Family · ministry · Uncategorized

Brokenness

Brokenness-3Today is Good Friday.  As I have so gently reminded my children, the goodness in today came after we understood the price that had been paid for us.  Otherwise, there was nothing particularly good about this day.  It was filled with pain and suffering for a broken world.

Brokenness.  Recently I was sitting around a table and a common theme that was shared concerned brokenness.  Some of us were broken (most of us have been at some point in our lives) and many of us were doing our best to bring the healing light of Jesus to others who have been broken inside the church.  Sadly, many of our stories were not about people who have been hurt by the world, but more often than not, the church has not been the place of healing, love and restoration that it should be in Christ, but it has spoken a voice of rejection or condemnation to those who are a precious part of the Body.

How do you speak hope to those who have been hurt by the church?

With that same group of people at the table, one man reminded us of the last miracle that Jesus performed before His crucifixion.  Remember Jesus in the garden with His followers?  Remember that hot-tempered disciple, Peter (who would be drastically transformed on the day of Pentecost but at this moment was still operating on his own)? Peter, who was most likely aiming to cut off the soldiers entire head, cuts off an ear trying to prevent the arrest of Jesus.

What did Jesus do?

He picks up that ear and puts it back on.  He heals the soldier.  Or as the wise man at the table reminded us…Jesus heals what one of His followers has messed up. 

It really isn’t a new thing that Jesus’ followers are messing up stuff and Jesus has to intervene on His own behalf.  Today, we are encouraged to become the healing agent that Jesus uses today to fix the messes that His followers are still making.

Today, this Good Friday, this reminds me to keep myself in check.  Am I becoming less of myself and more of Him?  Am I sharing the love and light of Jesus within the body of Christ.  Can I be a healing agent for what the church has broken?

The goodness of today is the hope that comes on Sunday.  Jesus is victorious over sin and death.  He is the life-giver and the gentle healer.  He is the restorer, making all things new.

My prayer is that this Passover season is not just a time to wear new clothes and hunt down eggs.  Let this be a time of renewal in Christ.  May it be a season of examination to become more like Him.  And may all that I do and say be a reflection of the great gift that was given me in His resurrection.  May He use me to heal the brokenness of His people. fullsizeoutput_18a7

Uncategorized

Notre-Dame

the-view-from-the-top

I moved to Belgium in 2004.  Paris is just about a 4 hour drive south or just more than a 1 hour super fast train ride.  It is close enough that I have been there literally countless times.  I have certainly seen Notre-Dame at least 10 times.  I have stood on the square and run from the pigeons.  I have taken the same picture of the inside over and over.  I have marveled at the detail on an 850 year old structure.  I have been entertained by the gargoyles and the belief that their scary faces could keep demons out.  I have walked around the backside because I secretly found it more beautiful than the front.

I was so sad to see the church on fire just last night.  As I was reading one article, someone said that all the churches are fire hazards but can remain open because they are places of worship.  Interesting.  He was basically saying that they are all dangerous and uncared for or not maintained.

That sounds about right for an area of the world that is living in a post-christendom society.  The church buildings are empty.  They have become a place to admire the architecture or remembrance of a time gone by but not a place where the activity of God flows.  Even as Notre-Dame burned, sketches of the iconic church with the Hunchback were on the internet.  The story made it famous, not the things of God.

The pictures of the fire saddened me because it is such a famous building, known world-wide that will be forever scarred.  It is history lost.  But my heart is even sadder because it was a message about the church in Europe.

God, restore your church throughout Europe.  Restore your name and open eyes to see that you exist…you are Creator who loves with a never ending, always and forever love. Strengthen the remnant of your church that still lives in Europe.  Set that remnant on fire with the power of the Spirit.  Let it be the light that doesn’t die out and draws people to you.  Amen!

ministry · Uncategorized

Church

We still continue to be thankful to those who came out to help us open a new ministry…one that God has very much been leading and directing and providing for.

As I think about celebrating this Passover and what Jesus did for us in taking the cross and in His resurrection, my heart is to invest in those who are passionate about following Him.  My prayer for this year in ministry is that we won’t have a ministry house full of “church-goers” but we will have those who are Christ followers who gather together…as the light of the city, shining in the darkness.

