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Sunday, 16 December 2012

Homeward bound

There was a film once about a couple of dogs and a cat that travel across America in search of their rightful owners.  Then there was the song Homeward bound by Simon & Garfunkel.  Great band by the way - absolutely love their sound.  Can't you just hear the song playing in your head?
Homeward bound - I wish I was
Homeward bound
Home, where my thought's escaping
Home, where my music's playing
Home, where my love lies waiting
Silently for me

When Alan and I think about this phrase suddenly there is some confusion in our minds. 

Where's home?

Yesterday we arrived home after nearly a month in Georgia.  But Georgia is a place I will forever call home as well.  Then Thursday we leave Germany to go to Alan's "home" in England.  Technically both our physical houses in Georgia and England are being rented and we have to stay with our parents whenever we visit but in our minds consider those places and to now a bigger extent, Germany - home. 

What about other missionaries? 

I think of people that go to France, Chile, South Africa or the Middle East on mission.  They sign up for 1, 3 or 5 years as an example.  While there, they think about, miss and dream about going "home".  Some visit more frequently, others stay on the field for the entirety of their commission and then take 6 months to relax, raise additional funds or consider pursuing other opportunities.  They have come to do a job and when that's finished they will return, home. 

So what about Alan and me? 

We never came to Germany with a 3 or 5 or 10 year plan.  There was never in our mind, "ok in this amount of time we'll be done and we can go home." There was just, "this is where Gods calling us to go and we have no idea for how long but it could be forever." sort of conversations.  Still now when we visit our homes people say they are secretly praying we'll come back or they ask us how long we intend to stay to do our work.  Even the Germans we work with probably believe we'll be leaving at any time although we have made no hint of leaving any time soon. 


When I think about home, I think about Georgia, Germany, sometimes England but more and more lately I've been thinking about heaven. 

I thought about Heaven when my friend Brennen lost her twin girls and they are now waiting for their mom and dad there.  I thought about Heaven when my mom started one of our first conversations last month with, "when I die you need to know that I do not want to have my memorial service in a gymnasium!" lol.  I thought about Heaven when those precious, precious babies were murdered by a lunatic in Connecticut last week.  I thought and still think about their precious mommas who are mourning them now and will mourn probably until the day they die

Heaven.  Home.  Homeward bound.  We are all homeward bound if we are followers of Christ and we all long for the day when all suffering and sadness and tears will be wiped away by the King of Kings and Lord of Lords.  God alone will provide justice for all the wrongs committed on this earth.  He alone will decide when Jesus will return - not the Mayans or any other nut.  I was reading I Peter chapter 4 this morning and it so encouraged me.  I hope it will encourage you as well.

From Bible Gateway, NIV
4 Therefore, since Christ suffered in his body, arm yourselves also with the same attitude, because whoever suffers in the body is done with sin. 2 As a result, they do not live the rest of their earthly lives for evil human desires, but rather for the will of God. 3 For you have spent enough time in the past doing what pagans choose to do—living in debauchery, lust, drunkenness, orgies, carousing and detestable idolatry. 4 They are surprised that you do not join them in their reckless, wild living, and they heap abuse on you. 5 But they will have to give account to him who is ready to judge the living and the dead. 6 For this is the reason the gospel was preached even to those who are now dead, so that they might be judged according to human standards in regard to the body, but live according to God in regard to the spirit.

7 The end of all things is near. Therefore be alert and of sober mind so that you may pray. 8 Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins. 9 Offer hospitality to one another without grumbling. 10 Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms. 11 If anyone speaks, they should do so as one who speaks the very words of God. If anyone serves, they should do so with the strength God provides, so that in all things God may be praised through Jesus Christ. To him be the glory and the power for ever and ever. Amen.

Suffering for Being a Christian

12 Dear friends, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal that has come on you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. 13 But rejoice inasmuch as you participate in the sufferings of Christ, so that you may be overjoyed when his glory is revealed. 14 If you are insulted because of the name of Christ, you are blessed, for the Spirit of glory and of God rests on you. 15 If you suffer, it should not be as a murderer or thief or any other kind of criminal, or even as a meddler. 16 However, if you suffer as a Christian, do not be ashamed, but praise God that you bear that name. 17 For it is time for judgment to begin with God’s household; and if it begins with us, what will the outcome be for those who do not obey the gospel of God? 18 And,
“If it is hard for the righteous to be saved,
what will become of the ungodly and the sinner?”[a]

19 So then, those who suffer according to God’s will should commit themselves to their faithful Creator and continue to do good.

Monday, 29 October 2012

A visit to the Deutsche Missionsgemeinschaft (DMG)

Today Alan and I paid a visit to the DMG or the Deutsche Missionsgemeinschaft which translates into English as the German missions fellowship.  We met with Monike, the mobilization coordinator and the director, Detlef Bloecher and then had a tour of their beautiful grounds and homes. Until recently we did not realize that DMG was located so close to us nor that they are partners with our missions organization, Pioneers.  Because Pioneers does not have a mobilization base in Germany, they partner with two organizations, one of which is DMG, to send Germany citizens out on mission to their teams around the world.  DMG has no "teams", only 400 plus missionaries that they have helped to mobilize and support to other partner organizations like Pioneers. Alan had heard of a place which hosted missionaries that was doing similar things to what we wanted to do long-term but it wasn't until about a month ago that we put 2 and 2 together to realize the organization he was talking about was the same organization that partners with Pioneers.

