Monday, December 26, 2016

The second day of Christmas

In Belgium and the Netherlands (and many other places) we celebrate two days of Christmas. Both the 25th and the 26th are holidays (in the Netherlands the stores are closed, in both countries the banks are closed). But of course the ‘second day of Christmas’ gets me thinking in musical terms and I end up with two turtle doves. And that is what is so intriguing.
Turtle doves are symbolic for romantic love. You will see them in logo’s for weddings. We say things like, “Oh, look at the turtle doves.” And this time of year is a time of love. Shirley and I were married on the 21st. Stephan and Natalie on the 22nd. Although I imagine few get married on the 26th, this period is one of sharing and remembering the love we have for each other.
Two turtle doves were also the offer that Joseph and Mary brought to the temple when Jesus was born to redeem him as the first born male. They were faithful in worshipping God with their lives. So this is a time of family, of loving one another as we love God. The doves even show up in films like Home Alone 2, testifying to this element. We enjoy being together with heavenly-made family at this time as well as sharing via technology with family around the world. 
And God, who knows us all and wants all to be able to come to Him, was gracious in the sacrifices required of the Israelites. The doves were so that everyone, even those who were less well off, could offer and be in good standing with God. How ironic – or simply prophetic – that this simple offer is all that was required while it was Jesus who actually brought the ultimate offer and redeemed Joseph and Mary – and all of us. Those simple doves remind me of the beautiful, gracious love that Jesus Christ showed and shows to us all, even today.

So I really like the second day of Christmas. Don’t quite know what to make of all those leaping, milking folks later on, but those two turtle doves are quite a picture!
Enjoy this day, knowing that God loves you and wants you to be with Him, every day. He has done everything necessary to make this possible – now all that is needed is your (and my) willingness to accept Him.

Once you were alienated from God and were enemies in your minds because of your evil behavior. But now he has reconciled you by Christʼs physical body through death to present you holy in his sight, without blemish and free from accusation— if you continue in your faith, established and firm, and do not move from the hope held out in the gospel. Colossians 1:21-23

Monday, December 05, 2016

Going for a walk

Just before Thanksgiving (which we are actaully celebrating this weekend as ‘Thanksmas’ with other Americans and such) we were once again blessed to attend the Euro American Retreat in Rothenburg op der Tauber, Germany. This retreat has been going for more than 50 years and was originally attended mostly by military members in Europe. From the beginning they wanted to make it also a time of refreshing for and learning from missionaries in Europe. We have been able to attend because of gracious gifts from church members in the US and in Europe.
This weekend is a great time to meet up with others who are working in the kingdom around Europe, to share ideas and struggles, to be fed with challenging lessons from the Word. It is also a time to sing and share. I am always amazed and blessed by the giving, sharing spirit of those who come to this retreat. The intimate, quaint walled city and inevitable beautiful weather (whether it be snow or Autumn sunshine) are all simply settings for the conversations and thoughts which take place here.
The weekend of Thanksgiving, we were in Antwerp to share once again with some of the same people about missional outreach. How can we, where we are, be more intentional in how we are reaching people? Are there things we need to be doing differently? These were some of the same questions we had struggled with in Germany. 
One of the things which has remained with me was the realization presented by an illustration: we cannot keep pouring the goodness of God out of our cup into that of others. We must ourselves be filled to overflowing, thus allowing God’s blessings to overflow to others. If I am not myself being filled with the Spirit, how will He be able to use me to bless others?
Another moment of clarity came with the discussion about how religious language often is already too foreign for modern ears. That doesn’t mean we do not present the truths of Jesus Christ in our daily language. It means that we may first speak about ‘the teacher’ or ‘our support group’ or how ‘I read...’.
Each week I go walking. I walk with a man who needs to talk and wants to get healthier. I walk and listen and sometimes say a bit. This is what I observed was being done with me these last weeks as well. Isn’t it beautiful to know that God – from the beginning – talks of walking with us. He walked in the garden. And we can walk in the light, as He is in the light.

