Tuesday, June 25, 2019

The Tale of the Old Friend

Daniel and Tonita
Friendships begin in the strangest ways. Some begin in school, where you discover new books at the same time or you realize that you love the same kind of music or tv shows. Sometimes these friendships are even with a brother or sister – if you can believe that that is possible. And it is. But old friends – not a friend who is old, although that is certainly possible and will of course happen in time, but friends who begin of old and remain friends – old friends are able to pick up where they left off the last time they met. 
As we have traveled from midwest state to mountains to Texas to California, we have been able to touch on all of our old friendships and revel in them. Shirley and her sister, Mary, are able to share stories of going to school (or not) and share their hearts with one another. Scott picks up his story with his best friend, Bret, and makes new ones along the way. Sometimes we even meet people who in an evening seem to have become friends as of old. 
Years ago on the last trip we made with both boys – we call it ‘The Road Trip’ and can date all our other trips by that trip – we stopped in to spend the night with a family in Grand Junction, Colorado. They had offered to put us up for the night, having heard of us from Scott’s best friend, Bret. An evening of singing, playing guitar and meeting a loving great big family of kids resulted in a continued encouragement throughout the years. And then suddenly, at a meeting in Greeley, Colorado, you run across one of the kids grown and are able to share this friendship again. 
Or in Texas at the house that has become our away-from-home home. Shirley walked down the aisle in Arkansas to marry Scott on the day that her classmates walked down an aisle to receive their diploma (she received hers in the mail). That evening they left as Mr. and Mrs. Scott Raab and drove out of Searcy, Arkansas. They stopped that first evening in Hot Springs, Arkansas, but drove on the next day. The car they drove was a cobbled together piece of iron riding on tires bought by Scott’s mother. They found out later that second night as they arrived at their destination (two old friends from Canada where they would spend the next two weeks) that the car had gassed them all the way across Texas. 
E.B. and Jean
So the car never drove again, but we went the very next day to services at 11th & Willis church of Christ and were touched by the mission-mindedness and love of the congregation. The next week on Sunday we returned and met E.B. and Jean Dotson with whom we became old friends and whose home became our home whenever we stop in to Texas. Popcorn and m&m’s with a movie is a standard time together, along with long conversations about how God is working in the world and how we all can serve Him better. 
While in Texas this time we also drove down to meet with Tonita and Daniel Stovall – two more old friends. Tonita was Shirley’s roommate, Daniel sang at our wedding and both of them connected us to our supporting congregation in Minnesota. We have shared our lives from afar througout the years and are thankful to be able to meet – if only for a few hours at a cafe in Comanche, Texas. 
We don’t always choose the people we meet. Sometimes it simply happens. But we do choose with whom we will continue these friendships. We are so very thankful for the old friends we get to see again on our travels. Care well for these friendships (I am sure you have them too) and be thankful. Enjoy each moment, even as it is a simple moment for a short time. 

Tuesday, June 18, 2019

The Tale of the New Song

It thrills my soul to hear the songs of praise we mortals sing below. And though it takes the parting of the ways, yet I must onward go...” I want to hear this song – is what we sing. The song of Mozes and the Lamb – a new song, different than all the rest, because the time is different. Time will have passed and we will be Home. That is the new song (see Revelation 5:9 and 14:3). But this is not the only new song. 
As we have moved from supporting congregation to supporting congregation, thrilled at the encouragement that we enjoy and the faithfulness that we see, we have also taken time to work on some singing. We offered a singing workshop in Muscatine and in Denver. The workshop in Denver especially was focused on writing new songs. And then we think of Psalm 96 or 40 or 98. God is our song and makes our heart sing!
Written by John Raab
and Karsten and Sandi Rog
It has been exciting to see what can be done when normal members allow the word of God to touch their hearts. This is one of the things we have been doing in the Netherlands and Belgium with members there. Years ago one the members in Maastricht put the words from Psalm 96 to tune. We still sing it regularly in worship on a Sunday morning or at Bible camp. At the workshop in Denver, two couples worked together to put the words to another tune and learned that God can use them as well. 
This looking for new tunes and putting the words of God to tune has been a real blessing to the church in Belgium and the Netherlands. There are plenty of English-language songs which can be translated (and these have also blessed the church there), but these new tunes come from the members themselves and are in Dutch, not needing translation. 
This is something we would love to see happening all over the world. It is great to recognize a song being sung in a video of a foreign congregation because it is a translation, but how amazing would it be if we were learning and translating songs from other countries and cultures? And what a blessing to be able to sing in your own language and method and harmonies, putting the word of God into your heart? 
Last week we even talked with others about how the deaf brothers and sisters have completely other needs in singing. Yes, they sing. And if we say that it is our hearts that sing to the Lord – and that the most important – than those who are deaf or unable to sing, sing just as much as any other. The deaf Christians emphasize the words and look for signs that are more expressive and clear, since they do not really work with rhyme. However it may be, it is exciting to look to the word of God and allow His Spirit to guide in helping to put these words in our hearts through song.