Anyway, we got contact information from the mobilization office for Pioneers Europe and setup a meeting to discuss how we might encourage/help/partner with eachother.  They were thrilled to know there was a Pioneers team in the area and we were excited to see that they have 62 years experience sending out missionaries around the world.  They certainly have plenty of experience, wisdom and guidance to help our fledgling ministry here get off the ground.

As an example these are some of the things DMG is engaged in currently:
  • Support for 400+ missionaries serving with over 100 partner missions organizations around the globe (as a comparison, Pioneers USA has 800 missionaries on the field today).
  • One year GAP like program for students within the DMG in Sinsheim.  Currently 8 students living, working and learning at their campus but they have hundreds that apply and have told us they will funnel applications to us as well for our GAP year type program we hope to kick off when the loft is finished at the end of next year (God willing!).
  • Multi-church prayer service - held on the 3rd Sunday of each month - which we hope to attend, especially now that we are thinking of moving closer to their neck of the woods.
  • Pre-field missionary training - given to all missionaries in mid or long-term service at their campus in Sinsheim.  Lasts approximately 2 months. 
  • Missionary hosting for those on furlough
  • Twice yearly mission conferences
Needless to say their work and their mission is impressive and we look forward to partnering with them in the months and years ahead. 

Here are some links you might find useful or interesting to check out:
Mission-net: Held every two years here in Germany:
Jugendmission: Young persons conference for Worldwide missions:

On a funny side note, Alan and I were running late to our meeting for a variety of reasons so I had to quickly change clothes to get out the door.  Unknowingly I put on a necklace and earrings to match my sweater only to be questioned by Alan 5 hours after returning home as to why I had two pairs of earrings on.  Yes, somehow I managed to put on TWO pairs of earrings without seeing, feeling or noticing that I already had a pair in my ears.  I said, "oh my gosh!  why didn't you say something earlier??"  He said he thought it was the new fashion.  How embarassing!!  They must think we're complete nutters although after meeting Chloe and see her nearly destroy the office where we were meeting I'm sure they just giggled and completely understood!

Saturday, 27 October 2012

Sarah Lee departs for home...

I've known Sarah Lee Kelley for I guess almost 4 years now.  I met her in Carla's bible study and we also attended Vic's college class together.  When I told some of the girls there that I wanted to try to mentor a few of them on a weekly basis, have them over for coffee, make dinner together, etc.  Sarah Lee was one of the girls that signed up.  I loved getting to know her a little bit back then but it wasn't until my little sister Christine told me that Sarah was in fact praying about coming to join our team for a while and she actually came and spent six months with us that we really got to know her.  

To know Sarah Lee is to love her.  Anyone can tell you that and while we're all still learning about this great country where we have served together, we have loved having her over for dinner, talking to her about her triumphs and struggles and just basically seeing her in action.  Here's a bit of a summary of her stay and work with us here in Germany.  She's such a terrific young lady, we thought she deserved a blog post all to herself! :)

Well, Sarah arrived April 7th. We picked her up at the airport, brought her back here, fed her a big breakfast and let her go to sleep for about four hours before we went to the X-Change youth service at the CVJM. Easter was the next day and then she left for the youth camp in Waldheim for a week. She drank nothing but fruit tea, almost froze to death and had no internet but somehow she survived it! :)

Sarah stayed with a host family from the CVJM and enjoyed getting to know them. We got her a train pass and she enrolled in school at the Volkshochschule in the first week after the youth camp. In her first couple of months she started helping out with the Sunday childrens program at the church, organized art projects for the after school childrens program which meets every other Thursday and she attended Tensing (a youth talent competition) every Friday night. Sarah was instrumental with the team from WFBC.  She prepared welcome baskets, sent an intro German lesson and made sure everything was clean and setup for their arrival.  She helped Saskia and Corina with the fellowships each night and worked alongside the team during the day either at the CVJM, the Birke or evangelizing in downtown Heidelberg. She even slept with them at the CVJM. (I think this was just an excuse to live closer to the Doner Kebab place down the street for those late night runs... :) BTW - Sarah is not a salad girl - her favorite thing is the doner box - french fries covered with doner meat.  I tried to get her to eat some vegetables while she was here and she "claims" she did but really... I think she just ate a bunch of doner boxes, German pastries and pop tarts from the states! :)

During July she helped get to know Becs and Beccy from Edge UK, working with them at the CVJM doing various projects as well as helping to run a childrens day camp. She also continued to attend language school each day and help out with work necessary for the Birke, the proLife organization here in Heidelberg. She finished up the after school program for the year, helped with the TenSing concert and worked like a dog at the CVJM.  These were her words to describe the month, " I think my favorite part this past month was definitely working with the Germans and the British on the building- painting with Beccy and Becks, buying paint with Timon, pouring cement with Silas, and definitely learning how to plaster with Alan- it’s the group effort that makes the work even more meaningful. You know you’re working with your family to build something like a new rec hall or future coffee area that will expand God’s family here." 

August was relatively slow so it was a good time for her mom and sister to visit and then it was off to Paris and the south of France to visit her best friend, Ruth-Ann for a couple of weeks.  She then house/dogsat for us while we were off in England, helped with the street festival and TenSing concert there and started prepping for the painting work she would do at the CVJM and the after school program that would be starting back.  It was in August that she finally got her visa approval praise God.  It took sooo long and was so much work for her and her mom.  Note to future participants, get your visas BEFORE you come to Germany! :) 

During September and October Sarah has been working to put her art major stamp on the CVJM with her painting work in the sports hall and in one of the childrens room (we call it the rainbow room because of an old rainbow that "used" to adorn the walls.  Not any more thank goodness! :)  She has plastered, painted, worked with heavy machinery, cleaned and done just about anything asked of her which has been terrific.  It was not all work though - she enjoyed finishing up school and the friends she made there, the many nights hanging out with her new German friends and helping to mentor young people in TenSing, the after school program and the Sunday school. 

