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!

Friday, July 8, 2011

Juli Vier

This past week was the fourth of July, the independence day of the United States. I happen to be in Holland.

Nevertheless, all the staff members at the shelters decided that a celebration was in order. We took to the Westerpark, on the westen extreme of the downtown area with our "barbequeworst", picnic blankets and pasta salad.

It was such a funky mix of cultures. But this Dutch Fourth of July on the bank of a canal in the company of people from about 10 different countries was probably one of my post memorable.

Train Station Love

I've now spent a fairly significant amount of time in train stations. One of my favorite things to do now while waiting is to watch couples say goodbye to eachother.

In Salzburg, there was a couple standing and embracing, faces glued to eachother, barely coming up for air right in the front of the platform.

Both were chic-ly dressed, her in the gorgeous loos but flatteringly tailored pants that all of the YHM girls envy and he in a fashionable suitjacket. He had with him a bag that couldn't have held more than 3 days worth of clothes.

I imagine he was probably going to Vienna for a business trip, soon to return to his girlfriend back home.

Even so, they're taking full advantage of their last few moments before he leaves.

Now, lips apart, he has her fully locked in his arms. Her head on his chest, she looks completely enveloped in his large Austrian arms. It's almost as if, for the 15 minutes I'm watching them (glances between reading my book-- I'm not that creepy) there's an invisible cord wrapped at their hips, joining them completely.

Normally, I'm not the biggest fan of PDA. I'm happy when people are in love, but usually it's more comfortable to see sweet handholding or innocent pecks rather than this unashamed love put on a platform.

Somehow though, I can't help but smile at this open affection. These train station couples are savoring their time together.

Okay, it's probably mostly due to the fact that I see these couples in places like the dramatic Salzburg where the hills are alive with the freaking sound of music! I probably- no definitely- would roll my eyes if I saw the same at Ogilvie Transportation Center in Chicago, Illinois.

I'm still in love with these affectionate train couples. Like it comes out of a movie. Good luck with your business in Vienna, my train traveling friend. I wish I could see you greet your girlfriend when you get back.


On my way home from the retreat in Germany, I decided to take a detour to Salzburg, Austria. I had the following day off of work and an extra day of train travel on my Eurail... so I had no reason NOT to go!

Salzburg is full of churches, So are almost all European cities, but something about Salzburg is different. Every 15 minuges, the church bells chime.

Maybe because the city is Mozart's birthplace or maybe because of Sound of Music fame, the chimes in Salzburg seem to sing forever.
It's as if they're in competition with eachother. Every bell tower is expressing its need to call the time in the most elaborate and long winded way possible.

With the chimes every 15 minutes lasting each for what feels like 10, you have 20 segmented minutes of comparable quiet every hour.

The mountains around this city in a valley add another ghostly dimension. For every single dong of a bell, there seems to be six shadowy echos singing in reply.

In no way am I complaining though. For a city so known for musical excellence, nothing less would feel appropriate.

It's not about being nice...

I apologize for my negligence in posting-- but this past week and a half has involved lots of transitions, growth and moving around without any real stopping.

I'm officially more than halfway through my summer of ministry in Europe.

Part of YHM's program is to have a midsummer retreat where all of the YHMmers regardless of their location meet up to reflect on their experiences and learn from eachother. So, I spent this past week (June 26- July 2) in Hurlach, Germany- a teensie farm town about a half  hour's train from Munich.

The week involved lots of reflection, confrontation and quiet time. Here's a bit of what I've learned:

1) My team needs more "team time". In coming to Europe, it's vitally important to share with those you came with in what you're strugging with, what's been bothering you and what makes you happy. As a stationary team, it's easy to get caught up in the work schedule at the shelters and invest time in all different places. In Germany, my team realized that while we haven't had any real conflict while other teams have had some big issues, we're not really "friends". While we all get along well--- our team unit isn't necessarily as strong as we'd like. We get along as individuals but the team community between the four Amsterdamsels hasn't been solidified. Pray for us to be more intentional about growing in community together.

2) Quiet time is good.

3) Everyone is part of Christ's body. That means, I can be a finger, you can be an eye and we're all part of that. The finger can't get jealous of the eye's way of doing things or be bothered by the annoying things the kneecap does... but the finger needs to know that the finger isn't any more or less important than the eye or the kneecap. Every bit has a vital, but different role.

