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Thursday, 10 December 2015

Rathbone family update and a final update on our Shoebox campaign

It's been three months since my last confessional (I mean blog post). :)  Either I am so busy I can't think straight or I am a slacker or maybe a bit of both.  Ahhhh - where to start...

Alan and I said one thing to eachother a few months back when we decided we were going to move back to the states to adopt next summer.  We said we really wanted to make our last months in Germany count and not waste a moment if we could help it doing ministry here.  Well, God held us to our pledge and these last few months we have seen blessings flow in abundance - from three new team members to 1300 Christmas shoeboxes delivered to our new neighbors.  We've built friendships with refugees, enjoyed great times together as a house group and as a team and worked to deepen networking relationships with MOPS mother's and our church family.  It has been a deeply rewarding but also exhausting three and a half months since I last wrote to you.  

Our family is all doing well.  Chloe is half way through her second year in German Kindergarten.  Her German is coming along great except she still refuses to use it at school.  Not sure why but we have heard it is quite common with bi-lingual families.  If you are wondering, no she doesn't speak English at school either - she just smiles, occassionally sings, laughs and points.  Her teacher's don't seem worried and enjoy having her in the class.  She's made lots of good friends who she goes to play with or they come here.  She corrects both her mom's and dad's German.  She's smart as a whip and so full of personality.  What a precious gift.

Our plans for adoption are only beginning as we agreed not to think about it too much until after we made it through the Christmas shoebox campaign and got to Georgia for Christmas.  So many of our friends are fostering or adopting and this encourages us.  Please pray God would lead us to the child or children He has in mind for our family.

Alan has really enjoyed going to the largest refugee camp two - three nights a week and helping with the children's program.  He goes with two of our team members and they do various things from playing basketball and soccer to helping teach German and play games.  He has also made a new friend from Iraq and last week we took his family to lunch in Heidelberg for Indian food and then to the Christmas market.  They are a delightful family.  They walked for days to get to Germany with their youngest child who is Chloe's age (on their backs for a good portion of the time).   Every day they were in Iraq the oldest son would tell his dad, "dad we have to go.  ISIS is going to come and kill us."  We, living in Germany can simply not understand the terror they withstood and now we are glad to welcome them to a place where they can hopefully have a better life.  Alan's friend has helped us distribute shoeboxes every night this week and serves as our interpretor.

Shoeboxes have been my life for the past three months but yesterday after 8 hours on my feet with maybe a 10 minute break, we finished all the sorting, wrapping and organizing by camp.  It was so exhilarating to see the boxes leave the building and head to the various camps and although there have been a few small hiccups with delivery, the delight in the children and parents faces when they receive the boxes has been worth any difficulty.

The day after tomorrow we head back to Georgia for a month of vacation and home assignment where we hope to catch up with as many of our supporters as possible.  If you would like us to come and speak at your Sunday school or bible study about our experiences this last year in Germany, please contact us.  We are looking forward to some downtime with family (although my family rarely enjoys downtime if I'm honest.  I come from a long line of workaholics!!) and just the chance to look back at all God has done these last few months as we plan and prepare to return in Germany in mid January.

Here are some pictures of our last few months:

Our Team - Tyler from Alabama, Bex from southwest English and Nicole from Maryland

Sweet kids at the children's program at Patrick Henry Village Refugee Camp
The prayer room before with toys and empty boxes underneath
The last 150 shoeboxes to sort and organize by camp

Delivering to the camps - happy faces all around

And we're done... :)

Wednesday, 5 August 2015

Planned Parenthood and its 3%, a win in the Senate

A few weeks ago when the videos that have shocked the good majority of the civilized world appeared online, Planned Parenthood had to say something.  These videos were so graphic and so appalling as to what exactly the organization was planning and carrying out that they needed to come up with a counter offensive and fast. So Planed Parenthood decided to take the focus off abortion and selling murdered children's body parts.  They decided to minimize abortion and focus instead on the other services they provide.

As a result, the US Senate failed to achieve the 60 votes needed to de-fund the barbaric and morally bankrupt organization Monday night.  Pro abortion (mostly Democratic) senators continued to use the party line of "only 3% of Planned Parenthood's 'services' are for abortion".  So another words, abortion -  a service which murders one life and permanently scars another is being equated in Planned Parenthood's reporting to giving out a pamphlet (service), taking blood pressure (service) or handing out a pack of pills (service).

