Monday, 29 September 2008

My Godson

So when I became a godmother a week and a half ago, I gave my new little godson Alex a card and some candy, just to mark the day as special for him (most kids are just babies when they’re dedicated, but Alex is nearly 4 so will probably remember the day). His mum wrote me the other day to tell me that Alex has this special place where he hides all his treasures—under his mum’s pillow—and she found the card there : ) How cute is that?!

Tuesday, 23 September 2008

Mission Ponderings

Dear All—

The long-awaited update!
As usual, it’s long : ) But it’ll have you well informed. So grab a cozy cup of hot chocolate, put your feet up, and let’s have a good catch-up…

Missionary Mire

“You need a specific reason to stay home, not a specific call to go to the missionfield.” -- Keith Green

I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about mission. 3 years studying it and training in it! And this intense summer questioning whether I can actually do it. I’ve often felt I have a growing body of evidence to attest that the doubts are right. Yet the passion to see lives in Europe know the love of God and be transformed by this love lives on in me, despite my willing admittance that I am not the ‘best for the job,’ that I have real issues with confidence that hinders so much good I would like to do. I think even my strengths don’t necessarily fit the traditional mold. I keep a lot to myself, in hopes that I might not burden anyone. I fear that I need too much encouragement. I fear I will tire people out I struggle to fight off the feeling that I ought to somehow “be better first,” as if there is a certain standard to meet, a certain line to cross, and then God can use me. Or, in the darker moments, that I just cannot be used by Him at all because I am just too mortally flawed…

I’ve struggled with this before, you all know, and I’m perfectly aware that it is absolutely unbiblical, yet the struggle continues as I wrestle with doubt and fear, and so, with believing God.

How belittling that must be to this God whom a few weeks ago led me powerfully to a passage in Isaiah saying, “Does a clay pot ever argue with its maker? Does the clay dispute with the one who shapes it, saying, ‘Stop, you are doing it wrong!’ Does the pot exclaim, ‘How clumsy can you be!’ […] This is what the Lord, the Creator and Holy One of Israel, says: ‘Do you question what I do? Do you give Me orders about the work of My hands? I Am the one who made the earth and created people to live on it. With My hands I stretched out the heavens. All the millions of stars are at My command” (Isa. 45:9,11-12). And a few verses before, speaking to me very specifically about a life of ministry: “And why have I called you for this work? […] I called you by name when you did not know me. I am the Lord; there is no other God. I have prepared you” (Isaiah 45:4-5).

My problem is, I get so hung up on what I’M NOT, that I can’t focus on everything that HE IS, which is what a life of mission is meant to be all about anyway! When all else boils down and all talk of method and skill and measures of effectiveness hushes, what is the mark of a missionary—someone who takes the good news of Christ’s grace to people who need to hear it? It must be passion for God. It must be a desire to be more and more conformed into the image of His Son. It must be simply wanting to delight in Him. It must be about living as if He is all that is important. When I look at it from this angle, all the things I am not and have yet to learn or become confident in… they fade in their importance and serving Him because of Who He is and what He’s done becomes all that matters, whatever the cost.

“If I am abandoned to Jesus, I have no ends of my own to serve.”
-- Oswald Chambers

A Call to Europe

So my calling is confirmed and true, regardless of how I sometimes feel.

But I’ve struggled to wait patiently for God to open the doors He’d have opened for me to serve Him. My heart for Europe is right here, right in place, and so often these days I feel my soul-home is more England than Minnesota! But every time an opportunity for my next step in life here looks promising, it seems to fall through. And that is incredibly discouraging.

Over the summer I met up with a lovely Australian friend, Annette, who is following God to mission in France and He used my interaction with her as yet another confirmation that I am not wrong to continue to press on toward Him and His plans for me in Europe. With she and my common passions for ministry in Europe and common fervor for non-traditional mission, we also share some common struggles and somehow there is something so reassuring about knowing that it’s not just me walking this discouraging road. And like Annette following His heart to France right now, my passion doesn’t go away and I must see it through, no matter the doubts I have in myself. I think what I’ve realized this summer is that… I can’t help myself. I’m compelled.

