together. I love seeing how family interacts and how this helps us grow.
Family is designed by God and is exactly what we need to help us grow in faith. So it is great to see activities that bring different age groups together to reinforce the idea of family. Both young and old have examples right before their eyes, both groups helping the other to stretch and grow. Young people get a vision of older people who are serious, loving and who can also interact with young people. They see how to live out faith in the lives of these ‘elders’. Older people are challenged by the energy and desire of youth to be active, see things in a new way, be daring and excited by the truth as it is discovered for the first time.
Every time we get the opportunity to share in intergenerational activities, we encourage everyone to take part. We also do our best to plan such activities. Recently we went to Switzerland for a weekend. It’s a six hour drive for us and we only stay about a day and a half, but it is well worth it. Church members from all over Europe gather, young and old, to play soccer and have fun as children of the Lord.
We take the time to get to know one another as best as possible, speaking several languages. We worship the Lord together in at least three languages, singing praises as I imagine it will be in heaven. And we play soccer, learning how to deal with frustration, play fair and be just, put things into perspective and give your all. We see young people jumping every language and cultural barrier to get to know one another. Older members try to be a good example in fair play. And all of us see that it is possible to live this life with Christ, having a great time. 
This past week I ran down to our Bible camp facility – shared and maintained by the various congregations in Belgium and the Netherlands, both Dutch-speaking and French-speaking – to help with one of the work weekends. 
Camp is another place where family gets together. Yes, we encourage one another in our summer
Photo thanks to Luk Brazle
sessions with Bible lessons and good teaching, placing an emphasis on our knowledge of Christ. We also have every opportunity to observe this knowledge in working as we shovel dirt, move rocks, try to explain how to get certain jobs done, put up with having to do the cleaning that no one will see, face tasks that are neither fun, nor glorious or easy and do all of this together. Young observes older and ‘old’ (do we ever really get old?) and their example. Old is encouraged by and observes the growth of young.
It is good to be together. It is challenging and encouraging to incorporate this unique design – intergenerational activities and learning. God calls it family. 

For more pictures of the Swiss soccer tournament, check on facebook.

Friday, April 26, 2013

King's Day

Next week the Netherlands will take a historic step that none alive have seen in the Netherlands. They will once again have a king instead of a queen. The last King of the Netherlands was Willem III who died in 1890. Since then there have been three queens. But on April 30 the monarchy will pass into the hands of Queen Beatrix’ son who will become King Willem-Alexander of the Netherlands.
What is so great about a king (or queen)? Isn’t that what most countries without a monarchy fought to free themselves from? Of course, most modern monarchies are mostly ceremonial unless we look at some of the examples in the middle east. The monarch is beholden to the constitution and often has very little real power in the country, although he/she may have quite extensive wealth. These monarchs do have various forms of influence, however, which they exercise to varying degrees of success.
In Belgium, King Boudewijn had to step down for a day for a law allowing abortion to pass.This was a law the government had written and passed but which the king personally would not sign into law because of his beliefs. In Thailand, the king has often been called on to help settle political disputes between parties. Queen Beatrix in the Netherlands has always been seen as a powerful influence in getting Dutch companies good contracts around the world. Her networking is what makes the difference.
So next Tuesday, the Netherlands will turn orange (the color of the royal family, the house of Orange) as the country welcomes a new monarch. It is a time of parties, parades and plenty of fun for a day. And when, as happened in 2010, someone is unhappy and the day ends in tragedy, it is the whole country that mourns. Queen’s Day is a day of national unity, in joy and in sorrow. And now it will be King’s Day.
And because I come from one of those countries without a monarch, certain links between this and the King of kings, Jesus Christ jump out at me. Here are just a few thoughts:
- A king is not elected. He is king, whether we want it to be so or not. Jesus is King, not because we like him or want him. We can choose to accept him for our lives, but he is King whether we follow him or not.
- On King’s Day everybody (or almost everybody) is a fan of the king, at least on the surface of things. It is only after this day, in the day-to-day living that we see how much we really follow or rely on the king.
- Our kings are limited by us. Am I limiting Jesus’ influence in my life? Making him simply a ceremonial head of my days? Using him to influence business deals and parties, but not really paying attention otherwise?
- Can I be crazy for my King? Does it really matter to me so much what others think of me? Or can I put on His colors – act like Jesus in my daily life – and let people know who I belong to?

I will enjoy King’s Day next week and I will continue to allow it to remind me of who is really in charge, and who I really want to be in charge of my daily life. 

Friday, March 29, 2013

Were not our hearts burning within us?

Here below is our latest newsletter. We have had some exciting meetings sharing Jesus with our neighbors and showing why and how God is real. How has God been blessing you recently?