4) Sharing the Gospel isn't about being nice. My neighbor in Amsterdam, Sam, came and visited the house I live in one night and was talking to me about how afraid Americans are to offend. We don't want politics or religion to be in civilized conversation-- "it's impolite". Dutch people love this bluntness and are bothered when people skirt around how they really feel. Sam challenged me: "How will you ever be able to share the Gospel if you're afraid of hurting someone's feelings?". The Gospel is a message of love-- but I have to stay firm in the Truth. It's hard to process, hard to swallow. To accept the Gospel is to say that you're broken-- that you don't have it all together. It's not about being comfortable. It's scary. But it's not rude. It's not impolite. I'm learning that sometmes the most lovin hing you can do is to confront--- to speak truth and love.

I pray that in my second half of the summer that I'm not afraid to try to instill a 'holy discontent' in the people I meet and see.

"Do not be afraid, but go on speaing and do not be silent, for I am with you"
-Acts 18:9-10

Friday, June 24, 2011

Love Poems

An important part of the Shelter Ministries here in Amsterdam involves "the cleaners". Cleaners are people who get free room and board in exchange for cleaning the hostel a couple hours a day. They typically stay between a week and a month.

This past week, I became close to a brand new cleaner, Adam. Adam is culturally Muslim-- his parents are Somlians who fled to the Netherlands before settling in Manchester, England-- but Adam isn't really living out the Muslim faith right now.

Adam was super helpful in the hostel-- but not really during the times he was supposed to be working. So, he was here for a few days on a trial run before it was decided that he wasn't up for staying longer.

But, in the few days that I got to spend with Adam, we had some really impactful conversations. He told me he lives his life out based on love. He wants love to flow naturally from him. He wants love to be unconditional and not hypocritical (clearly, he's experienced this hypocritical, conditional 'love' in the past-- particularly in regards to his race and faith).

It came up then that Adam expresses himself through poetry and writing. I challenged him to write me a 'love poem' and read it to me. We giggled about him writing a love poem to me-- but he was really serious about exploring what love means to him through creative writing.

Adam was allowed to stay at the Shelter one day longer than his time as a cleaner to collect his belongings and say goodbye. He spend the majority of the morning ( I was working morning shift) in the cafe surrounded by books, pens and paper exploring what love means to him.

At the end of my shift, he read me his love poem. It's beautiful. I won't publish it here, because I haven't asked his permission. Its super special to me now. Handwritten front and back on a piece of paper is a tangible piece of fruit from Adam's time at the Shelter. He's still thinking and still growing. He took with him a Bible from Cheyenne and a Frederich Buechner book that Wheaton's office of Christian Outreach gave to me that I gave to him.

I've challenged Adam to write me poems based on other words he's 'inspired by'. He has my email and is excited to share more poetry with me. I'm so looking forward to seeing what he comes up with, but sad to see him go.

Pray that Adam continues to grow and continues exploring the ideas he already has going.

Pray for our other cleaners too! Their names are Tamar and Theo.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Answered Prayer

I know a couple of days ago I posted some frustration about how I came to Europe to tell people about Jesus--- but everyone I met already seemed to know Him.

I think God has a sense of humor. I was a bit overwhelmed by 3 fantastic conversations in the same evening.

The next day, (two days ago now) I was leading the bible discussion that is held nightly at the hostel. After time in preparation, I chose to look at 1 John 4:7-12, discussing love-- what love is, where it comes from and how we can show love.

During the next hour and a half I had two extraordinarily meaningful converstaions.

First I'll talk about Madeline, this gorgeous 26 yr old Swedish, Christian opera singer. Madeline had come to Amsterdam to meet a friend and the situation turned extremely sour. I won't betray her trust here on my blog, but really she went through hell. She had spent a couple of days at the house of this "friend" before she was able to get away. She then found the Shelter Jordan in a tourist book and checked herself in. She told me that this place really was a Shelter from what she had just seen and been through.

Being from Scandinavia, she says that she is almost totally isolated from Christians her age. The official state church of Sweden either alienates the younger generation by being rigid and detached or compromises on core principles to seem appealing and unoffensive. She was so happy to pull apart the passages of scripture in the bible discussions in the past two nights she came. I gave Madeline my copy of Blue Like Jazz by Donald Miller. The book is a memoir about a guy trying to live counterculturally but presently in Portland.
Madeline's gone back to Sweden now-- pray for her as she recovers from her trauma but also rests in the refreshment she found in Amsterdam.