“For Christ’s love compels us, because we are convinced that one died for all, and therefore all died. And He died for all, that those who live should no longer live for themselves but for Him who died for them and was raised again.”
-- 2 Corinthians 5:14-15

Europe moves my heart. What was once the hub of Christianity in the world, is now one of the most resistant to the Gospel as post-modern thought takes over. While the gospel has advanced in most parts of the world over the past 250 years, in Europe it has declined. An estimated 1.1% of the people in Europe actively follow Christ. 1.1%!!! The need for the reality of God’s love to penetrate hearts is VAST on this beautiful continent of intricate culture and history, wealth as well as poverty (though, in comparison to other continents throughout the world, the poverty here is mostly of the heart), and people who are so utterly disillusioned by the church for having “been there, done that” for hundreds of years already that the once over-flowing worshippers of the King of Kings have slowed to a mere trickle. I am passionate about this part of the world, and about the specific way of doing mission that is required for this part of the world as opposed to the 10/40 window and such. And after a long and delicate journey into His heart starting at my mother’s knee as a 4-year-old girl, I desire to live out His love here in this land and in His way.

But in so many ways the journey is only beginning…

“Perfect are the good desires You have given me;
Be their end, as You have been their beginning.”


Missionaries to this Missionary

On Friday I arrived back again in Sweden for the next 2 months, welcomed into the home and ministry of some European missionary friends in Gothenburg—to live with and learn from them as they include me in the work of God here. This is ideal for many reasons:

I love this family. They have made a massive impression on my life since I first met them my first time in Sweden to stay with an aunt and uncle when I was 14. Mike is Dutch, Brona is Irish. They have 4 beautiful boys: Oisin (17), Bjorn (15), Misha (14), and Jesse (8), and 2 foster boys: Amir (16) and Abdi (18). And their lives are living, breathing, walking ministries to the world around them. It’s not a job or a career, but a life. And that’s how I endeavor to live.

(The Van Weidens!! Jesse and Micha-- my best boys :) Oisin, Amir, and Bjorn-- the crazy older boys. They have one more older foster son called Abdi who's not around much so not pictured here!)

They have been missionaries in Europe for a long time and they’ve got the vision for mission in Europe—building relationships, creating community, reaching into the brokenness, and offering relationship rather than religion. Working alongside them feels a bit like an apprenticeship, learning by example but in a sort of “on-the-job-training” capacity.

Most importantly for me right now, I think, is that they know me. They see all the fears trembling in my spirit these days, all the insecurities of this stage of life, and understand a lot of the refining process God is bringing me through. More often than not, they’ve been there too. Missionaries are a rather special breed of people, you might have realized : ) And we’re even more specialized according to the region of the world God’s drawn our hearts to : )

And God’s given the Van Weidens extra portions of faith and grace. A part of me feels like if I hang around them long enough, their natures may just rub off on me a little : )

So, this time here is vital in so many ways to the journey God has me on.

“Everywhere you go, you will be on land I have given you… For I will be with you… I will not fail you or abandon you.”
– Joshua 1:3-5

A Ministry for this Missionary

I had my first Sunday back at the little church plant in the Secondhand shop this past weekend and it was a sort of coming home. Not just because I have friends here that it was lovely to reconnect with, but because God just speaks to my heart so much in the intimacy of our little church. This past week my American friend Robin (whose been married to a Swede and living in Sweden for the past 14 years or something) was preaching and it was about having confidence in God rather than self-confidence… speaking directly into the struggles I’ve been walking through these uncertain days.

Today is my first day back to work at the Secondhand! The Secondhand is a charity shop, proceeds going to a Swedish organization called ‘Barn i nod” (Children in Distress) which runs children’s homes all across the world. But it’s so much more than that. It’s the hub of a Christ-centred community of believers and people on their way to becoming believers. It draws in people of all kinds. The shop itself is run by a ministry called Rescue Mission Sweden which exists to reach out to the broken, the down-and-out, the lost—and not in just the non-Christian sense of the word. The store employs addicts and alcoholics trying to come off their substance abuse and be facilitated back into society, as well as a whole host of seemingly random individuals who come and join in the work for a vast variety of reasons. Whenever I ask Mike about how a certain person got involved in the work, his reply is always the same, “God brought them to us, they just don’t know it yet.”

And that is truly the feel of the place. When I was here last time I knew people who came to the shop weekly and stayed for hours, just because they said they felt happier here. Soon, people who may ordinarily never step foot in a church (like the Muslim family I knew last time I was here) come along to the mid-week bible study, and then the English-speaking church service on a Sunday, because having it in the coffeeshop of a secondhand store is so non-threatening, and soon, they are committing their lives to Christ as well (like the aforementioned Muslim family!). Sometimes the process takes a lot longer than that. But regardless, the premise of the work at Rescue Mission Secondhand is the same: Be there for people, right where they are.

