Sunday, January 5, 2014

October-December 2013 newsletter

Mission to the Low Countries

October - December 2013

"I thank my God every time I remember you." 
Philippians 1:3

Dear friends and family,

I hope you all have enjoyed this recent holiday season and that 2014 is starting out to be a wonderful year for you!

The end of 2013 was a blessed time for me!  I was recently able to see many of you in October and November while I was on furlough.  Here’s a summary of that time.

I arrived in the US on October 1st and was able to spend a few days in my hometown of Muscatine, Iowa.  From there, my travels took me to Clear Lake, IA, York, NE, Bismarck, ND, Weyburn, SK (Canada), Minneapolis, MN, Fort Dodge, IA, Tomah, WI, Sheboygan, WI, Branson, MO, Nashville, TN, Ankeny, IA and then back to Muscatine for the last two weeks.  I made presentations to seven different congregations, attended Homecoming for my alma mater, York College, as well as a lectureship and a ladies’ retreat, spent a weekend in Branson with my father, visited supporters, reconnected with old friends, and spent Thanksgiving with my family.  I enjoyed the hospitality of many people (for which I can not thank you enough!) and put almost 6000 miles (about 9500 km) on my parent’s car.  (Thank you, Mom and Dad, for letting me use the car!!)

When making presentations about my work, I was able to update people about my work with the Let’s Start Talking program, children’s Bible school days, youth rallies, Bible camp, the European Singles Retreat and other activities.  I also gave a status report on my financial support.  My needed budget is $2415 per month, and I currently have monthly support of $1260 per month.  There, obviously, is quite a discrepancy.  I’ve been able to manage to date with less donations per month because I’ve fallen behind on some financial commitments.  Because I need to get caught up on those commitments, it’s necessary for more fundraising to occur.  If you, your congregation or someone you know would be willing to take a look at my information and consider supporting this work, please let me know.  

On December 4th, I arrived back in Belgium.  After recuperating from the excitement/exhaustion of furlough, I was able to start getting back into work as well as enjoy the festivities of the holiday season.  There were many opportunities to help with childcare for church members as well as Let’s Start Talking contacts.  I rejoined the ladies’ Bible study in progress and met up with some of my Let’s Start Talking readers.  I also enjoyed several holiday celebrations with friends.  Now that the holidays are past, school is back in session and people are getting back to normal schedules, I look forward to reconnecting with more people and getting back to a more normal schedule myself.  

Below are a few pictures from my furlough.  I was able to reconnect with my friend, Jessica, who made the move to the Netherlands with me back in 2000.  We hadn’t seen each other for eleven years!!  It was great to see her and meet her young daughter.  I was also able to spend time with supporters and have a taste of the RV adventure they have been on for the last couple of years.  And a great blessing was being able to spend Thanksgiving with my family.  In the front of the picture, you can see my 99 year old Gran!!  She’ll be turning 100 in February!!

Upcoming Activities:
- Young adult fellowship day 
- Youth rally here in Ghent
- Girls youth rally in Antwerp that I am organizing
- European ladies retreat

Specific prayer requests:
- Continued fundraising
- Let’s Start Talking contacts
- Ghent youth rally and Girls youth rally planning/organization

- For your generosity and hospitality during my furlough
- For your continued care and support
- For reconnecting with so many 

As we begin a new year, I want to let you all know of the commitment I made to many while I was in the States.  I will be writing a newsletter every two months and have it written by the 5th of the next month.  (i.e. the January/February newsletter will be written by March 5th)  I still have my blog, and I will try to put small updates on there when I can.  The blog address is -

I pray that we all can resolve to focus on what is truly important in this new year and bring glory and honor to our God!

In Him and through His strength,

Friday, May 17, 2013

January/February 2013

The first two months of 2013 were incredibly busy months for me here in Belgium!  I'm sorry January and February got away from me without an update, but here it is now.  After I return from our church retreat this weekend, I'll work on a report for March and April.

January started out with wonderful things going on every weekend.  The first weekend we celebrated the wedding of two of our young adult Christians here in Ghent!  Many of us in the Ghent church helped out to make Shareya and Jonasdi's day extra special.

The next weekend there was an Anker activity (young adult activity) in Eindhoven, Netherlands.  I had planned on being there, but unfortunately, I ended up being sick that weekend.  I heard that there was a great time had by all, though!