Also, in the same conversation I met Mark, a 40something retired NASA aerospace engineer about to embark on a change of careers and change of location (to Minnesota to work in medical engineering). Something was up with Mark that eh didn't open up about. He was very quiet, only mentioning a couple of times that he didn't feel love at home and has been longing for a deep, unconditional love. Mark's about to embark on a 6 month backpacking journey through Europe "to find himself and something real". After our conversation,Mark asked me for a New Testament to take with him on his trip. He left me saying that he's glad that he started on his Europe-wide search at the Shelter. Pray for Mark and that he find the deep acceptance that he's looking for in the pocket sized New Testament he's now carrying with him.

Finally, as part of the shift that I was on that night, I was expected to lead evening prayer at 11.30 pm. Really this is a time set aside for guests to share whatever they're thinking about life....

Ivan, a fifty something year old Northern Irish professor of media/communication came because he was curious. Ivan is deeply spirtual. But also deeply hurt by "religion". Northern Ireland's recent history is full of Christians killing other Christians in the name of having the right Christianity. Screwed up stuff. Ivan and I actually agree on a lot of principles. He loves everything that Jesus says and believes it's true. The point shwere we differ though is that Ivan doesn't really belive in sin/evil/bad. I asked him that if he doesn't want to adhere to any moral code (his words) because it puts him into a box, what "good"means to him. He says that Good is letting love proceed from you. Naturally, I followed by asking effectively if he thought that anythign could be negative (careful to avoid the good/bad dichotomy that he mentioned he hates).

Ivan told me he believes in darkness. If love is good, love is light. Therfore, darkness is where there is no light and there is no good. However, he believes that darkness is part of a perfect plan. It can''t be called bad because it all works for an eventual demonstration of love.

Deep stuff, man!

When I asked Ivan if theres anything I could pray for him about, he said that he wants more moments when he feels a touch from the divine. He has had a few moments in his life when he feels deeply in contact with this source of light/love/good. He yearns for moments when he feels this connection with this light. Pray for this.

Glory to God!


Some days you're more ready to wake up before seven to make hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of pancakes for guests.

Other days it feels like a job where your sleep schedule is funny, you're struggling with intense conversations from the night before and you're just plain tired.

Today was closer to the latter. I woke up, put my hair back in a clip, wore a t-shirt, very little makeup, and hopped on my bike in the pouring rain and got to making those pancakes.

About two hours and two hundred pancakes into my shift, a Spanish guest came up to me and said:

"Sabes--Yo se que no eres holandesa, pero realmente, pareces que pertaneces a un cuadro de Vermeer. Realmente."


"You know, I know you're not Dutch, but really you look like you belong in a painting by Vermeer. Really"

Such a compliment. I look like a pretty lady painted by a Dutch master.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Life Together.

To quote one of Wheaton's favorite theologians, Deitrich Bonhoeffer, I'm attaching a video made last week of the community house I live in.

While working at the Shelter, I live in an old school with about 35-40 other twenty-somethings who all work in one of the two hostels managed by the Shelter Ministries.

Now I was working the night this was filmed, so I'm not in it... but this video shows a lot of the other Wheaties, my roommate and my new, international friends.

Zaanse Schans

Yesterday, Chad, Maria, Linley, Kara and I (all wheaties) decided to take a trip out to Zaanse Schans, a kind of touristy town where the citizens have preserved the stereotypical old Dutch windmills and wooden shoe factories. The town is much closer to the coast and in case you didn't know, much of the Netherlands is technically below sea-level. These windmills have been used to pump water out of the marshes so the land can be used for farming. Zaanse Schans is full of these marshes and old mills.

To get from Amsterdam to Zaanse Schans, we took a train from Amsterdam to another city, Zaandam, on an express intercity train. From there we were to take a more local train to Koog-Zaandijk. The five of us happily boarded the train to Zaandam at Amsterdam Centraal train station. Turns out, we had boarded the front car of the train. When we were getting off at Zaandam, Linley, Kara and I got off from the same door we boarded. Chad and Maria thought they'd walk through the car we had sat in to the door on the other side.

Then we found out that doors at the front of the train don't open.

Linley, Kara and I saw Chad and Maria realize this and hurry back toward the functioning door--- after it had closed. Linley, Kara and I couldn't help but explode in laughter as we watched an absolutely terrified Chad and Maria head off on an express train to Alkmaar (the cheese city!). Their faces were priceless as the train started pulling out from Zaandam.

Wheaton College policy says that if a group gets separated, that everyone should meet back up at the place where thye were last all together. Of course, this policy is put in place for the traveling teams that are almost always at risk of getting lost and separated in unfamiliar cities. This shouldn't be an issue at all for the stationary Amsterdam teams who are nice, safe and secure in the Netherlands.