Are you interested in the four new songs written in Denver? Let us know and we will send you the links when all is ready. 
Interested in some of the songs written in Dutch by members? Check out www.geestelijkeliederen.nl

Saturday, June 15, 2019

The Tale of the Passed Port

A “port” can be a “port of call”, a place where you arrive and depart. We have had many of these already on our travels during this journey, as well as all the many times we have traveled in the past. Each port brings its own special moments, memories and adventures to enter into. 
In Dutch a port is a gate, very much the same idea as a sea port. A gate allows entry into your yard, a barn or even a city wall. It is at the same time a barrier (think of a gate to keep the baby away from dangerous areas in the house) and an entrance. Each time we move to a different location on our travels, we pass through some of these ports, but what do you do when the port threatens to stay closed?
As we readied ourselves to leave Colorado and move on to Texas, we were thankful for Scott’s brother accompanying us to the airport in Denver. He not only works here, but he is calm and business-like when it is needed – and it was needed. Our flight was to leave just before 11am, so we had to leave the house at 7am in order to return the rental car and be at check-in in time to get through all the gates of check-in, baggage and customs before reaching our gate in our terminal. 
To start all of this process requires scanning your tickets at a ‘kiosk’ (some of you can picture this, having done it before), paying for our baggage (that’s another tale for another time) and then getting our boarding passes. At this point the kiosk asks to scan your passports. And it was at this point that we realized, frantically, that Shirley did not have her passport. 
Somewhere (we are still not sure where) her little blue book with stamps from friendly customs officials around the world had gone missing. Andsuddenly we did not know if we would be able to pass through this port to get to their gate. To make things even more complicated, Shirley only has identification from Belgium. Not a problem, really. It is a formal identity card – except that it is according to Belgian standards, which means that it is in her maiden name. 
Do you have any other forms of identification?” my brother asks. “Credit card, driver’s licence?” No – and if she does, it is in her maiden name. You see, the Belgians want their women to be able to keep their name and inherit. So Shirley, in Belgium, has always been known by and must sign her maiden name. But our tickets to fly are in her married name, because that is what is on her US passport: her married name. 
By now we have called Scott’s other brother and asked him to ransack his house, looking everywhere for the passport. Scott’s older brother suggests simply asking the ticketing agent if she can change the ticket, using the Belgian ID card. With trepidation, we stand in the line waiting for the agent, wondering how this will be resolved. We figured that, if need be, we could purchase another ticket, but wondered how our other flights would go. And we hadn’t yet gotten to either of our boys. When we finally approached Loretta (that was her name) Shirley was thoroughly miserable and Scott tried to explain what we needed. 
Loretta calmly took the creditcard-sized ID card and examined it in silence. She glanced at Shirley, looked again at the card and announced, “Well, the date of birth fits. So, okay, we’ll change that ticket for you to Walker-Raab. That should work.” And relief flooded through our limbs as we started breathing again. But we were not yet there. 
Scott’s brother walked with us (he works for TSA) and explained that they would probably flag her ID as alternate and that she would need to go through a pat-down. We went to a different security check where he was sure that they would have a female agent. Otherwise we would need to wait until they found one. But at this checkpoint, the TSA official simply looked at her ticket, glanced at her card and passed her through. We had passed this port and were on our way to the gate.
We said our farewells to Scott’s brother at the gate, thanking him profusely for his calm and his suggestion to just try what we could. We should have known. The Dutch have a saying: “You already have ‘no’. You can only get ‘yes’ if you ask.” We had passed all the way through this gauntlet and took our flight to Texas where we would need to set in motion the wheels needed to get a new passport in time to make our international travels. But we will still need to repeat this process of passing these gates three more times before we see our boys and head back to Belgium. 
Knowing that you are welcome, that you belong, is essential to our life and our life in Christ. We are so thankful that Jesus the Christ not only knew what we needed in order to pass through the gate of death but to enter into the gate of eternal life, but also took care of it. Have you considered this? What is keeping you back if you haven’t made a choice to join Him? You already have “no”. God is waiting with “YES”! 

