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

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