And it is a beautiful thing to be a part of.

“We won’t solve all mysteries and our hearts will certainly break in such a vulnerable life… but it is the best way. We were made to be lovers bold in broken places, pouring ourselves out again and again until we’re called home.”
-- Jamie Tworkowski (TWLOHA)

Prayers and Contact!

So, for the next 2 months or so, I’m here again in the lovely city of Gothenburg! There are so so many blessings about my being here, but there are so so many challenges too. It seems God is forever doing intense soul work on me during my times in Sweden. So please be praying for me as I live and learn here!

Please pray too for the ministry of Rescue Mission Sweden, that we will all be discerning about people’s needs and how to best point them to Him. And for health and wholeness of everyone involved.

Please pray for and consider giving financial support for this particular time of my life doing mission here as well! And if God lays it on your heart to contribute to this ministry, just get in touch with me or my mom (my contact email is on the side and through that I can give you my mom's and my physicaly address in Sweden if requested!)

Thank you thank you thank you! Please do be in touch! Please keep me up-to-date with how I can best be praying for you and your circumstances. Please let me be involved in your lives from however many thousands of miles away. Drop me a line and I’ll grab my hot chocolate, put my feet up, and get all caught up on you too : )

Lovelovelovelovelove (from Him and from me!)
His (and yours) in Europe,

Sunday, 21 September 2008

Slow buses, Stansted, and Sweden!

So, I’m in Sweden-- though it took a bit longer than expected!

Things didn’t go down quite as planned and I ended up spending Thursday night alone on the hard, cold floor of the dreaded Stansted airport. I’m forever guarding against these instances by booking all the legs of my journeys with hours of leeway in between, but yesterday the inevitable happened and my connecting bus out of London was stuck in traffic for hours. By the time I arrived at the dreaded Stansted airport (I call it dreaded because things so rarely go smoothly for me there!) my gate was already closed…

Fighting the rising wave of panic, I called upon the compassion of the Ryanair airline personnel and asked what I must do. It’s always amazing to me how little the customer service actually cares about one’s plight! I suppose they deal with it all the time and it’s easy to forget that these are real people with real lives and real agendas and real fears and families and plans.

I took my place in a queue right next to 3 cursing Irish men in a similar dilemma to mine and before the tears of panic could come, God quickly brought to mind the verse in Jeremiah that I am trying so hard to embrace with my heart—the one that proclaims that He will never stop doing good to us. As if it is impossible for Him not to do us good. And so it was quickly planted in my fluttering heart that there may be a Kingdom reason behind even this, and the thought calmed my heart. It infuses a long night at the airport with purpose.

To top off the whole experience, my mobile phone battery was very low. I quickly used it to ring Mike in Sweden and say I wouldn’t be coming in that night after all and could he pick me up at the Gothenburg City airport in the morning instead. Then I texted a few friends here and told them of my situation and asked for prayer. They all burst into action by praying for me and soon my spirit was settled and I felt at great peace that God has it all under control, even the extra ₤50 that it took to change the ticket to the next day—₤50 that I don’t actually have extra of. He reminds me that He is Jehovah-Jirah and my place is only to glow with the radiance of one who trusts that her God has her completely covered!

The whole thing just seemed so utterly unnecessary and inconvenient to the earthly eye, but He reminded me through it in a very real way that His ways are higher than mine and I am asked to trust whatever the circumstances. I’m thankful He only had to use a relatively easy circumstance like this to remind me of that truth this time :)

And so, Stansted seems to be my most frequented of London hotels. The beds are nonexistent and the service is rubbish, but at least it’s not the streets! And it’s better than Birmingham train station… I know that from experience :) And I had my lovely 'Swedish' family to look forward to (actually, few of my friends here are actually Swedish as the church plant is international!)

So, I am safe and sound in Sweden, after a hitch or two. Mike greeted me with a “Welcome home” and Misha and Jesse have been my constant companions since I arrived. I’ve just been back to the beloved little Secondhand shop church for the first time-- and it seems the whole service was God speaking just to me--, and took a walk through the mountainous countryside around the Van Weiden’s home yesterday. Very soon I will update you on everything that’s going on-- so stay tuned!

