November-December Ministry Update 2011

Greetings from Amsterdam,

'Tis the season for special gatherings, parties, celebrations, and traditions to enjoy and share. At the end of this update you’ll find the third “Cultural Connection” for this year which focuses on one of the most cherished and celebrated traditional holidays in the Netherlands…. Sinterklaas!

On Thanksgiving Day I traveled to the city Leiden along with 10 other American friends to enjoy a service in the huge Peter’s Church. We wanted to celebrate the hopes, dreams, ambitions and freedom in worshipping God that the Separatists sought after for more than 8 years prior to setting sail from Holland to the “New World”, i.e. on their way to America via Plymouth, England back in 1620.

It was so special to walk on the same cobblestone streets and alleyways where the Pilgrims walked. I can only hope that just as their time on Dutch soil deepened their faith as they sought the Lord for life direction, that my colleagues and I will continue to be led by God in powerful ways, as well.

Serve the City

Our winter edition is right around the corner and we’re looking forward to serving smiles and blessing people with an outpouring of God’s love through sharing the gospel in “deed”. Whether it’s singing carols to those in the hospital, serving tea to the taxi drivers at Central Station, Cleaning and painting people’s homes who are in need or giving “beauty” treatments to people in a rehabilitation center, we’ve got over 40 projects that will take place over two days - December 17th and January 7th.

So far we have about 200 volunteers signed up and we’re still praying for 100 more to fill all the projects. Please pray for those on the receiving end of the projects (including random acts of kindness and free help and acts of service) to experience an extension of God’s love through our interaction and that we’d shine brightly as a reflection of Him.

Christmas with the Orphans in Kenya

I am so excited to be going back to spend two weeks with our friends in Kenya! What a privilege it will be to spend Christmas with the orphans, where one of my focuses will be directing the children in a Christmas/Nativity play, which they will perform for their guardians, as well as at their local church.

In addition, I’ll be working with the children on their English skills, giving further instruction and playing Ultimate Frisbee, creating decorations for Christmas, making some home visits, and spending as much group and one on one time listening to their stories and praying over them as possible.

I fly to Nairobi on December 13th and return to Amsterdam on the 28th.

The above photo was taken in April 2011 — we are lined up on the Equator…very cool! (or… “hot” actually)

Please pray for safe travels, great connections with the kids and that I have sufficient energy all day long to play, read, talk, pray, give, instruct and deepen friendships with all 31 orphans. In addition, that I will be supportive and helpful to the staff.

Update on Financial Situation

As you all know, over the past 6 months I’ve been working part time on support raising to make up for lost support over the past year. I was hoping to have the necessary support raised by November, but it hasn’t happened quite yet. Of the $1600 total that I needed to raise since May, $980 in monthly support was committed to, but then $285 in monthly support was lost over the past 7 months, which results in $695 in monthly support (520 Euros) raised so far.

In the past month it’s been difficult to commit to more than an average of 5-10 hours a week to support raising due to other ministry work. My hope is to reengage in January with a 20-25 hour a week focus in this area until the last $905 is raised.

I still have a great deal of follow up from phone messages I’ve left and emails sent over the last few months. In addition, there have been a handful of new names of others which I’m pursuing and there are a number of current ministry partners with whom I haven’t yet confirmed whether or not they are in a position to increase their giving to Great Commission Ministries. Please let me know if you’re in a position to give or to make an increase.

A big THANKS to the over dozen ministry partners who have committed to an increase in regular giving, as well as to the new GCM ministry partners who have begun supporting GCM for the work I’m doing in the past few months. Thank you to everyone for your support and prayers. I love serving God with you while He builds His Kingdom!

Cultural Connection — Holiday Traditions

Sinterklaas - The arrival of this extremely special character is a unique celebration that officially begins Holland’s festive season. Saint Nicholas arrives in mid-November every year to a different Dutch city every year having journeyed from Spain by boat. He disembarks onto a white horse, Amerigo, and along with many Zwarte Piet (Black Pete) helpers they travel around for weeks from village to town to city — often seen at schools, market places and other public arenas, until the infamous celebration on December 5th.

All the children (and many adults, too) receive presents, chocolate letters (typically given for the first letter of the first name), pepernoten (a small round “gingerbread” sort of cookie) and other festive foods. Immediately following Sinterklaas, the Netherlands then turns its focus on Christmas which means Christmas trees are then purchased, decorations displayed including many candles or other lighted decorations. The good natured spirit of Christmas is alive and well, and the influx of shopping crowds is evidence of the commercialism which can be familiar in the US.

Mid-winter horn blowing

— Unfortunately, I have never had the privilege of observing this tradition. From what I’ve heard this is a long time tradition among farmers in the rural eastern part of Holland. This custom begins on Advent Sunday (the fourth Sunday before Christmas) and continues until Christmas Eve.

Evidently, the farmers use long horns made from the wood of elder trees, and every day at dawn they blow the horn while standing over a well to announce the coming of Christ. Personally, I would be very excited to take part in such a relevant and cultural experience.

May the Lord bless you in special ways as you celebrate “His coming” with your family and friends.

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year! I look forward to being in touch in January.

In His Love,