Monday, December 6, 2010

Remembering Chris

Today is December 6, 2010 -- this date might mean something to you. It might be a celebration of your wedding anniversary. It might mean a birthday -- yours or a loved one. But, to me and my family it means something very different. 13 years ago, my (Cathy) youngest brother, Chris stepped from this early life into his eternal life in heaven.

I am grateful that the Lord is healing my heart from the day-to-day ache and grief I felt 13 years ago. I still miss my brother immensely. I think of him every day. But, I'm grateful that - for the most part - when I remember Chris, it brings joy to my heart. Not too say, I still don't struggle with grief & sadness from time to time, but I'm thankful that my heart is healing from this tragedy.

I am also thankful that I have the confidence that I will see him again some day. Because of the relationship that we both have with Jesus, I know when I pass from this life to my eternal life, I will embrace my brother once again. What a comfort! God provides reminders to me on a regular basis, his life didn't end 13 years ago...just his time on earth. I can't wait for that reunion!

Chris was a good man, a loyal friend, a deep thinker and a laughter maker. He touched many peoples lives -- in many different ways. He was deeply admired by those that knew him. He was deeply loved and is greatly missed. I trust that we all have allowed God to touch our hearts with peace, comfort and healing. So when we think of Chris, we can smile and anticipate the joy we will have one day when we see him again.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

A brief update

It's been a while since we have blogged and a lot is going on! We have experienced some fun things in the past month; but now we are entering into the busy Christmas season. We will have a busy month with ministry, studies, events and celebrating the birth of Jesus! We thought we better get you caught up before we lose another month.

We are grateful for the special memories that we are developing here. We are also challenged by the things that come our way where we feel totally in over our heads: helping with broken marriages, talking to a young woman who doesn't know if she believes in God, dealing with troubled teens, the list goes on & on. It can be very overwhelming! We appreciate your love, prayers & support!

Over Halloween weekend, we went to London with some of our Cadence collagues and friends. We explored London, enjoyed fish & chips, ate Chipotle (first one in Europe), took in a couple of plays and watch the Bronco-49er game. It was a fun weekend - despite the Bronco loss! We enjoyed sweet conversations with our friends, a nice time of worship & study and toured London in primarily sunny weather!

We had a special treat and
connected with John & Megan Paasonen. John was involved in the 20 something ministry we supported while living in Colorado Springs. He lives now in London and recently got married. It was a pleasure having dinner with him & his bride, Megan.

In November, Lou stayed in Germany and held down the fort with Bailey. Cathy was able to return to Colorado for a few weeks. She surprised her sister for her 45th birthday. She was also able to celebrate with her brother for his 48th birthday. She spent time with all of our family, friends and some supporters. It was a good trip!

Now we are entering into the Christmas season. We are returning to Hungry to facilitate a Christmas party for the kids at the Miskolc orphanage. Many of you sponsored "orphans"...we are so grateful. Each child will be getting a few presents to unwrap. We had one special family send a new coat, hats & gloves for EACH child. We are going to bake cookes, play games and share the love of Christ. We are excited to see how God continues to unite our hearts with these kids.

We trust that you & your family will have a joyous Christmas season. We'll be in touch again soon!

Monday, October 25, 2010

Hospitality -- what does that mean?

Lou & I have been running the Hospitality House in Kaiserslautern for over a year now. In the past year, we have been asked "What is a Hospitality House"? We have described it as a "home away from home", a "safe place for folks to explore Christianity", a "place where folks can come and fellowship and study the Bible", etc. But, I have been meditating on the meaning of being hospitable.

As part of my devotions, I read Our Daily Bread, published by Radio Bible Class in Grand Rapids, Michigan. Not too long ago, there was a day devote to "Pursuing Hospitality". As I reflected on the Romans passage and the I Peter passage dealing with hospitality, I found myself wondering if I'm truly hospitable.

The author, David McCasland, was stated that "hospitality is a hallmark of Christian living...and is commanded for every follower of Jesus as an expression of love." But what does that truly mean? Is hospitality just opening up my home and welcoming people? Is it being friendly to those who enter my home?

Mr. McCasland showed me that the Greek word for hospitality means "love of strangers". God is calling us to pursue relationships with people in need. But, who is in need? In our ministry, Lou & I practice hospitality by spending time with military personnel and their families. Some of them are married with children, some are married with no kids, some are single. They all come for various backgrounds, different upbringings, women & men, Hispanics, African Americans and Caucasians -- all enter our home. Yet, how do they leave?

