Mittwoch, November 11, 2020

november update

 Dear Friends,

If you live in Germany Thanksgiving was celebrated on October 4 this year.  If you live in Canada Thanksgiving was celebrated on October 12.  And if you live in the USA you will be celebrating on November 26!  Over the years our Thanksgiving observance has evolved from a day of celebration to a SEASON OF CELEBRATION, which is probably more in line with the biblical mandate of “always giving thanks to God the Father for everything”. (Eph. 5:20)  ALWAYS.  REALLY!  “Be joyful always; pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” (2 Thess. 5:16-18)  Most of us are probably struggling with that this year – 2020 - marked by the ongoing threat of a dangerous pandemic, political unrest, and all the various ways we have been personally affected by current events.  As difficult as it may be, giving thanks is one of the most effective practices we can exercise in the face of fear, uncertainty and hardship.

Sacrifice thank offerings to God, fulfill your vows to the Most
High, and call upon me in the day of trouble; I will deliver you
and you will honor me…He who sacrifices thank offerings
honors me, and he prepares the way so that I may show
him the salvation of God.  Psalm 50:14,15,23
 

Practicing mindful and willful thanksgiving takes our eyes off of the fear, uncertainty and  hardship that consume our minds and hearts, to focus on our abundance, blessings and hope – and the One who is the faithful source of all that we are and have.

We asked you to pray for an exciting location possibility for our church in Cologne.  As promising as it looked, it didn’t work out.  However, we are thankful for the ongoing use of the location we presently meet in.  We are thankful for our wonderful church family during this ongoing time of uncertainty and restrictions – for their faithfulness, encouragement and fellowship.  We are thankful for God’s protection from harm and sickness as we traveled extensively, internationally and domestically.  We are thankful for precious time with family that we haven’t seen for years.  We are thankful for encouraging meetings with supporters and churches in New Jersey, Illinois and Wisconsin.

We are thankful for three people who put their trust in Christ.  While in Chicago visiting dear German friends, we took part in a Thursday evening Alpha course that they were hosting on Zoom. It was a joyful and exciting experience. We prayed for them as they met on the following Saturday over an extended time, where participants were challenged to put their trust in Christ. What a joy it was for us to hear later that 3 people accepted the Lord.  We are thankful that God continues to work, undertake and provide.

And so, we are thankful for you, dear friends – for your witness, your example, your encouragement in word and deed, for your prayers of petition, and for your financial support.  Let us know what sacrifices of thanksgiving you are offering up to the Lord!

Thankfully,
Jason and Sue


PS: SAVE THE DATE! December 5, 2020 at 12:00 EST (11 central, 10 mountain, 9 pacific) live zoom with Jason and Sue! All our supporters and friends are invited to hear what God is up to in our lives and ministry in Germany. We'll have some short interviews with those we minister to/with. Q&A, prayer requests and points of praise. Please join us! Here is the link: https://us02web.zoom.us/j/81916449657

Donnerstag, September 10, 2020

September Update

Dear Friends,

There is something to be said about having an ongoing presence and testimony in one area. I am in my 8th year in the Pastorenatelier. There are so many people that I greet every day as they pass by on their way to the market or post office. I don’t know most of their names, but there is a connection there. Two elderly women who come by every day with their walkers always take a little break here - one sits on my bench and the other on her walker. I’ll often go out and chat with them and have made some minor adjustments for them on their walkers. They are a bright spot for me each day. They crack me up on the days when they dress the same or both wear the same cool shades. I often wish them God’s blessing when we part ways.

Then there is the little old lady who lives across the street and keeps an eye on things along with her husband through their front window. She comes over every couple of weeks and slips me a 5er or 10er for my “candy fund” and I wish her God’s blessing as well.

The Turkish locksmith on the corner never charges me when I need a key or have a lock issue. He just asks me to pray for him. I assure him that I not only pray for him but for the whole neighborhood. All our work with refugees hasn’t escaped his notice. A few weeks ago he came over with an immigrant friend of his who was having visa issues asking me to help. I was able to offer some advice, respect and compassion.