Monday, June 10, 2019

The Tale of the Colorado Kid

Years ago, in a kitchen in Berlin, Germany, a family listened to John Denver sing about Rocky Mountain High and discussed where they should move to when dad retired. Colorado sounded like a paradise land, full of mountains and gold rush, science fiction space dangers (NORAD was where we would move), new possibilities and friends. We (Scott and his family) grew up in an Air Force family, moving every three years or sooner to a new place. Now, things would change. We would stay put. Scott was in sixth grade and excited about what was to come. 
They drove out to Colorado Springs and I remember the first sight of the mountains – after realizing that the other siting of the mountains were just clouds on the horizon. “No, really. Those are mountains!” We stopped the car, got out and had a small snowball fight (it was Fall). Our new house had a backyard where we could throw the football. We were quickly out of breath and somehow it just seemed cool that this came from the elevation (more than a mile high!). 
A lot of the most important influences in my life came here. I became a Bronco’s fan (we were, after all, now in Colorado), started singing in all different ways, learned about and experienced Bible camp and met my best friend who helped me to meet Jesus Christ. I was born in Colorado Springs (even though I first saw the world’s light in San Antonio, Texas). It is hard to believe that those beginnings were all so long ago – so sometimes I just don’t do the math. I just enjoy the memories. 
While we are here in Colorado, we are spending some time in Colorado Springs visiting with Scott’s two brothers and their families before going up to Denver to visit with his older brother and sister. We met up with the brothers in Fargo’s Pizza Parlor, which is a memory in itself for Scott. The next day we drove around visiting Scott’s old haunts: his elementary school junior high and high school. We also dropped by his old house and talked to the current owner and took a picture of Scott’s “climbing tree”. 
A night of bowling at the old bowling alley down the street, a dinner full of conversation about current travels, laughing about past hilarities and discussing jobs and kids and grandkids have filled the few days here. It has been good to see everyone again.There is a brother missing, but that will come in a different tale. 
For now, we have continued on the Colorado trail. On Saturday Scott offered a singing workshop at the congregation where his best friend preaches. It is amazing to see how God can help people who think they cannot write music write 4 new songs that will encourage fellow Christians. Sunday evening Scott met with others to talk about how Christian camps help develop the members of the church. It was good to share stories, meet old friends and make new friends. It has been good to see the Colorado kids. 
Do we ever know where we are going to arrive when we depart? We think we do. We were on our way to Colorado. But that was a journey that so far has led us to Belgium and the Netherlands. We still don’t know where all of this is taking us, but we know that the journey is a good one, because we are walking with Him wherever we go. Where are you going? Or… with whom are you going? 
Here are the pictures of this leg of the journey (I will still be adding to these in the coming days). Next we will be heading down to Texas – but that is another tale. 

