Monday, December 22, 2014

LIGHT in the Lowlands, December 2014

It is amazing how quickly a year can go by. We have been so thankful for the last several months and what we have been blessed to be part of. Thank you for being a part of some of those activities and for the blessing you are to our lives! How has God been blessing you this year?

Sunday, October 05, 2014

Happy Camper

For years, one of the main activities that we have been blessed to work with have been camp weeks or days at Ardennen Bijbelkamp. Throughout the 50 years that this Christian camp has been reaching out to people young and old, Dutch-speaking or French-speaking, we (together with the many brothers and sisters through the years) have constantly strived to keep a focus on Christ, His Word and how we can encourage one another better to follow Jesus daily. Camp has been a place where you can be challenged or comforted, where you can be stretched to learn something new or simply come to find some peace.

This year seems to me to have been a year that camp was used even more than in the past and that is good. We want camp to be used almost year-round. And this year has seen lots of new uses. And, thankfully, we were able to experience some of those times this year. Of course you may have seen some of the pictures, but as the season is slowly coming to a close (but not until the end of December), I wanted to share with you some of the times we have enjoyed.

A time to work

There are still plenty of things that need to be finished down at camp. Whenever I get the chance, and my ‘skills’ mght be needed or I can put my muscles to good use for camp, I head down to help. This was in April for a day, in June for a couple days and then again in July before the camp weeks got started in earnest. The fun part about these work days is that there is always a group. Have you ever noticed how good conversations can be when you’re working with someone?

A time to sing

The congregation in Maastricht likes using camp because we know how we all enjoy the beauty there and the time together. Since we are relatively close it is also not really very difficult for us. So at the end of May we planned a day together. Philip taught us about forgiveness and we all wrote some new songs. This was the first time that our sister, Alonie came to camp, and our French-speaking brother, Clement, also showed up.

A time for camp

This summer I was responsible for two camp weeks: Teen Camp and Family Camp. Although Teen Camp ended up being just three campers, it was an especially active week. The campers and I went out every morning on a trip, usually walking a few hours. The afternoon would also be normally active. But of course we were looking at the travels of Paul in the Acts of the Apostles.
Family Camp was a great group of people and we struggled with some thoughts on Apologetics. Why do we believe what we believe? This is when the beauty and surroundings of camp show their best purpose: time to chew on deep thoughts and discuss concepts during long walks. It was great tp see how everyone helped with the various tasks throughout the week.

A time to escape

In September the Maastricht congregation held a youth weekend down at camp, focussing on Exodus and what we learn from the Israelites’ escape from Egypt. Once again, we are blessed as a congregation to be so close to camp that we can organize the weekend at camp and still meet in Maastricht on Sunday morning to worship together with the whole congregation.

A time to retreat

At the end of September the men headed down to camp for a Men’s Retreat. It is no easy feat to get a bunch of men together, but this was a wonderful time. And we had several who had either never been to camp or had never been for more than an afternoon. Challenging and fun activities along with challenging lessons sent us all off with the courage to be the men of God that we want to be.

And we aren’t finished yet

Fall Camp is planned for the end of October, but this year it will not only be for the youth, but for all who wish to come – more like a Family Weekend. And in December the 16-year-olds will decend on camp to show off their ability to really stick it out in the cold. In the meantime we will have at least one more work day to get things ready for a new year of serving one another, helping one another grow and challenging one another to live in grace. We are so thankful to be able to learn so many of these lessons and share these times of growth with one another at such a wonderful place.

You can find most of these photos on our photo site (click on the pictures on the right) or you can go here for more photo's from camp.

Wednesday, July 09, 2014

July Newsletter

It is always challenging to experience how God works in our lives. Here are some of the things that God has been doing with us recently. We have especially taken time to talk a bit about the trip to Brussels with the young people. If you would like to see some pictures, check out these links:
BXL (Brussels Extra Large)
World Cup get-togethers
Living Room changes

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

A view of a few of the newest activities

The past two months have kept us pretty busy. Here are a few of the highlights with some pictures to go with it. We are so thankful for how we are able to be used, for the way God is forming us as well.
At the beginning of April Scott went to the European Singles Retreat in Germany to teach on ‘Final Destination: Aliens on our way home’. Singles from all over Europe meet twice a year to encourage one another in their walk with Christ. Scott taught about how our citizenship is in heaven and our culture should be from Christ.
Check out some pictures here or on facebook. For more info see the website.

Two days after the Single’s Retreat Scott and Shirley made a whirlwind tour to Colorado for the wedding of Scott’s best friend, Bret Carter, where Scott was best man. We were only there for 5 days, but were able to get in some quick family visit time as well as meet the bride and her family, meet brothers and sisters from two congregations, and refresh friendships. 