The North African barber next door (Uncle Georges Hair Generation!) sent me one of his immigrant customers the other day who was also having visa issues. Unfortunately, I really wasn’t able to help him very much, but I was encouraged by the fact that George thought to send him to me.

The other night, as our Bible study group was praying with the front door wide open, one of the refugees who was walking by noticed our posture and stopped at the door just to say “As salaamu Alaikum” (Peace be upon you).

Granted, I may never get to actually share the gospel in words with many of these people but I think that God uses our ongoing presence as a testimony and a beacon of light and hope. It also can pave the way to future gospel conversations.


MEETING SPACE

Please pray about a possibility that has come up for an amazing new space to rent for our church and refugee ministries. It is a long shot and we really can't afford it but we think God may be opening a door. The openness of the owner for what we are doing is especially heartening. We have to wait until next week for an answer from him concerning how the space is zoned. This could be a deal-breaker. Please pray that whatever is on file with the city will allow for us to use the space for ministry, specifically for gatherings of people. May His will be done.





COVID-19 CONCERNS

After months of online church services, we have decided to start meeting in person again. It is not optimal with distancing and masks. Also, some people do not feel safe enough to join us yet. Before Covid-19 we would also share a meal together twice a month but have decided that for the time being we will not be doing that in order to be sure we are in compliance. Please pray for our little church, which has gotten even smaller. Pray for wisdom and courage. Pray that God will continue to work and build His church.

We are thankful for God's provision through many of you over the years. We are so dependent on Him and on you to be able to continue in this ministry. Unfortunately the economic fallout from COVID-19 is beginning to catch up to us. If you are in a position to increase your support or to give an extra gift, we would be grateful. See the GIVE links below.


TRAVEL PLANS

We had to cancel a trip we had been planning in May to Colorado to visit supporters and family, which was a disappointment for us. We haven't seen our kids for over 2 years. We thank the Lord for skype, but we need to be able to hug them! To that end, we are risking a trip in October to spend some time with them, other family and friends and also 2 of our supporting churches in NJ and WI. Please pray for safe travels and God's protection.


Thankfully,

Jason and Sue

Samstag, Juni 13, 2020

june update

Dear Friends,
Our corona experiences and emotions in Germany are probably similar to those of you in North America.  We find the opening-up period just as stressful as the lock-down because it is very complicated and it is hard to know if you are following the rules.  We actually met physically as a church on Sunday and it was great to be together, despite keeping distancing rules, masks, no singing (but great music!), etc.  We plan to meet this way again on the first Sunday of July.  On the Sunday’s in-between we will continue to meet virtually on Zoom.  Step by step.

Although some ministry activities have been suspended (German tutoring for immigrants, etc.), some activities have continued and increased in intensity.  Our co-worker moved the therapy art class on line and has had the opportunity for long spiritual discussions with the participants.  PRAY for wisdom and discernment in these discussions.  Our Zoom services have also generated deep sharing and prayer.  A foreign exchange student from Argentina, who visited our church while he was attending the University of Cologne, has joined us every Sunday from Argentina!  PRAY for wisdom as we work out the next steps for our gatherings.  Also, our location need has become more acute because of social distancing regulations.  PLEASE CONTINUE TO PRAY for a more suitable location for our services and also to be able to continue ministry events that now require more space.

After my knee replacement surgery in mid April I was able to get a spot for a 3-week out-patient rehab starting just a week after my hospital stay at the University Klinik. The rehab was beneficial and the progress I made was encouraging. Our German health insurance (mostly) paid for it all  - including being picked up and dropped off every day. Despite the barrier of face masks, a camaraderie quickly developed with the other patients in the van during the 30-minute drive every morning and afternoon. Ursula (name changed) was very engaging and curious about me and what I do. She is a fiery red haired high school art teacher who is recovering from a bike accident. I liked her sense of humour and quick tongue. She is into eastern religions and esoteric stuff.

