January Ministry Update

Greetings from Amsterdam,

As the New Year gets under way I join with you to praise God for all He did and is doing within this ministry in Amsterdam. Thank you for the role you play, whether through prayer, financial giving or both for God’s work through Great Commission Ministries.

In this update I’ll be reflecting on the outcome of a few key events that took place in December. In addition, here is a list of some of the accomplishments Amsterdam50 and Great Commission Ministries Netherlands experienced as we looked back at 2011:

  • Church-wide Spring Retreat focusing on Re-Born Identity
  • Church-wide Fall Retreat on Unique Design (personality, spiritual gifting, and calling)
  • Coming to Faith: Nicole and Michel Seekles, Yolanda, Franziska, Michel van Essen, Betty
  • Baptisms: Marjan, Mila, Mike, Nicole and Michel Seekles
  • Child Dedication: Olan
  • Urban Alpha Course initiative, with partnership between A50, Vineyard, and Christ Church (total of 4 people coming to faith due to their participation, including Gugi)
  • Pastors-in-Training program established, with Michaël Belgraver and Marc La Porte
  • Leadership transition process initiated
  • Completion of outside consultation with Bob, Geertruyt, and Siebrand
  • Church vision workshop with key leaders
  • Sokol gained legal residence and admission to seminary
  • Queen's Day fundraising initiatives to help support the educational needs of our Kenya orphan friends
  • Spring missions trip to Kenya with 5 church members, including Linda
  • Winter missions trip to Kenya as Linda visited for the second time in 8 months — it was wonderful!
  • Missions trip to Cologne, Germany with 4 church members
  • New Sunday teacher developed (Marcus)
  • Increased growth and development of communities (small groups)
  • Women and Teaching research group
  • Community leaders banquet
  • "Kids' Party" initiative together with Vineyard
  • Greater stability in church (following Watkins family departure in ‘09 and subsequent upheaval)
  • Ongoing involvement with Serve the City and with Stichting Hulp in Praktijk
  • Marriages: Sasha and Sunita; and Werner and Mirjam
  • Baby: Sem de Groot
  • Engagements: Eva and Theo; Mirjam and Arjen
  • Two individuals completed a program of Core Coaching Skills
  • Worship team grew with international leadership
  • EMI seminar taught in Berlin by Linda Kitchen and Patricia Flynn
  • Art Community initiatives: inflatable church, luminary tabernacle, pop-up gallery
  • Music Community initiatives: Muvember concert initiative and Reason for God apologetics series
  • Social Justice Community initiative with Westerwijk Project-outreach to neighborhood children
  • Young families in Oost Community initiatives: Parenting Seminar and Valentine's Dinner for Couples
  • A handful of people attended the Awaken Conference in Italy — December 2011
  • 2 of the GCM Netherland’s staff experienced successful home service leaves

Answered prayers:

Thank you for being a vital part of this ministry through you prayers! Here are a few examples of what God did recently:

  • God blessed us during the winter edition of Serve the City as 300 volunteers shared God’s love in Amsterdam on Dec. 17th and January 7th. Many lives were touched through acts of kindness, smiles and practical help!
  • The talk I gave for the women at Crossroads International church on Dec. 10th was a wonderful event as we focused on “Finding JOY through the Holidays”. I shared about Jesus being our joy, and finding our joy in what Jesus did for us and our identity in Him. In addition, it was fun to reveal some personal stories of holiday traditions and also share about how God made us special through our love languages. We focused on our special identity in Christ while utilizing creativity to make snowflakes and decorate Christmas cookies as an expression of each one’s “uniqueness”.

  • Joy to the world! The Lord is come; Let earth receive her King; Let every heart prepare Him room,….

  • My travels to and from Kenya were safe and the Lord far exceeded my expectations for what He accomplished through my time there. The heart connections with the children were deep and very special. The conversations, story times, Ultimate Frisbee games, card games, Christmas play preparations, hours of singing and all the variety of instruction and prayer were all abundantly blessed. God, indeed, helped me to deepen friendships with the staff as well as all the orphans, including one young lady, Susan, who I met for the first time on this trip.