So Linley, Kara and I sat patiently at the Zaandam train station, waiting for our lost buddies.

Sure enough about 30 min later they came back from.... well.... wherever they went.

Maria has made a hilarious video mini-documentary about our day at Zaanse Schans. Chad is planning on posting it on the Shelter City team blog later on today. Look for the video here:

In the end, we did have a lovely day in Zaanse Schans! Lovely windmills, lovely wooden shoes.

Monday, June 13, 2011


So lately I've been getting a bit discouraged in a way that it bothers me that it upsets me....

I keep meeting Christians.

I've been having really great, really encouraging conversations with Christians from around the world who stay in the hostel. It just so happens that when I'm on shifts, the people most willing to talk and hang out love Jesus.

I'm here to share about Jesus-- but everyone here already knows Him!

I'm laughing at my own immaturity...

While doing YHM, every team is supposed to send updates out to the other YHMers. So about once every other day, I hear from a travelling team. Their stories are fantastic. They're seemingly meeting people left and right and can hardly say hello without launching into a three hour conversation about the lack of condemnation in Christ.

I feel like a bump on a log when I get their updates, feeling like I'm recieving more than giving.

This morning, I was talking to Linley, another Wheaton student working in Amsterdam with me. She reminded me that there's a powerful testimony in guests seeing a group of people serving without pay. We've had guests tell us that they feel something different in this hostel compared to others. I see that.

Mantra of the week comes from 1 Corinthians 15:58

"Therefore, my beloved brothers, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain."


Thursday, June 9, 2011

Favorite Quote

My favorite exerpt from this summer thus far came from this Brazilian couple that spent about 4 days at the hostel last week.
"We thought that Christian Youth Hostel meant Christian's Hostel.... we never met anyone named Christian".

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Other blogs

For the sake of brevity and also because I have no computer... I recommend you read the blogs of my teammates. The links are on the right side of this page!!

Monday, June 6, 2011

Guests in the Hostel

I'm so happy it's so easy to talk to guests in the hostel!
You give them a hamburger and then you can talk for forty five minutes!
Whoo Hoo!

Bilingual Church

Yesterday, I went to a bilingual church with a bunch of friends from the house. It was actually pretty funny because in Wheaton, when people talk about going to a bilingual service, they're talking about Iglesia del Pueblo or Wheaton Chinese Alliance Church.

Nope-- yesterday I went to a service where the American pastor would speak a line in English, then a Dutch man would translate.

The message was actually part of a series on being counter-cultural. It also happened to be the sermon on sex. It was really a very interesting sermon to hear since I've noticed a dramatically different sexually charged atmosphere here (see my post 'Dutch Men' below). It was cool to hear a message from an American pastor who has been here longer than me talk about this side of Amsterdam that I'm just getting aquainted with.

Dutch Men

While I stay out of the Red Light District for the most part-- it's super seedy and isn't uplifting, I find that this icky part of the city proceeds out into other parts of life in Amsterdam.

While at home if you feel like a guy is checking out out-- sometimes it's flattering-- someone found you attractive enough to look at more than just a passing glance. However-- when you get honked at while you're walking to the park (even in a group including guys) and when you get looked up and down by every fifth guy you pass on the street, you feel a bit like a piece of meat.

Some of my girl friends here in the staff house have been talking about how we deal with this and we were kind of joking about how we should just check them out right back, it really is very much noticable to a bunch of the girls here how obvious this is.

It's been such a blessing to live in a staff house full of solid Christian guys. Seriously, the guys here in the house are super supportive, intelligent and sweet. It's refreshing to come back and talk to my male co-workers.

I've never really noticed before such a profound difference in the way that different men can look at and interact with women.

Thursday, June 2, 2011


I've moved all of my belongings into the "Willemsstraat"--- or staff house.
I'm loving being back in Amsterdam!!
I had my first shift this morning, cooking and serving breakfast for all the guests in the hostel--- it was a bit intimidating! But I managed.

It's been such a great experience so far because I've met a lot of staff members and managers who first came to the hostel as guests, then became cleaners (people who get free room and board in exchange for working for a couple of hours cleaning the hostel every day), then became staff members! So many people have come to Christ in the shelters. The place has already been SUCH a blessing!!

Check out the link on the right side of my page for more information about the Shelter Christian Hostels in Amsterdam!!

I've also learned how to ride a bike in Amsterdam! That's also quite a feat-----

Monday, May 30, 2011


I love Luxembourg.
The end.
It's gorgeous.
We spent all day today walking around the city.
So great.
It's like a fairy tale.
Back to Amsterdam tomorrow!