For us, our hearts desire is that people feel welcomed, loved, supported and treated as family. Our hope is that our home and ministry will allow them to connect with other people, experience the love of Jesus and their needs - whether physical, emotional or spiritual - are met. And leave being a friend and no longer a stranger.

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Serving our German Neighbors

Last weekend, we had an opportunity to serve our German neighbors. We received a phone call informing us that a local vineyard owner had been killed in a freak tractor accident. His wife had no way of harvesting the grapes in time to make the deadline to create the wine. This is her livelihood and if the vineyard wasn't harvested timely, she would not have any income for the next year.

We teamed with the Spangdahlem hospitality house and took about 20 folks to this vineyard. We picked grapes for a couple of hours and enjoyed a nice lunch. We finished the afternoon picking more grapes. We worked along side about 20 other German folks. Some were her neighbors, some were professional "grape pickers" that were donating their day to her, some were her family. Vido - the man that was our point of contact - kept telling us that the Germans were shocked to see Americans giving up their day to help with a woman they didn't even know.

We worked along side them all day. A couple of them spoke English, so during the lunch time, we sat together and got to know one another a little more. The widow made us a lovely meal. We were initially told to bring a sack lunch; but she was so touched by the generosity, she cooked for us all. We ate at the top of a hill within the vineyard. We learned that her husband would eat lunch there every day and rest inside the Chapel. She told us that it was a special memory for her and it touched her that we all were able to see something that was special to her husband.

We hope by serving just for a few hours at this vineyard that people could see something different about us. We didn't do it for the thanks we received, for the yummy food and wine we enjoyed, but hopefully to touch a widow's heart and to help support her in a tangible way. We hope she experienced a bit of Jesus' deep, deep love for her through our service.

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

First Year

We can't believe it has been almost a month since we've blogged!! It has been a very busy summer: Cadence Conference in Wisconsin, Mission trip to Hungary, Cathy's parents 50th wedding anniversary, friends visiting, excursions with folks, and other various ministry opportunities. It has been a fun summer.

What's even more crazy is that we have been in Germany for over a year now. We arrived on 11 August 2009 and had our first ministry event on Labor Day last year. In our first year, we have learned so many things.

First, we are enjoying the relationships that we are developing with our German neighbors, our Chapel colleagues, and the wonderful folks that hang out in our home. We have walked along side folks through some fun and exciting things: promotions, new babies, getting married. We have supported people through some difficult challenges: break ups with boy/girl friends, problems with supervisors, moving and leaving people, teenage drama, deaths in families. Through each of these situations, we have grown as individuals and as a couple.

Second, this year has shown us how much we have taken things for granted. There is so much that is different here and, although it has been an exciting year, it also has been a year of loss and grief. We do miss the States and some of the comforts of home. We miss our daughter & families, our friends, our church, reading road signs in English, being able to navigate with a map and not needing a GPS, and so many other things.

This year has stretched us in our marriage almost more than any other year. We are realizing that we are madly in love with each other, and cannot imagine doing life without one another. Yet, we also have realized that we still have unique personalities and talents that we have been taking for granted. We are learning to cherish those differences - even though they sometimes drive us nuts - we are being reminded how important it is to respect how we are created. We are truly good for one another and are grateful for that!

We must confess we do enjoy our jobs and the perks that living in Europe brings with it. We have experienced travel to several towns and cities close to Kaiserslautern: Trier, Heidelberg, Worms, Baden Baden, Stuttgart. We have explored a little of Europe in this first year: Venice, Paris, Switzerland. We have been on two mission trips in Hungary, Cambodia/Thailand. It has been a whirlwind year!
So, as we get ready to celebrate our first year anniversary this weekend, we are wonder what is in store for us as we move into our second year of life and ministry in Germany.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Getting back into the swing of things

We have been back a few weeks and feel like we are getting back into the swing of things. We have focused on getting caught up on things around the house, meeting with people and "easing" back into our ministry night. Our time back in the States was wonderful - busy - but wonderful. The sad thing is I (Cathy) took several pictures. I was a crazy snapping woman, but sadly I have nothing to show for it. At some stage, I wanted to download the pictures and realized that I had left my memory card in Germany. So, I have nothing to share with you from this trip -- at least visually.

We spent two weeks in Colorado reconnecting with friends and family. We had lunches, coffees and dinners planned almost every day we were there. As I have already reported, we enjoyed celebrating a milestone anniversary with my parents. This allowed us to see extended family and friends that we hadn't seen in years.

We then moved onto Wisconsin for the Cadence conference. I must admit I wasn't sure what to expect. We have attended work conferences in the past: some good, some not so good. Frankly, we really weren't too excited about it. Our experience is that conferences pull you away from work, usually aren't to beneficial and then we have a ton of stuff to get caught up on when you go back to work.

