Saturday June 15, 2019

Galatians 6:10 So then, whenever we have an opportunity, let us work for the good of all, and especially for those of the family of faith.

Today we definitely took an opportunity to do good for all, thought likely not in the manner described in this letter to the Galatians.  We awoke early and headed over to meet up with the Hofmanns.  After spending a few hours Friday evening having some adult beverages both Rene and I were feeling a little tired.  We got to their house a little after 9 to have a quick breakfast and then head to Belantis, an amusement park about two hours from Schonebeck.  Unfortunately, while the weather was flawless it was also very warm.  Despite the heat though we had an amazing time.  There were several good sized coasters which gave the more adventurous of us in the group plenty about which to cheer and enough less thrilling rides for those happy to stay closer to Earth.  The kids had a great time and were amazing despite the heat and lots of walking.

After picking up some souvenirs we headed back to Schonebeck to get some dinner and let the kids have a sleepover.  I offered to drive a car full of kids which gave Sara a chance to just be an adult with Rene and Susi.  I think they all anticipated that my car would be wild and crazy.  That could not be farther from the truth.  Within about five minutes two of the girls were asleep and David and Anjali were basically silent, exhausted from the day.  We got home and whipped up a quick meal for the kids and then ordered pizza for the adults.  The kids popped in a movie and prepped for Emma and Rene to spend the night.  After the long and hot day we were all asleep early and rested well having made the most of our last Saturday abroad.

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Friday June 14, 2019

Psalm 37:4 Take delight in the Lordand he will give you the desires of your heart.

We took great delight today as we were treated to another day of peace, quiet, and some amazing play amongst our children.  Because we are on vacation Sara and I have let the kids more or less decide how to spend their days.  They have spent countless hours already on the trampoline, playing battleship, and recently they discovered the pool and ping pong tables in Fellowship Hall.  While Sara and I were working on resumes and blogs Anjali and Luci were busily preparing a show.  Anjali wrote out several songs (Mary Had a Little Lamb, Down to the River to Pray, etc) which Luci would sing to us.  The girls put on an excellent display amd we were amazed once again at the talent our kids can show.

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Because Johannes was out of town for a meeting we decided to have dinner at home and then meet up with the Hofmanns and Birgit for an evening swim.  Birgit found a different water hole from our trip last year which was more remote and peaceful.  We were surrounded by a large wheat field which made for some pleasant scenery and an especially wonderful sunset.  The kids (and adults) had an amazing evening just being in the moment and enjoying a nice cool swim.

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Thursday June 13, 2019

Deuteronomy 6:5-7 You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your might. Keep these words that I am commanding you today in your heart. Recite them to your children and talk about them when you are at home and when you are away, when you lie down and when you rise.

Our first full day back in Schonebeck was relatively peaceful.  In many ways it was just like every other day we spent the previous summer.  We awoke, ate a light breakfast, and then headed out for errands.  We decided today that we should make our way to Magdeburg to find some summer clothes for Luci and Anjali who were down to minimal options to say the least.  We also thought we might make our way to the Dom de Magdeburg, the church in the city center, to see if we could get a better picture in the sunlight (our first photo occurred during a deluge).

While shopping went well we encountered some challenges during lunch.  This was brought about in large part because of me.  David has been excelling in Tae Kwon Do but Sara and I both believe that it is important for kids to branch out into other areas which would include team activities.  Anjali had brought up her desire to get back to swim team and David remarked that he no longer wanted to be on the team.  I casually remarked that he was fine to not be on swim team but that at some time he would need to join a team sport.  What ensued could best be described as torture.  He became frustrated and angry at the idea and threatened that he wouldn’t do anything at all which caused me to get fired up and threaten to force him.  Needless to say this did not make for the best lunch and the walk to the church and subsequent photo were not ideal.

We got through it all with some open and honest communication and in the end, as it often does, time heals all.  We made our way back to the train station and headed back to Schonebeck.  The kids have always enjoyed riding the trains and this time was no different.  We arrived in one piece and then decided to go get some gelato in the main square.  The kids had made friends with the women who ran the shop and the ladies were very surprised and happy to see us back again. One of them literally did a double take on seeing us.