PP is stressing the "other" services they provide (while conveniently not revealing that most have seen year over year decline while abortions continue to rise).   They hide what can be easily found in their annual report where it says they did 327,166 abortion procedures in the course of one year and only 2,197 adoption referrals.  That works out to approximately 149 abortions for each adoption referral. They also fail to mention that abortion services currently account for 37% of Planned Parenthood's revenue or that half a billion dollars in taxpayer funds flow into PP every year in the form of government grants, contracts, and Medicaid reimbursements. Even though this money is "technically" not allowed to be used for abortions, with it Planned parenthood can funnel all the money it does receive from donors to abortion services which helps them turn a profit of nearly 127M every year.  One million abortions have been performed by this organization in the last three years. This is BIG business and make no mistake, they don't want it going away.  Selling baby parts?  That's just icing on the cake.

So what do they do?  They stick to the 3% and they shout loudly that Pro Life groups are trying to prevent women from receiving cancer screenings, birth control pills and the help they deserve through the de-funding (even though they can very easily receive these services elsewhere). They focus on minority groups and disguise their actual exploitation of them as help. They get their blind supporters to spread the sugar coated lies around the web and they scare a few senators into keeping quiet in the face of the biggest holocaust the world has ever known.  And the result? They win another battle in our Senate.  

But just what have they won?

Well, congratulations - your prize is a morally bankrupt nation with a missing generation of young people that could have cured Cancer and Alzheimer's, won the Nobel prize and countless gold medals.  Who knows the greatness these children you murdered could have achieved or the people they could have saved, loved and helped.  Planned Parenthood - you do everything but protect the weak and innocent as you claim.  Your day is coming.  Let us not stop fighting.

“Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.”
“May the example of those who were exterminated here between 1933 and 1945 because they resisted Naziism help to unite the living in the defence of peace and freedom and in respect for their fellow man.”
–inscription in eight languages on a memorial to those who died at the Dachau, Germany concentration camp.

Saturday, 27 June 2015

Rainbows and Celebrations

"The LORD saw how great the wickedness of the human race had become on the earth, and that every inclination of the thoughts of the human heart was only evil all the time." Genesis 6:5

Any clue when this verse was written?  Feels like it could apply today to me (and no I don't mean today in terms of the recent vote by the Supreme Court.  That would be too simple really.  I mean today as in the time in which we find ourselves living).  This verse was actually said right before God sent the flood to destroy all mankind (except for Noah who walked with God and was considered righteous and his family).

I love rainbows and the fact that after the flood, God placed a rainbow in the sky to signify his covenant to Noah and to all people that he would never again destroy mankind by flood.  When I look at rainbows I think of the sins which made God sorry He had created man and I think of new life that Jesus brings.  I don't think of celebrating homosexuality no matter what our white house or a Facebook application says.

So what do you celebrate?  

Pride, jealousy, hatred, lust, anger, idolatry, envy, adultery, fornication, murder, lies, greed, homosexuality, gluttony, the love of anything above God - all sins. While it's easy to look at one of these and make it the hot bed topic of the day (especially if we see it present in someone else's life), the truth is that in God's eyes we were all guilty and all in desperate need of grace. Jesus came, died and rose to conquer death and provide a way for us to receive forgiveness for our sins and be reconciled to a perfect, sinless God. Not just for the sins that happen to be the most popular ones to our culture at the present time but for all of them. He wants to pour out grace overflowing into all of our lives.

So what are you guilty of? What sin do you celebrate in your own life or in the life of another? Do you laugh when your coworker describes his affair or do you go along with it when someone asks you to lie for them? Would you do just about anything to have that extra money in your bank account or to get ahead at work?   Do you watch smut on TV and laugh at and envy those who will do nearly anything or anybody to get noticed? If you are one that celebrates someone else's sin is it because you truly think that sin is not really a sin or is it because you are too afraid to go against the masses?  

So what do you celebrate?

"Abortion is a woman's choice. It's not really a baby until it's born."

"I don't have enough money to give to starving children around the world but let's meet at Starbucks for a latte later to pray for others to give."

"Yes we're divorcing. We grew apart and just don't love each other anymore."

"I go to church when I don't have something else going on and if I like the pastor and the music is my style."

"Everyone lies on their taxes"

"All men look at porn. It's natural."

"He doesn't treat me the way I deserve to be treated. That's why I had the affair."

