Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving of one another as God in Christ forgave you.
-Ephesians 4:31-32

Monday, August 1, 2011

Last Day

Dear friends and family. Kara, one of my teammates wrote this lovely mass email that so accurately describes the emotions of these last couple days. I leave the Willemsstraat, my Dutch home at 9am tomorrow morning to meet up with my family in Spain.



About 30 hours from now, Erin, Cheyenne, Jess and I will leave Amsterdam, but not YHM.  Youth Hostel Ministry is about showing redemption, sharing a story, or the story, giving an account whenever and wherever, leading and being led regardless of age or status; it is gritty, and it has taken us through doubt to spoken truth, through relational tension to unity, through wandering to...at least a more pointed breed of wandering. This doesn't particularly have to happen in hostels or at a giant community flat that happens to boast DJ equipment, stadium-ed couches, and remnants of homemade recipe-less jelly beans at the moment. Maybe I could go without the jelly beans.

So often, I get caught up in the dogmatic, apologetic side of my faith without actually examining situations in which I need more faith.  The beautiful thing about the body, and particularly the Sheler body, is that when one part (say, the head) is too preoccupied, another part (maybe the heart) is dancing a number all its own.

On Saturday afternoon, Marc and Marcio, two cleaners from the City, were joined by about 30 staff members in a small basement of a small church in the Red Light district.  They shared how God had made himself so real to them in the past month that they were leaving behind their former lives to live a new, redeemed one that may not be free from heartbreak or abandonment, but will be laced with hope.

"Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen..." (Hebrews 11:1).

As I saw these gangly men emerge from what was apparently very cold water, I wasn't sure that my hopes for them would come to fruition.  After all, how will they be discipled, grow, make this meaningful?  But the tears the unknowing streamed down my face convicted me that something, someone unseen was invading two more bodies and stitching the pieces of this earth together.  I didn't know Marc and Marcio personally, but hearing the story of God in the lives of these two men trumped every nit-picky apologetic thought I had ben thinking over the past three weeks with pure joy.  Pray for them as they make their ways back home to new lives in Britain and Brazil, respectively, to grow in love, discipleship, and community.

Later that evening over quiche at the Shelter Jordan, a cleaner named Cheryl asked what I had been up to all day.  I told her, mentioning the joy I felt at the fact that Jesus had entered flesh again, and she asked me to share my story.  Just like that.  So I did.  She said it sounded good, and what would she have to do to be baptized, come to think of it?  Cheryl was thirsting for life.  I have noticed that lots of upper-20 travelers to their city are, having experienced their fill of the life of the city--Marc, Marcio, Celia, now Cheryl.  And her friend Michael decided he might want to, as well, having already considered baptism into the Mormon faith.  But that's another story.

Abundant life means connection with people, Jesus, reality--if we really believe that Jesus can come into THIS life, why don't we stop distorting our reality with bitterness, anger, substances, whatever, and dare him to come in and prove it.  Because he will.  I saw two men baptized in the Red Light district.  He has.

So thanks for this journey, for your funds and prayers.  There will likely be more thoughts to come from all four of us as we depart from Amsterdam Schipol at 8AM Tuesday morning.

Until then, John 10:10.

Love from the Amsterdamsels
Kara, Shiner, Erin, & Jess

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Sleeper Shifts

My night shifts have always been the most interesting.

Last night, I led evening prayer with a man who only spoke Italian. He told me that he didn't understand in his brain, but he understood everything with his heart. Pray for Pepe.

Then, I spent over an hour talking to Afran, a Jordanian doctor. He works at a Christian missionary hospital in the north of the country. We talked a lot about what missions should look like. The Jordanian government apparently has absolutely no problem with Christian missionaries or Jordanian Christians. In fact, they are encouraging the Christian minority to be more politically active. However, it is when people are stupid enough to hand out tracts in front of a mosque that the extremists start getting angry... which of course the government doesn't like.

Afran is the first Jordanian to work at this mission hospital in its 55 yr history. His colleagues all come from elsewhere and are often shorter term (usually no more than 2 years he says), and despite all their efforts and good intentions, never really get fully integrated into the culture. Pray for Jordanian Christian leaders to rise up. He says that so many of the patients at his lung clinic come to Christ... but the problem is the follow up. It's really hard to leave such a secure place as a treatment and rehab center into a Muslim culture.

Finally, last night we had a guest that was making a bit of a scene last night. The nightman was thisclose to calling the police. That was an adventure.

Coming to an end...

This is officially my last Tuesday on YHM.
It's unfair how fast the secon half of the summer has gone. God's been super faithful this summer and I've learned a lot. please conntinue to pray for the ministry and the Wheaton students as we all get ready to head back home.

