Peter

We sit in our team mates´ little dining room (next to the room that is our home for the week) and read about Peter who walked on the water. It´s just after breakfast on a grey January morning. The sun hasn´t come out yet behind the thick clouds that promise more snow.

We read about the famous disciple, about Jesus calling him to step out on to the stormy sea – and this fisherman actually doing it. How crazy! How exciting! And how inspiring.

We share how this story challenges us personally – and then Hanno suddenly starts laughing. “Here we are, out on the waters of Japan. Just before we came here, we had to do some things that might seem as stupid as stepping out on a stormy sea.”

One of the areas where we sensed Jesus telling us to come walk on the water was “belongings”. Not that we had many belongings in South Africa – but we had a few that we treasured, that meant “home” to us. For exmaple our car. Or our hifi system. Or something as silly and meaningless as pretty coffee cups. We felt Jesus telling us: “Give those things away. Come walk on the water.

We did, and to be honest it was tough. Not so much because the things had great monetary value. But because they had great emotional value.

Just as we made the decision to give the things away, we heard that there were “a few things” waiting for us in Japan.

A few days ago, we finally saw what that meant. We opened box after box of very useful, very valuable kitchen utensils.

We found beautiful coffee cups.

And a hifi system. (Who gets a hifi system!?)

And we received a car.

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“By the way,”, our team leader mentioned the other day. “While we stored the car for you we decided to name it Peter.”

(Silly sidenote: Peter might not walk on water, but he´s been pretty awesome in driving on snow!)

 

 

 

 

 

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Looking back, looking forward

The other day, I started playing the guitar again. I really don´t play the guitar well. And most of the time I don´t do anything to change that.

But four years ago, just before I moved to South Africa, I put a lot of effort into playing better.

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Now, just as we are about to move to Japan, I pull the old thing out again.

Maybe it is because of Petra. Petra was a missionary in the Central African Republic where I spend some years of my childhood – and I adored her! In my six-year old´s mind, she was the missionary hero. She had come specifically to teach the children of the Zande people, among whom my parents worked. She taught them songs about Jesus that she translated into Pazande before she could even speak the language properly.

From time to time I would be invited to her house – on my own! She would teach me to tie my shoes or to use a sewing machine. Once, I even went to her for a sleepover. Dinner tasted amazingly different there and she read long stories about Jesus to me before I fell asleep.

Petra had a puppet monkey who lived in an old suitcase, she had a long, flowing, hippy-style dress – and she had a guitar (she also had a boyfriend who wrote her long letters that took weeks to be delivered to our little mission station in the African bush. When she got such a letter – and even more when she hadn´t gotten one for a long time – her eyes would be tellingly red. Back then, of course, I did not understand how anyone could long for more than a guitar as your travel companion.)

The guitar was her helper to tell people about Jesus – and, I can sure tell you, it was a pretty cool helper in my eyes!

 

Maybe that´s why I feel I need to learn how to play the guitar better in this time… Sometimes you just want something to hold on to as you embark on the journey of telling people about Jesus.

 

And yet – we actually sense these days, that God wants to strip us from everything we are tempted to hold on to.

Time and time again, people told us in these last weeks that they sense God telling us to not rely on anything that we can do ourselves with regards to seeing His Kingdom come, but to solely rely on Him. When so many people think God is telling them something about you – and it ends up being the same message over and over again – you do listen up.

 

They are saying: Don´t have trust and confidence in yourselves. Have faith in God (which does make a lot of sense, if you think about it – how could we truly trust in our wavering, weak and weary selves? And yet, we seem to not be thinking about it half of the time and fall into worrying, pseudo-controlling and scheming all too often. We culture-savvily call it “stress”, because stress makes you and the steps ahead of you look really important, grown-up and big. All the while it is a great masquerade for fear.)

 

The opposite of fear is not a great plan or great courage, but faith in a great God.

 

“If we desire our faith to be strengthened, we should not shrink from opportunities where our faith may be tried, and therefore, through trial, be strengthened.”