But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin. 1 John 1:7

Friday, November 18, 2016

A part of the whole

Kinetic sculpture from Carl Zachmann
Last weekend was spent running around and sitting. The Copa Benelux, an indoor soccer tournament organized by the church in Ghent, brings members of the church and friends together to enjoy a day of sport in a christian atmosphere. It is a time to reconnect with members from congregations across Belgium and the Netherlands; there were players from Haarlem, The Hague, Eindhoven, Maastricht, Antwerp, Ghent, Brussels, Rotselaar and more.
This past week we visited Eindhoven for their monthly singing evening. This was a time to encourage one another, but also to talk about how best to use our time singing together. How do we help one another? How can we be better song leaders and singers? It was a challenging evening. We hope to share some more of these in the coming months. 
Both of these activities reminded me of how important the individual and the whole is. A soccer team doesn’t work when there is only one person playing. It has to be a team effort – each member of the team doing his or her part. Some are better at shooting a goal, but sometimes the defender pushes through to make or receive a pass and score. And sometimes the striker has to return to defend against an attack. It is a team effort. Those who do not play as a team, do not make it further.
Singing, as God has designed it for us in the church, is also a group effort. The whole point of our singing is only accomplished as a group. We are speaking to one another of the glory of God, encouraging one another to remain true and strong in the faith, sharing our feelings of struggle or joy or comfort. If we do not sing together, we do not accomplish what is possible through the Holy Spirit. And yet we each take part, individually, in this communal song.
We are individuals, created as unique beings, meant to be only part of a whole. We are indeed simply cogs in a machine – or better, as Paul states it in 1 Corinthians – body parts. We must be active as individuals, but we must not forget that our purpose is in the whole. That is when we truly work as a team. That is when we truly make harmony. 

We are so thankful for the opportunities God gives us not only to take part in these activities, but to be reminded of this wonderful truth of His working through us for His purpose. 

His intent was that now, through the church, the manifold wisdom of God should be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly realms, according to his eternal purpose that he accomplished in Christ Jesus our Lord. Ephesians 3:10-11

Tuesday, November 08, 2016

Tuesday, November 01, 2016

Choosing to grow

We spent this past weekend down in the Ardennes at Fall Camp. About 20 years ago this was a weekend for families and the youth. Then we focused more on the youth. Now, the last two years, we have put the two back together again. It is a challenge to meld activities for parents with kids, little kids, young teens and older teens – but it is worth it.
For years we have been telling our young people the truth of what it means to follow Jesus. And they have been listening. They want to follow, they want to do what is right. When we all get together, it gives us all the opportunity to really put that into practice – and that is what we need! How can I follow if I don’t have any examples? How can I follow if I am not challenged with difficult options (for example: help someone, or go play)?
At our camps, we always have ‘corvee’ (pronounced: core-fay) or kp-duty (kitchen police – washing up after a meal). Everyone signs up for a turn at corvee and sometimes the camp director has to ‘volunteer’ folks for their chance. Not this group. The young people were some of the first ones signed up. They came to me throughout the week to ask: What can I do to help?
Of course it is also nice to be able to get away with your friends and talk about things that interest you. I enjoyed seeing this group encouraging one another. Besides the talk of music, movies, sports and school, there were discussions about struggles, about fasting and praying, about how better to encourage one another. Some of the young people were the example for me, rather than the other way around.
It was only last year that Gijs gave his life to Christ. In the meantime, he has looked at how better to focus his life on this Jesus whom he is following. What things are most important? How to combine work with faith? How to be more active in the local body of Christ? It is exciting to see!
One of the walks this week was to a rock. I tell people when we get there: That is where we are going (looking up to the top of this rock). Some groan. Some want to start clambering up the rock right away. But there is a path – a winding, climbing path. You have to keep climbing. Along the way, you can look down and see how far you have come so far. Once up top, you can gaze below and wonder at how high you have climbed! And then you can turn around and continue up the path – even higher and further.
Perseverance, continuing, looking ahead and up, staying focused, enjoying the journey along the way – this is what I see on weekends like these. It is so good to be part of the family of God and be able to share this, not only with mature brothers and sisters, but also with those who are becoming mature and those who are still looking for the Way. 