We were pleasantly surprised! There was a good balance of meetings, free time, fellowship and connecting with our co-workers. We have a deeper appreciation for the Cadence leadership team and are excited to see the direction the mission is going. David Schroeder, our president, accomplished all the goals of the conference: Honor our staff, connect the team, celebrate the vision and refresh our hearts. It truly was an amazing time and we are thrilled - more than ever - to be a part of Cadence.

As we finish the summer, we have some fun things planned. Our biggest deal is our Hungary Mission trip. We are taking 11 folks to Miskolc and Debrecen Hungary in mid-August. We will be working at a local orphanage and refugee camp. We will conduct a VBS for younger children, host sports camp for middle/high schoolers and spend some time assisting the staff with disabled children. We are really looking forward to this opportunity to serve, but to also see what God teaches us through this time. Pray for team unity, sensitive hearts, and safe travels. We hope you have a good summer...we will be in touch again soon!

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Love, Forgiveness, Commitment

On Sunday, June 20th, my (Cathy) parents celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary. We enjoyed a joyous event with family & friends coming to honor and bless them. People came from all over to congratulate them: New Mexico, Texas, New York, Nebraska, Germany!

As we approached their big day, Lou & I spent some time reflecting on what my folks have modeled to us. My parents have had their ups and downs in marriage. They have had their joys and sorrows, enjoyed fulfilled dreams and have cried over disappointments and loss.

My folks have truly modeled love & forgiveness to me. My parents haven't had an easy - nor perfect - marriage. Through it all, they have taught me the power of love, forgiveness and commitment. When many others would have walked away, they have chosen to deal with their hurt & disappointment by forgiving each other and by staying committed. I have tried to incorporate these values in my marriage, my relationships, my ministry.

My parents have also modeled acceptance. My husband, in his toast to them, said that they had become "my mentors, my friends, my family". I am grateful that my parents have treated my husband like their son from the moment we were married. They have called Katie "granddaughter" from the moment we adopted her eleven years ago.

So, as I reflect on their 50th anniversary, I hope in 2025 (when I'm celebrating my 50th anniversary), that people will say that Lou & I have modeled love, forgiveness and commitment! Thanks mom & dad -- may God bless you with many more years of love, forgiveness and friendship!

Sunday, May 30, 2010

Mémorial aux américains

Memorial Day weekend -- what does that mean to you? We all look forward to a three day weekend, but do we remember why we have this holiday? Lou is enjoying the weekend on a Switzerland camping trip with about 15 folks from the Hospitality House. He is teaming with two other Hospitality Houses (Baumholder and Graf). they are enjoying some time to refelct on God and enjoy His creation; and to have an opportunity to rest and relax in the beautiful Alps.

Cathy is facilitating a Reintegration Retreat with the Ramstein Chapel. We have 40 families that have recently returned from deployment or are getting ready to be deployed. This retreat is to help them "reintegrate" as a family or to prepare for "separation" as a family. We are studying effective communication techniques, anger management and having some fun as a family at Euro Disney in Paris.

As Cathy was riding on the bus to Paris with this group of 160 folks, she saw a sign Mémorial aux américains. She found out that we were passing a town that has a monument built in 1930 that commemorates the offensives conducted ty U.S. forces during WWI and the eventual liberation from Germany. This reminded her to reflect on Memorial Day. This is our weekend to remember those who died in our nations service. This is our weekend to thank those who are currently serving our country, defending our Nation and its values and protecting those who fight for their individual freedom. Please join us in spending some time to thank a veteran! Happy Memorial Day!

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Computers, Cars and Other "C"s

It all started the week after Easter. Actually it happened all in one day. You start to question, is this a test, trial or just plain tribulation, when things happen all in one day. Lou began his day with his computer dying. It has been acting weird for about a week. We did what we knew how to do -- reboot several times, run our anti-virus software, take it to a computer expert -- the problem would only reoccur in our home. Then it happened -- Lou turned it on and it wouldn't reboot. Yikes!! When was the last time we backed up -- how am I going to get any work done -- I need to finish my talk for Friday night -- Yikes!! The day continued in frustation.

We tried to prepare our hearts and mind for Tuesday night. See Tuesday night are our favorite night of the week. Lou cherishes his time with the guys. He facilitates a Men's Study at our home. They eat dinner together and spend some time in study and prayer. He enjoys these evenings and was looking forward to putting the day behind him. While Lou is spending time with the guys, Cathy is involved in a womens study on base. Because of the craziness of the day, she was looking forward to seeing her friends and spending some time thinking about anything but the computer.