To say the least she has been an incredible asset to Pioneers, to our team and to the CVJM.  She's made so many great friendships and we know the impact she left will last many, many years.  Sarah is the kind of person everyone falls in love with and we couldn't be more proud of her.  We're going to miss her bubbly personality and contagious smile, hard work and talent but mostly we'll miss the love she poured out on everyone she met and how her energy was simply contagious.  We hope to have her back again here soon but we know her mom and sister are dying to have her home too. 

We love you Sarah Lee and look forward to seeing you again soon!  Don't forget to trust God with all your heart and to not lean on your own understanding.  In ALL your ways acknowledge Him and He will direct your paths.  Prov 3:5-6. 

Monday, 22 October 2012

Pioneers InTent Residential in Altensteig

Last week I had the opportunity to serve as a gopher for the Pioneers InTent Leadership conference held in Altensteig, Germany. Cathy, our area leader, contacted us about a year ago to see if either of us would be interested in serving as they were interested in bringing the conference to our serving country.  I agreed without much hesitation with the only caveat being that Alan and Chloe could come with me. As the time for the conference approached I was surprised at how much work it was to be this "said gopher"! lol  Transportation details, room and dietary needs, dinner reservations for a night out, spreadsheets that made my head hurt, hundreds of emails between myself, the facilitation team and the hotel. Suddenly I became nervous that I'd bitten off more than I could chew.  Not necessarily for this conference but due to the fact that when I signed up I agreed to do the same conference again next March and I was currently serving on the team for the Europe-wide Pioneers conference in Malta in late April as well.   That's in addition to taking care of Chloe, the house, supporter updates, finances, our website, our teams coming next summer and about a bazillion other things.  (ok well not a bazillion but at the time it felt like that!)  I came to find out during the conference through personality tests we all took that my propensity to take on more than I can possibly manage is high. lol, really?? haha

Anyway, it took us forever to pack because we were arguing so much about something.  I can't even remember what it was (it was that stupid) but finally we were off.  We arrived mid afternoon and checked into a neighboring hotel from where the conference was held due to them not having enough rooms for the first night.  Alan and I were happy to do it but that meant unloading about half our earthly possessions from the car up three flights of stairs for one night then reloading them the next morning to move into the conference hotel.  Fortunately I have a very strong and able bodied husband that didn't mind. :)

Alan also jumped in to help with airport runs and by Monday morning had taken four trips back and forth from the Stuttgart airport (about an hour and a bit away from the hotel).  We enjoyed being involved with as much of the conference as we could in between whatever else we needed to do.  Monday it was a trip for me to the local dentist because of a tooth that had come loose from one of the participants.  Fortunately we found a good dentist that was able to reglue it and didn't charge a ton of money.  Tuesday - Friday sweet Chloe stayed at the local kindergarten attached to the hotel during the morning sessions.  I thought she would have a hard time given she is only 16 months but she did awesome.  The ladies said she was such a joy.  Still, it was so special that every time I would go and pick her up and wave to her across the room as she was playing with one of the other kids she would stop what she was doing, get a huge little grin on her face and come running to me with her arms wide open. 

The meals at the hotel were good for the most part but I'll have to admit to being slightly sick of German food after about day 3.  lol  I couldn't believe how little German food Alan and I actually eat on a regular basis so having it three meals a day was hmmm, interesting! :) Still, breakfasts in Germany are my favorite so I made sure to eat a lot then in case the rest of the meals weren't so hot. Wednesday night we had arranged for everyone to have a dinner out.  At first we couldn't find the restaurant we'd chosen but then once we did everything turned out terrific.  Everyone seemed to love the food and ambience which was great.  A few tables, the participants at which will go unmentioned, were even quite rowdy!  What a treat!

The group of leaders that attended the conference were amazing.  Leaders from Hungary, Poland, Austria, England, Australia, Bosnia, France and Ireland were there just to name a few.  Alan and I loved getting to know people, worshipping God together and just having good fellowship time.  The week ended Friday night and I spent most of my time making sure everyone knew how they were getting to the airport the next morning.  All in all everything went on without a hitch and we're looking forward to the next batch of folks to come through in March. 

This week our sweet Venture student Sarah-Lee leaves to go back to the states. She has accomplished so much in the last six months that she deserves her own blog post.  More on her a bit later... :)

Sunday, 30 September 2012

Are you a believer or are you a follower?

You know when you just feel like God's trying to tell you something?

You read about it in the bible, folks mention it in passing. You just get a burden for something that you can't let go?

Well, that happened to me a few weeks back and I spoke about it at our mid-week Mitarbeiterabend (volunteers night) at the CVJM. It wasn't a warm or fluffy topic by any means but rarely does God say anything to me that is warm and fluffy. It's normally stuff that makes you sick to your stomach with nerves because you know how you might be received. It's stuff that you become so passionate about because you see how very important it is but you also realize that if what God is trying to say is true (and you know it is) then many believers in Christ are going to be offended and possibly put off. Alan sums it up by saying, "well we'll see when's the next time they let you speak again!" lol.

