Search This Blog

Sunday, 28 December 2014

Weihnachten im Schuhkarton - our final post

I sent the following to the man who joined us the Monday evening before Christmas from the local paper to give out gifts at the Sinsheim refugee camp:

"The CVJM in Meckesheim, the national church in Hilsbach und Weiler, the Hosanna gemeinde in Heidelberg, Campus für Christus at the University, several schools and the International chapter of MOPS in Heidelberg joined together this Christmas to provide 284 shoeboxes for refugee children in eight camps around Heidelberg. These included camps in Sinsheim, aided by the refugee organization SAM for distribution, Mühlhausen, Leimen, Neckargemünd, Walldorf, Spechbach, Reichartshausen and Helmstadt-Bargen. The response from the people that contributed was immediate and joyful and only matched by the looks on the faces of the children receiving the gifts the week before Christmas. Each box contained items that would delight a child, from school supplies to dolls and stuffed animals, gift cards and toys, books and candies. Most boxes contained soaps and toothbrushes, warm gloves and hats. Extra items were donated to supplement the boxes and the CVJM donated over 300 Euros to buy anything else needed. We were touched by the outpouring of love and support for the refugees in our area and wish them a Merry Christmas and start to their new lives in Germany."

It was truly our pleasure to facilitate this program and we were as a family very touched by the participation of the many organizations, churches and schools as well as the joy from the children who received the gifts.  It was an eye-opening experience for those who had never seen a refugee camp and came to help to distribute the gifts.  Alan and I want to do more this next year - especially in the camp that was in the worst shape of them all and just "happens" to be located in our town.  We pray blessings on every person involved and every child touched by the generousity of our German neighbors and friends.  Here are some of our favorite pictures.

Wednesday, 26 November 2014

Shoe-box Campaign and Deficit Update

I wrote last month regarding some significant developments in our ministry that have tested our faith in God and in people.  Here are a few updates as to where things stand today...

First was the Weihnachten im Schuhkarton campaign:
The response so far has been amazing.  We have had several churches, schools, MOPS Heidelberg and Campus für Christus already join in with us in the effort.  When I first started the campaign I was praying hard that we would receive a box for each child at the Sinsheim camp - originally 126 kids 0-15 but then we added 16-17 year olds which brought the total up to 140.  I honestly didn't think it was possible without God orchestrating it and setting it on the hearts of this community and so far we've already had 197 boxes committed.  This caused us to go back to the refugee camp and request two additional camps - the one in Walldorf and the one in Helmstadt-Bargen.  This added an additional 38 children.  Sunday I will speak at the Hosanna Gemeinde in Heidelberg and request their help in getting boxes for these remaining children leaving a 20% buffer in shoe boxes in case people don't turn them in as they have committed or more children arrive at the camps.  Any extras will be given out to give out to new refugee families that arrive over the next few months.  Tonight I got an email from a pastor in charge of two churches in the Sinsheim area expressing his desire to join with us as well and asking how they can best get involved so Friday I will request additional camps with children close by so they can participate.  Please pray God would be glorified through every person that gives, every child that receives and every heart that is touched through the process.

Secondly was the huge and seemingly insurmountable deficit we found ourselves in about 6 weeks ago.   In just 6 weeks we've seen God work through people in both words of encouragement and in lots of prayers on our behalf and in financial support as well.  Of the $24,000 needed we have been so blessed to now receive nearly $16,000 expressly toward the deficit and an extra $300 per month to help toward the $720 in monthly shortfall that our budget necessitated.  If you want to help you can do so by going to  For a one-time gift, select "Give to a missionary", input our names and account number 136050 and your preferred method of payment.  if you want to give monthly select giving options and then either the EFT, CC or Online Bill Pay option. We thank you in advance for whatever you can do.  Remember - prayer is the most valuable thing anyone can give.  

God is so good to us and may He be given the glory for eliminating this deficit completely. 

Things to pray for:
·         The above shoe box campaign and our remaining deficit
·         Chloe’s German language learning ability and for the friendships she is beginning to make at the kindergarten.  Also pray for relationships to build between us and Chloe’s classmates parents.
·         Alan’s continued efforts on our missions loft and the often exhausting work he has been putting in not taking too much of a toll on him physically
·         Alan’s mom Margaret has additional tests this week to try to determine what is causing the blockage in her bowels which has plagued her for the better part of a year
·         More volunteers are needed for the growing number of refugees that want to learn German
·         Our full-timers coming over within the next year to 18 months – Tyler Bowman from Alabama and Nicole Demers from Delaware
·         Our short-term teams coming next year – Edge from the USA and The Great Exchange
·         Several short-timers and full-timers currently in the investigatory process of joining us in the future
·         Continued healing in my moms eye
·         Growth in our Monday night bible study
·         Strong relationships and partnerships to continue to form and build between us and other missionaries, churches and student organizations in the Heidelberg area
·         A pretty major unspoken request that we’ll update you more on when we are a bit further down the path

Thursday, 23 October 2014

Kindergarten, Refugees and Frightening Emails

It's hard to believe we've been back in Germany for over five weeks.  Time has flown by but we have definitely seen God at work already. 

