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

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-----