The next weekend we celebrated with another young couple who had recently married.  Stephan Raab grew up in Belgium (son of missionaries, Scott and Shirley Raab).  He married Natalie in December in Ohio, and on the 19th, they had a reception in Belgium.  Both Stephan and Shareya were young teens when I lived in the Netherlands, so it was great getting to celebrate their weddings with them in January!

The final weekend in January found me in Liege, Belgium visiting with good friends.  It's always a blessing getting to worship with the church in Liege.  I don't understand everything that goes on since Liege is in the French speaking part of Belgium, but they always do their best to help me understand!

At the beginning of the month, several of my weekdays were busy with getting my paperwork in order for my visa renewal.  Some of it came right down to the wire, but I'm happy to say that my visa was renewed for another year!

My weekdays were also busy with a number of English lessons.  Here in Ghent, we've been involved with the Let's Start Talking program since the church began.  During January, I had four different LST readers plus an extra special English lesson.  Last summer, I had a few LST lessons with a woman named Lieve.  She wanted to brush up on her English before she made a trip to the States in September.  Several months after I had had lessons with Lieve, her daughter called me to see if I would be willing to teach her children English.  I told her I had never done that before, but I would take up the challenge.  It has been great getting to know this family better and  spending more time with them while being able to share the love of God with them.

My weekdays were also filled with things like a dinner for our Korean LST readers before they returned to Korea, planning for weekend events, and some childcare.

My weekends in February were just as busy as my weekends in January.  The first weekend, we had a "pillow party" at Holly's house.  The ladies of our church have taken on a project to make heart shaped pillows for breast cancer patients to use under their arm after they have had surgery.

The second weekend, I was in Antwerp helping to host the Girls Youth Weekend.  My teammate, Amanda, and I were in charge of the girls weekend this year.  It was great getting to work with Amanda on this project!  The theme was "Beauty from the Inside Out".  We used several skits to teach the lessons then discussed them with the girls afterwards.  The girls really seemed to enjoy this format!  We also had great helpers for the weekend.  Several of our young adult ladies helped out with translation work before the weekend as well as some great ideas.  They were also at the weekend and were a tremendous help!  And all of this with two of them being pregnant as well as my teammate, Amanda!

The third weekend was another Anker activity.  This one was here in Ghent and was organized by a couple from our church.  It was a great day of fellowship, and thankfully, this time I was able to be in attendance!  (Thank God for health!)

The last weekend, and the week before it, I was in Germany for the Advanced Bible Study Series.  I've attended these lessons every year I've been in Belgium as well as the years I was in the Netherlands.  It's a great week to see people I haven't seen since the previous year, listen to wonderful and challenging lessons given by teachers from the US and around Europe, and just get away for a bit.  It's an intense week, but we manage to enjoy ourselves a lot as well!  This year, the speaker brought over from the US was Monte Cox.  I've always enjoyed hearing Monte speak at various missions events, and it was a pleasure getting to hear him the entire week as well as just getting to "hang out" with him.  During the week, it was my grandmother's 99th birthday, so I took advantage of having so many people around me from so many different countries.  I recorded people saying and singing Happy Birthday to her in multiple different languages.  She was thrilled with this gift!  It was nice to know I could give her this unique gift since I wasn't able to be with her in person.

The weekdays in February were similiar to those in January.  I had all the same English lessons plus an additional one.  The young lady who married at the beginning of January, Shareya, had asked me last year if I would consider giving her English lessons as well.  I wasn't sure what I would be able to teach her since her English is already very good, but she wants to speak English to her kids when she has them and feels like her English needs to be better in order to do that.  I told her I would accept this challenge, and we've been using one of her Old Testament textbooks from her time at Harding as our text for the lessons.  We had taken a break during January (as she was just a bit busy!), but in February, we started up again.  It's wonderful getting to spend more time with her!

There was also another appointment at the immigration office to take in money and new pictures for my new I.D. card, lots of planning for the girls weekend, kid's class at church and another childcare opportunity in February.

Two busy months, but two really great months!

Again, I'm sorry for the delay in getting this report out!  I can't thank you all enough for your love and support!  Without all of you, I wouldn't be able to be here serving God.  I praise and thank Him for all the ways He takes care of me, and one of the biggest ways He does that is through all of you!  Thank you!!