The sovereign Lord is my strength; he makes my feet like the feet of a deer, he enables me to tread on the heights. Habakkuk 3:19 (remember to at least read the whole chapter)

Monday, October 24, 2016

Step by step

I remember being thrilled that I could go to school, the excitement by every move we made to a new home, the feeling of slight dread when I realized I would be low man on the totem pole next year in high school, the wonder at being chosen to travel with a great bunch of guys to sing for people all over the US, and on and on. There are so many moments of change in our lives. And each one may seem huge at the moment – or just the opposite – but each one is important.
God is there at every turn. He sees what is happening with us, to us, and remember what we felt all those times in the past. Better yet, He knows what is coming – and doesn’t let us know. Imagine if we didn’t get to experience those changes, those challenges! But He does let us know, again and again, that He will always be there, even when we do not allow Him in.
Recently we enjoyed being part of some of these important, exciting moments. Sean graduated cum laude with his bachelor’s degree in journalism from Erasmus in Brussels. It was a privilege to be able to be there and share this with him. We enjoyed seeing how he interacted with all of his teachers, seeing how the man he has become (is still becoming) cares about others.
This past Sunday the congregation in Maastricht celebrated our sister Willemien’s 95th birthday. She has not been able to attend worship for quite some time, so it was wonderful to have her there to sing with and to enjoy a meal with afterwards. She may not remember everyone, may not be able to see or hear everyone, but she knows that God is there with her as she continues to walk in the Light. Exciting!

Take the time today to think about how God is there with you, in your moments, guiding and helping whenever you allow Him to be the mighty God that He is.

You have searched me, Lord, and you know me.
You know when I sit and when I rise; you perceive my thoughts from afar.
You discern my going out and my lying down; you are familiar with all my ways.
Before a word is on my tongue you, Lord, know it completely.
You hem me in behind and before, and you lay your hand upon me.
Such knowledge is too wonderful for me, too lofty for me to attain.

Psalm 139:1-6

Monday, September 26, 2016

The song of God

It never gets old. Sometimes hearing the same song again and again, or singing the same song time after time, grinds on your nerves. But this never gets old. Some of our songs speak of what I mean: All creatures of our God and King, The spacious firmament on high, This is my Father’s world.
At the Men’s Retreat this month we went on a walk in the woods. I was walking with Jeremy, who is blind. I simply gave a running commentary on what we were walking by, what we were feeling. A cathedral of majestic trees looming over our heads, or a bustle of bright blowing birch dancing across the path, a babbling brook down in the valley or a crag of a rock jutting out as a sentinel over the trees below. And as we walked, we shared the beauty of how God cares for us, how mighty he is, the joy that he brings to our lives and how we can continue walking in the Light. 

God’s song is everywhere in His creation and it is thrilling to stop and listen and then to sing along. This month has also meant several times of singing together with God’s family, as I mentioned last time. The group from Liége that comes on the first Wednesday of the month thrills my heart. Although we still struggle to speak in words with one another in conversations, the words we use to speak to one another in song are so very clear. God is King, we are His and together we will continue in His love and grace.
That was the song this past weekend as well as we gathered with a group in a park in Aachen, Germany. Last year we met for the first time here, in a small museum in the park. When we asked again this year if it would be possible to use the facility, they told us it was not possible as they were preparing an exhibition – but we could use the gardens. So God provided beautiful weather, we all brought our voices and hearts, and we shared God’s words of love with one another – and anyone walking by in the park.
It is thriliing to be singing His song in our lives, singing in harmony or in unison, sometimes softly, sometimes in full voice. What God has created – and is creating – is simply wonderful!

Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God. When Christ, who is your life, appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.                     Colossians 3:1-4

Monday, September 12, 2016

Finding Family

Isn’t it amazing what God creates? Look at the things we see in nature, the wonders of His creation. But look, too, at what he has created for us! We are made to be in relationship. We are made to be together – and when that is done as He has designed, it is amazing! One of those ways of being in relationship is family.
Family is God’s design. And God’s has created His family – the church. Just like with any family – we have only one thing we can do: accept it or reject it. When we decide to put our lives in God’s hands through the blood of Christ in the waters of baptism – God adds us to His family. Then we are brother and sister, children of the Almighty One who is sanctifying us daily through His Holy Spirit in our lives.
In August we were able to spend several days down at Family Camp. The nice thing about this week of camp is that it fits everyone – just like God’s family should. From the letters of 1st and 2nd Peter we learned about suffering, being used for good, persevering and the love of Christ in all we do. We spent time singing together, laughing and playing, and enjoying God’s creation all around us.
You can see some of the pictures from camp here.

Back in Maastricht we were so thankful to be able to meet again with our Maastricht family (who are actually from many places around Maastricht). We are not homogenous; we are a varied and mixed group, put together by the wondrous view of our Father, God. And sometimes it is not easy, but we keep trying to love one another, because we are loved by the One and Only, who has shown us that this kind of love really is possible.
This past Wednesday we had our first ‘First Wednesday’ again since back in May. This is when some of us from Maastricht get together with some of our family from Liége and sing our hearts out to our wonderful Father. Sometimes we learn new songs. Sometimes we just enjoy singing the songs we know (Merveilleux Amour). But always – always – we are amazed and overcome by the beuaty of God’s love in His family.
At the end of September we will get together with the family from Cologne and sing our hearts out again. Isn’t it great that God has even given us this way to put our hearts into words – together! Last year we met for the first time in Aachen (in between Maastricht and Cologne). This year we are allowed to use the garden of the museum where we met last time. As long as we have a place to be, it will be good. Because the people meeting, this family moment, is the most important part of the day. We are looking forward to taking some other members from Maastricht along with us.
And in the meantime, there are those who are considering what this family means. There are those we have been talking to, with whom we have been looking at the gracious love of Jesus, who are considering this choice we have to make. It is the only thing we can do – accept or reject. God wants us in His family and He has done everything necessary in Jesus to make it possible. All that is needed is a new birth. How wonderful are God’s creations!

Yet to all who did receive him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God— children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God. John 1:12-13

Monday, August 22, 2016

Tripping on technology

It is amazing to me how interwoven our lives have become with technology. Even those who eschew the tech-tendrils of our current society are faced with a certain amount of inevitability. Although we are far from tech-wary or savvy, we try not to depend on our computers and such. But when my computer crashed this month (hard drive crash - no apparent reason) I realised how helpless I was. 
I learned long ago to keep an agenda, but these days my agenda is only on my computer (compared to ‘then’ when it was in my back pocket in a little book). I am not tech enough to have a smart phone synced to my computer, so everything is only on the computer. I was thankful, then, that I had written a few of my appointments down on our house calendar and had the rest in my head - since I could not check anything. 
And if I had wanted to check addresses or phone numbers to call someone about an appointment - my address book is also on my computer! Some of the numbers are in my phone or in my head, but many are not. And what was I to do about my emails? Thankfully, Sean’s old computer allowed me access to my webmail, so I was able to keep in touch a little bit. 
In the end, all of my information was saved and restored, I have my agenda and address book back and can continue as if nothing happened. Although, of course I should learn from this and make some changes. But what changes? Back to the past and a paper agenda? Forward to more expense and a synced smart phone (which can also crash)? I am still struggling with that question. 
In the meantime, I have enjoyed getting back to reading - yes, real books. And walking. And talking. Because let’s admit it, much of the day had become pretty connected to the computer. There is something to be said for what needs to be done - and is done more easily and efficiently on the computer. But a balance must be found. I was reminded of Matthew 6:21 and 33 - For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. … Seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.

Friday, July 29, 2016

Let's get started!

