Has it been two years since we shared what goes on here? Yes it has.. and in the mean time I (Hannah) occasionally thought about posting something, but I honestly haven’t had the time. Time has become this precious thing that we never have enough of. Gone are the days of being bored, wondering what to do… But the time we have is rich and filled up with life giving, interesting, challenging things! Grab a cuppa and read what’s been going on with the den Otters in Dirksland.
The biggest news is Matthijs. On the 16th of November 2018 he joined our busy family. He was born in our home and we had a lovely time of bonding together. Matthijs Andreas den Otter is a healthy boy with twinkly eyes, giving smiles to everyone. He amazed us all when he started to walk along coffee tables at the age of 6 months. He recently turned one and he walks around the house calling out “Nnggd Aoh!!” and “Daddy.. mamamammaa” following his brothers, climbing the stairs (NO!!!) and singing his songs. We love him to bits. Sometimes his brothers do this almost literally… his daycare teachers told us they can see he has older brothers because he shows no fear towards older children and climbs over his peers to get to his goal.
In the meanwhile Tonn has been busy getting his teacher’s degree to become a high school religion teacher. He did an internship at the local high school last year and filled in for a maternity leave. That was a steep learning curve, but he showed his potenial when he took one of his first classes outside to read from the book of Genesis. He also asked them to take of their shoes as they spent time talking about other religions and divided the group in casts as some got more privileged positions then others. It was unorthodox but appreciated, and some of the much more experienced teachers wondered why they never thought of these things. He is now finishing off his thesis and some essays, unfortunately there was no position vacant at the time, but we hope something comes up later. All along something else had been developing. We wrote about some initiatives among refugees and the possibilities of church planting. It is all happening now. Something that God has been working in our hearts and our environment. I’ll start from the beginning.
As we arrived in Dirksland I quickly became friends with another mom, a spirit filled and smart lady with a heart of gold. As we met around coffee we shared our hearts desires, as you do with someone you just met, we shared a dream about an international church on the island, sent out from the local church. She had been involved in working amongst refugees over the past years, and they had made some steps in faith, willing to go where God sent them, serving amongst refugees. As we shared dreams and thoughts, we decided to pray. For an international church and a place where Tonn could serve, being an Australian on Dutch conservative clay ground. It seemed a long shot, but we believed God could do it.
As the weeks went by interesting things happened, and we were asked to join a team, thinking about church planting among refugees in the area. The Dutch Protestant Church came behind us and the local church joined. We wrote our project plans, dreamt, prayed, brainstormed… and last October Tonn was officially sent out from our church as a pioneer to plant an international church, GOchurch. Since May we have been experimenting with monthly gatherings and a number of enthusiastic people have joined us to bring together a community of believers around the Bible, music and meals.
It is a path with highs and lows, and many challenges. But we have sensed that the Lords is in this, which is a true comfort when the going gets tough. Please pray for us. For wisdom, courage and sensitivity to what the Lord is doing, understanding the needs of the people we are trying to serve and each other as team members. And amongst that for our health and energy levels, as we also juggle raising three boys, jobs and study. We have also experienced adversity and resistance when a marriage in our church planting team broke down and ended in divorce, financial things didn’t get organised as quickly as we hoped and putting up a church service costs a whole lot of energy from us as a family. We look for ways to make things sustainable and make sure we actually connect to the group we want to reach. Adversity sometimes gives us a scare, but also lights up the fire in our hearts and brings a realization that we are in a battle. No kidding. But God is bigger. Jesus is stronger. Always.
I have been working more to support our family, and since April I work for a conservative Christian psychological organisation, as a psychologist. A challenging job that involves some travelling time but also gave me a post nearby. What challenges me is the severity of depression and the interplay with the teaching in some of the churches, if basic trust is not established during childhood and teaching in church highlights sins and God’s righteousness and emphasizes that there are only a lucky few who are saved, mental health and faith do not flourish at all. I have to make sure I stay connected to the Source of Life, Love and Justice to stay spiritually healthy and discerning while doing this work.
During my maternity leave I set up a website for my own company. Reconcilia, conflict counselling, couples therapy and EMDR. I have been seeing some clients of my own, but time..precious time.. should also be spent with my lovely boys and pots and pans. Lucky enough Tonn is a good cook and we decided to hire a cleaner.
Oh, and I totally forgot to mention we moved house. Yes, the house we were renting was sold, so we had to move on… that same week two houses became available in our street and we were at the top of the list for one of them, so we moved 6 houses down. It is a typical Dutch post war house, small but cosy and a shed in the backyard. We like it there. Another miracle is that we moved in within 2 weeks. The house literally got stripped of all wallpaper, flooring, kitchen, bathroom and toilet. Everything was renewed, and we had to paint, lay floors and put wallpaper on the walls. With lots of help of friends and family we did it. But moving and renovating while starting a new job (both of us!) and preparing for our first GOchurch service was madness..but here we stand, still alive and kicking.
Thank you for reading this. If you are a praying person, may we ask you to pray for our health, energy and faith? We love you, we miss you and we would love to hear from you!
Tonn, Hannah, Samuel, Jonah and Matthijs