Anyway, whether what I said was to the right audience or not, I do not know but God does. I had hoped others would be there, folks that God had been putting on my heart for a while for various reasons but you go with what you've got and let the Holy Spirit do the rest.

This morning I got confirmation that what I had on my heart was on the heart of God when the pastor at a new church we attended (actually I went for the first time last week at night alone) called Calvary chapel spoke nearly word for word what I talked about on Wednesday. Ok not word for word but same message - same illustrations. It was so eye opening for me to see God work in that way. The same thing used to happen to me when I was at Victory. I would study something and feel God was saying something to me in my quiet time and then Ken would preach on it the next Sunday. I love it when that happens. It's like God doesn't care about church boundaries or about the time or distance that separates us. What he cares about is what's in His word, the state of his (global) church and the heart of every individual.

Anyway, I am copying and pasting the text of what I spoke about on Wednesday and I will add at the bottom some other key points the pastor today spoke about that I felt were just right on. The key theme is, "are you a believer in Jesus Christ or are you a follower of Jesus Christ? I was supposed to talk about housegroups or cell groups and in a way they do tie together but well, you can read it to see...

Why Cell Groups? Why Discipleship?

I could share why you should all be involved with a cell group. I could talk about the benefits, friendships, fellowships you will experience and the fun you will have and while all of that is true I believe God is putting something else on our hearts as a church.

And this is the absolute necessity of all our work, all our ministries, events, trips, worship, preaching - everything we do to be about making disciples.

In Matthew Chapter 28:19, 20 Jesus said, “"Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you.”

It is not enough to just be a believer in Jesus Christ and what He has done. When you claim to have faith you must also commit to follow Christ. Jesus said in Luke 9:23, “If any of you wants to be my follower, you must turn from your selfish ways, take up your cross daily, and follow me. Anything less is equal to nothing at all.

Robin Schumacher, apologist and author says, “I’m convinced that the modern day Church is pregnant with unbelievers. What’s the problem with that, you ask? There’s nothing wrong at all with unbelievers coming to church, but there’s a very real problem when they stay unbelievers. In our seeker friendly churches, unbelievers aren’t being confronted with their fallenness, need for repentance, and requirement to show fruit as proof of their conversion.”

You see, no matter what you’ve heard, there is no distinction between being a “Christian” and being a “disciple”. Being a disciple is not just for the “deeper members” or the spiritually elite, the pastor and his wife, the missionaries. Being a disciple is what Christ requires of us all. He wants us to follow him, to imitate him, to become like him in every way.

I watched a video once about evangelism that showed a bunch of people on a boat that was sinking and they were trying to tell the people on the boat that they could be saved if they would just get in the lifeboat but for one reason or another, with one excuse or another the great majority stayed on the sinking ship. It was meant to fire Christians up that we are in the end times and the boat is sinking and we need to evangelize and get folks into the lifeboat of grace offered by Christ. But the same grace that leads to salvation is the grace we need every day to continually give us the ability to do good works and to help transform us into disciples.

Salvation or justification is not the finish line! Salvation is the starting line for a lifelong journey of following Christ (sanctification). You see believing in Jesus has no meaning if we don’t follow him in discipleship. Believing without discipleship isn’t believing, it’s agreeing to a set of facts about a religious figure.**

In James 2: 19-20 it says, “You believe that there is one God. Good! Even the demons believe that and shudder. How foolish! Can’t you see that faith without good deeds is useless?

So how do you tell if you are a true disciple of the Lord Jesus?  Let me ask you a few questions...

Do you care what God thinks about the things you are doing or not doing? Do you care what God’s Word says about activities or things in your life? Do you stop doing something if God’s Word says it is wrong? Do you start doing something you might not want to do or feel you have time to do because it is what Christ would do?

If we as a church want to make disciples – we need to get serious about three things according to Bill Hull:

§         Deliverance –or evangelism (Baptize them in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Ghost. Discipleship is not just about training Christians, it is about disciples using their spiritual gifts to reach the lost)

§         Development – “Teaching them to obey all that I have commanded you” – This is about your character and how do we together seek to be transformed by Christ over our lifetimes.

§         Deployment – “Go into all the nations” Disciples need to be deployed in mission where they live, work and play and sometimes they need to cross cultural barriers and be deployed around the world to make disciples.**

(**Bill Hull, The Complete book of Discipleship)

 So back to cell groups.

Kevin DeYoung says, “The one indispensable requirement for producing godly, mature Christians is godly, mature Christians.”

Fortunately in the CVJM and in your local church there are godly, mature Christians running great cell groups that you can be a part of. These leaders will teach Gods word, they will hold you accountable, they will care if you are sick. They will notice and give you a call if you don’t come to church. They won’t be afraid to tell you the truth if they see you going down a wrong path. They will invest in your life and love you because they had people that invested in their lives and loved on them.

This is how we see the world come to know Christ. One discipleship relationship after another.

According to Bill Hull in the Complete Book of Discipleship, the four main components of discipleship are:

1. Vision –and what is our vision? ( Answer: to be like Christ and be transformed by him)

2. Accountability- (we need to in submission to at least one other person and preferably to more to live out the life Christ has called us to live)

3. Structure (we need to embrace spiritual habits and disciplines – daily reading plans of the bible are an example)

4. Relationships and community - where we feel love and trust and can be vulnerable with each other and with our struggles

Dave Hunt author of An Urgent Call To A Serious Faith says, “The choice we face is not, as many imagine, between heaven and hell. Rather, the choice is between heaven and this world. Even a fool would exchange hell for heaven; but only the wise will exchange this world for heaven.”