His (and yours!) in Europe,

p.s. So, I looked back on how I asked you to pray about flying through Stansted and I wanted to let you know that I had NO problem with the weight of my baggagge this time :) Haha.

Wednesday, 17 September 2008

Points for Prayer!

So, I'm off to Sweden in the morning and I wanted to give anyone out there who prayers a few immediate prayer points!!!

My thoughts are all a bit messy at this minute. It's nearly 2am and it's been a busy few days of trying to say good goodbyes and pack well. My Dutch friend Mim was in the country on a visit and it's the last time I'll see her before she heads off to serve long-term in China and the whole concept of that has just hardly sunk in yet. My mind isn't really too prepared for Sweden yet, but I'm sure once I'm there I'll be really caught up into His great purpose and feel really alive in it all. But more on that soon!!

Please pray that I won't have any hitches at the airport tomorrow. Stansted is a particularly hostile airport, in my experience, and Ryanair is VERY rigid on luggage weight and all. Please pray that both my check-in and carry-on luggage will fall into the right weight!! Oh, and keep on praying about the computer, of course. I think we have a lead as to how to fix it a bit, but it's not for sure and I can't afford it to be costly!!

And that's another thing you might bring before God for me--- please pray that finances will come in for this time in Sweden. I'm afraid the little I have left will just run out and that's scary!! But I'd really like too not have to beg outright for financial support this trip. So far one person has already asked where they can send some support for my short-term work in Sweden to-- hurray!!! Please pray that God will stir up other hearts of the people who follow my journey in mission. He knows what's needed to do this...

Ooh, can you also pray that I pick up on the language quite supernaturally? I always start to learn bits and pieces whenever I'm in a foreign country for awhile and Sweden I've been to a few times so it's vaguely familiar, but as far as actually comprehending it, I have a long way to go. Most people can speak English so I do alright, but it would be really nice to be able to read signs a bit better and if I could actually understand what people say to me before they realize I'm English-speaking, that would be great! I'd love to be able to meet the people where they're at and speak their own language, but I'm not going to be too hopeful in 2 months! Languages don't come naturally to me. But you might bring it before Him anyway and see what He does!

Finally, please will you be praying for me that throughout these 2 months God is at work opening the doors for me to get a visa to work in England? Or opening the doors to go straight into mission (possibly with ECM or GEM) in Ireland... or somewhere else? Mike and Brona have already invited me to stay and work with them in Sweden for a year but even that would take fundraising and somehow I just feel like it would be sort of delaying the inevitable--- but we'll just have to wait and see what God does... Please pray for me, though! I get so easily discouraged.

Thank you!!! I'll let you know I arrived safely as soon as I get to some internet access :)

Monday, 15 September 2008

A Dedication Day

I'd like to introduce you all to my new, gorgeous, little godson, Alex!

Yesterday at my last week of church at Kendal Road Baptist , I became a 'godmother'-- in the baptist tradition here I believe 'sponsor' is the preferred term for it-- to a darling little English/Peruvian boy that I've babysat, along with his older brother and sister, off and on these past 3 years. His parents were at Redcliffe in my first and second years, and their family has a heart for South America (where his daddy is from!) and hope to move there for mission within the next few years! They are a special family and Caroline and Julio have two very beautiful hearts and have been blessings to me and my life in England.

It was a real honour to be asked to be a part of Alex's life like this; to commit to praying for him and the development of his faith throughout his life, and to pray for his parents who have dedicated themselves to bringing Him up in the Lord. My and the Robles family's paths will be parting, but this links us together in prayer for life, and I think that is a beautiful thing! I'm really blessed that they chose me for it...
And that God has surrounded me with friends all across Europe who have become like a great big extended family to me.
He is faithful and He is enough....

Friday, 12 September 2008

Oh Computers....

I need prayer.... for my computer!!

It's acting extremely sick and somedays I can't use it at all but my anti-virus software isn't picking anything up. I even had my pastor who used to work in computer look at it and he spent hours on it and yet it's still having problems on-again-off-again.

The thing is, my laptop is my main form of communication with everyone back home and now that I'm off to Sweden next week it will also be my communication with everyone here in England! And besides that, it's key to me as a writer.

Please will you pray with me that God in His mercy will heal my laptop? Or provide another, but without losing all the information that I keep on this one?