Cathy was driving to the base as she entered the base the car began to beep and flash a warning message -- in German! The message began with Halt! Halt! and was followed by something else she didn't understand. But, the Halt! Halt! was enough for her to say "Boy, this doesn't seem good". As that thought entered and left her mind, the car died! Right there in the middle on the busiest road on base. It was pouring rain, she had the main dish for the Tuesday night potluck and no phone!! She went to call Lou and realized she had left their cell phone at home. The car wouldn't start, wouldn't turn over, was dead!

Why is it when we are in these situations we don't automatically turn to Christ? Why is it that we tend to let frustration and anger take over and not just stop and take a deep breath and cry out to God? I know we are all human....but the few times I have turned to Christ first, my emotions are calm and I can think more clearly. I remembered that we have been studying Philippians on Friday night. Interesting enough, Lou had just talked about "do not be anxious about anything!" Now is the time for us to put this into practice!

Computers, Cars
and Christ....they reveal what we are truly made of -- what's really going on inside of our hearts. When Computers and Cars and their problems are the priority -- anxiety kicks in because of the loss of Control.

No computer, no car, now what? Cathy begins to walk back to the guard shack to see if she could borrow a phone. After just a few steps in the rain, a woman stops and asks if she needs help. She allowed Cathy to borrow her phone to call Lou. Another few minutes go by, the rain is getting worse, a man stops, wearing in a nice suit, he pushes the car to the side of the road. At this point, she begins to relax and remember that God is in control; while she was feeling totally out of control, God reminded her that He will talk care of us!!

Well after a month, we now have our car back and our computer. Dell fixed our computer at no cost. We had backed up the computer and had an extra one from our predecessor so Lou was able to get right back to work. So, even though it took over 3 weeks to get his computer back, we were blessed -- no cost and no significant loss of work.

Our car took almost a month and came in about $500 under budget. Even though it was still a pricey fix, when was the last time you paid a mechanic less than what he estimated? Each week, someone had a car they would lend to us. We were provided for in very tangible ways.

So, Cars, Computers, Control, Christ. I know we will have another opportunity to learn the lesson to turn to Christ in all situations -- because we are human; but we are thankful that we saw God's provision and experienced His peace again in a time of frustration.

Monday, April 5, 2010

Easter Reflections

We had a busy holiday week. We had a frustrating holiday week. We started our week with Lou's computer having problems. Next our van died on me when I tried to get to my Ladies Bible Study. Both have been with "mechanics" for a week. Isn't it funny when we have these life frustrations, we tend to get frustrated with one another?

As the week continued, we ended up having words with one another -- OK, in all honesty, a fight. On Thursday, I started to catch a cold. All of this heading into Easter weekend!

Easter weekend is my favorite weekend of the year! Actually Holy Week is my favorite time of the year. I enjoy Christmas, I LOVE Easter. So, heading into our first Easter in Germany, I was upset that the week had not gone as I would like.

Lou & I tend to talk and reflect during this week about what Christ did for us through His death and His resurrection. We try to think about why we love Jesus and meditate on our gratefulness to Him. But, this year, we were arguing over selfish things, frustrated that we didn't have his computer so I could finish our taxes and mad that we had to borrow a car. Time to way!

Yet, God is so good, so patient, so kind! Thursday afternoon, while we were complaining about the week, the Holy Spirit reminded us that we have an opportunity to "practice what we preach". See, Lou has been teaching from Philippians and we are learning to have joy in all situations, especially during trials and tribulation. We were going through nothing, compared to what Paul was walking through when he wrote that book. God grabbed a hold of our hearts and we decided to PRAY!!

Through our prayers, God began to remind us that He is with us. He revealed to us that the enemy was pressing in and trying to discourage us. We were humbled - and embarrassed - that we had allowed these little issues to get us to lose our focus for the week. What a difference a few minutes can make by taking time with our Heavenly Father!

My cold was still lingering, our car and computer were still broken, we were anticipating a busy holiday weekend, but our spirits had been refreshed! The joy of Easter was in our sights again. We had a great weekend, we had a joyful weekend. We experienced God's power and touch in a personal way. God is good!

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Where is God's Glory?

God, where is Your Glory? Father, where is Your Hope? What are you doing Lord? These were some of questions that rattled through my brain and heart as I (Cathy) walked through the past two weeks in Thailand and Cambodia.