Are you willing to give up everything (your schedule, your wallet, your relationships, your desires) to follow Christ? Are you willing to do anything, say anything, go anywhere?

 Maybe you still think being a disciple is not for you. You love your lifestyle, your freedom, your stuff too much. In the bible, the rich young ruler went away very sad when Jesus told him to sell everything he had and follow him. It wasn’t the money.

It was his heart and his trust in Jesus that were the issue.

Please do not be deceived. There are not two levels of heaven – one for those who just believe in Jesus but live no different from the world and one for true disciples.

The devil is quite ok with you continuing to come to church on occasion, do some construction work maybe or help with the kids program, sing in the band or just sit in the back just as long as you under no circumstances become a true disciple and follower of Christ. That’s when you become dangerous. So yes, if you choose to become a true follower of Christ and not just a believer in Him then expect spiritual opposition as well as possible ridicule from friends, co-workers or family but know that if you choose this road you choose with it, life and peace and joy that lasts for eternity.

Notes from the pastor at Calvary this morning: Paul in Ephesians continues to come back to the point - are you a faithful Christian? He said, we are called to live "in" Christ. He says the difference between those who live "in" Christ and those who simply believe is the believer is in a spirit of receiving. He gladly receives grace for his sins and eternal life but he/she never truly surrenders their life. They don't give Christ the authority, all their rights, everything. They miss out on blessings in the spiritual realms as a result. Blessings that only come from being a true follower of Christ.

The actual definition of a Christian in Websters dictionary is someone who professes belief in the teachings of Jesus Christ.  Remember – even the demons believe and shudder.  The definition should be: disciple, sold-out follower, one who is prepared to leave everything, sell it all, follow all his commands, live in obedience. A Christian is one who by comparison to his love for Christ, HATES – yes HATES everything and everyone else. - Luke 14:26   

... So are you a believer or are you a follower?


Tuesday, 4 September 2012

England, Fasting and Websites

Strange title I know but these are the things I've been doing these last few weeks - visiting Alans family in England, starting an alternate day fasting plan with Alans sisters and brother-in-law and building our team website. 

First - England. 

Since everything in this area seemingly shuts down during the month of August, we grabbed a quick and cheap RyanAir flight and went to spend time with Alans parents for his dads 81st birthday.  His dad continues to struggle with his health finding an aneurysm in his stomach while we were there.  Right now he has cancer in the bone of his nose and in his prostate, angina, diabetes, he's missing half a lung from TB when he was younger and so many other problems we call him the walking medical miracle.  In reality though Jesus has been very good to him and we give Christ all the glory for keeping him alive to see us marry and have Chloe.  He tells us regularly that he only wants Chloe to come and visit - not us! :) Both he and Margaret adore Chloe and she adores them.

While in England I heard from Alans sisters that they were doing a two day a week fast to try to lose weight.  Willing to do nearly anything to lose weight I decided to join them and so today makes day 5 of fasting for me.  Let me tell you... I haven't lost any weight and I'm STARVING! :)  I told Alan if he doesn't start doing it with me today is my last day lol.  He says he'll fast and only eat when I'm not with him.  Some fast! lol  Basically you eat breakfast - up to approximately 500 calories and then fast the remainder of the day and you do this in alternating days.  I'm still tracking calories like a crazy person, exercising to death and the scale just stays the same.  D I S C O U R A G I N G!  Oh well, in the end it's a lesson in discipline I guess.

Now for the website...
I finished the first draft while we were in England and if you'd like to visit it and send your feedback I'd love to hear it.  Here is the link:

A couple of notes - this will not be the final web address.  I'm using the free service offered on Wix which includes ads and slow loading images until we're ready to buy our own domain and switch the website over to it.  Secondly, we want to have the website in both German and English and will be working on that translation in the next few months.  Lastly, we will add videos, podcasts, more links to the CVJM, the Birke and other locations where we serve in the next few months but this is a good starting point for us I think.  I really want to get a ton of folks coming over to work with us here and Alan and I are also planning on sending Germans out on teams starting next year.  We're investigating Eastern Europe for possibilities now and would covet your prayers for guidance as we move forward. 

This week we're focusing on getting back to work at the CVJM and we're also investigating some other opportunities to volunteer nearby with refugees.  Chloe had her one year old check-up (ok three months late is better than never! :)) and she did great.  The doctor said she was in perfect health... yah!  Alan is plastering this week trying to finish the rooms he started and I'm trying to get caught up on paperwork, receipts, emails and conference plans for InTent in October and March and the European conference that I'm helping out with at the end of April.  Sarah Lee is still here and will start back to school next week.  She'll help Alan at the CVJM this week and then join me after school next week at the Birke or University. 

Life continues to be good.  God continues to bless our marriage and our ministry here.  It's not always easy but life rolls on.  Here's praying we make the most of every moment...

Monday, 13 August 2012

Why so downcast within me?

Alan and I started reading through the bible again.  I never made it fully through last year when we tried.  Not sure if he accomplished it or not.  But this time I can't seem to get enough.  I'm about ten days ahead of the prescribed program which Alan doesn't like because he thinks we should stay together but - really, how does one read Esther without reading the whole book at one go?  One chapter at a time?  Nah... can't do it.  I just have to see what's going to happen to Haman (even though I've probably read Esther a dozen or more times in my life!) lol.  We started in I Chronicles (lovely place to start), Psalms and Matthew.  This plan has us read through the Old Testament once, Psalms twice and the New Testament twice in a year.  Pretty good I think. 

