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For those who may not know, I am currently on American soil on furlough, which is recommended every 2 years by my sending mission organization Great Commission Ministries. Being on furlough in the United States is meant to be a time to reconnect with family and friends, as well as to provide time for updates with ministry partners and to raise support for the work I’m doing in Amsterdam.

My life has been a whirlwind over the past 8 weeks. Here is a recap:

In the Netherlands

In June I finished my Dutch classes for the year. Upon arriving back in Holland (mid-to-late October) I’ll have about 2 months to prepare for the language “Stads Exam” (city exam) which is required by the government.

Please pray for God’s grace in my ability to learn what I need to in order to pass the exam.

In June and July I had many wonderful opportunities to continue building relationships with the women I’m in “Life Groups” with (Christian accountability and discipling): Romy from China, Mirjam from Holland, and Tanya from Russia; as well as, the women I’ve met and am reaching out to through my Dutch classes, specifically: Danusa from Brazil, Maria from Russia, and Janja from Serbia (former Yugoslavia- Sarijevo). Also, please pray for Jenny de Zinger to open her heart to Jesus.

Please pray for continued opportunities to share the gospel and grow in discipling and deepening our friendships despite the language and cultural barriers.

In early July I was blessed to attend my second Dutch wedding of Zolder50 church members in the 4 and 1/2 years of living in Amsterdam. It was such a joy to celebrate with Stefan, Rensje and their families. An additional special blessing was being able to reconnect with some American friends who were a part of the original church plant and came back to the Netherlands for the wedding.

One of them, Brian, wrote a beautiful reflection of what it was like for him to be back in Amsterdam. I pass this along because it is such a clear description of what it’s like to live in Amsterdam: (Thank you, Brian, for the permission to share)

Even as we flew in to land I was strangely oblivious to the fact that I was returning to Amsterdam after 4.5 years away, when the pilot announced 58 degrees and light rain, I actually wondered if this would be fun at all... I walked through Schiphol (the airport) with that ease of familiarity yet felt strangely out of place, watched people for a while as I got my land legs back, listened to the "beautiful" languages being spoken all around me, purchased my ticket to Amsterdam Central and got on the train.

I listened to 2 Americans flip through their travel books and wonder how and what to see in Amsterdam for their 2 day stay... As we arrived, I simply asked them if they were comfortable on bikes because that is the only way to see Amsterdam... funny.

On my walk to the Watkins house it all started to sink in, the constant construction, the street performers, the people, the tourists, the trams, bikes, cars, people, architecture, sounds, clouds, brick streets, water, smells, gulls, flowers, lights... the vibe of Amsterdam is unstoppable and overwhelming. Then it all came back, why I love that place, why God called all of us there, why it seemed like I never left, It was all the same and yet different.

Many places in the world have changed me and there are many places I would love to visit again and even live. But nothing like Amsterdam, there things are so hard and so easy at the same time, so ugly and harsh and yet so beautiful, so spiritually dark and yet so bright, so much despair and yet so much hope, so many culture clashes and yet so much unity...

... Then there was the church service to see many of the "A-team" originals and watch as the new couple was prayed over by 3 generations of Christians in a "post Christian" country. To look over a church full of people and see 3 generations touched by what God is doing there was surreal and quite overwhelming. To look at all the Americans and their new families and children, to see all the unfamiliar faces, to see a new Christian family started was something I will never forget.

Then it started all over on Sunday. I walked into the H88 in the afternoon while the band rehearsed. God has done amazing things and blessed the ministry with another amazing location and setting. You all have done a great job transforming it. Sitting in on a Sunday service at Zolder50 was another experience I will never forget. Of the 100 people, I knew only 3 outside of the Americans. God is flooding your doors with people who see something they want and need, He is changing lives daily, He is also sending people away from that place changed forever. He has truly brought together a place where lives are transformed and the gospel is being sent to all parts of the globe.

I also got to spend time with some of my best friends in the entire world, eat lunch in a private garden in the city center, try again at my broken Dutch, linger in a couple of grand cafe's, eat chocolate, cheese and good bread, get thoroughly soaked to the bone on the bike, watch all the diverse people on the Dam Square, standing in line for 45 minutes at the bank and still not get things worked out, buy flowers for ridiculously little money, use bathrooms so small that I can touch all 4 walls, the ceiling, and the sink all at the same time... while using the toilet, and so much more.

All in all it was a trip I will never forget. God confirmed that I do not glamorize Amsterdam as this city that is perfect and all things are great there, and yet he also confirmed my love of the city with all its good and bad. He confirmed that He is doing great things through His church in the city and that the Zolder50 is alive and well.

In the United States

On July 19th I flew to America to begin my furlough, which started with a 6 day trip to western New York State for a family reunion on my mother’s side. It’s always wonderful to be in the Allegany mountain foothills and to reconnect with extended family (which occurs once every 2 years or so). To the left is a funny picture of my Uncle having just passed off traditional “Patriarchal symbols” to the family who will be hosting the next reunion. I happened to be the only sibling there from my family, who will be the next reunion hosts, so I was selected as a representative to pass the items on.

The last week of July was a buzz of activity with the final preparations for my niece’s wedding, which was on August 2nd, 2008 at my sister’s home. It was a beautiful day and we all enjoyed celebrating this special day with Jessica and Drew. They are now settled in Statesville, North Carolina.

Please pray for Jessica and Drew (pictured to the right) that they will have a strong marriage.

The week after the wedding I took my nephew and 2 of my nieces on a camping excursion to one of Indiana’s beautiful State Parks, Turkey Run. In addition to cooking over the campfire, we enjoyed horseback riding (trail ride), canoeing, hiking, rock climbing and swimming. Everyone had a blast and I am very thankful to have made this special memory with them (pictured below).

In the middle of August I began visiting churches and individuals to share updates on the ministry in Amsterdam. I will be support raising until mid-October. Some of you I’ve already seen and I hope to visit with many more while I’m in America; however, I know that I won’t be able to see everyone unfortunately. Currently I’m traveling around the Midwest, then in mid-September I’ll be in Central Florida for about 10 days and wrapping up my travels out west in Arizona at the end of September and early October.

Please pray for traveling mercies and for the Lord to provide the necessary support ($1000 in monthly support) in order for me to continue doing missions work in Amsterdam.

Thank you for your prayers and financial support. I am blessed to have a wonderful group of ministry partners.

May the Lord bless you,