Two days after arriving back in Europe Scott left for a two-day retreat with the Catholic kids from the next village. He and Karla verheijen have been working for years with these groups to encourage the yougn people, their parents and the group working with them to focus on a real life with Jesus Christ. The year’s activities culminate for us with this two-day retreat, which inevitably challenges us with the same question we hope to present to those around us: Am I a cultural Christian, or is Jesus really my life?

the 'new' car
At the end of April Scott headed down to camp to help with some of the work being done there.But before heading down, we had to figure out a car solution. Our car unexpectedly died on the way back from the Single’s Retreat. With all of the activities in between, there had been no time to deal with this need, but now we had a week to look around and a borrowed car to add mobility. Just before the work days at camp we found a ‘new’ car – which looks remarkably like our ‘old’ car and is actually 10 years old (but within budget and with far fewer kilometers). The first test was driving down to camp. The car worked well (and continues to do so) and we got some good work done down at camp. 
The same day of work camp Sean presented his first real EP for his band, Karma Police. This was paid for by the winnings from the contest last year (‘Imagine’) which also saw them go to Romania to perform. More music is on the way. You can hear their music here and purchase their ep. You can also find them on facebook where you can see some of their video's. 

Singing in 4 languages
The first weekend of May saw Scott and Sean driving over to Thayngen, Switzerland for the yearly indoor, international soccer tournament. Scott would present the thoughts around the Lord’s Supper on Sunday, and both ‘boys’ would play soccer. This tournament is an amazing opportunity to bring Christians and friends together from all over Europe, showing what my ‘dad’, Ron Carter (and my best friend, Ron’s son, Bret) always said: Christians know best how to really have fun.
The next weekend the congregation in Maastricht had planned a day down at camp. Philip Dela taught us about how we can forgive – even when we do not feel like it. His original lesson had been on how ‘Christians’ in Africa had taken revenge on Moslims, killing them and dragging them through the streets. This was done, because Christians had also been killied. How should we respond? And where do we find the strength to do this?
Typical of our Maastricht family, we also used the day to write some new songs about forgiveness. One of these songs was written by 3-year-old Liam with his daddy. The Sunday morning after the day at camp all of the new songs were sung. We were pleased to welcome Jia, our Chinese-Maastricht PhD-living-in-Germany who was visiting us for a few days. She let us know a week later that the tune from Liam was still stuck in her head.
The last two weeks have been full of our normal activities as well as the smell of paint. Scott promised Shirley years ago (we won’t go into how many years) that he would paint the ceiling – changing the brown to a shiny white. The paint had been waiting, we simply needed to get it on the agenda - a hard enough task! Although it is not yet finished, we are well on our way.
We pray that you, too, have enjoyed some moments that have challenged your faith and your life in Christ, that you have found some times to share with family and friends, that you have been blessed by the physical blessings in your daily life and that you have been able to be used in many expected and unexpected ways. We have a wonderful and amazing God!

Saturday, April 05, 2014

LIGHT in the Lowlands, April 2014

This first quarter of 2014 has been busy, challenging and extremely encouraging. Although we cannot fit all the news in this newsletter, we would love to share what God is doing in our lives. Feel free to take a gander and ask any questions you might have. And let us know how God is forming you!

Click on the pictures over on the right if you would like to see some of the pictures from our youth weekend this past month. Thank you for taking the time and for your encouragement!

Saturday, March 22, 2014

Lessons in grace: Doing away with being indispensable

It’s something I hope we all struggle with. I would hate to be the only one. Although being the only one is just the problem. You see, I struggle with believing that I am essential, unmissable, absolutely necessary. I want to be THE ONE who is needed. I want to feel that without me, everything would fall apart. Mind you, I don’t think that out loud - not even in my mind – but that is what it comes down to. But the reality is, if I am doing what I really want to do, what God wants me to do, then I will never be the one on whom everything depends. And that is how it should be.

What I really want is that people will learn and grow and be able to do all the things that I am also doing, which I learned from others who taught me the things they learned from others. That is the picture – passing it on. If I am doing this, then I am never going to be indispensable. But if I were indispensable, then at some point what I was doing would end. And that is how we can see if something is from God or not. Because God IS indispensable. He is THE ONE who is needed, without whom everything will fall apart. HE is essential, not me.

I struggle with this because I think that if I am not essential, then I am not worth anything. Being in charge, being the most important, having it all seems like the only way to show that I have worth. Simply being a ‘part’ doesn’t seem very worthwhile at all. But as you see, as I see, that is not at all true. And thankfully, God is gracious enough to let me, help me see this truth. God, the Creator of heaven and earth, almighty, all-knowing, loving Father, allows me to work with Him. He uses me in His essential plans to bring to fruition what ony He can do. And isn’t it beautiful!

I want to be part of His whole, doing what I can as He enables me, passing on to others how beautiful it is to walk with Him. He is unmissable, indispensable, essential. He counts me worthy, through His grace, to walk with and work with Him. What a wonderful grace!