Tuesday, March 19, 2013


The other day we were able to talk with our son, Stephan, and his wife, Natalie in Ohio. Technology is truly a wonderful thing. We were able to see each other and talk about their new life together. It seems just a few years ago that Stephan was a little boy climbing trees. Now he is a husband, starting a life together with his wife, planning their future together.
With children it is easier to see the truth that all we have is borrowed. Children are not ‘ours’ and that becomes clear when they leave home and start their own life. We never did own them; they were given into our care for a short time so that we could help them grow in their faith. They were given to us for a short time so that they could help us grow in our faith.
Everything we ‘have’ is actually on loan. It is not ours. We don’t ‘have’ anything. Our bodies do not belong to us. When the time comes, they will return to the earth from which they were formed. As Christians we should understand this completely. ‘This world is not my home, I’m just a passing through’. Our bodies are a temple of the Holy Spirit; we are not our own, we were purchased with a price. Our possessions, wealth, houses, abilities – all are given to us by God for a time so that He can bless others through us. We are here so that righteousness is seen in the world, bringing glory to God (Titus 2:11-12).
So, what we have is not ‘wrong’ or ‘broken’ or anything else. If we have it, God can use it – if we allow Him to. Now, if I were renting this, I might run the risk of not valuing it properly. How carefully do we deal with a rental car, or the tools we rent from the hardware store? After all, they’re insured aren’t they? And I didn’t buy them. But I didn’t rent these things in my life. I didn’t pay anything. They have been given me to use – they are borrowed. It’s not ‘just’ a rental car – you know the owner. You are borrowing it and need to give it back. So I take care and cherish that which has been given me, knowing that it is given with a purpose.
Enjoy the moments you have with all that you have, no matter how much or little it is. God can do amazing things with what He has given us, much more than we can do with the same things. 

Wednesday, March 06, 2013

A picture is worth ...

If you would like to see some of what has been going on, head on over to our photo site. There you can see pictures of our time with Stephan and Natalie, some work we have been doing down at camp and a study week in Germany recently.

WoW, Willemien and Wonder

This past month has been busy with such a mix of different tasks. That is the reality of what we do here. I seldom know how to respond to the question: So what does a typical week look like? I am not sure I know what a ‘typical’ week is. But whatever we run into, we deal with, while we continue planning ahead.

So this past month we planned for our WoW course. ‘Wijzer op Weg’ or ‘Wiser along the Way’ is a course that I designed to teach people some simple tools to help read the Bible. It is just three evenings with some practical tips. We planned and prepared, got everything set up after having gotten the word out in the local newspaper and through distributing … and no one showed up. That can happen. It is frustrating, I must admit. It was Sean who encouraged us to simply put out some more cards and invite people again. So we will, and we will see what comes of that.

In the meantime, we were dealing almost daily with our dear sister, Willemien. She is 91 and now has a geriatric nurse coming every day to make sure she takes her medicine correctly as she has begun to move slowly into dementia. The only problem is that she can hardly hear, so no one is able to get in the apartment (she doesn’t hear the bell or the telephone). Add to that that she is stubborn and doesn’t always want people in her apartment, and things get interesting.
But I am thankful that we can be there for her. I am reminded of God’s care for us. We think that we are doing well, doing what we should, listening, but we are not always. Have we forgotten His name, His face? I have had some serious, clear talks with Willemien, letting her know that we are there for her, no matter what. I am thankful that God has brought us together to care for one another. What a real blessing that is.

And then I get a call from someone who has received one of the cards for the WoW course. He is interested, but wants to be sure that he will not be wasting my time, since he is a confirmed atheist and there is no way that I would be ‘winning souls’ (as he puts it). I thank him for his candor and let him know that I have no problem as long as he understands that I always desire people to come to Christ, knowing the power of God. We have met together for the first lesson and are planned to meet this coming Monday for the next.

I love seeing how my Father does things. It is definitely not the way that I think things should go, or the way that I plan things, but He is always there with His strength and guidance. That is wonderful (full of wonder)! Have a wonderful day!

Tuesday, February 05, 2013

(Why) Do you still follow him?

When I look at the first followers of that man from Nazareth, I see all sorts of reasons for their initial reactions to him. Some followed him because he was perhaps the first person to really see them as a person (Levi at the tax table). Some were shocked by how clear he made things, telling them in love, not in judgement, that they need to change their ways – and then showing them how. Some were amazed and enthralled by what he could do, others by what he said and how he said it (on a mountain, in a boat, in or on the water). Some saw all the people following and followed because of all the people following – it must be something interesting if so many followed, right? But why did these people keep following him?