Wednesday, June 05, 2019

The Tale of Stepping in St. Paul

'Twin Cities' is a very apt description for Minneapolis-St. Paul. These two major cities mirror each other across the river. While we were visiting our supporting congregation of Woodbury church of Christ, we stayed for the first time in St. Paul which is the capitol of the state of Minnesota. In the past we spent most of the time in the suburbs of Woodbury, or across the border in Hudson, Wisconsin. This was the first time for us to stay in St. Paul and get to know this area. 
After the graudation parties from The Tale of Home and meeting with the church on Sunday, we had a bit of free time on Memorial Day. Many people think about cooking out, visiting with family and celebrating those who have died for the country. We were staying with a young couple in St. Paul who work from home – a newly purchased house which they were willing to share with us for a few days. But it literally rained on all the parades that day. 
By the evening, however, we just needed to get out of the house for a bit and walk around. So we borrowed two pink and purple umbrellas from our hosts and walked downtown. We were that close that it was only about a 30 minute walk. We didn’t know what we would find, but have never been adverse to an adventure. And this was not the only adventure. The rest of our time in Minnesota was spent enjoying stepping out in St. Paul (and a few other areas). 
That first evening downtown brought us to "The St. Paul". That is what this luxurious hotel is called. We just knew that we wanted to see what we expected to be a beautiful lobby. But the exuberently friendly desk clerk directed us to all the exciting areas in the hotel, invited us to eat in the hotel restaurant and told us all sorts of interesting tidbits about the city and the hotel. Presidents stayed here (and paid a whopping $2 a night at the time). 
Later that evening we walked with our hosts, Corbin and Mandy, to a local brewery turned indoor market. Many things are indoor in Minnesota as a result of what the winters can be like. That is why one of the biggest malls is found here, the Mall of America. We of course could not skip spending an afternoon looking around this mall and being amazed at how much is offered in one location. Stores upon stores, and even a theme park inside the mall! 
Later in the week, we were welcomed by our second host, Jimmy, to his midcentury-modern home not far from the old St. Paul airport (Holden Field) where we got a cup of coffee one afternoon. We also walked along the Indian Burial Mounds park looking down on the airfield. A perfect view of the city, with the cathedral and capitol building, welcomed us from atop this bluff. Those two monuments were our next destination. 
Summit Avenue is a broad street lined with monumental mansions of days gone by which tell of the vast wealth that came to this city at and around the beginning of the 20th century. Views over the river, sprawling, beautiful homes of various styles and sunshine to enjoy it all. We walked along the mansions and back to the cathedral perched atop the point of the hill. This cathedral, built according to the St. Peter’s cathedral in Rome, rose in the place of one of the mansions and took about 20 years to complete. 
After strolling through the stone interior, we jumped in the car and rode the short distance to the capitol building we could see not far away (but too far to walk to). The clouds added to the early evening ambience and we finished another day of wonder-walking in St. Paul, enjoying the homes and neighborhoods as we returned to our host’s home. (check out the pictures from this tale here)
In our last few days we enjoyed walking around the neighborhood to a rental house our host was working on, visiting a brass quintet concert at one of the many, many universities these cities are graced with, walking around a small lake where we listened to birdsong and shared conversations about the song of life in Jesus Christ, and visiting Minnehaha Falls. All of these walks were spent with old friends and new contacts. Walking together is always a good way to spend the time and get to know one another. 
Could it be that is why Jesus invites us to walk with Him in the light? It is exciting that no matter where we go – whether in St Paul, Minnesota or Colorado (our next stop), we can walk with Jesus, the King and get to know him. The world is a different place when we take that walk. 

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

Tuesday, June 04, 2019

The Tale of Home

Whoever has traveled and lived in various locations understands that “home” is hard to define. This is even harder as your family – brothers and sisters – begin starting their own lives and moving on. Sometimes just being together means “home”. Sometimes it is a place. Sometimes it is a sound, smell or taste that brings you immediately to a different time and “homey” feeling. 
The first day we arrived in Minnesota, we experienced what some told us is a unique Minnesota (and perhaps Twin Cities) experience: a graduation party for high school graduates. But these parties could rival any wedding reception we have seen. We have understood that parents get together and help one another in these efforts. We were honored to be invited to several of these and pleased to be able to attend two. 
What really hit home at these parties was the feeling of “home”. These graduates get together with fellow classmates and families and look back at the year and ahead to their future. We were able to meet with several members of the congregation in an informal atmosphere. It always helps to get names in your head again before seeing people that we know, but haven’t seen in quite a while. 
Even funner was how we were unexpectedly made to feel at home at both of these parties. At the first, a man was making “Authentic Dutch mini-pancakes”. We of course recognized them immediately as “poffertjes”, so we asked him if he knew Dutch and what his story was. He had the recipe from his grandmother (who they indeed called “Oma”) and had all the necessary pans and accoutrements. We thoroughy enjoyed a few, even though we don’t usually eat pancakes, and felt at “home” – as if we were in Holland. 
The very next evening, we were at another graduation party (see all of Minnesota pictures here) and enjoyed conversations with other members of the church and seeing the graduates revel and imagine. And what did we run into here but a candy bar (literally – a bar with all sorts of candy) with York Peppermint Patties. For Scott, this hearkens to “home” again. This is a candy he loved when growing up but which is unavailable where we live. So he was “home” again. 
The beautiful thing on all of our travels is that we often feel at home and away at the same time. This is often bittersweet, but beautiful. And it consistently reminds us that “this world is not my home, I’m just a-passin through.” We know we will never feel completely at home here, but when we are together as Christians, we can be at home anywhere.
This was made clear again as we met with the congregation on Sunday. Scott presented the class on the first Sunday to the teens and the next Sunday to the adult class. On the first Sunday afternoon, we also met with the urban ministry group, which is mostly Hmong families who have come to Christ. Whereve we are, wherever we go, we belong to Christ and want to share the love and grace we have received in Him. With Him we are always Home. 