Our call, every believers’ call, was not one to make  churches, because WE are the church.  Our call is to make disciples.  Jesus only had 12 people, His disciples, who He deeply invested in.  Sometimes we focus on making events to get people through our doors and fill up the pews.  Jesus was always more concerned with pouring into a smaller group and showing them how to go out and change the world around them.  And they did.  Their faithfulness is why mine and yours exists today.

I pray this Passover season that you have someone you are investing in.  You should always be pouring into someone.  Let’s go together and make disciples.

Immigrant Life · Uncategorized

Macedonia

 

This morning, the girls and I got up at 3:30…far too early for any of us…to get on an airplane and fly back home from the last 5 days in Macedonia.  It was our first trip to this country and we went to meet up with our missionary family.  While the adults had meetings, the children got to have fun at the zoo, a museum, the movies and just relaxing and being third culture kids together.

Phoebe is 8 now and she is having a difficult time with all the “good-byes” she has said in her short little life.  Just a few weeks ago, some friends visited us at our home.  The girls enjoyed every minute of being with our friends and yet Phoebe, in particular, was broken with the good-bye.

It happens every time Taytah (my mom) leaves.  The tears come until they just dry up with her exhaustion.  “Why does she always have to leave?” is the question Phoebe asks almost every time.

Last night as we settled into our beds at the hotel, we had already said good-bye to almost everyone in our group of 25 and Phoebe’s heart asked, “Why does it hurt so much when we leave?” No one likes the separation part but third culture kids (those who are raised in a place that is different from their parents’ home country) often struggle with endings.

While life as a TCK can be heartbreaking at times, they are also some of the best and most cultured kids to hang out with.  They are all multi-lingual and understand world history, art, music and other cultures better than others.  They are friendly and have learned quickly how to make new friends.  They seem to mature faster in so many areas and they are resilient beyond understanding some days.

TCK-Table-2They are some of the most well traveled kids with a passport full of stamps.  I used to count how many countries I had been to and lost count several years ago.  Sometimes Phoebe and I talk about all the places she’s been…Belgium, USA, France, Germany, Luxembourg, Netherlands, Denmark, Sweden, England, Italy, Spain, Morocco, Israel, Palestine and Macedonia are all on the list and our 4 year old’s list of places looks nearly the same.

They are adventurous and they explore the world but that only means that their world is so much larger than the one I grew up in and it makes saying good-bye so much harder because you never know when you will be able to say hello again.

God didn’t promise us an easy life.  We, as parents, don’t just make a decision to follow where Jesus leads as if we are unaware of our children. Jesus calls families out, mindful of an 8 year old and a 4 year old as much as He is me and Hary.  We are blessed with the bigness of our world and together we walk through the harder times, hanging on to the hope we will always see those we love again.

Uncategorized

Celebration

Sunday night was the official opening of our new ministry.  We held a special service and invited people who have a heart for what God is doing in this work.  There was music, testimony, encouragement, prayer and fellowship.

About midday on Sunday, Hary and I began to get a little nervous about the number of people who would come into the not-so-big ministry house.  Turns out around 150 (including children) came that evening.  Every seat (and there were 94) was taken.  The children’s area was filled.  The kitchen and office had people standing.  And outside, where the windows were opened, people listened in.

The service lasted about 2 hours and then there was tea, coffee, cookies and baklava for everyone! There were hugs, tears, congratulations given for what God is doing and will do!!

My home church in Effingham, IL was a special blessing for this service.  We did some time calculating and found out that our 5pm service was the same time as their 10am Sunday school hour.  So they had a special time of prayer and praise for the ministry we were doing an ocean away.  As we connected through Facebook video the miles seemed to disappear and a reminder that we are the part of one body was very clear.

So we are off…a new ministry has begun and God is at work! I love being a part of what He is doing and seeing His hand at work in and through us!!

ministry · Uncategorized

Thanking Helping Hands

Last Saturday, Hary wanted to say thank you to all the people who helped renovate the ministry house. If you know my husband, you know he loves meat and finds food a great way to say thanks!  So he invited everyone who he could think of to a bbq and in the end it wasn’t just those who helped who came but it was also just about anyone they knew as well!  Hary ran out of meat during the day and had to go and buy some more. He ended up with at total of about 70 pounds of meat purchased and devoured by the end of the day!!  People were full, satisfied and well thanked!

culture · Family · ministry · Uncategorized

Loving the Missionary

Image result for antwerpHave you ever wondered who your pastor’s pastor is?  I mean, when your pastor struggle or needs someone to pray, who do they call?  Who shepherds them in the dark valleys? 