Sunday, March 3, 2013

Catching Up (again!)

Hello dear friends and family,

Well, once again it's been way too long since I've written an update.  So sorry!  I've decided that instead of trying to catch you up on the last 10 months, I'm going to just start from this year.  So my next post will be my January/February update, and I will do my best to send an update at least every two months.

I truly appreciate you all, and I do want you to know about what I'm doing here!

Thank you so much for your love and support!

Friday, April 20, 2012

Update - April 2012

Isn't time a funny thing? I've been back from furlough for about four and a half months now, but in a lot of ways it seems like I just got back. It was interesting taking my first furlough. I was so incredibly blessed getting to finally see family and friends after three years! I was also pleasantly surprised to be able to be some places and see some people I hadn't realized I would. I'm also incredibly grateful that so many of you accomodated my last minute (some very last minute!) requests for housing or to make presentations! I did end up spending many more hours behind the wheel of the car than I thought I would, and that certainly was a shock to the system after not having driven for three years! But I am very thankful that those hours allowed me to see so many of you! I'm sorry I missed seeing some people. You think eleven weeks sounds like a long time until it's over, and you realize you could use more time!

But eleven weeks is definitely a long time to be away from your home and your work! I felt very "out of the loop" when I returned to Belgium. I also returned to a new appartment that still had a lot of boxes to unpack! Not an easy task when you've just completely exhausted yourself!! As a matter of fact, I'm still working on getting everything in its place. I was very blessed, though, to find that my good friend and teammate, Holly, had started the organizing process for me! Furniture was arranged and boxes were in their appropriate rooms. I had also allowed a group of students to stay at my place while I was gone, so I know that extra cleaning was done. Thank you so much, Holly!

Along with unpacking and settling back into the routine here, I've been busy with several others things since I've been back. Since I need to leave soon for my next activity, the European Singles Retreat (that I'm one of the organizers of), I'll give you a quick list of my activities for the last few months.

Reapplying for my residence permit - and I was granted another year!
Winter Retreat in Eindhoven, Netherlands at the end of December
Advanced Bible Study Series in Germany
Girls youth weekend (youth rally) in Eindhoven
European Ladies Retreat
Dienoday (one day VBS) in Antwerp (on my birthday!) :-)

Along with these activities, I've also signed up for twice weekly Dutch classes again (language skills get rusty when you don't use them for two and a half months!). I started up my weekly English lesson/Bible study with Herman again. Holly, Amanda and I have started a new weekly ladies Bible study. I've also been able to teach the kids' class at church several times, and I've been able to help two of our church members several times when they've been in need of childcare. I've also recently had the opportunity to go over to a classmate's house (from Dutch class), so she could help me catch up on some work. I went at 2:30 in the afternoon and left at 2:30 in the morning! Lots of good conversation!! Unfortunately, the catch up work was needed because I've battled with several illnesses this winter.

Some things to pray for:

My health - I'm healthy now and hope to stay that way!
Herman - English/Bible study contact
Upcoming retreats/activities (Singles Retreat, church soccer tournament in Switzerland, Ladies Day in Antwerp, Work camp, etc.)
Upcoming summer activites - Let's Start Talking campaign, Young Friends campaign, Remodeling work at Bible camp, Bible camp weeks

I'm so thankful for all of you and especially for your love, support and PRAYERS!! Thank you for being part of my life and this work!

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Bible camp

One of my greatest joys here in Belgium is getting to work with the kids, and in the summer, that means spending some time at our Bible camp. Our camp is located in Wallonia, the southern (French-speaking) part of Belgium, in the Belgian Ardennes. It is absolutely beautiful there with lots of hills and trees! There's a hill we love climbing to a tree called the "Love Tree". Many initials of dating couples have been carved in that tree over the years, but what also draws us back to that spot is the beautiful view you get from there. Here is a picture of the view from the Love Tree. Just gorgeous!