George Mueller

 

2015 was our “year of faith”.

In 2015 we said the final yes to God´s call to Japan – which also meant a yes to a higher cost of living than we currently have in South Africa. In a breathtaking way that fills us with humble gratitude to our God and His people our income has increased without us asking anyone except for our Father in Heaven.

In 2015 we stood in many lines and waited many hours at government offices. We often lost patience and joy. And yet, all the necessary documents have been issued.

 

In 2015 we were blessed, loved, prayed for and given to by a German Protestant church that was started around 1554 and a South African Charismatic church that was started about five years ago.

 

In 2015 we got angry way too often because we got stressed way too often, we lost faith when we listened to a world that screams “impossible” at a lifestyle where God is provider and employer and Father so very practically. We failed to testify of His goodness and joined the crowd´s complaints. We thought of ourselves more than we wanted to and we didn´t give as much as we wanted to.

2015 was a year full of opportunities where our faith may be tried and it was a year in which God truly proved Himself faithful and good.

God alone.

祈り

P1090767Last week in Bible study, we went through some verses in Philippians 4.

The leader had brought his art supply box and gave each one of us a verse which we were supposed to “paint”. The couples had to paint together (good team building… ;-)).

It was just after we had gotten the official invitation and confirmation to go to Japan. Just after reality hit with all it´s questions and worries: How will we be able to survive in a country as expensive as Japan? Will we ever learn the language? How will we overcome culture shock and culture barriers?

We got Philippians 4:6.

Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.

As I painted the background, Hanno played around with his Bible app. He switched his Bible to Japanese, but we are far away from being able to quickly write down a Japanese Bible verse which looks like this:

何事をも思ひ煩ふな、ただ事ごとに祈をなし、願をなし、感謝して汝らの求を神に告げよ。

So Hanno looked up the characters for prayer, which are: 祈り

And this does not only mean prayer – but also thankgiving!

P1090786Here it hangs, on our fridge: a reminder to not be anxious. To pray. And to give thanks.



			

Sufficient for the day

We are so focussed on the future in Japan, thinking so much about the next step, that we easily trip because we don´t watch where our foot treads now. We trip and hurt and lose our speed when today is so heavy laden with the thoughts about tomorrow.

Therefore do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you. “Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.

(Mat 6:31-34)

Hanno reads these words to the students last Friday. It´s early in the morning and it´s getting cold here, so the students sit before him cuddled up in blankets and jackets. It´s hard to tell if they are actually listening.

Hanno pauses.

“This passage is the reason why you never see a Christian worry”, he quotes David Pawson. A few students giggle. Not everyone seems to be asleep.

Sometimes the best way to trust today and not to worry about tomorrow is to remember yesterday.

That´s exactly what Hanno does as he continues:

“It was about two years ago, around this time of the year. I had been told about a three-week training in another city that equips you for intercultural living and church planting. Of course, I didn´t have to think twice whether I was interested and told the organisers that I would attend.

In my excitement I forgot to inquire about the cost. Later, I was told the price and it almost exactly matched what I had in my bank account at that stage. I paid – and then I started to pray, because I still had to cover the transport costs. I went ahead to find the cheapest option to get to the training. It turned out to be an 18 hour bus drive that I could just about afford.

I booked and made my way there.

The training took all the ideas that I had about missions, church planting and culture and gave them a good shake as I learned more about what was actually effective in introducing Jesus to people and cultures that had no concept of a Biblical worldview.

I took in as much as I could – but in the back of my mind one question grew more and more urgent: How was I going to get back home?

Another couple that attended the training seemed to be an opportunity to get a ride. But when I asked them they apologised and explained that they would spend a week in another town before returning to Pretoria.

I was stuck. And I knew that this was an issue between me and the Lord. He was the One that I claimed to trust. So I didn´t just want to run to people with my need and ask them to help me out.

