We have to admit that it is much easier to write a blog post when having a sense that we are living out the story that we want; when things are going well, rather than when we feel confused and discouraged. It reveals how much pride is in our hearts, as we prefer to present a beautiful picture of our lives and how the Lord is working, but fear to present our story when we are not sure what is happening and are uncomfortable. Pride and fear are two sides of the same coin. “Do not be afraid” was the message of our previous blog post. Perhaps we should have re-read it over the last months, so we could have been reminded not to worry.
Not long into the New Year, Tonn’s work situation became increasingly stressful as he felt he couldn’t improve his Dutch quickly enough to ease the doubts of some of his colleagues. This turned out to be a situation without any room to move, and after weekly meetings and quick decisions by the management his training position was stopped. He had already been offered casual work on the same department, and continues to do this while looking for a better fitting job. To make things even a little more exciting, we had 5 potential buyers visiting the house we rent, and in quick succession after 3 months of no viewers. We had started to feel like this house is ours, but were reminded that it is not.
Just to add a little more excitement, in that same month Hannah found out we are expecting a little Otter. This is great news, a child that is very welcome, but the nausea and additional tiredness has been an added weight. Just when we long to nestle, the fears for the future can easily creep in and overwhelm the situation. At least Tonn, having a month redundancy paid out, was at home to bring the boys away to school/kindy and to keep on top of all those household tasks.
The day after Tonn heard he would be made redundant, he was asked by one of the elders to give a meditation in the Silent Week services leading up to Easter. He was given Saturday, after Good Friday, the day when all seemed lost and dead. ‘The day of the liturgical year when the gospel ‘seems’ powerless. Jesus is dead and has been laid in the tomb. Jesus’ mission seemed a failure and his followers are left disillusioned.’ Tonn took up the challenge and held a 5 minute sermon, in Dutch, about how death leads to life, and how faith, no matter how small, can be enough to do the right thing in a difficult situation. People were touched and encouraged. Someone told him he had brought a non-believing neighbour, and this person was personally moved. So, God is still using us, even more so when we feel unable and small. Funny enough, someone who was encouraged didn’t realize Tonn is not a native Dutch speaker.
This abrupt change to our plans has been an opportunity for new things, before beginning another training position in the local hospital. Tonn has started an online bookstore www.plantedtreebooks.nl (the website is still a work in progress, but books can be purchased) and he has also applied for a teaching position (theology & mission) at the WEC Cornerstone Bible College, in the southern part of the Netherlands. We would have to raise own support for the position at WEC, plus move to the other side of the Netherlands and into close community quarters, so it is not an easy decision. It is a mission-focused college with up to 40 students from all over the world and is in an old convent on the edge of a little town. Part of us feels this could be a very good fit something that God has prompted us to do by slamming doors shut, but another part feels like the timing is unpleasant for us and would bring too much change.
We were so glad to begin settling into our weekly schedules of school, rest and predictability and seeing Samuel finding friends in the village. All things considered Hannah has not felt like she can step into something new at this time, while Tonn sees this as a great possibility to grow in putting his theology studies to work. We have since been offered to live onsite at WEC from August onwards for the coming year, so Tonn can be coached into this position and we can get to know WEC, though Tonn also has a job interview at the hospital this week for a training at the local hospital, so please pray for wisdom and discernment, as we decide what is next.
Just before we found ourselves in this position of uncertainty, we met up twice with some similar minded missional people from within our local church, to talk and pray about starting something together. Something new and missional with the blessing of the local church, and at the same time open to move with the Spirit and use our gifts. Refugees, a newly built suburb without a playground, children without friends.. We brainstormed and prayed for vision and were so excited to meet together. We also wrote a letter to the church board, introducing ourselves and offering our service and vision about prayer ministry and refugee work. The responsibility for the refugee café has been handed to us and more volunteers have recently joined this venture. Last gathering, was during Ramadan, so there were less regulars, but quite a few refugees from North East Africa, who are Christians. Our boys are excited to welcome ‘our guests’ and mix in with the children.
We have just got back from a week holiday in France. With great weather and no schedules, it was time that we could get away and recharge a little. Unexpectedly in the last month there has also been some talk about starting a pioneering position reaching out to refugees which would be supported by the churches on the island. Our names have been mentioned, but we don’t know if this is really going to lead anywhere and if it is even something that is for us.
Please pray for a clear way forward and a deep peace in stepping into either of these options. Most of all, pray that our faith stays strong and grows stronger. It is only in the light of the Bible, the gospel of Jesus’s death and resurrection, that our struggles and straining make sense and where lasting inspiration can be found.
Tonn, Hannah, Samuel, Jonah and little bump.
Ps. Could you let us know if you receive and read this blog post so we are aware of who is following us still? Thank you!