Luxembourgish Children

On the train from Brussels to Luxembourg, Cheyenne, Jess, Kara and I sat down peacefully on the train eating a Belgian truffle each.
We were happy until about 20 teenagers hopped on the train smelling like... well... teenagers.
We noticed throughout the trip that they kept looking at us and talking and figured that they were talking about us...
Toward the end of the three hour trip, the rest of the children started chanting "Charles! Charles! Charles!" with crazy thick french accents.
We knew something was up.

Charles then bravely walked up to us, script in hand saying "Hello- Good afternoon! My name is Charles and I am from ________, Luxembourg. What is your name? Where are you from? Are you visiting Luxembourg?"

We then proceeded to talk to these 20 Luxembourgish 14 year olds for the next hour. They recommended sites, said others were boring and were very interested in the Miami Heat.

It was their first year of taking english lessons, and all of these guys were expert at speaking English and even had a sense of humor in the language already!

Je suis pas gros!

We stopped in Belgium for three hours... kind of just to say we've been to Brussels.
While there we got ourselves from Belgian Waffles and sat in a park.
A man then came up to me and said
"Je suis pas gros! pas gros! pas gros! Je suis fort! fort o gros?"
He was holding his stomach and raising his arms-- I was very confused until Jess came up at told me he was asking me if he was fat or strong. Of course we called him strong-- and he smiled back at his friends saying something like "see! they think I'm strong, not fat!"
That was my Belgian Adventure.


accurate description of the train ride to brussels

The Great Unifier

I've come to think that soccer is the world's great unifier.

As a last meal as a whole YHM before setting out to travel, all the YHMers had one last dinner at Shelter Jordan, the hostel I'll be working at this summer. Dinner was a fantastic time of fellowship with the other YHMers and a great time to meet all the people I'll be living and working with this summer. I can't explain how crazy excited I am to meet these people and be their friends. It's so great to talk to these people who are my age-- from all around the world-- but have the same goals as I do.

ANYWAY-- after dinner, the Amsterdam teams dropped their belongings off at the staff house, also in the Jordaan neighborhood (Shelter Jordan is in the Jordaan). The house is huge, gorgeous and will be one great experience.

On the way back we passed about a pub per block for our thirty minute walk from the Willemstraat (staff house) to Shelter City. Every one of them was stuffed full of people getting ready to watch the Manchester United/ Barcelona game. Even before the game started, the people were talking loudly, enjoying one another.

Once we got back to "City", some friends decided to watch the game with hostel guests and staff. Seriously, soccer is the world's great unifier. I was in a room with Dutch, English, Australian, American and German staff members, a French family, a Norwegian girl, and some guys speaking some Eastern European language. Everyone was watching the soccer game excitedly from the 8 yr old french kid jumping up and down in his seat to the older Dutch man who got angry if anyone stood in his way of the TV.

It was such a special experience to be watching the same game that I knew that tons of people were watching at the same time all around the city :)

Friday, May 27, 2011

Happy in Holland!

I'm currently sitting in the Amsterdam public library.
We arrived at 8 am Amsterdam tim (2am Chicago time). We'll be stayin in Shelter City, the other Christian Hostel that YHMers are working at in Amsterdam. I'm spending a few days there before heading to Luxembourg on Sunday.

All in all, flight was uneventful. The weather is pretty chilly. The food is yummy :)

I've already walked through the red light district and seen my fair share of prostitutes and have smelled quite a lot of pot....

I'm not quite sure how I'm responding yet.....
I'll get back to you later...

Oh-- on a funny note-- this Dutch computer is underlining every word in red. Silly computer thinks I speak Dutch...

Wednesday, May 25, 2011


I'm copying this from Kara's official blog for our team.
These are prayer requests for as we set out.

Jess- prayer for boldness and freedom from worry; uneventful surgery and speedy, painless recovery for her 4-year-old brother, who is having surgery to repair a shattered elbow this week

Erin- prayer for calmed nerves during travel and reassurance of the Lord’s presence; the trajectory of her life has changed dramatically upon her acceptance to YHM and Wheaton’s Human Needs and Global Resources program (HNGR), which will take her on a solo six-month internship to a third world Spanish-speaking country next summer and fall…Let the transformation begin!

Cheyenne- prayer to live in the present while we are in Europe, with intentionality and willingness to invest in people

Kara- prayer that past struggles personal struggles would not resurface in such a way that would distract her from God’s call on her life to live with, serve, and listen to people in hostels this summer; protection in her battle against the flesh

In Chicago...