"Living with my boyfriend or girlfriend is the best way to find out whether we should get married or not."

"I've always been this way. I can't change"

“The reason why I will kill you is you are infidels…we must establish Islam in this country"

Sin is never to be celebrated.  We are called to fall at the feet of our creator and to confess our sins to Him and to receive the grace and mercy He so willingly wants to pour out on us. He wants to help us find life and a life that is abundantly lived.  Do you want to find life?

"Then I saw a great white throne and Him who sat upon it, from whose presence earth and heaven fled away, and no place was found for them. And I saw the dead, the great and the small, standing before the throne, and books were opened; and another book was opened, which is the book of life; and the dead were judged from the things which were written in the books, according to their deeds.…" Revelation 20:11, 12

Sunday, 7 June 2015

A good visit home and what lies ahead

To summarize this trip home is difficult to do.  It was great fun but not extremely restful. This seems to be a reoccurring theme for us as a family however. :) Everything was a bit of a whirlwind with a long list of day by day things we had planned, none of us remembering what the next day held which made us all laugh. Things I recall (these are not in order of importance or date)...

  • Lots of time at Christine's new house with Chloe's cousins and Aunt Lee Anne.  Lots and lots and lots... :) Slip and slides, bath time with ice creams, birthday sleep over's, bunny and puppy fun, swings and seesaw craziness, grilled cheeses and about a thousand games of hide and seek.
  • Several meetings with Jon Deans and one also with the guys coming over to work with us for the Great Exchange next week.
  • The pregnancy announcement that we will be expecting a nephew to join the Mill's party of five in November.
  • Great catch ups with mom and dad and fun just sitting with mom eating chocolate easter eggs and drinking wine for dinner when the husbands were in SC.
  • A nice day and a half spent with Mark and Dusty (my cousin and his son) from Vacaville, CA.  Dusty is moving from California to Boston to study pharmaceuticals.  
  • A good visit with Tyler, our full-timer from Birmingham, Alabama that God willing. will join us in September in Germany.
  • VBS every night for five days for Chloe and her cousins was a big hit.  Held at WFBC, over 500 children and probably nearly 150 volunteers hosted.  Can you say, madness??
  • Breakfast visits with Brennen, Brita and Brenda.  Lunch with Mel and the kids, Mike and Dede.  Dinner out with the Schacher's and my best friend Melody.
  • Luke Knight's baseball game in Social Circle and explaining the intricacies of baseball to Chloe.
  • A way too short catch up with Patti at one of her yard sales for Haiti.  We'll have to do better at Christmas.
  • Emma Lyn's 4th birthday party.  Theme: Sophia the First, Food: Sprinkle donuts and wonderful breakfast sausage balls and casserole's.  Guests: The family from both sides and lots of Emma's friends from preschool.  Extra Special: Trip to the library for bouncy castles, petting zoo, blue grass music and crafts.
  • Chloe Lee's 4th birthday party.  Theme: Everything princess.  Food: Princess cake and ice cream.  Guests: Immediate Family and Rapunzel, Cinderella, Elsa and Anna (aka Charlotte, Chloe, Emma and Lily) Extra Special: A trip to chuck e cheese for Chloe and her cousins and Aunt Lee Anne
  • An afternoon with Kay, Stacey, Mary Beth, Clark and Joan.  We served pecan pie and lemon meringue pie (because Kay likes anything "lemon"), sat on both porches (screen and Christine's front porch) to rock and took a tour of the Mill's new diggs.
  • Date night with my husband at Logan's steak house.  He loved throwing the peanut shells all over the floor!
  • Three days with Alan and Chloe at the lake fishing, swimming, golfing, Mexican dinner, North Carolina girls adventure day and movies.
  • Memorial Day weekend trip to the lake with the immediate family plus my uncle Ray and aunt Mary Ann and my cousins Julie and Ryan from Rhode Island and Vermont. Fun memories: Going out on the boat, eating at the Mexican restaurant and at the Lighthouse, swimming in the salt water pool, staying at the hotel in Seneca and eating m&m waffles in the morning, 
  • Alan and dad going up to the lake for two days of just man fishing and them not catching a single thing but their story of getting caught in torrential rain and hail on Lake Joccassee was pretty funny to hear.
  • Adoption recruitment fair at GA Square Mall and Adoption orientation meeting went well with Bethany.
  • Watching my husband rebuild a brick wall for mom and dad that had been uprooted and fallen due to tree roots.  He only got about 1000 bug bites and went through 3 or so changes of clothes in the 90 degree heat each day he worked. :)
  • To Atlanta with mom, dad and Alan to see CS Lewis's book, "The Great Divorce" adapted for the stage at the Woodruff Arts center.  It was their gift from us for Mother's and Father's day.
  • Chloe had her first visit to a pediatric dentist and loved it.  We were told she has beautiful and very clean and healthy teeth.  Hooray!
  • Monday night bible study with a lot of our dearest supporters and missing hugs off Shirley Carter, a staple to the group who passed away two months ago.
  • A lot of soul searching and praying about next steps for us as a family and for our ministry in the year ahead.
  • Lots of email, skype calls and back and forths to nail down plans for the Great Exchange, Hochschultage and craziness which starts three days after we return home 
  • Lots more emails and messages, phone calls and legalese back to England where we're currently selling Alan's home.  Praying things finalize in the next two weeks and that our dear friends Mihai and Simona will finally be home owners!!
So what's ahead...
  • Two teams arrive this Friday into Heidelberg to help us with the Hochschultage and the Great Exchange.  The first team consists of two girls coming to work with us for a month from Pioneers in the US.  The second team is the Great Exchange team consisting of two men from a church in Normaltown in Athens. 
  • Friday is also the day Chloe's 4th birthday will be celebrated at kindergarten.  Mom has to bring American cupcakes. :)
  • Sunday night will be the kick off for the Hochschultage
  • Monday - Friday we will be attending prayer breakfasts, doing the Great Exchange through the day and going to nightly events.
  • Sunday is the Living Neckar -  all day church services, evangelism and activities on the Neckarweise.
  • Monday the Great Exchange team leaves.
  • Tuesday 23rd  - July the 8th - serving with Sam (our short-term missionary from Belfast) and our Pioneers girls finishing the construction of the loft, working with students at the University and volunteering doing mini projects around town.
  • July 9th - 12th - Awakening Conference, Nurnberg
  • July 13th - Pioneers Edge team leaves for the USA and Sam also returns to Belfast.
Please if you think of it pray for us over this next month.  Pray God will do great things in the lives of the 5 working with us and in the people we come into contact with.  Pray for our future plans to adopt and for Nicole and Tyler coming to work with us in just a few months.  Pray they get their visa's and that God would use them both in a mighty way!