The first prayer request we had upon our return was for Chloe's immersion into Kindergarten.  We prayed hard for understanding and patient teachers that would be kind to her and that she would make sweet friends she would love seeing every day.  We prayed that it wouldn't be so hard on her (and us) to say good-bye when we dropped her off each day and we prayed for opportunities to get to know the parents of Chloe's school friends so we could build friendships ourselves. 

God has answered our prayers in so many ways.  The drop-off's are still a bit difficult but her teachers have a great way of just scooping her up into their arms and telling her, "let's go wave bye bye to mommy!"  (in German of course).  Then I run downstairs and go outside and wave like mad, blow kisses and disappear quick so she can get on with her day.  By the time I pick her up in the afternoon she doesn't want to go home.  Praise God! :)  Her teachers seem very nice and understanding and they say Chloe is doing great.  She has also met a little friend Lena who she loves to play with.  Lena is four and lives right down the road from us.  Her mom Kirsten is very nice and took the time to introduce me to a friend of hers who just happened to live in Atlanta for 9 years.  She speaks very good English.  Last night we had our first "Eltern-abend" which is when all the parents get together at the kindergarten with the teachers and hear all the news, what's upcoming, how they can get involved, what their children's days are like, how they celebrate birthday's, etc.  Alan stayed home with Chloe so I could go and I really enjoyed the time.  Unfortunately I didn't understand more than about 60% of what was said but I left having several questions answered and meeting lots of other parents which was my goal. 

The second prayer request was for a new bible study we wanted to start in our home.  We wanted it to be a multi-generational, multi-church, weekly get-together and from all accounts this is what we are already beginning to see.  Since we started three weeks ago, we have had 6-8 consistently each week which has been nice.  Three different churches are represented and the ages range from the low 20's to the mid 50's.  We have lots of discussion (and sometimes strong debate!) over the topics raised in the book, "More Than a Carpenter" and then enjoy a time of prayer and fellowship after.  We speak equally in German and in English.  New people continue to come each week and that is exciting.

Thirdly I prayed for Gods direction as to how to spend my time once Chloe enrolled in Kindergarten.  Monday's are taken up with cleaning, laundry, cooking at the prep for the bible study.  Tuesday's and Friday's I was attending MOPS but didn't feel this was the direction God was taking me this year so I decided to research the German class at the refugee camp taught by an older German gentleman from our church who I admire greatly.  He was thrilled with the possibility of me helping as he'd been doing it alone for some time.  I told him I would come and check things out and see how it went.  Apparently my bad German translated to him that I would be there every time they met for the foreseeable!  :)  At least this is what he tells anyone who asks now. 

Initially I will admit to being a bit fearful as I walked into the grounds of the refugee camp housing more than 500 refugees.  I was alone and most of the people housed at the camp are trafficked into the country in one form or another. The conditions are not good and the frustration from the residents with the crowded conditions and endless waiting is evident.  Still, I eventually found where I needed to go and met up with the teacher to get instructions.  He warned me to not share about my faith or beliefs because they wanted to keep the German class strictly about teaching German.  They do this because so many Muslims attend and they don't want them to be frightened off from attending.  I completely understood this concern and assured him it wouldn't be an issue.  That first class the room was full - seven men from Gambia, a mother and her two young teenagers from Syria, two other Syrians and 3 Iraq refugees attended.  I worked solely with the Gambians and continue with them each week.  They are precious.  So willing to try to learn.  I have met one who is especially nice - his name is Musa.  Please pray he can grasp the language and that by doing so it would help to improve his life.  I know little to nothing about each of the refugees and hope that stronger relationships will be built in the weeks ahead.

As I was walking to my car I remembered I had some blankets and some stuffed animals I was going to take to the Frei Evangelical Gemeinde in Heidelberg ear-marked for refugees.  Since I was already at a camp I thought that I might as well take them into the administration offices and leave them there.  When I was unpacking the trunk a little girl who was 2 1/2 approached me at the car.  In my hand I held a plastic bag full of Chloe's stuffed animals - most in new or nearly new condition.  I fished out a small dog and then looked to find the little girls mom to see if I could give it to her.  She smiled and nodded and the little girls eyes just lit up.  When her older sister (maybe 6) saw this, she came running to the car and also wanted a stuffed animal.  I asked her which was her favorite and she said, "all!".  I said, do you have friends you could share them with?  Her mother then replied, "I have eight children."  I said, well then, take the whole bag.  I asked her if she could use the blankets and she said yes so I left them with her.  She then asked me if I had a rug or if I could look for one for her.  I said I would.  Her name was Stella and her daughter's name was Sorga.  Please pray I can build a relationship with their family and help them in whatever small way I can.  By the way, I found a rug in our cellar that we weren't using that I plan to take tomorrow.  Praise God for that! :)

Alan's work at the CVJM and the missions loft continues but I can tell he needs encouragement and wonders often if all his blood, sweat and tears will be worth it in the end.  I try to tell him it will but it's still hard sometimes.  His goal is to get the loft finished in time for Nicole to move in next summer. 