As I've read through Psalms and now I'm in Job I'm reminded that it's ok to complain to God without sinning.  David complained, Job complained.  Now mind you, David had Saul and his whole army after him trying to kill him and he was having to hide in caves and Job well, he lost everything of any value including his family, had three not so friendly friends trying to explain to him why he was suffereing (gotta love unsolicited advice and insincere "concern") and boils all over his body.  So... they had a right to complain.  But do I?  Not really, no.  Most of the junk I go through I bring on myself.  I don't have any true friends here in Germany because I'm a loner and stick to myself.  I don't trust people including my husband because well, that's a long story that most of you know.  Alan and I argue because we're around eachother too much probably and I like to have more control in our relationship than I probably should have.  My motivation is nil some days because I lack the discipline and enthusiasm it takes for learning German and really emersing myself in this country.  I get so frustrated sometimes that all I want is to go and live in my old house in Georgia, hang out with my nieces and friends and give it all up.

I've been discouraged by the sheer amount of selfishness I see in the world - in myself, in non-Christians, in many, many fellow Christians.  I think we as Christians should be really transformed by the love and power of Christ and really, really on fire for God.  But are we?  I don't even have to ask really.  I know the answer because I see it every day.  For the great majority - 99% of all Christians if I'd venture a guess, we are unsatisfied with ourselves, our current condition, the world around us, the sheer amount of stuff we want to do but for whatever reason never do.  We have small glimpses of contentment and peace but it doesn't last.  We're upset about the Presidency but give little to nothing to missionaries around the world.  We love our own families and close friends but care little to nothing for our neighbors who are dying in their sins (yes Obama counts as our neighbor).  We say unbridled to our fellow Christians that if God took everything of value away it wouldn't matter, but are we being honest?  Take away someones computer for a day and you'll see whether that statement is true or not. 

I sin. We all sin.  Every day.  Multiple times a day.  We hear the voice inside us telling us to love but instead we do everything but.  We know we should be less selfish but the "me first", "what about me", "look after oneself" attitude permeates everything.  We hear the voice saying reach out but instead we sit fixated to our computers or tv's or game consoles numbingly passing the hours trying to think about nothing at all.  In all our attempts to stay more social we have given up real relationships which can love on us, hold us accountable and encourage us.  We fight our battles on our own, not with an army behind us as it should be.  That's why we get taken out so easily.  We go to church but hurry to the door after the preacher is finished without really connecting with the people there.  And the devil laughs.  He has us right where he wants us.

Why are you so downcast within me, oh my soul? Why so disturbed within me?  Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him, my Savior and my God. Psalm 43:5

Wednesday, 11 July 2012

Edge UK - meeting the two Rebecca's

Well to be honest we didn't know what to expect when Burcin told us we've be getting a team of two from the UK for our Edge trip this summer with Pioneers.  Both were girls, both University students and both named Rebecca.  Becs, actually just graduated and wants to work with children probably as a teacher but she loves Germany and the language so we might just convince her to stay! :)  Becs is from Southwest England and she speaks very "posh" English! :)  Unlike my Liverpolian husband! Becs was actually brave enough to use her singing and drumming skills in the church service only three days after she arrived!

Beccy is from Northern Ireland, she's extremely smart (A's and A+'s on almost all her GCSE's and A levels).  She has a boyfriend that she adores back in University, loves the countryside of Germany and wants the trip to stretch her with her German language abilities and desire to serve the Lord.  She has one year left of University and she loves serving with the CU there.  She wants to do something meaningful with her life and really enjoyed the work at the Birke (the ProLife organization where we serve).  She studied English Literature in school but is open to where God takes her after graduating.

So far the girls arrived late Thursday night (early Friday morning) without too much difficulty.  They stayed with us that night since they got in so late and had a big German breakfast the next morning.  We then had a great time chatting about goals for the trip and our plans for the next few weeks, prayed together and then headed to Heidelberg.  We got monthly train passes for both girls so they could have the freedom to go wherever they needed to go and then we walked around Heidelberg a bit to see the University and the key spots where they'd be working.  After that we went to Trudi and Klauses house to get them settled in.  Trudi and Jo Hanna had put out a spread of German desserts and coffees/juices for the girls and we sat and ate and talked for nearly two hours.  I asked Trudi and Jo Hanna to only speak German to the girls so they could practice.  Both girls have taken years and years of German but it still can be intimidating once you're immersing yourself into the German culture.  I know it was for us!  I left them there to settle in and they had fun talking to Trudi and Jo Hanna and Jonathan the rest of the night.

Saturday Jo Hanna took the girls to Heidelberg to see the castle and then they went to the CJVM to help get ready for X-Change and listen to the worship band practice.  X-Change was awesome that night and I actually had the privilege of sharing a portion of my testimony as well (in three minutes or less!).  Still it went well and the worship was terrific.  Miri and Timon did a great time preaching on relationships and afterwards they had a big grill out for everyone.  I didn't get home til nearly 11pm.

Sunday was church and Becs actually played the drums in the service and led the children in some cute songs that had signs to them.  Afterwards they hung out with Jo Hanna and went on a 4 hour bike ride supposedly through the hills of Germany.  They got to meet Klaus later and enjoyed speaking to him as well. 