Sunday, 10 May 2015

Euro Connect Conference Update

Last week we returned from the Pioneer Euro Connect conference in Hungary.  When we first looked at the forecast for the week we were a bit sad that Malta wasn't the chosen location again for the regional conference but in the end we spent the majority of our time inside the hotel either in sessions or going to the pool so the bad weather wasn't much of a factor.  Tuesday, our only sightseeing day it was supposed to rain but God held it off so we could have a nice tour of Budapest and a river cruise down the Danube.  Chloe made two sweet friends from Amsterdam whose parents situation is very similar to ours (married 6 years ago, both old like us, oldest boy is just a bit older than Chloe, late in life missionaries, etc.)  We enjoyed getting to know them the rest of the week and a bit of their story. 

Simon Longden, director of the Australia mobilization base was the featured speaker for the week and he was terrific.  Every day he brought something new, creative and inspired for us from the bible.  He is such a good story teller and his jokes were funny which make it interesting.  Von Newcomb and his wife led worship and that really couldn't have been better. As for the sessions, I enjoyed the first day where we broke up into small groups and had over an hour and a half just to get to know each other better and pray for one another.  That was one of the most impactful things for me personally.  I also enjoyed the session about Missionary kids as Chloe continues to be on the forefront of this mother's mind and her adjustment to all the change around her.  The afternoons each day we had free to swim or go for walks around the lake or just hang out.  Chloe loved the pools and I really enjoyed the lazy river that they turned on every half hour or so.  Very relaxing fun.

One of the things that did stand out to me that I found difficult is other than that first session there was very little organized opportunity to get to know others at the conference better.  We tried a dozen times or more to invite people to join us for a meal but with so many in attendance it was just really hard to get to know folks on a deeper level.  I felt mostly lonely and awkward in the middle of this huge group of fellow missionaries and that was a very strange feeling.  Being with Alan and Chloe and also with Eric and Ellen were two times I recall feeling comfortable and at ease.  Malta was similar but my parents joined us for that conference so maybe we felt it less.  Maybe though we just come to these conferences looking for rejuvenation and rest and meeting people feels like too much work.  I'd be curious as to whether we were alone in this feeling.