As you come to him, a living stone rejected by men but in the sight of God chosen and precious, you yourselves like living stones are being built up as a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. For it stands in Scripture:“Behold, I am laying in Zion a stone, a cornerstone chosen and precious, and whoever believes in him will not be put to shame.”     1 Peter 2:4-7

Tuesday, March 04, 2014

Lessons in grace: Ripples through time

I heard the story plenty of times, and never tired of hearing it. One man and his family moved to a city and this man got into some conversations with his new neighbor, over the fence in the yard. The neighbor was a Christian and the father gave his life to Christ as well. This father had three sons and these sons, following the example of their father (and the man across the fence) became strong family men, in Christ. Their example in their families as well as in their daily lives influenced many others.

I was touched by these ever widening ripples while in junior high school by a son of the son of the father who talked to the man across the fence. This son was also a Christian, someone who even at that young age was following Jesus in his life choices. He and his sister and his family (cousins and uncles and aunts) influenced my decisions and vision of the world and what is good and right. I, too, gave my life to Jesus to lead.

I know of people all over the world who were personally influenced by these sons to choose for a life following Jesus, people who have gone on to influence many others in many other places. I can see the ripples caused in my life and some of the people I influence. What amazes me is that this is only what I can see. I am aware of this story, of these ripples. But I don’t know the story of the man across the fence. What I do know, and am thrilled by, is that he was touched by another who was touched by the growing grace of God.

My father in the faith, Ron Carter, passed away recently. He went Home. He received his reward. He was welcomed into the arms of the Father. What a wonderful Father we have who not only dissolves time at the right time, but ripples throughout time through this touching grace in all of those who choose to be touched. Choose to be touched by this grace and start touching others. 

Thursday, February 27, 2014

Lessons in grace: a beautiful burden

Christmas day with Willemien 
Originally uploaded by sraabs
When I have thought of grace in the past, in the years of my spiritual walk, I have most often thought of it in relation to what I receive. God is gracious. His grace lifted me. I am alive because of His great grace in my life. But this past month has been teaching me something that some of you have probably known for a lobng time – we are given grace in order to share grace.

At the end of January we moved our sister in Christ, Willemien, to a nursing home. Willemien has no family – not because she is 92 and all have passed on, but because she was in a family of two children and she herself never had children (and neither did her brother). We – the church family in Maastricht – are her family. As time has gone by we, and Willemien, have seen that she needs more help. We saw that she was approaching a time when she would need more help than could be given in her home. Willemien assumed the time to move would not become before the time to go Home to be with her Father, God. But the time to move came.

Moving is never easy. Both Shirley and I moved around a lot as children. I always found it exhilarating – a new place, a new start, an adventure. But it also meant that I didn’t spend too much time making friends. We have now lived in our house here in Belgium much longer than any other place in my life. Willemien had lived a good 40 years in her flat in Maastricht. So moving was not going to be easy. Not only does one have to downsize, but it would mean that her dog could not travel with her to her new situation.

Before the time came (which is a story in itself for another time), I had let Willemien know that I was willing to do everything that was necessary to take good care of her – even if that meant that she would be angry with me. She assured me that she would never be angry with me. But I knew that dementia has its own rules, and I prepared myself. When the time came, Willemien seemed to be fine – until the second week in her new ‘home’ started.

On Sunday afternoon we visited her and she did not want to get out of bed. She did not want to look at us. She did not want to talk to us. Would we please leave as quickly as possible and leave her alone. We had stolen her dog, locked her in this place where there was nothing to do and stolen all of her things. It was then that I felt how heavy grace can be.

I have read it so many times. But remember again: ‘God so loved the world that he gave his only-begotten son’, ‘but lGod shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us’ and ‘who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself’ (John 3:16; Rom. 5:8 and Phil. 2:6-7). God gave me everything and I didn’t deserve it. Worse still, I treated Him abominably - and sometimes still do! And still He loves me and is there for me.

Do we understand what that feels like? Do we understand what that costs? He knows that He is giving us the very best, everything that we really need – and it is all really good. But we don’t see it. We have forgotten. We are focused on other things, Or we simply cannot fathom what is going on. But grace continues.

Willemien is doing much better this week. She is getting settled in, realizing that this new phase in her life is also blessed by God. And I am thankful for the lessons we can learn and how this makes me love Him so much more, every day.

Saturday, January 11, 2014

Light in the Lowlands, January 2014

Here is an update on some of what was going on in our lives the last three months. Take a moment to read (click on the thumbnail for a larger, readable version), let us know if you have any questions, and let us know what God is doing in your lives. You can check out some of our pictures by clicking on the photo's on the right side of the blog.
Thank you for your continued encouragement!

Friday, January 03, 2014

New beginnings, New life!

As this new year begins, one day at a time as do all years, we are thrilled to welcome our new sister in Christ, Daisy. Daisy has been visiting for quite some time and made the decision to die to her old life and be re-born in new life on December 22 of 2013.
She is aware, as are we, that life in Christ comes one day at a time. The strength we need, the tasks we are given. Our eyes are focused on Jesus, who knows where we are going. We hold on to His hand and follow. Each day will not be easy or great - although there will be days like that - but each day will be good, because He is our King and we are walking with Him.

Praise God for this new life and each new day we have to share together! We are thankful for Daisy's new life and for God's continuing grace.