  • Boys bringing home a cutting from a cypress tree for us to decorate.

On mission in Kenya:

It’s difficult to know where to begin in describing my visit with the orphans over Christmas. As I mentioned above, the Lord answered many prayers. I praise God and thank you!

One of the most special experiences was being able to celebrate Christmas with the orphans and their Guardians through a party/lunch we hosted for their living relatives to come and take part in on December 24th. Not only was it a special opportunity to meet many of their Mothers, Grandmothers or Grandfathers, Aunts, Uncles or cousins, but we had worked all week in preparation to perform the Nativity play for this occasion. It was a big hit!

There were about 60 guests in attendance and most of them had never seen anything like this before. The children narrated and sang everything in English, in order for the guardians to see how much they have developed and learned in school, as well as in Gikuyu, which is the tribal language so that all the guests could understand. However, the children most often speak Swahili, their second language. Therefore, it did take a lot of hard work and many hours of practice before their debut.

One of the Christmas tree decorations each child made--their traced hand decorated with pictures or words that describe their interests and what makes them special.

The play was also performed on Christmas morning in Gikuyu at their church resulting in another huge success. I captured a video of that performance, which I hopefully can upload sometime for your viewing pleasure. The play on Sunday included the appearance of a real “live” Jesus, played by Jeremy--the 2 and 1/2 month old grandson of Elijah and Dorcas, Directors of the safe house.

Jeremy (the baby on far right), with mother Milka (wife of Ben Wachira, Elijah’s son) and on the left is Penninah and her 7 1/2 week old daughter Mercy. Penninah and her husband John are the house parents at the safe house.

On the left above: the Wise Men had followed the star and found the child with his mother, Mary. They presented their treasures and gifts to Jesus (Matthew 2: 9-10). The shepherds of the field had come to Bethlehem to find the baby lying in the manger just as they had been told (Luke 2: 10-11, 15-16). The Savior, Christ the Lord, was surrounded by camels, cows, and a donkey, of course.
On the right above: The angel of the Lord and the great company of the heavenly host were still in the field with the sheep (and one goat) after the shepherds had left to visit the baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger. (Luke 2: 8-15)

The celebration on Christmas day included the traditional “roasting meat” feast. Ben, in photo on the right, was flipping the meat on the grill and then promptly dipping his fingers into the pot of cool water. Very interesting grilling technique! After the meat was roasted the goat heads (in the bowl) and the legs were thrown into a big pot for a sort of “soup”, which I actually did not try.

Throughout the 2 weeks I was extremely blessed to have many opportunities to speak into the children’s lives both through group interaction, daily devotionals and also individually.

Once or twice a day we had “story time”. They loved the books I took to read (Max Lucado) where they learned things like how special they are in God’s eyes and that He doesn’t make mistakes. On one occasion I discussed with Joyce about the main point of the You are Special story where it doesn’t matter what others think or say about us, but only what God says about us. Through
that interaction, she later indicated through a note she wrote to me, the Lord did a mighty work:

“Even in your loving prayers we know that God answers what you pray about. I am also remembering the day you talked with me. It was a big day in my heart. From that day I have seen God’s hand upon my life. Sure that you enjoyed that day as I enjoyed because now it has changed my life. It is not like the past.”

I praise God that He is powerfully at work in these precious children’s lives. Please pray with me that they will fully know how precious they are in God’s eyes, that they understand He has a plan for their life, for their needs to be provided for and for them to have a successful school year (which began this month).

On a very sad note, while completing this update, I found out that 11 wk old baby Mercy just died of pneumonia. Please pray for her grieving parents, John and Penninah, her sister (Kijo), brother (Jack) and the entire family of orphan friends in Kenya.

Thank you for your prayers and financial support.
God bless you in 2012.

Serving the Lord together with you,