So what else...
Well, the hotel I of course look at from my hotelier background so take the below with a grain of salt if hotel reviews aren't your thing.  I'm probably not the most objective observer and my Four Seasons trained eye is always making notes of what was excellent, good and not so good.  If I wrote on up a review on Trip Advisor for the Hotel Azur I would say the following:

Good things:
  • Lots of the staff spoke German.  Apparently Hungary was a big place for Eastern Germans after the war and still is a big tourist spot for Germans so we felt like we had the inside edge!
  • Pools were big and nice
  • Rooms were average size, big enough if you weren't going to stay in them for long, pretty view of the lake.
  • Bowling alley in the hotel!
  • Rooms had mini-bars that you could load your own drinks into (see also negative comment below)
  • Hotel was clean and the staff were friendly
  • Hotel armbands were a convenient way to get in and out of rooms, identify yourself for meals, etc. 
  • They were very nice when we told them Chloe managed to color on the balcony walls as she had run out of paper.  Alan tried for ages to get it off but wax crayons on stucco paint just was too much.
Not so good things:
  • Only lukewarm water is offered for lunch and dinner at no charge.  You can ask for ice for the water but to the chagrin of most of the servers there.  By the end of the week they just said no when we asked and acted like they had run out.  lol  At breakfast you can get orange juice and coffee out of a machine for free so we tried to drink our daily allotment then.  Everything else you pay steeply for.  Alan and I got dinged when we took Chloe bowling one day at the hotel and ordered an orange juice for her.  We were charged the equivalent of around 4 euros for the small glass and then charged a 2 euro service charge for the drink.  Needless to say we didn't return nor buy any more drinks after that! :)  
  • The food at the hotel is average.  Unfortunately I couldn't tell whether it's just because I'm not a big fan of Hungarian food or if it was because the plates were always cold or the fact that most of the meals looked like a creative variation of the meal the day before (Day 1 pork steaks, day 2 pork soup, day 3 steamed carrots, day 4 carrots in a weird cheese sauce for breakfast, etc). Also unlike the hotel in Malta there is only one option for restaurant if you don't want to pay more and that gets really boring after a whole week.
  • The wireless internet simply doesn't work well in the rooms.  Maybe 10% of the time we were able to connect.  We found this true for lots of folks as most huddled around in the lobby using their phones or laptops.  It's 2015 - you must have reliable wireless in every nook and cranny of your hotel.  It's a must.
  • The mini-bars don't cool your drinks.  I think the whole thing is just for show as there is no way to make them any cooler.
  • We paid for a packed breakfast and lunch on the day of departure as did all the others on the early shuttles but they never showed up.
When I used to work at the Four Seasons in Chicago and New York we would have reviewers that would come into our hotel undercover (paid for by the hotel corporate office) and they would tear apart every aspect of the hotel and write an extensive review about 3-4 times a year.  It was REALLY a big deal and promotions and bonuses hinged on how well we did when one of these reviewers came in.   Usually after about a few hours word would trickle down that a reviewer was there and everyone went on high alert.  Nowadays every person, child and dog can write a review online that can greatly increase or greatly decrease a hotels business.  I think being a reviewer would be a fascinating job! 

Still on the whole I would recommend the hotel for a large conference group like this.  For what we paid they did a good job.  Our biggest thanks however goes to the Euro Connect team that pulled everything together, worked exceptionally hard and really handled all aspects of the conference so well.  I'll post allowable pictures later in the week. 

Spring Term Prayer Breakfast Week

A forgotten post I saved but never published... better late than never? lol

April 20th, Monday
Today I got up abnormally early to try to walk down to the earlier bus that only goes on the main street through Neckargemuend with the hopes of making it to day one of the spring term prayer breakfast week early to help setup.  If I had waited and taken the comes only once per hour bus near our home I would have arrived at the train station one minute before everything started and by the time I walked to Calvary I would have been late.  So, why was I walking and taking the bus in the first place??  Well, because I just happened to find out from my friend Alex that I've been driving illegally in Germany for the past four years without realizing it.  I "thought" I could keep my US license and as long as I renewed my international license every year that I would not have to change over until my US license was about to expire.  I was actually told this by a couple of friends who will go unmentioned. :)  And while this "may" be true for the US Military personnel living in Germany, it is apparently not true for the rest of us Ex-Pat's and so I abruptly had to stop driving about two weeks ago.  Ugh.  I love driving.  I love the freedom it gives me to do nearly anything I want to do whenever I want to do it.  And while taking the bus and train is far better exercise because you have to walk a ton and also sometimes walk very quickly so you don't miss said bus or train the times are not exceptionally convenient, especially at night or early in the morning from where we live.  Still, you do feel much more "European" and that is sort'of neat in my book.