Thank you!!! You're prayers are more invaluable to me than you know...
p.s. While you're at it, you might pray for a graceful transition from England to Sweden, but more on that later :)

Sunday, 7 September 2008

A prayer of my heart inspired by Jeremiah 32:38-41:

"They will be my people and I will be their God. I will give them singleness of heart and action, so that they will always fear me for their own good and the good of their children after them. I will make an everlasting covenant with them: I will never stop doing good to them, and I will inspire them to fear me, so that they will never turn away from me. I will rejoice in doing them good and will assuredly plant them in this land with all my heart and soul."

Lord, make me your own, Your very own, and be my God.

Give me a singleness of heart and action that narrows down my every desire until it is only You I focus on, only You I long for, and only You I live to please-- for the good of my life and for the good of generations of lives to come.

Lord, make a covenant between You and I that can never end, committing my heart to You as much as Yours is committed to me-- and within the security of that covenant show me that everything that comes in or out of my life is Your good for me, because You are goodness itself and can never stop doing good.

Inspire me to truly know You, and to trust You, so that I will never turn away to any lesser loves.

Rejoice in doing me good, Abba, and plant me confidently and securely in the land You have for me to serve You in, living out Your heart and living out Your soul.

Friday, 5 September 2008

Seasons of Life

It's been a strange summer at the centre of an odd season in my life... I suppose I've struggled to write because I am still so very much entrenched in processing it all.

I've completed college! I've never not been a student and it's hardly sank in that it's actually over. By the grace of God, I did well academically and achieved my B.A. Hons in Applied Theology in good standing (a 2:1, for any English readers!) and I'm very pleased because it wasn't an easy feat and I didn't necessarily expect to come out with that high of a mark. So, praise God!

You'll recall from the last update that after graduation I promptly went off gallavanting around the UK with my lovely Mom and her two lovely friends who came over for my graduation! Then I had a little get together at the beach in Cornwall with friends I'd just graduated with 2 weeks before. Reality didn't really close in until after those busy (and beautiful) weeks.

So, I'll attempt to catch you up on my summer since then!!

A Home and a Family

I've been based this summer here in Gloucester with "my lovely English family"-- The Austin-Sparkses. Steve and Debs have been my church leaders and friends these 3 years and when they heard my predicament of not knowing what comes next but needing to remain in Europe until all doors close, they took me in. They have been more than room and board to me, though, as I've fumbled my way through the transition out of a tough year and hard goodbyes, and into an uncertain future. It's not an easy thing for a fully-functioning family to suddenly take on a whole new and different person into their system of doing things, but they have been so gracious and I have been so grateful. I've pretty much officially adopted Bex and Megan as the little sisters I never had. Meg has been especially close and has demanded that I live here with them forever... so we try to avoid the fact that my 2 1/2 months with them is nearly up!

A Job to Stay Afloat

The hunt for a summer job was FRUSTRATING!! I ended up applying to places I never would have expected to and still couldn't get a job! I take comfort in the fact that it wasn't just me, and friends all over England were having the same problem, but it was really discouraging in a time that was already full of emotional upheaval. At the beginning of August I finally got signed on with a temp agency to attempt to keep up with a few of the summer's expenses until I leave the country mid-Sept. Praise God!! The shifts I can most readily get are at a gorgeous, expensive old hotel in the Cotswold village just outside of Gloucester called Upton-St.-Leonards. By car it's about 15 minutes from where I'm staying, but I'm doing life on foot these days which makes my commute (a combination of buses and walking) a little over 2 hours each way!! God being the good God He is, saw that this might be a rather discouraging side of the job for me so He made sure that the long walks just happen to be in the stunning Cotswold countryside-- which is my favourite region of England. Somehow I can have just gotten off a grueling 5 hour cleaning shift and look toward the prospect of a long walk to the bus stop with a smile because my romantic heart thrills at the thought of tredding across the perfect picture of land known as the Cotswolds. I just come home in such surroundings...

A Gift from God Wrapped up in a "Holiday"

"No two of us are alike, each one stands alone before God. Your valley may be a darkness where you have nothing but your duty to guide you, no voice, no thrill, but just steady, plodding duty; or it may be a deep agonizing dejection at the realization of your unfitness and uncleanness and insufficiency. Let God put you on His wheel and whirl you as He likes, and as sure as God is God and you are you, you will turn out exactly in accordance with the vision He gave you. Don’t lose heart in the process."
– Oswald Chambers, So Send I You

I've felt very overwhelmed this summer as I transition from college which has been such a supportive family for me since living in Europe. I've felt a bit lost and alone in a great big world, knowing so distinctly my life is meant to be out here and not at home with my own loving family, yet feeling a bit of a waif here as well as I wait on Him for my next step. I've been deeply pondering my place in mission and ministry and constantly battling my feelings of inadequacy. I've been attempting to emerge from a long season of discouragement.