The Tale of Two Families

This is a tale that will be told many times over during these travels. We are journeying from city to city, state to state visiting family, tied to each other by blood either spiritual or physical. As we arrived in Minneapolis following the tale of the alternate airport, we set off the following morning for the warmer climes of Muscatine, Iowa. 
The day after we arrived the temperature hit 91 degrees (that’s fahrenheit, of course). We thought we had finally found summer. But the next day, and almost every day after in Iowa, brought rain and much cooler temperatures. Iowa is a farming state, and although rain is mostly a good thing, too much rain means that the crop cannot be planted or harvested. So not everyone was happy with the blessing from above. Especially as it also brought a good bit of flooding in its wake. 
We, however, had come to a church and a church family used to depending on the Lord for growth and strength. It was good to see old faces (and even speak Dutch to the Schellekens) and meet some new faces. Scott presented a singing workshop for the area and enjoyed challenging thoughts later with the Bible Bros – the young (and not so young any more) brothers of the congregation. What conditions are helping you to grow the seeds of faith in your life? 
We were so thankful to visit with church family, visit later with residents of a local nursing home singing praise to the Lord, and enjoy the hospitality of this family that has been so faithful not only in supporting us, but also our colleague, Sue Foster, who works with the church in Ghent. It is so good to know and feel this tie between the churches in Iowa and Belgium. 
As we left Iowa, the sun shone for a brief moment and we drove across the state, marveling at the beauty of rolling hills, greening in their spring glory – albeit also often drowning in places by the excess waters from the continuing rain. But we were heading to family, and nothing could take away the expectant joy of seeing them again. 
Shirley’s family lives in Omaha, Nebraska and as we drove past the highway works in Council Bluffs, Iowa, leading into Omaha and then past the Henry Doorly Zoo, road works greeted us everywhere. These are mostly due to the recent flooding in Nebraska. Still, we arrived at our hotel safely and headed off to see Shirley’s sister. We were wondering how everyone was doing since we had heard that Shirley’s brother had had to evacuate during the flooding of his town, Valley. What do you do when everything you own is drowned in unexpected flooding or tossed away in a tornado or turned to ash in a fire? Many of our friends have had to deal with these things in recent months. We were thankful to see that Shirley’s brother had landed on his feet, finding a new home, and that his town was already drying out. 
When we come to Omaha, we enjoy getting to see kids we have known since they were just 2 years old. Shirley’s sister came to live with us at certain periods in the beginning of our marriage. Now those kids are grown, married and have their own kids. Time flies indeed. So besides visiting and enjoying these family moments, we took a quick walk down memory lane, visiting some of the schools Shirley and her sister attended. 
The most difficult part of seeing family is having to separate again. Shirley’s sister is struggling with her health and our heart wants to stay and help. It feels good to be together again but the reality of the differences between physical family and spiritual family assert themselves at times like this. We so want to know that we will see all of our family again, but that is only possible as blood relatives of the family of Christ. We were thankful for time to make this clear during our visit with family. 
Our time in Omaha was short. We drove off in the sunshine and head north again to Minnesota where we would close this loop of the travels. But that is another tale. In the meantime, we have updated some of the pictures if you are interested in seeing those.