I guess the biggest thing we've encountered in the last week was an email from the Pioneers finance department in the UK telling us we were in deficit nearly 14,000 pounds.  That is nearly 22,000!!  My initial response was a combination of horror and frustration as I could pull up at least a dozen emails asking for a financial statement showing monies paid to us versus monies coming in over the last 4 years.  Higher priority items always trumped this request and now they hit us with this deficit which from all accounts seems insurmountable on human terms.  Fortunately for us we don't work on human terms.  Our boss owns the cattle on a thousand hills and promises to provide for all our needs.  That's the good news!  The bad news is I have to do what I haven't had to do in the last four years and that is go out and ask for funds.  I hate asking for money.  Hate it.  Horrid.  I think there should be an organization that closely monitors missionaries work and then fund raises for them (sort of like the International mission board).  Still, I've written the letters and now have to send out the cards to our faithful supporters asking that they dig deep to try to keep us here.  I can already see the stress from knowing this deficit is hanging over our heads between Alan and I but really either we trust God or we don't. That's the bottom line.  I choose to trust. 

Thank you for your continued interest, partnership with us and especially your prayers.  We need them every hour of every day!

Tuesday, 23 September 2014

Home Assignment - Work and play and the start of Fall

After nearly two months of home assignment we returned to Germany last week ready to begin again.  Fall is definitely in the air here as in stark contrast to the weather in Georgia.  This was the first time we'd visited in late summer and both Alan and Chloe paid for it with numerous bug bites and bee stings.  The wasps were out in force in Georgia this year.  Poor Alan rather unfortunately discovered he was also very allergic to bee stings and after his second or third sting my dad went and bought him a ridiculously expensive EPI pen for emergencies because he absolutely refused to stop working in the barn which is where multiple nests were discovered.

Still, we made it back alive, not too sun burned or worse for the wear.  The time with family and friends was priceless to us.  We did so much that it's hard to remember it all but big highlights for me were seeing my Uncle Ron who came down for a week from Pennsylvania, my Aunt Kay also came down for a day from Ellijay with cousins Stacy from Atlanta, Joan, Marybeth, Jimbo and Dina from Athens and my Uncle Ray and Aunt MaryAnn and their children Julie and Michael and Michael's wife Holly from Rhode Island and Vermont.  Other memorable non-ministry events were fishing (well Alan fished, Chloe and I swam, walked and explored), swimming with Chloe's cousins and multiple cousin play dates with my sisters, going to the zoo in Atlanta, golfing several times and meals out with good friends.  Ministry wise Alan participated in several evangelistic outreaches including one with WFBC and two Great Exchange events.  We also had a week long debrief in Bogart at a missions house where a counselor from Atlanta who was also a former missionary came to work with us.  In addition we met with a lot of supporters, spoke at WFBC for their global missions update and traveled to Swainsboro to speak at Hawhammock church where our team from the Great Exchange this summer originated.  I also had the sad experience of attending a funeral of a fellow missionary from Augusta, Georgia who I had met and we had worked alongside in Heidelberg. 

Being back is good.  I dreaded it at first because sometimes I feel like I am on two parallel lives.  One in Georgia with my family, friends and sending church and the second in Germany.  I desperately want to live in Georgia again but I also feel called and a strong pull to finish the work here in Germany.  It's tough feeling sawed in two.  Folks naturally ask us what's ahead for us when we return and this is what we've said.  Alan wants to finish the missions loft at the CVJM hopefully in time for Nicole to move in when she arrives next July/August.  He wants to start a bible/book study out of our home each week and he's focusing on our full time arrivals next year (Tyler in addition to Nicole).  He's also trying to arrange a Great Exchange trip to Cambridge, England for either 2015 or 2016 and he's excited to welcome back the second Great Exchange team here in Heidelberg in June.