A turning point for me this summer came in the package of a holiday (what Americans would call a "vacation") in the Netherlands. 2 weeks travelling about to see friends in the Netherlands and then Wales was really just what the doctor ordered to gain a bit of encouragement and perspective! I booked an overnight bus (because it was cheapest!) from England to the Netherlands for the end of July (which meant driving through 4 countries one way!) and just relished the experience from start to finish. I just found myself utterly spellbound by God's extravagant attention to me. It's like He just kept on laying out before me circumstances to simply delight me heart. One thing after another.

A few highlights:

  • On the bus ride over I ended up crossing the English channel on a ferry at midnight, the stars glinting down and reflecting off the pitch black water. I sat out on the deck for hours in the open air with a cup of coffee and a kind young man having intellectual conversation about our passions-- his being ecology and sustainable living and mine being God and pointing people to His love. He was fascinating. He was a 26-year-old Englishman living on an organic farm in the Netherlands. His house was a Mongolian tent in a field. After I inquired into the ins and outs of his life, it being so foreign to me, he began to ask me about my faith and what I meant by "mission". He was disillusioned with the church and Christianity. He explained to me his agnostic views on God and his "faith" in Astrology. It was interesting to me how things he would describe as disproving God, systems of the way the universe works, simply strengthened for me the fact of God, as the very designer and maintainer of those systems. The interaction completely energized my spirit as we communicated with and listened to one another, learning from one another. My heart just felt like, "Yes. This is what mission in Europe looks like." I won't be forgetting that night crossing the channel, or my 3 hours conversing with an interesting, searching, God-appointed man called Jack and the passion it stirred up in me again for living out Christ's heart in Europe...
  • Adriaan met me the next morning in Utrecht when my bus pulled in and we were off to spend the first few days at his family's home in the southern province of Limburg. It was beautiful. We took long walks through the countryside for ice cream cones, spent hours one night around a fire in the backyard with his lovely family, and spent a day taking in the Limburg tourist sights, like Drielandenpunt-- the place at the very bottom of the Netherlands where 3 countries meet: The Netherlands, Germany, and Belgium! I thought it was so great to be standing with one foot in Germany and the other in The Netherlands :)

(Adriaan, his little brother Otto-Jan, and his friend Guido in the beautiful Limburg town of Valkenburg)

  • We met up for a day with another friend from my first year, the lovely Henk, in Delft, a beautiful Dutch city I'd always wanted to visit since studying the artist Vermeer in Art History! It is always so encouraging to get together with these friends because no matter how long it's been since we've last seen one another, we just reconnect. And the united passion for world mission aligns my focus aright somehow...

(The Dutchmen and I taking in the city of Delft)

  • Another day Adriaan and I hitch-hiked to The Hague on the coast! It was SUCH an adventure! I've kind of always wanted to have the experience and we were running low on cash and The Netherlands has such a kind of "anything goes" culture that it's not at all an unusual way to get around, and I was with a guy for protection! We were picked up 4 times and met 4 people with completely different life stories and we were in our element :) And we made it all the way to the beach!!

  • Next I met up with another Dutch friend, Mirjam, and my English friends Polly and Amanda came in from the UK and we had a little reunion in the Netherlands-- our first time seeing one another since graduation! You might remember these ladies as my "Hug Club" :) They are my own precious little sisterhood and our days gallavanting about the Netherlands were good ones full of laughter, tears, sharing, praising, and HUGS! There is just something indescribably right about the kind of relationships where you can just relax into one another, knowing that you are loved without exception... These girls are that space for me, a tangible expression of the heart of God for us.

They threw me a surprise birthday party since we were all apart on the actual day!

We went canoing down one of the Netherlands famed canals

We visited a hundreds of years old working windmill

We met up with some more Dutch friends from Redcliffe

And we spent a day meandering around the great city of Amsterdam

  • My holiday was finished up with a lovely weekend in Wales for "my little Welsh sister" Paris' surprise birthday party :) Beth, who studied at Redcliffe my first and second years, and the kids constitute my Welsh family and I love escaping to their beautiful little village in North Wales every time I get the chance!

Beth took me to Liverpool since I'd never been! This is us on the ferry.