Remember when Jesus said some hard things? He often said hard things, since he was quite clear and challenging in what was necessary. He didn’t waste time bantering about this-and-that, although he always spoke sincerely and with love. But there came a time when a whole slew of his followers up and left him (John 6). They couldn’t handle it any more. Maybe the shine or the fun or the newness had rubbed off and reality started to settle in – this guy was serious! Maybe the message simply came too close to home (his messages always do). Whatever it was, they left.
But some still stayed. Even after he was captured and they ran away – they still stayed. Even when they thought all was lost, they still wondered how they were to continue, wanting to stay (remember the guys on the road to Emmaus?). Why? Some had figured out that, even if they didn’t understand him completely, he had shown that he was true and worth following. Some who had started with amazement, had progressed through discussing and come to a realization of what he was saying. Some were beginning to understand who he really was and wouldn’t dare leave, even if they might have thought about it at one time.
Why did you start following Jesus? Do you remember? What made you want to listen to him, know more about him and follow him? And why do you still follow him? Or… if you do not, why not? How has your relationship changed? Do you feel like you are a follower (a disciple) or are you simply following (like a twitterer)? I would really like to know.

Thursday, January 31, 2013

Here am I, send me!

Here below is our latest newsletter. I wanted to take the time to look ahead at how God can use us, wherever we are. There is some very important family news as well. Thanks for stopping by and for your continued encouragement!

Saturday, January 12, 2013

On Assignment - at home in Indiana

How often do you need to see people in order to retain a close relationship? This is something that has intrigued me almost my entire life. I grew up traveling all over. I had lived in six cities in three countries before the 6th grade. So family was always important, and making friends meant figuring it out quickly, or keeping things on the surface (I would not immediately call this superficial).
This continued when I went off to university, where I traveled all over the US, traveled to Europe and in the end spent two years in the Netherlands. My brothers and sisters also traveled. Three of my brothers were in the military and the other roamed off to Alaska. But we have always been able to re-connect. And we are still there for each other.
Our last leg of our Home Assignment brought us to Indianapolis where my ‘little’ brother, Mike and his family live. We keep and eye on how Mike and Amy and the four boys are doing through the wonder of modern communication – and I have always been very thankful for that. Since Indiana is not in the normal ‘loop’ of our travels on home assignment, the last time we visited was in 2007. Now we not only got to visit, we were blessed to spend Christmas together!
We arrived a day late so that Shirley could recover after the wedding. That left us two and a half days to enjoy the time together. And we were mixing several families as well. Marc and Wouter, who had traveled with Sean to New York city and then joined us for the wedding, were experiencing their first Christmas away from their rather large family back in Belgium. So it was good to share, to experience some local family traditions, and to just have fun.
And all along our travels we had expected snow but had seen barely a flake. Each time we left somewhere, they received a foot of snow after we left, but we were not burdened at all on our travels with snow-covered highways or backed-up traffic. Now, with a few days, we expereienced a blizzard, right in Indianapolis, for Christmas! And when it was time to leave, the roads were clear where we were headed.

Our last day was spent in Chicago with another blast from the past – Jimmy Schellekens is a young man that I knew when he was about 2 years-old in Schiedam. We spent time getting ready to leave, saw some of Chicago, had some great food (again) and even played a bit of football (the real kind). And we could relax the English or work on Dutch by speaking Dutch with Jimmy. We are so thankful that Jimmy and Amy were willing to share their apartment with us for that short visit on our way out.
After two months in the US we were now finally headed back … home. But we have been home all along the way, everywhere we stopped. You are why we can be home when we are with you. We are so thankful for the reality that wherever we are, if we are with God and his family, we are at home. Thank you!

A wedding … and so much more

A lot of planning goes into a wedding. That was certainly the case with Stephan and Natalie. We only saw some of what had to be decided upon, chosen, made and planned. We were able to help with some of the planning: making cake-pops, setting up the venue, working through some of the ceremony. But there is a lot more that happens before a wedding – at least, that is what we were thankful for. A wedding can be simply a wedding – a big party to mark a certain day. Tht is not what this was.
Stephan and Natalie wanted to have a great day. They wanted the people who would come to the wedding to have fun. But they also knew that this day was what they had worked toward in their relationship and would be the beginning of a lasting life together that was just starting.
We wanted the day to be special for them. We were looking forward to seeing them begin their lives together. But we were also looking forward to getting to know this young woman whom we had, until then, only spoken to via Skype. We knew too that we would be meeting her parents and family. We knew that this day meant we would be giving up our son, gaining a daughter and, hopefully with grace, would be letting go so that they could start this new life together.
How do you let go? Many of you will have experienced this already. Perhaps it is different each time with each child. There are so many emotions on the day (and following, as things start to settle in). Since we hadn’t seen Stephan since December 2010, we were excited to see him again. But of course this would be to see him start a new life as a husband, not just our son. And that is good! That is why he was put in our lives. Our children are placed in our hands for a time so that we can prepare them to grow, to live in Christ and to be a blessing to others. That time had come.
So, we enjoyed the preparations. We had a blast making cake-pops, laughing with our new family. We enjoyed the day, shedding a tear or two and taking that deep breath of pride in these two young people wanting to give themselves totally to each other and to God. And we look forward to the many times coming that we can watch them grow.
You can see a few of our pictures of the wedding over here. Thank you all for being a part of this through the years – seeing these two grow and helping them along the way. We are so thankful that God, who is love, continues to guide their lives together.