One morning she asked me what I thought about a certain eastern religion and I had to admit that I had never heard of it. She was surprised. I said that there is much more in this world that I don't know about than what I do know. But I do know this - I don't like religion because most religions are just a set of rules. (By now, the other 2 patients and the driver were all ears as well.) For me, my faith is about having a relationship with God. Jesus himself was very critical of religion and all about relationship with God and with each other. That's one of the things that fascinates me about Him and why I seek to follow him every day.

She didn't have a come-back or any kind of a humorous deflection so I just let that hang in the air for a few minutes and there was basically silence in the van until we arrived at the clinic. Please pray for Ursula. We have had some contact since rehab and she said that she would very much like to drop by my atelier sometime after she is mobile again.

THANKS FOR PRAYING for my knee.  I am doing amazingly well and am grateful, but there are still months of recovery ahead.  CONTINUE TO PRAY for a full recovery.

PRAY that each of us would be reflective and mindful with regard to the racism that is a part of the daily social environment we live in.  PRAY for open hearts and the Spirit to transform our lives.
Blessings,

Sue and Jason

Samstag, März 21, 2020

march update

Dear Friends,
I'm sure many of you have Corona stories to share. Here is ours. In light of the acute and constantly changing situation in Germany, we decided last week to cancel our church services effective immediately until further notice. The very next day, the mayor of Cologne prohibited all non-essential public gatherings - including church services. We quickly arranged to have an online gathering which went really well. I was also scheduled to preach at another church that same Sunday and they asked me to send them a video of my sermon so they could incorporate it in their online service, which I gladly did: Genesis 12:1-4a. A very appropriate look at the totally new and uncertain future that God asked Abram to enter into in faith and obedience. The sermon is of course in German, but if you’re interested you can see it here. My sermon starts at 3.55 minutes.


We have all entered into a totally new and uncertain future. In my shop window I currently have these words: “the corona-break is a chance to reflect and search for God. He promised to let us find Him.” Many of the folks who pass by and read this may not be believers, and I hope that the earnestness of the situation will cause them to really seek the Lord. But I think that many believers are finding themselves looking to the Lord in a whole new way as we try to make sense of things and look for what God is up to in the midst of the fear, anxiety and uncertainty.

Each day brings new restrictions on public life and stories of illness and hardship. The streets of Cologne are extremely quiet. The tourists are gone. Shops and restaurants are closed down. Sue and I are staying home or in my case, hunkering down at the Atelier and avoiding physical human contact with anyone but each other. But we are staying in close touch with our church family and our missionary colleagues and of course, our own family. At the time of writing, we are both still corona symptom free. The number of infected continues to grow exponentially, but we feel safe and confident in the excellent German health system.

“Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” Phil. 4:6-7

In Christ alone,
Jason and Sue


New Color: Corona Green 😊

Sonntag, Juli 14, 2019

July update

Dear Friends,
Last year we threw a typical German 60th birthday party bash for Jason, inviting friends, neighbors, colleagues, our church family and volunteers who help us teach German to the refugees. Instead of gifts he asked everyone to donate toward a special outing with the refugees. Having postponed because of bad weather, we finally were able to take them all to the zoo for the day. We had a wonderful day admiring God’s creation, meeting new people and deepening relationships with our refugees.
Baaaaaah! The sound of bleating sheep was heard many times over the course of our annual church retreat where our theme was SHEEP! There are hundreds of references to sheep and shepherds in the Bible, so that we had plenty to talk about. We played sheep games, made little sheep out of clothespins, cardboard and yarn, sang sheep songs and dug into the scriptures to learn more about how we are like sheep and what a great shepherd we have in Jesus.
We are indeed sheep in need of our Shepherd  Our church family recently went through two difficult challenges as two of our members were considering ending their lives. C has been in poor health for a long time as a result of decades of smoking. Her lungs were already in bad shape when she came down with a bad case of pneumonia - leaving her gasping for every breath. It finally got so bad that she called us, and we immediately called for an ambulance. After days in intensive care - with little improvement - she decided she wanted to end her life and refused all further medical care, food and water. She removed the tubes, monitors and oxygen mask. She didn’t want anyone to visit her - including her own daughter. She finally agreed to let Jason see her. It was one of the most difficult hospital visits he has ever made. While he was there the church family was praying for the Lord to intervene. He pleaded with her to not end her life this way (without medical care). As he was leaving, he thought it would be the last time he would see her and that she probably had just hours to live. Our time is truly in God’s hands, so that we are now rejoicing that God did intervene and C turned the corner. We are thankful to the Lord for his mercy and grace.