Somehow, in getting out into mainland Europe again, and back into the arms of friends who know everything and love me anyway, I felt really empowered and my passion for Europe and call to work in this part of the world was strengthened. I may not know how or what or when or why, but He does. And that's enough for me...

"The great motive and inspiration of service is not that God has saved and sanctified me, or healed me; all that is a fact, but the great motive of service is the realization that every bit of my life that is of value I owe to the Redemption; therefore I am a bond-slave of Jesus. I realize with joy that I cannot live my own life; I am a debtor to Christ, and as such I can only realize the fulfillment of His purposes in my life. To realize this sense of spiritual honour means I am spoilt for this age, for this life, spoilt from every standpoint but this one, that I can disciple men and women to the Lord Jesus."
-- Oswald Chambers, So Send I You

Winding Down

So as my student visa comes to its end, my time in England (at this point, anyway-- but more on that later...) is coming to a close!

The wedding I was staying in the UK to be involved in has come and gone-- a beautiful celebration of the love and commitment of my two friends Lizzie and Neil. Love them! I drove up with some other LOVELY married friends whom I just graduated with, Abbie and Paul, and so got to spend a few days with them at their home in Salisbury catching up and saying goodbyes...

The week of helping out my church at a youth event called Soul Survivor has come and gone-- we were camping and the weather was atrocious but the kids got so much out of it. And so did I as I stood amongst 11,000 young Europeans worshipping God! Thousands of young people came to Christ in the 3 weeks Soul Survivor ran. This is an event that God works through mightily every summer and it was really a sort of honour to be involved with the awesome Kendal Road Baptist Youth Group-- despite living in mud up to mid-calf for the week :)

These days my heart is constantly saying its goodbyes to my time in England since I still don't know when/if/how I'll be back. Whatever faces and places my eyes take in, my heart is simultaneously kissing farewell. My beloved cathedral, the ivy growing up the brick fences, the Gloucester skyline from a particular angle on a walk into town, and the myriad of lovely people who have found homes in my heart... I know the God who calls equips and He will provide every strength of spirit to cover any seemingly impossible change He takes me through. But it all feels very tender to the touch...

Life Beyond the Summer

So, I'm off to Sweden from September 18th to November 12th in 2 weeks time!! My missionary friends there and the church plant and charity I worked with last January and February have faithfully reminded me they await my return and so I'm headed back for 2 more months of "on-the-job" training of mission in Europe :) I will write in more detail about my return to Sweden soon, but in the meantime, please pray again for funds to keep me those 2 months there!

Seasons of Life

Summer is beginning to turn over into Autumn in England. The days are growing shorter and more and more chilly and schools everywhere are starting back up again. My summer in England is quickly drawing to a close, and who knows what Autumn in Sweden will bring with it! My funny season of brokenness, healing, and ambiguity isn't over yet but I'm in a constant state of flux, a constant state of growth-- in relationships with both God and the people in my life. And I'm hopeful.

"My grace is sufficient for you, because power is made perfect in weakness."
-- 2 Corinthians 12:9

So here's to waiting on God through the seasons...


For full albums of photos covering much more than was said here, see:

Summer in England Photos
Holiday in The Netherlands and Wales Photos

Wednesday, 3 September 2008

The Blog Experiment

Sometimes I can be very mysterious without even trying-- like when I go MONTHS without updating the lovely people all around the world who have been interested in God's work in and through my life! Oh dear. Sorry about that. I think I may have become as tired of writing the mass emails as you have become in reading them. But you still need to know what's happening in this crazy life and I still want to tell you! Enter: the Blog Experiment.

Perhaps you will prefer the sporatic mass emails landing in your inbox to the visiting of this blog from time to time on your own initiative (I'll still email now and again when there's an important update you should know of!). I imagine the updates here may be more frequent, shorter, and possibly more detailed than the periodic emails trying to describe months of heart, soul, and body activity! Please just be in touch whether through comments here or emails at the usual address and let me know if you're happy with the amount of information you're receiving in following this missionary girl's crazy journey!

As ever, thank you so much for sticking by me throughout the ins and outs of this strange kind of life in His hands! You are more important to me than you know for simply caring to take an interest.

I've uploaded all the past prayer letters from when I first moved to England to now and they can be found at the dates on which they were first sent. There's plenty of updating to come on what this funny English summer has held since college graduation in June so stay tuned! Until then--

His (and yours),

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