** Although, I will be in Spain until August 13th**

Wanna see a better peek of what I've been up to this summer?

Ch-ch-check it out!

Thursday, July 14, 2011


Shelter Jordan is in a residential neighborhood.

Good thing.
Guests come in and comment on how pleased they are at the lack of souvenier shops on the corner.
Cafes in the area are cheaper and cuter.
Canals are prettier and in more abundance.
You actually can hear Dutch spoken in the street.
Children live here.

Bad thing.
Neighbors don't like living next to a hostel.

There's been quiet tension between the neighbors and the hostel for years. Recently though, neighbors have been more agressive against the presence of the hostel. In the past weeks we've had to cancel our open-mic nights which are usually very popular fun, Friday night activities and have had the police called on us a few times and some staff have been verbally abused.

Pray for us to love the neighbors and for them to love us.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Hide and Seek

As part of being a Shelter staff member, it's required to go to MTP (Missionary Training Program) classes.

The organization plans out training classes twice a week and whoever isn't working during those times is required to go to these classes.

This past week's class was probably my favorite. We went and played hide and seek with God.

Jesus used what was around him to show where God was working. He physically used metaphors involving the things around him, like plants and stuff. In the city, it's hard to feel connected to those types of metaphors.

So, all the staff members were encouraged to get lost in Amsterdam for an hour and a half. Walk around somewhere you don't usually go and find God.

I wandered down to the south-central part of the city, to an area called Spui. On my walk along some of the busier canals, I saw people out with eachother, eating at cafes, having a good time. God works there.

When I got to Spui, I wandered into a "hofje". Hofjes are all around Amsterdam, they're inner courtyards that once you pass thorugh them, you feel worlds away from any city. Usually, Hofjes were formed on the inside of almshouses, charity housing for widows, orphans or disabled people. I wandered into the Begijnhof (click the word-- it's a link!).

It was beautiful to wander from one of the busier, touristy squares to this place of safety. And it's so green!

In the Hofje was the English Language reformed church that many of the Pilgrims went to before setting off on the Mayflower. The inside reminded me so much of some of the old protestant churches back home. Seriously I felt like I stepped from busy Amsterdam into a quaint little garden and then stepped right into New England. Right back home.

Funny how that works.

I wanted to share what was the culmination of my "Hide and Seeking". It's a quote about the church I found while wandering:

"Tomorrow morning I am going to the English church; it lies there so peaceful in the evening in that silent Begijnhof among the thorn hedges, and seems to say: In loco isto dabo pacem. In this place, I shall give peace says the Lord. Amen. So be it"
-Vincent VanGogh

Gloria a Dios

Something beautiful just happened today.

Lately, in the hostel there have been tons of Spanish speakers. I've been in kind of a funk-- grumpy for nor really any reason. I've seen all these spanish speakers... wanting to talk to them, figuring I should because many spanishy travelers tend to be bad at speaking english. But I haven't, until recently been saying much more than "Hello-- today's hot breakfast is pancakes. What would you like to drink?"

Then this morning in the cafe, I saw a Spanish girl that had been here the past few days talking to some of our gusts from Idaho. Our "Idahoers" are from a church in Boise and have been between shelter Jordan and our sister hostel for probably around 3 weeks now, ministering to prostitutes in the Red Light District.

Somehow, the topic of faith came up and the Idahoers found her a Spanish Bible in the hostel (we have bibles lying around in something like 50 languages). She stayed up late that night reading Genesis and was amazed.

The next day, Claudia, the girl, was sharing what she learned with Arnau, the boy she's traveling with. Both were amazed by what they learned. Both had been baptized, recieved first communion and even been confirmed into the Church. But, neither of them had ever read any bit of the Bible for themselves. They asked me what the difference was between the Old and New Testaments.

Claudia and Arnau listened so closely, amazed by what I had to share. They said they thought there was a glow around the people working in the hostel and the Idaho group. They wanted a part of that.

We had a beautiful conversation, in Spanish of course, about the gospel. Claudia and Arnau had to leave this afternoon to go on to Copenhagen. However they left with heads full of hope, a Spanish bible, reflection questions in a little tract we have, and a copy of Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis.

Please pray for Claudia and Arnau as they continue traveling. Claudia is thinking of coming back in August to work for a couple of weeks as a cleaner in the hostel. I'm already facebook friends with these guys and am so looking forward to keeping in contact. My mother, who grew up in Spain, has given me the name of a church in their area. I'm so excited for Claudia and Arnau.

Gloria a Dios!