Later this evening we met up with friends for a nice meal and some conversation.  These were never in short supply in Germany and we were thankful as always for it.  Sara and I remarked to one another on the drive home how much we appreciated this year of giving and receiving.  We truly owe God the greatest debt of gratitude.

Tuesday June 11, 2019

Malachi 3:10 Bring the full tithe into the storehouse, so that there may be food in my house, and thus put me to the test, says the Lord of hosts; see if I will not open the windows of heaven for you and pour down for you an overflowing blessing.

Over this past year people have told us how “brave” Jeff and I was for taking 3 children around the world to volunteer. Most of the time, we have truly enjoyed the experience, even in the struggles with behavior. By the end of the day today, Jeff made the comment that he now understands that very statement. Our children began fighting upon waking up and didn’t stop the rest of the day. We did make it out of the house to see a few sights, including the Speicherstadt (historic red brick warehouse buildings along the Elbe River) and Elbphilharmonie Hamburg (a modern concert hall atop a historic red brick warehouse). We enjoyed a nice lunch overlooking the Elbe River and had hopes of a nice day exploring this old and historic city.

Speicherstadt (Hamburg, Germany) Elbphilharmonie (Hamburg, Germany)

But that didn’t last. Anjali didn’t complain about her foot at all in the morning, but as soon as she heard that we were going to walk for about 15-20 minutes to the next sight, she lost it; her foot was just hurting too bad to do that. Then David wanted to go home, but that made Anjali angry because he was “copying her”. Everything went downhill from there. We decided that we would take the kids home and give them a break (we were even going to give them their screens to play) while Jeff and I explored the city together. But those plans fell through too because the kids could not stop arguing and fighting. It was at this moment that Jeff and I decided to split up. One would go sightseeing and the other would stay home with the kids. Jeff needed a break from the kids, so I opted to stay with them, but the kids then decided they now wanted to explore! I can’t even begin to share with you the level of frustration from both Jeff and I, even Anjali’s foot was now feeling better. I wanted to scream, but since Jeff needed a break, he opted to now stay home and I would take the kids out exploring once again. This is why people tell us that we are “brave” to travel like this with kids!!

So the kids and I took off to see St. Nicholai church and then Rathaus (or city hall). We even took the elevator up to the top of the church and then down in the crypt museum where we learned all about the history of Hamburg and this church. It was incredible and really powerful.

View from the top of the tower at St. Nicholai Memorial Church with St. Michael’s Church in the Happy kids for the moment. An aerial view of the Rathaus from the top of St. Nicholai Rathaus fountain in the courtyard (Anjali didn’t want to be in the photo) David thought this was a cool door and frame. David and Lucia inside the Rathaus (Anjali standing beside me taking the picture) Looking away from the Rathaus in the city center. A group shot (with Anjali) in front of the Rathaus. One silly family.

After an hour or so of exploring the kids were again done, but this time were kind enough to just say so and not completely blow a gasket, so we headed home. Jeff was feeling a bit rested and we both decided that we wanted to go explore more, but this time without the children. They seemed to have calmed down and no one was fighting. So we did a very responsible parenting thing, we gave them their screens, knowing that it would buy us a couple hours of entertainment, and bolted from the apartment.

Jeff and I walked to the Saint Pauli Elbtunnel. This tunnel was built in 4 years to support the mass of harbor workers and took you across the Elbe River. We walked this tunnel both ways and while it was pretty cool to walk under the river, I think we were just enjoying the company of each other without the distractions of children. From here we walked along the Elbe over to St. Nicholai Memorial Church and the Rathaus. It was a very relaxing afternoon, in spite of the stressful and frustrating morning.

One of the many Harbor Bridges near the tunnel. A selfie overlooking the harbor. St. Nicholai Memorial Church

Rathaus

We went home to check on the kids, thankful they were not fighting like cats and dogs. Though shortly after coming home and the turning the screens off, they were at it again. Dinner out was never going to happen, nor were Jeff and I going to leave to watch the soccer game. So we made a decision to make a quick and easy dinner for the children (grilled cheese sandwiches, some fruit and veggies, and Pringles) and we would order to take-away. While I made dinner for the kids, Jeff worked hard to find the US Women’s Soccer match against Thailand. We finally got the kids to sleep and I ran out to grab some food for us and then we sat down to watch the very lopsided match. I think we were both extremely tired and out of patience given the day. We ended up calling it a night, slightly frustrated with each other (though I don’t think either of us knows why).