So back to my day...

I got to the prayer breakfast early and helped setup as best I could.  I had made banana bread and was lugging my gym clothes as well beause my plan was to meet with a lady that mentors the leaders at Calvary directly following the prayer breakfast, then go to workout, head home and have a quick shower before walking down the hill to get Chloe.  Fortunately there was a large team already hard at work at the church when I got there which was nice to see.  Still, my hospitality gene kicked in as I noticed far more students arriving than we had seats for so I quickly slipped out and added a dozen or more chairs and place settings.  Nothing worse than not having enough room or food for everyone.  My mom taught me that.  :)  The group as a whole seems pretty passionate about being closer to Jesus and reaching their city for Him which is good.  I hope it is an encouraging week for them.

The rest of the day went pretty much as planned with it culminating in bible study with our house group. We've been studying Revelation and we have only two studies left and four chapters to cover.  It's been an interesting study with Alan taking a more historical view of the book while I take a more eclectic or futuristic view.  Not sure where others in the study lie although I imagine they are somewhere in-between.  I think we are just all grateful we are Christ followers - especially with the news all around us which confirms everything the Bible has said for over 2000 years.

Friday, April 24th
The rest of the prayer breakfast week went well.  I attended and helped out on Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday and Alan went on Thursday.  Unfortunately the more I attended the more walking I ended up doing on top of going up and down the hill to take or get Chloe from kindergarten each day and also to get our groceries.  By the end of the week my feet had literally had it and my Plantar Faciitis that I hadn't felt since about six months after Chloe's birth has returned with a vengeance.  Oh so painful it is.  I immediately have gone to only wearing my special shoes literally everywhere and poor Alan had to come and get me several times and bring me home or take me places.  Ugh the lack of freedom and having to depend on someone else to chauffeur me on top of my feet hurting all the time is really rough.

Tomorrow we head to the Pioneers EuroConnect conference in Hungary with 300+ other missionaries from around Europe.  We're excited to get caught up with Eric and Ellen and others we haven't seen in over a year.  Praying for a blessed time of fellowhip, great teaching and encouragement!

Friday, 20 March 2015

Technology has taken over everything but still there is hope

The other day I was committed to clearing out and throwing away.  I didn't make it very far before I stumbled onto some old journals of mine.  A journal on real paper.  Those were the days...

The other night in bible study I reached behind me and grabbed my bible - the one that I used to put sticky note prayer requests for folks on every page and freely highlight something that spoke to me.  It felt like it had been years since I picked up an actual bible.  My iPhone bible app is my daily read most days with its nifty devotional plans and highlight feature, copy and paste directly to FB.  It even offers to remind you if you forget a day and it says, "Great Job!" if you do your devotional.  I think that's a bit weird but you've probably seen it too.

When I go home to Georgia I buy tons of thank you notes, the real ones, 8 in a package for $1 at the dollar store.  I also buy birthday cards for all our family, friends and supporters.  I actually have the very real intention of using them up before I come home next, of writing in them and sending them via what is now sentimentally referred to as "snail mail".  Do I do it?  Sometimes I do but never as much as I would have liked.  Most friends and supporters get the VERY lame, "Happy Birthday" via FB because I have not yet setup a reminder for each of them that will send a message to my phone and tell me that so and so's birthday is in 10 days (it has to be at least 10 days in advance so I can get the card ready and mail from Germany).  This too is on my very long "hasn't been done and I don't know when I'm getting to it 'to do' list".

Last week Chloe and I made Easter egg hunt invitations to send out to her classmates.  Besides cutting them out and gluing on the cute bunny and chic with a glue gun, everything was done on the computer.  I used word to create the egg shaped invitation, used word art to make the neat text on the page, used google to make sure everything was translated properly into German and said the proper way using other people's invitations they had posted online as examples.