I have one primary goal and lots of secondary ones.  Primarily I want to successfully see Chloe attending German Kindergarten without anxiety or tears in a safe, fun, challenging and sweet environment.  I know I'm praying for a lot but I can't tell you how much more stressed I am about this than anything else in my own life.  She is such a treasure to me and we've literally (as my mother would say) pulled this child of ours from pillar to post in her short three plus years.  She's more well traveled than most adults I know but she's also had to be torn apart from her grandparents, cousins, friends, fellow team mates and just about everybody except us over the past 3 years.  She goes to Georgia, absolutely adores seeing her cousins, aunts and grandparents every day and then we get on a flight and tell her she'll see them in 6 months to a year (how long is that mama?).  Same with her nana in England.  The teams that come that she gets attached to just leave.  The TMI team from Australia and New Zealand was especially hard on her.  She just cried and cried when they left.  What doesn't kill us makes us stronger... does that apply to a three year old?

So that's primary.  Secondarily are any preparations for full-timers and our short-term teams (Great Exchange and possibly also Edge).  I want to support Alan through the book study, continue to manage our home and finances and supporter contacts and I really want to focus this year on our marriage and having some quality time just the two of us.  We discovered at our debrief how really important that is for us (despite the associated cost of babysitters). 

So another busy year.  It might not seem this way to some but I have greatly reduced my workload in multiple areas and for this I am grateful that I had the courage to say "no" to at least a few things.  I am a work in progress on this.  We would greatly appreciate your prayers for the aforementioned items.  We know lots of people pray for us and we are so thankful for you.  In all things we want to bring God glory and we want to do His will here.  This is always at the forefront of our thoughts and prayers. 

Sunday, 13 July 2014

Work Days and Sightseeing, Birthday Parties and Fireworks - The Great Exchange Final Update

Wednesday of this week the team took a day off of evangelism and the majority went to work at the CVJM to help in the continued construction of our missions loft.  After work, Klaus and Trudi and their two daughters Johanna and Julia (with her husband Boris and two precious children) helped to host a dinner and fellowship for the team.  Klaus and Trudi have been absolutely 100% supportive of our work here in Germany and have never missed a chance to host team members, assist in work days, prepare meals or barbeque's and allow us to take part in camps and church services.  We are so thankful for the entire family. 
Saturday was our final day together so we went to Dilsberg for the morning for shopping, pictures and cake and coffee at the café there.  We've taken every team that has ever visited us to Dilsberg as it's my favorite little walled city.  The shop keeper even opened up an hour and a half early for us so we could shop before heading to Schwetzingen palace and gardens that afternoon. 

Alan and I have never visited Schwetzingen palace before and although the tour was incredibly boring the gardens were gorgeous and HUGE!  My mom and dad would love them.  So much attention to detail for one prince electorate and his wife.  Afterward the team was able to do some shopping in Schwetzingen and have something to eat before returning to their apartments to rest. 

At nine o'clock that evening the team came over for Charlie's first birthday party.  Charlie is the son of Joni and Matthew, Jon and Diane's oldest daughter and her family.  It was great they were able to come with Charlie and we didn't want to miss the opportunity to have a little cake and ice cream to celebrate his first birthday and allow him to play in his smash cake.  He especially liked the balloon animals and presents.  A German world cup Jersey was amongst his favorites!

After cake we went to Heidelberg to watch the castle illumination and fireworks.  It was a nice display and we didn't get caught in too much traffic leaving which was good.  The team departed this morning around 5:30 and we just got word they made it back to Georgia safely.  All in all it was a wonderful, blessed and rich week.  Thank you to all who prayed for us. 

Evangelism Days - The Great Exchange

Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday of this week the team from the Great Exchange in Georgia spent the early morning at prayer breakfasts at the Capelle (Monday) and Hosanna Gemeinde's (Thursday and Friday).  We all felt very moved by Gods presence in these meetings.  After they were concluded, we went to the Universitätsplatz where we setup our information tables and did surveys from roughly 10am until 4pm each day.  We prayed really hard that the forecasted rain would hold off on and for the most part it did.  Tuesday we left early because the rain made things miserable but we had great weather Monday, Thursday and Friday. 

The team brought several hundred copies of the book, "More than a Carpenter" by Josh McDowell.  By the end of the week we had given them all out so please pray the books will yield great fruit amongst the students that read them.  On Monday we completed 72 surveys and only 9 said they believed Jesus to be the son of God and that because of the grace He pours out they will go to Heaven. Not because they were good people but only because of Christ. On Thursday, 58 surveys were completed and we talked to only five believers.  We don't know yet the counts for Friday (although we do know more surveys were completed than on any other day) but when we have the percentages we'll report them here.  Overall it was a blessed week with over 300 conversations with students about Christ.  Please pray the Holy Spirit will continue to work in each life.

Thursday night we attended the Campus Crusade church service at the Hosanna gemeinde.  The sermon that night was excellent and we were able to share with the students about the Great Exchange and encourage them to come and take part the next day.  On Friday we had over a dozen students and church members from our partner churches and Campus come and do surveys with us and we were very happy about that.

Here are some pictures of our church services on Sunday, prayer breakfasts through the week and discussions with students.