Discipling E has been a roller coaster. He has many problems that are a challenge and easily drag him down.  When we see him, we know immediately by his face and demeanor if he is up or down.  He was extremely down a few weeks ago and started to talk about taking his own life. We spent hours counseling and praying with him, trying to persuade him to check into a local hospital for professional help. He refused but finally agreed to see a psychologist that he has met with before and is now in an out-patient therapy close to his home. In the meantime, he is doing much better.

We are thankful for how the Lord in His mercy intervened in these two lives. It was also gratifying to see our little church family rally together in prayer for their sister and brother. We are reminded of Paul’s encouragement for the believers in Ephesus: “Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.”

Peace,

Jason and Sue

Dienstag, April 16, 2019

April update

Dear Friends,
Sue and I recently had the joy of attending the installation service of Gerd Dyck, the new pastor of the Evangelical Free Church in Cologne-Porz, the first church that we were privileged to be a part of starting 26 years ago. After years of good shepherding, Hermann Fritz, my successor felt that God was leading him to move on last year. The Lord then led Gerd and the church together. God has blessed that church so much over the years and it was a joy for us to be there for this special service. In recent years some of their growth has been through refugees who have trusted Christ and been baptized. Integration is a challenge, but Jesus unites and there is a lot of joy in  their fellowship. Please pray for Gerd. He is very young but has an awesome grace-based posture and a desire to be a part of advancing the kingdom of God in Porz and Cologne.

Last Sunday we celebrated our monthly interactive worship service which includes brunch and hands on learning together. This time we did a bibliologue - where the participants assume the role of one of the characters in a bible story.  They are interviewed by the director but also interact with each other in their roles, talking about what they saw, heard, felt and experienced as the story unfolds. We read the Easter account from Luke 24 and then entered into the role of four characters at four different locations:

1.    The women at Jesus’ gravesite, early in the morning; location – a dark street corner under the train tracks just down from the church, which is a memorial site commemorating the execution of teenagers who led a resistance movement against the Nazis.
2.    Two disciples on the road to Emmaus who are joined by Jesus; location – the road to Venlo, i.e. Venloerstrasse, also around the corner from the church.
3.    The two disciples and Jesus in the house in Emmaus:  location – around the laden brunch buffet table in our church.
4.    Peter recalling his denial, running to the grave and finding it empty; location – around the painting of the cross at the front of the meeting room in our church.

Each scene, reflection and discussion were marked by a sadness, hopelessness, remorse and confusion which slowly turned into hope, light, understanding and joy.  No matter who you are or where you are this is the story of Easter, the power of the crucifixion and resurrection.

We had a new guest among us who remained quiet but witnessed our interaction with scripture and with each other. K is a Kurdish Yazidi refugee from Iraq. He is a kind, gentle man who has been attending our German and English classes at the Pastorenatelier. Please pray that what he witnesses will move him toward the Lord. Please pray for the rest of the refugees and German helpers who we see every week. We took time this last week to explain the events and significance of Easter to them.

May you be filled with the joy and hope of Easter!

Jason and Sue