Cooking for me has become a task of looking up online the most popular recipe's and then carrying them out with my phone by the stove as I follow along to the instructions.  Before that though I use the recipe's while at the store to make my notepad grocery list and barely avoid running people over while pushing the cart around the store.

Yesterday Chloe had an envelope waiting for her at school and inside one thoughtful mother had printed three photos from the spring festival we attended on the weekend of Chloe and her son together.  She didn't email them, she printed them so we could hang them on Chloe's mirror.  This reminded me of the thousands of pictures I put up on FB, DropBox or Shutterfly but actually printing them... well that takes effort!

As I sorted clothes for refugees in Iraq in our church basement yesterday, I was reminded I could turn on my playlist on my phone and listen to Christian music to help make something that was sort of a dreary task into worship.

Plane tickets are booked on kayak.
Prayer requests are asked for, compiled and sent via email, blog or newsletter.
Calls home to mom and dad are made via Skype.
Chatting with my sisters takes place on What'sApp or Facebook.
Details of whether someone will attend or miss bible study happen via text.
New clothes are purchased online and delivered via Kohl's via eBates with coupons from Retailmenot.
Cinderella films are dressed for and enjoyed by all at the local movie theater.
Decorations for an easter egg hunt are bought using Amazon.
Studying for bible study involves a google search to one of several commentary sites.
Curiosities about new aches and pains and I visit WebMD.
My incentive to go 10 more minutes on the eliptical runner is my ability to play Hay Day (a very silly and addictive children's farm game on my phone) while I do it.
Updates on a dying friend are listened to, cried over and prayed for in a FB group.

and I could go on and on and on but I don't think I have to.  You have your own list.  It's scary but I'm afraid there's no going back now.  As I push the publish button on this blog I am perpetuating this fact but yet believe it or not there is still hope...

For example, yesterday I went to a ceramic store in Heidelberg as I have done a dozen times or more in the last few months to continue my new found love of painting.  I think I get it from my mom who is infinitely better than I will ever be but what an incredible relaxing and creative way to meet people and take up a new hobby.  The ceramic store has dozens and dozens of non-painted, unfired pieces that you can choose from to paint.  They set you up with a little place to work, give you your brushes and paints and any instruction you need for doing stamps,stencils or screens.  You come up with your own design and sometimes you have to come back several times just to finish one piece.  The last one I did took about 12 hours of actual painting time and I loved every minute.

Then last night I visited a mom of one of Chloe's friends at school and we sat around the kitchen and talked and then went outside and actually sat for two hours while other neighbors came over and all the kids played together.  It was a chilly but clear night in Neckargemuend, Germany and the view was spectacular.  God gave us a perfect sunset and one neighbor brought over fresh baked cake right from her oven.  I think Chloe ate three pieces. The children hung Easter eggs from the bushes and chased each other around the yard and down the slide and it was perfect.  Before we left I was invited to attend a Tupperware party the next evening (a TUPPERWARE PARTY in the 21st century?!?) and the little girl we had visited walked us up the hill to our home as a kind gesture.  Absolutely no technology anywhere in sight and it was priceless!

Wednesday, 25 February 2015

What's happening and what's changing for us ahead...

We began this year with the anticipation of a few things...

The first was our study of the book of Revelation in our Monday night bible study.  The second was the arrival of our Venture student Sam from Belfast.  The third was a hard push to finish the loft by the time our two teams arrive in June.  Below is an update on those things plus a big change that we didn't anticipate but we feel God asking us to make.

Last night we had eight come to our bible study which was the biggest group so far and we really enjoyed our time together.  We're now on chapter 6 studying how Jesus was alone worthy to open the seals and how in unsealing each one various things happened.  Lots of people look at these seals with purely historic meaning, others see these things happening in the present or the future.  Some recognize them as being applicable in all three.  Alan tends to teach historically and I tend to look at them as they apply to what I see and read in the news around the world.  We speak primarily in English with translation provided for anyone that doesn't understand into German.  We sing, pray together and enjoy food and fellowship.  We love it and are praying God will continue to draw new people and especially students to attend.

Sam arrived on Monday the 16th and spent his first week helping Alan with the loft, attending bible study, going to a new church plant in Heidelberg run by our friends Ralph and Ruth from Canada and getting to know Heidelberg and his host family.  He's settling in a bit now with lots going on this week at both the CVJM and Calvary.  Sam is interested in church plants and youth work primarily but He has a sincere passion for Jesus and is seeking others in his age group that feel the same and who really want to see Europe transformed.  Sam will be with us until the Awakening conference in Nürnberg that we also hope to attend with our Edge participants in early July.

