Celebrating the "Life Changer"...Jesus Christ.

"For a child is born to us, a son is given to us. And the government will rest on his shoulders. These will be his royal titles: Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace." Isaiah 9:6

Greetings from Amsterdam and Happy New Year!

Recently I experienced my first Christmas and New Years in the Netherlands, as well as our first ever Great Commission Europe conference - "Awaken". The past 2 weeks are a blur of memories, including my birthday celebration (a week early) with a large group of friends, on Christmas Eve I hosted a small gathering for some friends and then Christmas Day myself and 3 other missionaries joined a missionary family for a delicious Christmas meal. Later on the 25th we held a gathering in the Zolder (www.amsterdam50.nl) to celebrate Jesus' birth and then made dinner for 35 people and watched movies, played charades and had a terrific time of fellowship.

Two days later our staff here in Amsterdam, along with friends from the U.S. who specifically came to help, made final preparations and began to set up the facility in the center of the city where "Awaken" would take place from December 28th - 31st. 8 countries were represented at the conference, and each main session was translated into 5 different languages (Spanish, Italian, German, Polish, Ukrainian) for those who were unable to understand English -- 2 of the 3 main speakers were Americans and the other a Ukrainian. God "awakened" our hearts toward Him and provided a very literal picture of His Kingdom here on earth as multi-language and muliti-cultural experiences occurred all week between over 200 brothers and sisters in Christ from all over Europe. Thank you for your prayers!

"Life changing" stories here in Amsterdam.

Mariska & Sokol are both friends of mine who I met through Zolder 50. Mariska was born and raised in the Netherlands, moved to Canada in 2001 after just becoming a Christian and has been back in Amsterdam since January 2004. We are in a discipleship relationship and she has stepped up in leadership in both women's ministry and in our Home Group. And Sokol, from Albania, has been in Amsterdam less than 3 years..read on to hear about the amazing changes he has experienced through God's intervention. God is working powerfully in young Europeans . here are their stories:

"I always thought life was kind of a sick joke. Growing up in an atheist atmosphere, I felt completely 'out there' to think that there could be more to life then whatever we could see, let alone for it to have some sort of significance! Until I was 28 I had never met a Christian in my life and was determined to find answers, in anything I could find; from 're-birthing' to chakra psychologies, I also gave the Bible a chance. It spoke to me in ways, and I had a certain respect for it, but never could understand that there could only be one way to God. I thought that was a little bit much. So I kept it in my library but continued to plan a trip to India, hoping to find enlightenment in one of these mysterious temples (Thank God I never ended up going, God caught me on time).

Shortly after that, I met two Christian guys from Canada who I became friends with. They were talking about God as if they knew Him so well, and they could talk to Him, and He would even talk back to them!! Who had ever heard of such a thing?? Nobody, in my world! So that actually ticked me off, I was pretty upset and jealous about this intimate relationship they seemed to have with the maker of the universe!

They prayed for me that day, and from then on, God has just taken over. It still didn't all make sense to me in my head, but I felt that it made perfect sense in my heart, and God literally took control of my life. I dumped every single new-age book I had in my home, and just started reading the Bible. It was such a miraculous God-thing. Out of all the crazy adventures I've been on, this has been the most exciting one EVER. God has literally pulled me out of the darkness, out of a life of destruction and nothingness, into His glorious light. I am a different person today and feel that my wildest dream that I used to have about God being real, has come true. I am eternally grateful. Praise Him for what He's done for us!"

Mariska, Amsterdam Holland.

Sokol's family story begins in the 1930's with family revenge. Sokol was born in Albania in 1980 on the day his brother was shot and killed. His parents separated in 1982 and his dad became Muslim. Sokol was sent away to his grandparents for 10 years. During that time, his grandfather influenced him with stories from the bible.

In 1981 Sokol went to live with his mom who he hardly knew. A family enemy found him and while he was walking through a park with some friends he was shot in the leg. Sokol moved back with his father and started following Islam, which he studied for 4-5 years, converting other people (50 families) to follow Islam.

In 1995 Sokol was shot in the head in the same park as before. He was lucky to survive after one month in a coma. As a 15 year old, he finally heard from his mom the whole story about his brother being killed on the day he was born. Sokol described to me recently that it was always so painful for his Birthday to arrive and it was NEVER celebrated. He would receive only a kiss from his mom and a very solemn "Happy Birthday" wish, nothing more. A year and a half ago as a young Christian, he was overwhelmed when friends here in Amsterdam threw him a Birthday party. the first one in his entire life.!!

In 1996, and ashamed to admit it, Sokol found revenge on the enemy family for killing his brother. He shared with us here at Zolder 50 that he has broken every one of the Ten Commandments. He then left for Greece, where he spent 5.5 years, to avoid further revenge on his life. There was a Christian organization in Corinth that was ran into and suddenly became interested in Christianity because of a pretty girl who invited him to a church service. He started reading the bible and understanding who God and Jesus were, but he chose not to become a Christian due to being afraid of his family's reaction.

The enemy family found Sokol in Greece in July 2002, so he fled the country and ended up in Spain. While in Barcelona for six months he did not lead a healthy lifestyle. Because of dealing drugs he made enough money to go to the Caribbean for a month before moving to England. While in England he got in trouble with the police. The authorities wanted to send him back to Albania, but Sokol showed them papers from Albania that convinced them to send him to the last place his passport was stamped, which was Amsterdam.

Upon arriving at the Amsterdam airport, Sokol was escorted to prison where he stayed for 3 months. When dismissed from prison, he had no legal documents to be able to live or work in the Netherlands. Without having any housing arrangements, someone suggested he check out a Christian organization called the Shelter (youth hostel) since there he could work/volunteer as a cleaner and stay for up to a month.

Sokol attended the weekly bible discussions in order to receive the free cookies, drinks and fruit. That summer he met Mary Kim, a volunteer staff member from Canada, who led him to a relationship with Jesus on Aug. 7th, 2003. However, the prayer he prayed didn't really affect his heart, he only knew he did the right thing in his head. The next night he had a dream where he personally encountered Jesus. This is when his true conversion took place and he cried for the next 3 days, finally understanding God's grace, forgiveness and love.

On September 21, 2003, Sokol was baptized in Zolder 50. He has witnessed several miracles since becoming a Christian. First, his family has experienced reconciliation after over 70 years of feuding. Secondly, God has provided a job and a place for Sokol to live in Amsterdam, where he continues to grow in his faith. His smile is captivating and the joy in his soul pours out to those he meets. We are blessed to have him as a part of our community in Zolder 50.

Please pray for Sokol, Mariska and all the young lives here in Amsterdam. that trust is placed in Jesus for life changes and for impacting His Kingdom.

Also, please pray for the more than 200 hearts of young people from multiple nationalities and divergent cultures who came together at "Awaken". may they continue to worship the living God and allow the messages they heard about His will for their lives stir their hearts and result in life change.

Gladly serving a God who changes lives! May your life be changed in 2006 through your relationship with the living God!

In Jesus, my life-changer,