About halfway through the training, I got an email. A co-worker in Pretoria asked me whether I could have a look at a car. I agreed and after I reported back, he told me that he would like to buy this car for the ministry.

The car had a few issues, so I had to go back to the seller a few times, but none of that seemed to sway my co-worker from wanting to buy this car.

“Could I ask you for a big favour?”, he eventually asked. “Would you mind driving the car up to Pretoria when you are finished with the training? I will of course cover all the costs involved.”

That´s how God paid for my ride back home.”

The students spread out to spend some time alone with God and we walk back to our house. We don´t say anything, but we both know that we have been preaching to ourselves.

Why are we worried about the journey when God pays the ride back home?

And why are we worried about tomorrow when He sustains us today?

Year of Faith: The Cell Phone Story

Three years ago, I started the habit of praying at the beginning of each year, asking the Lord what He wants me to focus on in the coming year, what He wants to teach me and in which area He wants me to grow.

At the beginning of 2012, he gave me: year of openness.

It turned out to be the year that I went to Africa, the year that I opened up about a lot of hurt and lies and shame and finally let go of them, the year that I met a lot of life-shaping friends, the year in which I learned to share my faith unashamedly and excitedly.

2013 was the year of relationship.

He gave me the word before a certain man from South Africa even told me that he liked me – let alone asked me to marry him!

2014 was the year of being still and knowing that He is God.

In 2014, He turned our lives upside down and called us to Japan. It was the year in which He made us move four times and let us start in different ministries twice. 2014 was possibly the year in which I cried more than in any other year before, in which I was confronted with enough anxiety and insecurity and existential questions for a lifetime. And yet, the challenge remained: Be still and know that I am God.

So what is the word for 2015?

Faith.

This place of trust isn’t a comfortable place to be; in fact, it flies in the face of everything we’ve been taught about proper planning. We like finding refuge in what we already have rather than in what we hope God will provide. But when Christ says to count the cost of following Him, it means we must surrender everything. It means being willing to go without an extra tunic or a place to sleep at night, and sometimes without knowing where we are going.

God wants us to trust Him with abandon. He wants to show us how He works and cares for us.

(Francis Chan. Crazy Love.)

The year of faith started with my cell phone breaking. I accidentally left it in a puddle of water and when I checked it later, the touch screen wouldn´t react anymore. This was my third cell phone since I came to South Africa three years ago.

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Cell phone number one was so old, that I sometimes struggled to read SMS, because the screen was so scratched (and SMS was really the only thing I could receive on the old brick – I had never even heard of whatsapp before I had an Electronic-Engineer-Fiancé).

One morning, a thought crossed my mind while I was praying for the day: “Why don´t you ask God for a new phone?” “No!”, I reasoned “That would be so selfish. And unnecessary. My phone is fine.”

Later that day, a friend of mine gave me an envelope. “Maybe you´ll one day buy yourself a proper phone with this.”, he mumbled. I opened the envelope, dumb-struck. And I found more money than I would have ever allowed myself to spend for a phone.

A few days later my old phone finally gave up its spirit. And I went to buy myself my first smart phone. The phone didn´t live long. And yet, as soon as it broke, someone gave me an even better one.

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And now phone number three was gone.

Again, I prayed.

I just don´t want to separate my life anymore – divide it between the things that I talk about with God and the things that I somehow assume I have to take care of myself.

A few days later, a family member gave me his old phone. When I asked the Electronic-Engineer-Husband whether this phone is better than my previous one, he looked at me with a glimpse of unbelief. “A lot!”, he burst out. And then he gave me a list of reasons.

Reasons why it is worth of putting my trust into my Lord and God and Provider.

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This story is not about phones. It´s not about blessings becoming bigger and better. It is about choosing a life-style where you need God to come through for everything – even for technology.

Christians today like to play it safe. We want to put ourselves in situations where we are safe “even if there is no God.” But if we truly desire to please God, we cannot live that way. We have to do things that cost us during our life on earth but will be more than worth it in eternity.

(Francis Chan. Crazy Love.)