As I reflect on this stressful day I realize that God absolutely provided to us. While we didn’t get to see all that we (I mean Jeff and I) wanted, I look back at these pictures and realize that we did see Hamburg. God definitely was with us today (or we may have left our children in Hamburg : )) and He poured His love over us, allowing all of us to recover enough to see parts of Hamburg. We were challenged and had a lot of fights and struggles, but in the end, His love gave us the opportunity to enjoy Hamburg and I am grateful for the short glimpses of happiness we had today.

Thursday May 30th, 2019

Psalm 119:105 “Your word is a lamp to my feet, and a light to my path.”

Every place we have served we have seen a rainbow.  If you believe in signs then you no doubt will recognize this one as the sign God gave to Noah following the end of the great flood.  I always thought rainbows were beautiful but since taking on this journey and being blessed with them at every stop I have appreciated their significance that much more.  It also isn’t so much that we have seen rainbows as much as when.  They have typically come toward the end of our service time and while this may simply be coincidence I have long thrown such notions out the window.  So it was that today, the last day of our service in Romania, we had a late afternoon storm which gave us a brief, not terribly vivid, but evident rainbow.

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The day started out like just about every other we have had here.  I did my last shift at the hospital while Sara did some sorting and baby bundles in the support center.  We left the kids at home to enjoy their last day of playing with the Catos.  My shift was rather uneventful, passing out diapers, snuggling with babies, the usual.  I was particularly grateful though that Ann told me to pick whichever babies I wanted since today was my last day.  It isn’t like you have favorites but it was still a nice gesture on her part.

As it turns out my babies were particularly sleepy apparently because both cuddled up and promptly slept when I had them.  I felt really calm and peaceful about that.  This whole time I have been working I have wanted those babies to know they are loved and cared for even when they have been alone and away from their parents.  I felt like they felt comfortable in my arms and that is why they slept.  We didn’t play but I knew they felt my love for them which is why they were okay to simply let go and get a power nap.

I said my goodbyes to the staff and to Ann and Joyce and then picked up Sara.  We made a quick stop by the store for a few items to get us through our last evening and then headed home to pack up.  I ambitiously thought we could get this knocked out in two hours or fewer.  I was incorrect.  On the positive side it was only four or five hours and we only had to panic slightly when we realized that we underestimated the number of bags we would need.  But in the end we took a deep breath, recognized the challenge and overcame.  We got the house more or less straightened away, made especially difficult after realizing the girls had managed to spill an entire tupperware of chutney on the kitchen floor and then used all of our paper towels to clean it up.  We gave the house a good once over and then enjoyed a quick birthday celebration for Martin, our neighbors’ one year old.  Sara and I had a final meal of Dodo’s pizza and then we headed off to enjoy a relaxing night of sleep, prepping for the next day’s travels.

All in all despite a few hiccups the day was very peaceful, calm, and reassuring.  We knew that God had placed the path before us and we needed only follow it.  We had made the most of our opportunities and we felt made a contribution to the mission of FFR.  The rainbow I think was God’s way of reminding us that His covenant remains and is true.  I hope that it was also His way of showing us that the path we have taken is consistent with His plan.  I look forward to the next rainbow, wherever it may be.

Saturday May 25, 2019

1 Peter 1:8-9 Although you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and rejoice with an indescribable and glorious joy, for you are receiving the outcome of your faith, the salvation of your souls.

We woke this morning with a sense of peace with the decision to leave Braşov on Friday. As it has been in the past, as soon as we made this decision (or finally decide to follow God’s path), everything falls into place. Even though it is not ideal, we now have a plan and I feel a sense of relief. We booked our flights to Copenhagen and made the necessary arrangements to make it to Karlskrona, Sweden to visit a college friend of mine. I am beyond excited to see her and spend some time with her. And even though our change of plans will reduce our time together, I am grateful they were able to work with us on this change, and I will be happy with whatever time we do get! From Sweden we will head to Germany to visit our friends in Schonebeck and then back to the States (AZ first and then WI). In all we should be back in the US around the 20th of June.