Although we were far from idle during our Home Assignment – we enjoyed visiting with life groups, taking part in prayer breakfast’s, preaching and reporting on our work, and doing what we could from a distance via email or phone – it is good to be back and able to get back to work. When people ask what I do, I tell them, “I tell people about Jesus.” And although we do that wherever we are, we are thankful to be able to do that in this area of the world.
So, in the last week since we have been home, we have jumped right back into the activities we left in May. We are starting up various studies with those who are getting to know Jesus and with the congregation. We were so thankful to be able to see our sister, Willemien, again. She even remarked, “Oh, are you home already? I thought you weren’t coming back ‘til next week.”
In addition to the studies we had before leaving, there were several projects taking shape when we left. Now we can give these our full attention. We want to see how we can best serve the refugee population, which is arriving everywhere in Europe. The books we helped translate into Dutch will be a help in letting them meet Jesus. Now we just need to start making contact in earnest. Your prayers for this effort would be greatly appreciated. There is a workshop planned in Athens in November which we are considering attending. The church there has already had quite a bit of experience, which they can pass on.
In October we are planning a singing workshop for the congregations in Belgium and the Netherlands. This will be a day (hopefully this will be a twice-yearly event) to learn how to read music, learn new songs, practice singing, and enjoy singing together. In September, we in Maastricht will get together again with the church from Cologne, Germany to sing together for an afternoon. We did this last year and not only enjoyed the fellowship, but were encouraged by the opportunity to share Christ’s love with visitors in this way.
At this moment our summer Bible camps have started. The older teens are just finishing up their week and the younger teens will be starting tomorrow. The Benjamins are the week after, and during Family camp I will be bringing two of the lessons from 1 & 2 Peter. In the meantime, we have also already gotten together to think about and plan the youth activities for the coming year.
Sometimes it is easy to fall back into old patterns after a break. That can be good – if they are good habits. But we were greatly encouraged by some good ideas during our travels as well. We want to implement some of these changes in our lives – so now is the time, before we get too settled in our old routines. Thank you for your ideas, encouragement and challenges! We appreciate your prayers for strength and perseverance in serving each day.
It has been especially good this week to see all the people we so missed while away. It is a real blessing to have so many ‘homes’ with people whom we love and who love us. We have already had a great afternoon visit with our colleagues, Ruud en Karla, who just returned from the wedding of their daughter in Korea. And we have been able to worship wholeheartedly, singing with loud voice, with the congregation in Maastricht – although not everyone is yet returned from vacation.
Although our travels sometimes seem a distant dream, we hold fast to the encouragement they brought us as we move forward today, and tomorrow. There is work to be done God is mighty working through His body, His children, everywhere we all are!

Be on your guard; stand firm in the faith; be courageous; be strong. Do everything in love.  1 Corinthians 16:13-14

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

On the road again (again)