I've made it back to Wheaton.
I'm sitting in the Office of Christian outreach getting ready to go. All of the YHMers meet up at school to fly out to Amsterdam tomorrow evening.

Well-- I didn't sleep last night. My brain keeps running with "oh! did I call the bank? where's my tylenol? am I sure I have the right train to Luxembourg?" when you're all alone in your bed there's nothing else really to think about.

I took my flight from Providence at 6am (5am Chicago time) and safely arrived in Chicago right before a massive thunderstorm. Turns out, all the flights of my friends who were supposed to join me by noon, had flights horribly delayed. So I sat in the airport. Alone. For seven hours.

Jane Austen and I :)
I'm reading Persuasion.

On a happier note: I've kept up with the slides for my mom.
Turns out it's the fiftieth anniversary for a Baptist conference center in Spain that my grandparents helped plan. I was asked to send these photos to a man in charge over there and he was so enthusiastic to talk to me and tell me stories about my grandparents. It's so special to hear about the work being done in the church in Europe. It's so great to see the longjevity of these projects.

Especially when nerves are keeping me from sleeping.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

4 days. 6 days. 8 days.

Today- Rhode Island
Four days- Chicago
Six days- Amsterdam
Eight days- Luxembourg


I'm getting a little nervous. Like first day of school jitters.
Who is going to be my friend? Will they like me?
I feel like such a nervous kindergartner.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Summer Address

Erin Pyne
The Shelter Common House
Willemsstraat 33
1015 HW Amsterdam
The Netherlands

... in case you want to write me letters :)

Monday, May 16, 2011


Oh how un-fun this packing game is...

I need to pack enough stuff to get me from May 25-Aug 14.
My clothes has to be able to work for the still-chilly springtime in the Netherlands to August in the Canary Islands.
My belongings also have to fit in a backpack.
Everything has to be compact and comfortable.
But I can't pack like I'd pack my backpack for camp.
I'm working in constant contact with people.
I'm in major European cities.
I have to look cute.
But I'll also be doing shifts cooking and serving breakfasts to the guests.
And I'll be riding on a bike to get around.
I have to be practical.

Then there's the whole matter of electronics....

eek... how un-fun it is packing.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

E-mail List

My team is setting up an e-mail list for updates.
If you'd prefer to receive updates by e-mail rather than following the blog,
e-mail me at:

Saturday, May 14, 2011

"They call it... Surprising Amsterdam"

Being at home has been fun and super interesting. I'm finding all kinds of treasures at home.
And I found this:

My Mom's Amsterdam brochure from when she, my aunt and their friend went on a European adventure the summer after she graduated highschool. The brochure is precious: "Providing service has been called the national pastime of the Dutch" and "Amsterdam means individuality and freedom- and that may mean renting a car."

I'm now aware of where the best "discotheques" are, the best shopping and restaurants in Amsterdam are. Or were... in 1978.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011


This week I'm doing some work for my parents both to help them out and to make some money because I won't be working the next two summers.
My mom asked me to scan and restore some old slides from her childhood so she can get copies that she can actually use. Not many Wheaties know it, but I'm pretty good at photoshop :)

My grandparents were missionaries in Spain when my mom and her sisters were growing up. I found some pretty precious photos of them doing their work. I'm scanning in more than 100 photos of the family... these are two of my favorites,

My mom is the middle daughter-- the one on the left.
How gorgeous is the background??

My papa
Part of the reason why I wanted to do YHM this summer was because my grandparents were career missionaries in Europe. It's nice, if only for 10 weeks, to get a taste of what they did for a living. It's really special to be working on these photos of them working in the church two weeks before I head out.

Also, immediately after I finish my time in Amsterdam, I'm flying to meet my family in the Canary Islands, where my mom did most of her growing up. It's going to be really special to see where they lived!

Just thought I'd share,

Monday, May 9, 2011

Jess's Blog

Here's the blog from another of my teammates, Jess.
She's posted a really beautiful first post about why she's doing YHM. Check it out:


Sunday, May 8, 2011

School's Out.

So finals ended on Thursday and I'm safe at home in Rhode Island.
We have two and a half weeks until we leave!
Can't wait to go.

Sunday, April 17, 2011


So there isn't anything on our blog yet-- but the team blog has been set up!

Kara is the official communicator of our team- maintaining the team blog and keeping in contact with the Office of Christian Outreach (OCO) back in Wheaton throughout the summer.