From 15 February - 1 March, I had the priviledge to join 13 women on a two week mission trip. We spent time in orphanages in Chaing Mai, a refugee camp on the Thai/Burma border, military communities in Cambodia and the bars of Bangkok. Our goal was to point people - primarily women & children - to the one true God that can bring hope to their lives. Yet, I must admit, I found myself questioning "Lord, how can they hope in You?"; "How are You going to shine in this situation?"

Despite my cries, fears and unbelief, I saw God bring comfort, peace & hope to people that should be angry & depressed. I was challenged to think past my own personal feelings and to see how these people would embrace the love of Christ. Not all did, but some did and some had in the past and were excited about what God was doing in their lives!! Amazing and beautiful!

I will share more stories and pictures with you in our next newsletter - for I could go on and on, but I won't bore you too much. It truly was a life changing trip.

Many times we go on these trips thinking we are going to be the blessing, we are going to serve and what ends up happening is we are blessed more, we are stretched more, we are taught more by the people that we go to minister to. This trip had the same outcome for me.

Our team had two primary goals: teach and spend time with the women and children at the places we visited. I was on the women's ministry team. I had two talks that I gave. First, I gave the "gospel message" to the ladies at the Minefield. This community is primarily Buddhist and most have not heard the message of Christ.

It was an honor to share part of my story, how Christ has changed my life and the love He has for them. God moved and a few ladies entered into a relationship with Christ that day. The challenge now is the discipleship and growth piece.

There is a small community of believers there. We learned that there are three women that are Christ followers. This lady is the only one who can read & write. I visited with her and I was touched by how much she loves God, despite her situation. She lives in a hut, with no running water, cooks over an outside flame, survived the Pol Pot regime and the "Killing Fields". She lived several years in a refugee camp after Pol Pot was over thrown before she was able to leave and be reunited with friends and family. She became a Christian in the refugee camp and is so excited that we came to spend time with them.

We had shared our testimonies with the ladies at the MineField. We asked her to give us her testimony. Here she is sharing with us about her life, her walk with God and what she is hopeful for!!

As an American, I'm so spoiled. I start to question God's goodness towards me if something doesn't go my way. If I struggle with sickness, or a bad job situation, or have an argument with Lou, I wonder why God is allowing this to happen. It is all so trivial compared to what so many other people have to deal with -- that's where God's glory comes into play. This little lady, from Cambodia, loves God, despite everything she has walked through, she brings glory to God and her life challenges me to reflect on God's goodness and glory. I thought I'd be bringing that to her and God used her to teach me about His character. Amazing!

Friday, February 5, 2010

Hanging out with God

Since our move to Germany, I (Cathy) have been exploring this idea of what it means to enjoy the presence of God, to be in God's presence, to truly understand that the God of the universe loves me and wants to be in relationship with me. You would like at my life stage, the length of time that I've walked with God, this wouldn't be something I would be pondering. Yet, this is something that I have struggled with getting my arms around for most of my life -- what does it mean to be in God's presence? Is it spending 15 minutes in prayer, having a daily quiet time, singing to Him -- what does it mean to be in God's presence througout the day, throughout my journey.

I decided to read a couple of books that had been recommended to me: He Loves Me, by Wayne Jacobsen, The Practice of the Presence of God, by Brother Lawrence and Enjoying the Presence of God, by Jan Johnson. What I am learning is that I truly struggle with the fear of not knowing if God truly loves me. I mean, I know the right things to say. I know the Bible and I "know" that God loves me. For Heaven's Sake, that's what Christianity is about. Jesus enduring the cross so that I could be reconciled with God and enter into a relationship with Him. But, I'm still struggling with sin, I'm still very selfish, I choose TV over worship - I do wonder if He is tried of putting up with me. I try to stay busy to prove to myself that I'm worthy of love.

These books I've read have me meditating on this issue and grappling with the truth that God loves us and ME no matter what. Jan Johnson puts it this way God's love tackles us, telling us that we can quit asking what we must do to be loved and valued because His answer is NOTHING. I'm pondering this concept that He loves me and values me - no matter what I do, no matter what I don't do.

I don't have this figured out yet and probably never will this side of Heaven; but, I'm excited to be thinking about what it would mean to slow down and be quiet and reflect on God. How freeing it would be to truly understand that the things I do, I do to bring glory to God and not to try and earn His love. I'm considering what things truly refresh my soul and when I feel most loved by God: listening to music, laughing with my sister, praying with my beloved Lou or curling up with a good book. I'm thrilled to be on this journey, I don't know where it will lead, but I do desire to know Jesus as the dear Friend that I've longed for - I can't want to see how I learn to spend time with God all day.