The last 5 days of our time in the United States was spent on a road trip in California. Back in 2010 we took a road trip with Stephan – the last time he was able to travel with us. This time we traveled with Sean (perhaps the last time he will be traveling with us), two of his friends and the father of his best friend. It was a furious few days of fun with 5 guys and a gal in a van.
We drove up along the Pacific Coast Highway until we could marvel at the beauty of Big Sur (arriving almost at sunset). Elephant seals, coastal views, Carmel-by-the-Sea and laughter in the van got us to Monterey for the night.
The next day we drove on to San Francisco and the Golden Gate bridge. Having been warned, we all had a sweater or jacket – and it was necessary. But what a view! Mind you, some people enjoy heights and others do not. Still, we got plenty of pictures of the fog rolling in. We heard later that an hour after we left on that day a whole pod of whales was seen feeding not far from the bridge. We didn’t see them, but we did enjoy the Warming Hut (actually very necessary) and headed on to our hostel in the city.
Our evening in San Francisco allowed us to drink in the excitement and life. From our busy hostel downtown, to Union Square with live music, the Apple store, trolley rides down to the wharf where we watched the sunset and had an In-n-out burger (finally) and then back to the hostel via a mega-climb up Lombard street to the trolley.
The next day took us to Yosemite valley with its majestic beauty. Breathtaking scenery, cool clear water, and tons of tourists (of whom we were 6). Climbing the slippery rocks by the falls, gawking at yet another amazing view as we wound our way with the days’ traffic out of the park. Fresno put us up for the night after we finally were able to find a gas station (just in time).
Another day, another amazing park – Sequoia/King’s Canyon this time. One hears about these trees, one sees pictures of others standing next to them, but until you are there, it simply doesn’t sink in. These things are real, not something out of a Tolkien story! Massive, stretching into the heavens, these gentle giants grow on the shoulders of mountains with just as massive and amazing valleys and vistas. Our eyes were not enough – our hearts had to open to God’s beauty and glory!
And then – as quickly as it had begun – it was done. We were able to visit the beach again, peacefully, and Shirley went shopping in Beverly Hills for the day. We were able to share and worship with the church again before getting packed and ready to return to reality. Because that is often what it feels like – like we have been in a dream. We have been so blessed by the beautiful things we have seen – in nature and in people.
As we return, we are just as excited, because we are coming home. We have missed everyone here and there is so much to do. First, of course, are the ‘necessaries’ – the lawn has grown to my knees, the weeds on the driveway are swallowing the stones and the emails and appointments are knocking at the door. So we are thankful for the encouragement we have had with God’s family in the US, breathing in God’s wonder in His nature, and sharing all that we have with those around us. Now it is time to do the same here.
And there is a lot to do: we have already started some of our studies and visits, lessons are being written for Family Camp, invitations for a song workshop in October, plans for reaching out to refugees in our area need to be made and much more. It is exciting that, no matter where we are (no matter where you are), God has so much for us to do, so many ways that He would like to use us. Look what he does with wind and water and rock and wood and dirt (all that natural beauty) and then thrill at what He will be able to do with us when we allow Him full rein in our lives. Let’s get on the road again!

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

Check out our pictures from the road trip here.

Sunday, July 17, 2016

Home away from home

About 30 years ago we were considering how we could best serve the Lord, wherever He would take us. We travelled to Belgium and the Netherlands – having had experience there – and made plans for a team to go to Belgium. This didn’t materialize, but we then had a request from two Dutch couples to join them in establishing the church in Maastricht, the Netherlands, just over the border with Belgium.
In 1991 we moved to Belgium to join our colleagues, Ruud and Karla Verheijen, and begin working with the church. From the beginning the church in Long Beach, California, has been our supporting church and family. Since 1995 we have returned on Home Assignment every three years to report to our congregations, visit family, and recharge our batteries. And every time we have found a refreshing welcome and welcoming family with the church in Long Beach.
We have always been amazed at the open-heartedness of God’s family in so many places. In California we have always stayed with brothers and sisters who say – and mean, “Make yourself at home. Our home is your home.” Because this is California, these have been homes with swimming pools, parks in the area, and plenty of sun. But they have also been homes with kids for our boys to make friends with, couples who encourage us, and a great atmosphere of rest and peace.
California is the land of the automobile, and yet people are willing to lend us their cars for our time here. We are showered with opportunities to have fun (Disneyland in the past, beaches or shopping these days) interspersed with times of spiritual refreshment with brothers and sisters. Not to mention that we get to see and feel the sun (or did I mention that already?).
It is the people, our family of Christ here, that makes this place our home away from home. People who continue to welcome us in, to ask about how God has been working in our lives and to share how God is challenging them as well. They are also trying to see how God can use them to spread good news in their neighborhoods, no matter where they are.
This stay, we also got to introduce Marc and Wouter to our family and home in California. It has been wonderful to share the loving hearts that have so long blessed us. One of the things we continue to hear is that the people they (Marc and Wouter) meet are so welcoming and hospitable. And this is so true – not only in California, but everywhere we have been.
Our last week on this two month journey of visits was a roadtrip with Sean and his friends – a quick 5 day jaunt up the coast to San Francisco and back down along Yosemite and Sequoia parks. But more on that next time. For now, in the last two days we are here, we will enjoy time with our brothers and sisters in our home away from home.
Check out some of our pictures of the California leg of our trip here. I will be updating this set and adding a set from the roadtrip soon.