My (this) blog will be full of my own musings and personal reflections whereas the team blog will be about our team as a whole with Kara mostly posting and Cheyenne, Jessica and I writing when we feel like it!

Kara came up with the precious name "amsterdamsels" for our all-lady team!!

Keep in touch,

Backpacker's Guide to Amsterdam

Just thought I'd share a link to a website I've been reading about the types of people I'll meet in Hostels in Amsterdam!


Thank goodness tipping isn't necessary with a 17.5% sales tax! eek!


Thursday, April 14, 2011

Big News!!

So- This really doesn't have much to do with my YHM experience but will for sure be on my mind this summer.

Today I found out that I have been accepted to Wheaton's HNGR program!!
HNGR stands for Human Needs and Global Resources. HNGR is a super unique program that combines service, learning, internships, home stay, language and culture study in a six month long internship in a Third World Country.

Let the HNGR office explain itself:
"In partnership with host organizations worldwide, HNGR combines classroom study with field-based service-learning internships in which students participate in transformational initiatives that enable people to live whole, secure, and productive lives. HNGR aims to promote in students a commitment to confronting human needs through their lifestyle and vocational decisions. Since the Program's inception, more than 600 students have participated in HNGR internships in 65 countries worldwide."

All year next year I will be preparing myself for six months living by myself in a community in the Third World.
This. Is. Big.

This also now means that I am a double major with a "certificate" in Human Needs and Global Resources. This is a very heavy course load and will take a lot of time and effort to complete.

I'm going to be picking a country, organization and thesis for my work. I plan on doing an internship in holistic and sustainable Water Development in Latin America.

Check out the program's website:

This is a life changing experience and learning opportunity that I have been given. Seriously friends this is HUGE.

Please pray as I plan out this exciting and unique experience.
After this summer and after HNGR I imagine I'll be a totally different person-- a mature woman of the world.

I'm excited for my life!!

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

It's coming....

So there hasn't been much to update--
But this evening at dinner I was talking to this year's cabinet chair and she said:
"You know, there's less time until you leave than you'll have in Amsterdam!"
It's coming up so fast!
Keep praying,

Wednesday, March 30, 2011


Today's orientation announced where my team will be going for our travel time. We'll be in Luxembourg! I'll be spending 5 (ish?) days in Luxembourg ministering to people there!
I'm really very excited because when I was little I used to like to read the travel column in the newspaper on Sundays. I really remember the one we had on Luxembourg (richest country per capita. only 2500 square miles but has its own language) and thinking how cool it would be to say "Have you ever been to Luxembourg?? Well I have!"

P.S. Our midsummer retreat will be in Hurlach, Germany!

Sunday, March 27, 2011


Hey friends,

This weekend was a big weekend for us YHM-ers! Evangelism Plunge!
We all were shipped out to different hostels in Chicago in our teams to bond, experience hostel life and see who we could talk to!

Cheyenne, Jessica and I shipped out on Friday and spent the night in Greektown around our hostel getting to know each other better and getting oriented to the hostel (and eating delicious Greek pastry).

Friday was nice and relaxing... a much needed warm up for our adventurous Saturday.
We met up with our fellow Amsterdamers-- the Shelter City team in Wicker Park for some lunch then spent the later afternoon wandering though Wicker Park's thrift and used book stores. Anyone looking for a super entertaining delicious (but expensive) coffeeshop, check out the Wormhole in Wicker Park!

We then decided we weren't hungry but still wanted to explore so we decided it would be a good idea to go cross town to Chinatown. We had a ton of tun there and Jess got to show off her Chinese skills.. but by the time we were hungry it was getting close to 8.

Here comes the scary part:::
We got off the "L" on a random stop downtown to see what kind of food we could find. All that was open and within our budget was a diner. We walked in and ordered, but then Cheyenne and Kara got an awful feeling that something sketch was up. The host was whispering with this man in a coat who kept coming in and out of the restaurant and was on and off of his phone. Creepiest part, the restaurant wasn't that full-- but we were the only women in the place. And some men were sustaining eye contact with us. It was so great that we were able to communicate how we feel to each other and trust each other. Needless to say, Cheyenne and Kara expressed their need to leave the place so we took our food and hopped the first train we could out of there.

Good thing we did because when we did, we met up with Megan and Rachel, YHM's summer travel partners back at the hostel. These lovely ladies have both done YHM in years past and will be helping us out this summer. Megan and Rachel had met up with Alex in the hostel.