Well, if you have ever wondered any of that, just know that the missionary is in a similar boat…and often lonelier, outside of their home culture.

Hary and I have asked these questions of ourselves many times…especially in the last 18 months.  Where do we go with the concerns on our hearts?  Who helps us heal? It has been a hard, roller coaster ride of faith.  Honestly, it makes us long for Jesus’ return.

This summer, our family will go the States for a short 3 week trip (aka NOT a vacation) where we go to 5 states and about 10 churches.  (I am a little exhausted thinking about it!) Re-entry is not a vacation like most people assume and for our family it brings its own set of concerns.

Going to America can be a little nerve wracking, especially for Hary.  He’s nervous aboutImage result for antwerp staying in people’s homes and trying to speak English.  The girls are excited to see some people and go to Wal-mart, but two years ago, I learned that food is really hard for them, as well as hours at a time in a car. They are not used to so much fast food and they really just want a kitchen and someone to cook them egg whites in the morning and chicken and rice in the evening. Of course, I am already concerned about food for me too since I follow a grain free, dairy free and sugar free diet to keep my pain away.  I guess McDonald’s hasn’t suddenly gone to a healthy menu?  And I am trying to balance out all the needs of our family and the churches we are visiting.

Hary and I are going through some fatigue at the moment, physically and spiritually.  We are somewhere between excitement and exhaustion as we start this new ministry.  We are praying for discernment and wisdom as we shepherd and counsel a new group of people.  And after all the work to prepare for the ministry, we really just need some soul rest.

I was just googling the idea of tired and worn out missionaries.  I came across some “not so pleasant” statistics.  These statistics will make you want to pray for all the missionaries you know even more!

80% of missionaries burn out and don’t finish their term. (I really hope this isn’t accurate!)  46% of missionaries have been diagnosed with a psychological issue, and of those 87% are diagnosed with depression.  (Free Rain Int’l)

That is scary! When I first arrived in Belgium in 2004, one of the very first things I learned from other missionaries is that Belgium is called the “missionary cemetery.” I was told it is the country where missionaries come to die.  And not too long into my time in Belgium, I saw a great exodus of long-term missionaries.  15 years later, I know that it is possible NOT to die here…but it often feels like a fight for my spiritual life.

How can you help? Pray! Recently, people from my home church asked how we can connect better.  Well, let me loosely speak for all missionaries when I say, we  NEED your prayer. Not just a “bless the missionary family” prayer but specific, spiritual war fighting prayer.  So ask your missionary how to pray specifically for them…which is not the same as praying for their ministry.  Sometimes missionaries don’t share personal needs or family needs because they feel like you just want to hear about the “wonderful” work they are doing.  Missionaries need people who care about them…as people in the body of Christ.

Image result for antwerp Care for them. When you get a chance to talk to a missionary who visits your church, ask how you can “care” for them and their family.  They are so busy taking care of everyone else, that most people never ask how someone can take care of them.  “Service” is their middle name and so it goes against their nature to ask someone to take care of them.  But you can do that.  Ask what they need.

During the heaviest part of the war in Syria (for our family), I was posting about Hary’s family in Syria and how I was trying to get about 22 people out safely and legally.  It was hard and emotionally exhausting.  I lost sleep and felt broken and helpless most of the time.  Someone reading my blogs decided I needed to be cared for.  To this day, I still don’t know who they are but I am very thankful for them.  They sent money to my organization with a qualification.  We were to use the money to take a family vacation outside of Belgium.  (We couldn’t use it to send to Syria or help them get here) That summer, we went to Spain for over a week and soaked up vitamin D in the sun and remembered what it was like to be a family and enjoy each other.  We are forever thankful for the person who could see what we needed more than we could.

There are things your missionary will not, cannot, share publicly during their visit.  In many cases, their hearts are heavy for those they left behind to come and see you.  And yet they love you so much…and that is why they came to visit with you.  So continue to pray for them, continue to partner with them in finances but hear their hearts, invite them for a meal where you let them just be normal people, give them a bear hug and let them know they are not forgotten.  You will bless them more than you can ever know.

Trust me.