Monday the girls met Alan at the CVJM to start the list of projects to be done there.  They painted windows, did some plastering and did a tile wall in the kitchen that they'd wanted done for a while.  Alan then came home to take care of Chloe while I drove back with dinner for everyone and to host a bible/book study on Mere Christianity.  There were seven girls total that attended (three Germans, two Americans, one Englander and one from Northern Ireland) and I think we all enjoyed it and getting to know C.S. Lewis and eachother better.  The girls played games with Julia and Boris that night back in Helmstadt after bible study was over. 

Tuesday I picked the girls up from the Hauptbahnhof in Heidelberg and we went to the Birke to help there.  We worked so hard and so fast that we got all their work done by 3pm (Sarah-Lee also joined us for a couple of hours after her school was finished).  I told the employees there that we'd be back next Tuesday and to make sure to have lots of work for us to do.  They were very happy with everything we did it seemed.  After that all three girls went into Heidelberg to help Sarah-Lee find painting supplies for her after school program with the German school children. 

Today is Wednesday and Alan is back at the CVJM with the girls working this afternoon.  This morning they went with Trudi into the German schools and attended an English class where they were available to answer any questions the students had.  I can't wait to hear about that! 

So... so far so good.  We've really enjoyed getting to know both girls and are looking forward to all God has in store for the remainder of their stay.  Alan and I are like ships in the night but we're having fun and know that in August we'll be able to rest a bit.  Plans for both Pioneers conferences I'm helping out with continue.  The one in October is starting to rev up a bit with folks booking their flight details into Germany.  When August rolls around I'll have to get really organized so things don't get on top of me there.  This weekend Alan is playing King David at a children's fair on Saturday and then we'll all head to the TenSing concert that night.  We feel incredibly blessed to have both Rebecca's and Sarah-Lee here working with us and know God will do great things through all of them.

Tuesday, 3 July 2012

Our first team comes and serves in Germany!

Alan and I are so thankful that God orchestrated a fantastic week with the group from our sending church in Watkinsville.  The team from WFBC worked hard each day to complete an indoor football court (soccer) for the church here.  They also did some painting, plastering and clean up work needed.  In addition to their work at the CVJM the girls made it to Heidelberg two days to volunteer at the ProLife organization, the Birke.  They folded leaflets, stamped folders, assembled baby bottles and generally helped in any way they could.  It was a great week of fellowship, fun and activity.  Here is the run-through of the entire week with some pictures. I'm waiting for a new connection cable to upload the ones from my camera.  Should be up in a couple of days.

Here it goes...
Friday at 7:45am the group arrived from Atlanta.  Alan picked them up and they were exhausted but eager to see Germany and where they would be staying and working for the week.  The team got to the CVJM by 9:30 and were welcomed with a traditional German breakfast - fresh breads, rolls, meats and cheeses, nutella, butters and jams, hard boiled eggs, fruits and juices.  Ok we did throw in some peanut butter too. :)  The team was then off to settle into their caravans (Brennen and Darren in one and Christopher in the other) or into the girls room inside (Brooke, Katie, Rose and Sarah-Lee).  Alan and I went home and came back around 4pm to pick the team off to head to Sonja and Reinholt Aberle's house.  This is where Sarah-Lee has been living since arriving in April.  Sonja made what many on the team said was the best lasagna they'd ever eaten.  She and Reinholt worked all day to make cakes, salads, cheeses and setup seating for the group both inside and out.  They even invited some of their English speaking friends (from Texas) over to join us.  One of the sweetest things was Sonja handing out verses and chocolates to each person and reading them aloud before we ate dinner.  That was special for everyone I know.  After dinner it was back to the CVJM for Ten-Sing, the youth talent show whose practices take place every Friday night.  The group gave a few short testimonies during devotional time and hung out with the gang thereafter to watch Germany play football on the big screen. 

Saturday the group was up early for devotions, a traditional German breakfast again, bible study (led by Alan) and then we had a short talk from Klaus (the pastor) about the CVJM, its history and the work being done there.  Then it was work day.  Everyone pulled together to get the desired indoor football field cleaned as there was a deep layer of dust EVERYWHERE.  They even used mops to play a sort of hockey type game cleaning.  We had some cute shots of that... :)  That night Annette and her husband Rene made dinner for everyone and then the group (minus Alan, Chloe and I) went into Heidelberg to take a look around.

Sunday we had chocolate chip pancakes for breakfast, bible study (led by Christopher) and church.  Following church was lunch of about 1000 pizzas bought by the CVJM and then free-time so the gang went to play football with a bunch of folks from the church.  I stayed at the CVJM to clean, organize and relax and also to watch Chloe and get her a nap.  That night was dinner (leftover pizza and sandwiches) and the first fellowship which ended up being some crazy German games where you say all kinds of weird words and then you draw dots on people's faces if they don't remember their name.  It's confusing.  Sarah-Lee has tried to explain it to us before but seeing we went home to put Chloe down we still don't quite get it... :)  They also played Sardines which is like hide and seek apparently but as soon as you find a person you have to hide with them while the rest of folks come and find you.  Fun!  Saskia and Corina were in charge of the nightly fellowships and they did a great job.  I think

Monday was breakfast, bible study (led by Rose) and another work day.  Today though the girls went into Heidelberg (Mary, Chloe, Rose and Brennen by car and Sarah-Lee, Katie, Saskia and Brooke by train) to work at the Birke.  They were thrilled to have us and we spent the day there trying to help in any way we could.  We brought our lunches and enjoyed getting to know the folks that work there.  The guys stayed back and continued work on the floor of the football court.  Alan said later that at some point everyone (minus Chris) working "lost their rag" at least once during the day.  That's a British phrase I guess for "got extremely irritated". I think there was too much testosterone flying around and way too many chiefs.  The Indians were at the Birke apparently! :) Monday in the early evening the team went canoeing from Meckesheim to Eschelbron (sp?) but apparently the stream was blocked with trash and they had to turn back.  We had spaghetti for dinner late and I think we were all pretty exhausted by this point.  I know I was. 