It is hard to think that we will be home a month early, and to be honest it makes me a bit sad. I think this is what made this decision so difficult; we felt that we had to finish this year because that is what we set out to do. But every door we encountered was closed and I think we finally realized that God was just telling us that our time was done. I don’t know why yet, but I am sure He will reveal His plan to us in due time.

As I read this scripture I do feel an “indescribably and glorious joy”, in part because even though it is difficult at times, both Jeff and I have always tried to be open to where God is leading us. And though it may take us a while to understand and see it, He continually reaffirms our faith by being patient with us and then opening the doors to the path He wants us to walk. My faith and relationship with God has grown so much over this year. All of the times I felt stressed or overwhelmed, He was always the foundation for why we were doing this, and with God at the center, everything we did had purpose and filled us with this indescribable and glorious joy to which Peter is referring. I am so thankful that God provided us with the courage and the fortitude to complete this journey, even if it wasn’t the full year we set out to do, both Jeff and I feel that we have honored God in everything and pray that this is not the end, but only the beginning of many journeys yet to come.

On a totally different note, tonight we had dinner with Katie and Calah (our rescheduled dinner from Thursday). Jeff and I worked together to make one of our favorite meals from India, Chicken Korma with chipatis and chutney. This dinner was definitely our best effort thus far, it turned out so amazing. On top of that, we got to spend the evening with Katie who was leaving Romania on Tuesday and with Calah as we leave on Friday. We felt very blessed to have worked alongside Katie for the last 3 months and Calah for the last 2 months. They have both been so kind and welcoming to our family and we are going to miss them both, though hopefully our paths will cross again sometime in the future.

Thursday May 23, 2019

2 Samuel 7:29 now therefore may it please you to bless the house of your servant, so that it may continue forever before you; for you, O Lord God, have spoken, and with your blessing shall the house of your servant be blessed forever.”

Today was quite interesting. I had the hospital shift today and Jeff brought the kids to the support center to work on “baby bundles”. My time at the hospital was quite normal, but even in the normality of what we are doing here, it is still so incredibly powerful. These children are starving for attention and I am so glad we are here to provide it to them.

I think that is why both Jeff and I continue to knock and push on doors to stay here. Unfortunately, none of these doors will open for us. We have tried reaching out for help from various people, but just get varying answers and no solutions. But we are not giving up, as all of us want to finish out our year, here in Romania. Alternatively, we have been given information on different projects in the UK, the Netherlands, and Ireland, but thus far we have heard nothing from them and have no confirmation of opportunity. So we wait…

This has got to be one of the major lessons God wants me to learn, patience. I say this because He is continually testing my ability to be patient and wait for His time, and today is no different. Unfortunately I have not been able to study much today because as soon as I finished my shift I met with Jeff and the kids at the support center and we decided that tit would be best if we take Anjali to see a doctor for her ankle.

I was beyond grateful (and surprised) that when I called the social worker that works alongside FFR, I was told to bring Anjali to her office. I was just asking for some help to navigate the ER and the paperwork, but one of the doctors came right into the office and looked at her ankle and diagnosed her with a sprain.

After leaving the hospital we stopped by the support center to borrow some crutches and then to the pharmacy for a brace. Anjali says that using the crutches helps her ankle no hurt, now the crutches are making her arms and her hands hurt. I don’t think she is too happy about all of this and I feel bad for her because during the next couple of weeks she will find it very difficult to get around and play with her friends.

We were supposed to do dinner with Katie and Calah tonight, as a send off for Katie’s departure on Tuesday, but the trip to the hospital cut into our plans and we had to reschedule. We did a quick and easy dinner for everyone and Jeff and I discussed and evaluated are various options. We have to be out of Romania by next Friday and while we are still trying to figure out a way to stay, we also need to be prepared that we won’t be able to and need to have a plan B.

So long story short, our visa here end in one week and we have no idea where God is leading us.