Alex is a bike cab driver from Madison, Wisconsin. He's struggled with addiction and some pretty substantial family issues. I met him eating curry rice out of a pot while watching Avatar the last airbender on netflix sitting in the hostel common room. He was bummed out about having to go to work that night and we could tell he'd much rather be eating curry, talking and watching cartoons. Basically Alex rides around on his bike from 11-5am giving drunk people a ride back to wherever they need to be so that they don't have to ride. He'd come to Chicago for the week because he thought he could quickly rake in money to pay rent for his apartment in Madison. He needed to make a quota and wasn't really optimistic that he would. Right then, Megan chimed in and said that we would go out and be his first customers of the night.

Of course we didn't realize that Alex rides his bike in Wrigleyville-- about 45 min away on the "L".

But Alex really wanted company and really needed some encouragement. So we went. Now Wrigleyville isn't the least sketchy neighborhood in Chicago... and Alex had stored his pedi-cab under the elevated train tracks in an alley and of course was asking us about God while he spent about half an hour setting up his bike for the night.

Once he finally set up the bike, he insisted that he could carry all six of us.

That lasted about half a block before he was out of breath.

We split up into two groups and Alex took us on a tour of the neighborhood. He was riding in the middle of the car lanes when the cabs were taking up his bike lane. He took u-turns in the middle of the four lane intersections. He kicked cabs when they were in the bike lane. We were being heckled by people waiting to get into bars. We were freezing. Megan, Kara and I reacted by singing and waving back like princesses.

Meanwhile Alex asks us "Do you really believe there is no condemnation in Christ?"

The best part of meeting Alex was seeing how he humbled us. Megan and Rachel were cooking dinner with him when HE brought up Jesus. After talking with him for a while, HE was the one asking Megan and Rachel what he could pray for them about. He was the one who asked to go to church with us. And he was the one asking questions about faith. I think that sometimes when people go out on missions like YHM there's this idea that we will bring up the Gospel and we will pray for other people. Meeting Alex and having him pray for us and ask us big questions was so great and humbling to see.

This story doesn't end happily though. Not long after Alex dropped us off at the "L"he took a bad turn and the hinge that connected the passenger bench to his bike broke (could that have anything to do with trying to take six people at one time?). He spent the rest of the night calling mechanics and looking for a new piece. We turned out to be his only customers that night. He asked us to wake him up before church the next day. We did and he followed us to the train platform. Something happened while were waiting and he must have gotten spooked. He suddenly decided that his bike couldn't wait until after church and that he really needed to go to the hardware store even though he was so excited 10 minutes earlier. He didn't finally decide not to come until we were stepping onto the train.

We went to Missio Dei church in Wicker Park. Everyone there was gorgeous and under 33 and the worship was led by two attractive men with their dark wooden acoustic guitars, thick sweaters, corduroy pants and loafers. A totally different experience from what I'm used to but the message was great.

Post church the six of us went out to ipsento coffee in Bucktown to reflect on the weekend. They make a DELICIOUS nutella latte that Rachel's friend recommended. Go there. really. It's not like drinking strait up nutella. It's fantastic. Dang I'm recommending a lot of coffee places aren't I?

Please pray the we keep in trusting communication and stay humble as we go out this summer.
and pray for our new friend Alex as he struggles with addiction, finances and faith.

Megan, Me and Kara on the pedi-cab

Alex navigating busy downtown. Please note the TONS of people around and TONS of taxis and TONS of bars.
mmm.... ipsento

Friday, March 25, 2011


Check out my teammate Cheyenne's tumblr blog! She'll be writing updates there!!


- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone

Thursday, March 24, 2011

First Post!

Dearest Friends and Family-
Most of you guys all know that I'm setting off this summer for ten weeks of ministry to Amsterdam, Netherlands this summer.

I've set up this blog to keep you guys updated, be excited about the happy things, hash out frustrations and ask for prayer!

It's been set up for you guys to follow me via e-mail and facebook if you'd like to automatically receive updates about the ministry!

All of YHM has been carefully training and orienting ourselves all semester and this weekend is going to be our first real big adventure as YHMers! Tomorrow we're setting off for a weekend in a Hostel in downtown Chi-town. Not sure where. Not sure what we're going to do. Not sure who we're going to meet.

It'll be an adventure... right?

Please keep my team in your prayers for the rest of the semester as we not only prepare for 10 weeks of ministry in a foreign country, but also continue our job as full time students!
Pray for the people we'll meet this summer.
Pray for the city of Amsterdam.
Pray for organization in our leadership as we get ready to head off.

Once again-- follow the blog! Get it linked up to your f-book, your email or your twitter (?)!

With Love,
Erin xx