Tuesday was breakfast and then we were off to go sightseeing.  We took the mini-van to Neckarsteinach and boarded a boat that would take us into Heidelberg.  By now the whole group was pretty much in love with peanut butter and nutella sandwiches so we had a sandwich on the boat.  When we got to Neckarsteinach the group split up with the great majority going to the Heidelberg castle and to ride the Funicular.  Alan and I accidentally left diapers for Chloe at the CVJM so we had to go in search of diapers for Chloe.  Rose went shopping in preparation for going to see her friends and her Oma and Opa (grandma and grandpa) the following day.  We ate lunch in Heidelberg and had an iced coffee and then boarded the boat back to Neckarsteinach.  Chloe and I then left to go home and get her down while Alan drove the mini-bus of folks to Petra and Jorg's house (a family in the CVJM) for dinner.  Apparently they had a great time with Petra's two sons and they enjoyed spaetzle and pork for dinner.

Wednesday we had a traditional southern breakfast followed by bible study (led by Brooke) and another day of work at the CVJM for the guys.  Sarah-Lee had taken Rose to the Heidelberg bahnhof so she could catch her train to see her family and then she was going by the Volkhochschule to register for a test she had to take to get into the next language class. She met the girls and I at the Birke and we worked there the rest of the day.  The employees at the Birke bought us all lunch and Brigitta (one of the directors there) told the team all about the work the organization does.  That night we got back and the floor was about 1/4 of the way finished.  Apparently it was really hard and tricky work because the glue used the put the floor down was extremely expensive and dried really quickly so once they opened a 5 gallon can of it they had to use it all before they stopped work.  Wednesday night Claudia and Heinz's wife made the team dinner and that was a nice treat.  The group then shared testimonies at the volunteer service they had that night. 

Thursday was our evangelistic day so after a quick breakfast and bible study (led by Katie), Rene showed a video of how important evangelism was and then we set off to Heidelberg.  Katie, Brennen and Lisa went with me to the University to survey the students about their spiritual backgrounds and interests while Rene, Alan, Darren and Jonas handed out tracks along the Hauptstrasse.  Rene then sent Sarah-Lee, Brooke and Christopher to hand out tracks in folks mailboxes.  Later that day they were able to do some surveys as well and then we headed over to the park by the Neckar where the team met up with a couple of folks from Campus Crusade for Christ who helped create a program to hand out food and drinks to children and also hand out materials about God, faith and Christianity.  That night we had taco soup for dinner and then the group watched the football match in the office (or so I was told).  Unfortunately Germany lost to Italy so the mood on Friday wasn't that great! :)

Friday and Saturday's were work days where everyone stayed at the CVJM to finish the indoor court, paint, plaster and do anything else we could do.  Bible study on Friday was led by Brennen and Darren and I did bible study on Saturday.  Because we got done a bit early on Saturday afternoon we decided to take the group to Dilsberg for some additional sightseeing and to the Afrikan Market in Heidelberg as well.  We ended up eating dinner there Saturday night at a German restaurant near the old bridge because everyone wanted to try schnitzel.  It was pretty good.  I then took Chloe home and Alan took Brennen and Darren and Rose back to the CVJM while the remainder of the team stayed in Heidelberg and caught the train back later.

Sunday we had pancakes and muffins, Sarah-Lee did bible study and then the team ran through the plans for the service they would run that night.  They had worship practice at 2pm and Brennen (playing the saxophone) and Alan (singing) joined Lisa and Saskia for that.  The rest of the team cleaned, rested and packed in addition to preparing for what they would say that night.  The Sunday service was awesome.  It started with Brennen playing on her saxophone to welcome everyone in.  Then the worship band sung a song, Darren thanked everyone for coming and then introduced Christpher and Christopher preached on "The real God".  He used about 100 scriptures which was awesome and Trudi translated for him.  Then there was another song, Katie shared her story of why she came to Germany and what God had taught her and then there was about 3-4 songs.  You could just feel the spirit of God in the room.  It was awesome (did I say that already!?).  I got up and thanked everyone for their roles in making the week a success and then Klaus got up to thank the team for coming.  They then gave us all candles and cards for the light we had brought to the CVJM that week and prayed over us.  Then there was the ribbon cutting ceremony for the new football hall we had finished.  Everything was dark and on the floor they had used glow sticks to write out the words Thank U!  It was really nice.  They had orange juice and champagne and the whole church listed while Brennen played How Great thou art and Amazing Grace on her saxophone.  Double awesome!  Trudi gave everyone on the team CVJM t-shirts and then we hung around and had dinner together as a church.  By this time it was already 9pm and so we said our good-bye's to the team (well Chloe and I did, Alan would be picking them up to take them to the airport the next morning E A R L Y!).  It was a terrific week and we felt so blessed by it all.  God orchestrated it, breathed life into it and blessed it abundantly. 

Alan and I feel more enthused about our role here and our work and the whole church left Sunday night not just with a new football court but also with an encouragement that we hope will last forever.