Last summer I had the privilege of helping at our Teen Camp (12 - 14 years olds). It was a really special week in that almost all of the staff came from our church here in Ghent. We also had a great group of kids! We all agreed that the week couldn't have been better! I was the girls' counselor for the week as well as the babysitter for my teammates' kids, Gideon and Isaak (Luk and Holly's boys). I would take care of the boys whenever Luk and Holly's respective tasks had them both busy at the same time. My only bit of feedback at the end of the week was that it was difficult trying to keep up with both jobs - being there for the girls and taking care of the little boys. That's why this year when Luk asked if I would again come and be camp babysitter, I said, sure - as long as I only have that one job! :-)

So, this year I helped at our week of camp for the older teens (15+). I had a few more little ones to take care of, off and on, than last year. Eva came and helped later in the week and brought her daughter, Jana along. Also, our friend, Anneleen, came a couple of days to help in the kitchen, and she brought her two sons with her. I did have some extra special help later in the week, though, as Gideon and Isaak's Opa (grandpa) came for the last few days! The picture to the left is me, Gideon, Isaak, Eva, Jana and Opa (Luk's dad, Mark). We had just finished our climbing adventure and stopped to take a picture by this well.

To the right is a picture of Gideon and I performing for the Talent Show. We sang the song, "Read Your Bible", in three languages - English, Dutch and French! How many of you were singing in three languages when you were five years old?? (Not me, but Gideon can!)

All in all, it was a fun week! It was great to be able to take care of the little ones again, so their parents were free for their own tasks. Plus, it was good to have some time to spend with the teens. I managed to play several card games and had some good discussions.

I want to ask all of you to pray for our teens here. We all know that the teen years can be challenging, but this is especially true if you are the only teen at your school who attends church or believes in God. We have a good group of kids here, but some of them are struggling to make good choices. Please pray for them, for their parents and for those of us who have opportunities to touch their lives from time to time.

Next week I will be out at camp again for Family Camp. This is always a very enjoyable week - and a bit more relaxing than the youth camps! Please pray that the week will go well, that good Bible lessons will be brought and that we will have good fellowship with our Christian brothers and sisters!

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Praise God with me!

Many of you have been asking for some time now when I'm going to be making a visit back to the States, and up until now, the answer has been, "I have no idea." This is because my residence permit expired almost a year and a half ago, and despite several trips and phone calls to the immigration office, I wasn't receiving any information on a new one. Not that this meant that Belgium was holding me hostage or anything, but without a valid residence permit, if I had left Belgium, I could very well have been denied access back.

Well, I called the immigration office again today and found out that I have been issued a new 6-month residence permit! I have an appointment on the 28th of July to take in new passport pictures and the money to pay for my new identity card. At this point, I'll be able to find out exactly when this new permit will expire. (It's possible that the six months has already started, or they may start it when they issue the new card. Hard to know already.) As soon as I know exactly when the card is going to expire, I'll be able to set some dates for a trip to the States!! Can't wait to see everyone again!!

Praise God with me over this wonderful news!! I've been living in "limbo-land" for a long time now, so having this answer is truly a blessing from God!

I know this isn't one of the promised posts where I explain one of the items on the list, but I decided this news trumped one of those posts! ;-)

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

This past year......

Here's a quick summary list of the things I've been involved in this past year. I will write separate posts for each of these giving more details.

This past year I've been involved in.........

a Let's Start Talking campaign here in Ghent plus follow-up lessons through-out the year,
young adult activities,
a Ladies' Day for Dutch speaking ladies,
the organization committee for the European Ladies Retreat,
various youth weekends (youth rallies) and other youth activities,
Bible camps,
young children's Bible School Days (Dienodag),
the organization committee for the European Singles Retreats,
Copa Benelux (a soccer tournament organized by several guys from the Ghent church),
Advanced Bible Study Series in Germany,
a ladies' Bible study here in Ghent,
various childcare opportunities for different church activities,
various Bible studies with different groups,
and other service and encouragement opportunities in Ghent and with other congregations.

The Ghent church has also just recently completed a period of evaluation. Several changes and new projects have come about through this evaluation. I'll describe this in more detail in a later post.

On a personal front, this past year has also been the year when I've started jogging/running. I've now completed two different 5K races. Another precious opportunity I had this past year was spending Christmas with a wonderful couple in Liege, Belgium. I had been planning on being home for Christmas this past year, but since that didn't work out, being able to spend Christmas with Mary and Pierre was a wonderful blessing! But again, more about that in a later post.

Let me end this post with a scripture that always come to mind when I think about all my dear friends and family:
"I thank my God every time I remember you. In all my prayers for all of you, I always pray with joy because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now, being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus." Philippians 1:3-6