Alan has worked four and often five days a week since coming back from Christmas on our missions loft at the CVJM.  We are hoping that both our Edge and Great Exchange teams from the US can stay there in June and that in September, Nicole, our full-time recruit, will live there.  We are looking for another girl who can possibly join her on a short to mid-term basis so if you know of anyone that wants to come on mission to Germany for a month to up to a year, have them contact us or their closest Pioneers mobilization base for more information.  The apartment will have two bedrooms, a living room, kitchen and bath.  It's attached to a very large prayer room that anyone staying there can use to pray, study and get alone with God.  We pray it is a blessing to not only those who stay there for little to no cost but also to the members of the CVJM and to this area.

So all of those things are going well, they're on track and we're pleased with the progress.  The big change I noted above is that we feel God telling us to move our spiritual home from the CVJM in Meckesheim to a church in downtown Heidelberg.  The move primarily allows us to have a better comprehension of the sermons being preached.  Currently the CVJM services are in German with no translation and while it has been a good challenge, it is also very difficult to comprehend everything being said by the various speakers/preachers each week. Secondarily we feel God wants us to have more involvement with University students.

We have not 100% determined which church God has chosen for us to attend in Heidelberg although we are leaning heavily toward Calvary Chapel.  We've attended there over the past year when our church hasn't had a scheduled meeting and we both really like a lot of things about it.  The preaching is solid and is done by the pastor who chooses a book of the bible and then spends months tearing into it verse by verse. They've been studying II Samuel for a long time now and I think he's heading into Romans next.  Calvary also has a lot of existing ministries that we can get involved with - a women's and a men's ministry, a cafe, an evangelistic outreach each week and many others.  They have an international student group called LifeCafe that meets at Calvary as well but is not an official ministry of the church.

The second option is to attend the new International church in Heidelberg which formed from several smaller churches one of which was our old church, Victory International that semi-disbanded after the pastors left with the military.  We have not attended the new church in downtown Heidelberg yet but have heard good things about it and many of our old friends go there.  They have a student ministry (also not tied directly to the church) called Studenten für Christus.  If you think of it, please pray for us that God would do the leading as to where He wants us and that we can get involved and be a blessing.  We will continue to be a part of Campus für Christus which meets at the Hosanna Gemeinde on Thursday evenings and Sam will help be our liaison with the Hoschschultage group that combines all of these student groups together for one big week of evangelism on campus in June.

For those of you that have come on mission to Germany and have worked with the CVJM, please know that we plan to keep a strong relationship with the church and youth organization.  We hope to involve them with all teams and individuals that come over, continue to help with their children and youth events/camps as well as seek out young people to come and work alongside them on mission.  The CVJM has a ton of potential and we have been so grateful for the relationships we built while there.  We will be what they call secondary members who stay involved but have another primary church they attend on a regular basis.

As always thank you for praying for us and keeping up with what's happening in Germany.  Here are some prayer points in addition to what is noted above:

Prayer Points:
Pray for Shirley Carter, a dear friend of our family and a prayer warrior and supporter of ours who has spent the last two weeks in the ICU.  Pray the doctors would have real wisdom in treating her.
Pray for our two full-timers trying to raise support to join us - Nicole Demers, from Delaware and Tyler Bowman from Alabama.  Pray for support from their home churches, family and friends.
Pray for the formation of our two short-term teams in June - our Great Exchange Team forming with help from Watkinsville First Baptist and the Great Exchange Group and our Edge Team with Pioneers in Orlando.
Pray for language comprehension for Chloe at kindergarten.
Pray for more opportunities for us to reach out to the parents of Chloe's friends at kindergarten.
Pray for continued healing for Alan's mom's bowel problems and for Mary's mom's eye.

Pictures of the loft, Chloe, bible study and our lives here:

Chloe and her good friend Elia
We brought the American tradition of Valentine's Day Cards to Chloe's Kindergarten
Alan answering questions about the loft

This will be one of the bedrooms and the living room eventually

Celebrating Valentine's Day together

Hiking is one of our favorite things to do

Chloe and mom got new haircuts together on our momma/daughter day out
Our Bible/Book Study on Monday nights