I always thank my God as I remember you in my prayers, because I hear about your love for all his holy people and your faith in the Lord Jesus. I pray that your partnership with us in the faith may be effective in deepening your understanding of every good thing we share for the sake of Christ. Your love has given me great joy and encouragement, because you, brother, have refreshed the hearts of the Lord’s people. Philemon 4-7

Tuesday, July 05, 2016

Indy-pendence, In dependents, (In) dependence

We are not made to be alone. We start out life dependent on our parents but trying to do everything on our own as quickly as possible. We learn to walk, to eat, to tie our shoes – so much that we can do “all on our own.” But we are not on our own. We are part of a family. And further along, that family only gets bigger. We are made to be together, to be with “one another”.
One of the first things we did in Indianapolis was to get together downtown with family – Scott’s brother and his family. The ‘Indy” sign makes it possible for you to be the “I” in “Indy”. But we enjoyed being a whole group strolling along the canal, escaping the heat under the bridge, sharing conversations as we got to know each other well. We don’t see each other very often.
The airport was the scene for the first of our family moments as Natalie came to pick us up with her mom, Pauline, and sister, Hailey. Later we would also all go to pick up Sean, Wouter and Marc. And all of us invaded Jay and Pauline’s and Stephan and Natalie’s homes, but it is family.
It was such a blessing to be able to use a car, as Scott and Shirley visited other family before Sean arrived. A day to South Bend meant a great visit with Stef Bardoel at Notre Dame university. Another evening meant a visit to Mark and Beth Chenowith who have been such an encouragement to us in previous visits, sharing their home. Now we were able to share our hearts again in challenging conversations about the future and how we can be used for God. We are made to be together – we need times like these.
Before Sean and the guys arrived, we enjoyed being able to just be part of anything and everything that was happening. Scott was happy to get al sweaty helping build the new deck, Shirley spent a morning with the ladies getting nails done, we watched a bit of football along the way and we enjoyed snacks or food whenever we even thought about it, thanks to Pauline’s good care.
When “the guys” arrived (Sean, Wouter and Marc), it was just in time to watch Belgium play. Together-time is also important in moments of commiseration. And then we were able to connect again with Scott’s brother, Michael and family, for a day of fun, food and music. Although the weather had by this time turned greyer and colder (though never really cold), getting to talk and sing together always warms things up.
It is here in Indianapolis that two families meet. Scott’s brother lives here as do Stephan and Natalie and her parents. It was especially nice to see how Wouter and Marc have been taken up into this whole group of two families. This is what family means, and it will always be a time and place of beauty for those who have experienced it.
We enjoyed our dependence on one another – driving to and fro, building things together, playing games, putting more places out as Natalie’s sister and fiancé also joined us, finding fun things to do together – everything is a bit more complicated with more, but also exciting and fun. Together we filled up the days around Independence Day in Indy. The guys enjoyed playing ping-pong and Axis & Allies. We watched a few movies together, watched fireworks, tried to make s’mores on the stove (since it was now raining outside) and got a free concert from Sean.
Indepenedence Day was a day of American activities. In the morning the guys went shooting at a range. In the afternoon we enjoyed a meal together. In the evening we went bowling and then walking along a trail with lots of other people on their way to a festival and firewroks (it wasn’t yet raining). But this day was also a day of saying goodbye. The following day we would move on to our next destination. You can see the pictures of our Indy stay here
It will not be easy for Shirley to leave one of her little boys behind after waiting so long to see him again. We know how independent our children must be, but it is not always easy to see. We are so thankful that we were able to spend this time together. We are thankful most of all for the realisation that we are dependent and can depend on the great might and grace of our Lord – always and everywhere.

Now may our God and Father himself and our Lord Jesus clear the way for us to come to you. May the Lord make your love increase and overflow for each other and for everyone else, just as ours does for you. May he strengthen your hearts so that you will be blameless and holy in the presence of our God and Father when our Lord Jesus comes with all his holy ones.   1 Thessalonians 3:11-13