Into Holland

On Monday August 21 we left for Venice from Saint Louis. I am writing about Wednesday September 6 as we head into Holland. We are moving towards Monday September 9 (writing this Dec. 13) when we will board the plane to return home from Amsterdam. I will get my first opportunity to preach in Holland on this trip. I had contacted Pastor Valk in Zwolle the leader of our fellowship in Holland. He was having Pastor Foley preach that Wednesday so he handed me off to Pastor Martin Klok. He was happy to have us but he realized we wanted to hang out an extra day and spend time with them and since he was leaving for Surinam that Thursday; he handed us over to Pastor Peter Majoor in Groningen.

It was kind of cool passing through Zwolle on the train and texting Pastor Foley. We arrived in Groningen and Pastor Majoor met us at the train station. We had a coffee at a Starbucks set inside the station and made our way past the 1000’s of bicycles stacked up around the station. He put us in a nice hotel across from a burned out casino. They picked us up for church.

I have been looking forward to an opportunity to preach in Holland for a while. I like Joseph Conrad’s portrayal of the Dutch culture in his writings. Our fellowship has been abundantly blessed in Holland. But, it was one of my pet theories of life that had me looking forward to this moment. It was August 3,1492 when Christopher Columbus sailed for America with several Jewish connections. It was August 2, 1492 that was the final date for Jews to be out of Spain. Many of those Jews found their way to Holland where they were welcomed much like our later Pilgrims were welcomed. I am a believer that God still honors the Abraham promise and applies it even to today’s Jews: “I will bless them that bless you and curse them that curse you”. I would recount this in my introduction to my sermon. The wealth, uncountable wealth, that flowed into Spain was used to assert Catholic authority throughout Europe. Holland would be under siege and occupation for too many years. Yet, in the end little Holland (blessed) beats powerful Spain (cursed). I referred to an article about Dutch greenhouse horticulture growing as a leader in worldwide production and distribution. Holland is still operating in that blessing with the fact that I was preaching to a large church of 200 plus people that exemplifies our fellowship’s presence in Holland. We can compare Germany and Croatia to Holland another time.

The next day we would explore the city in the morning with Joan making some Dutch “goodwill” purchases that she was very pleased with. How do you describe the city: bicycles, bicycles, bicycles. The hotel had a great breakfast that we enjoyed both mornings. We met Pastor Peter and his wife for lunch and learned a little bit about their lives and the Dutch Reformed Church. They had pioneered this church and moved on and then finally did a long overseas stint in Peru where they still visit regularly. They were able to return to their first church here in Groningen when they returned from the overseas field. They toured us through the countryside and we stopped for coffee and ice cream. It seems we touched a Dutch love of American pop music from the 60’s and 70’s. Two pleasant people.

The next evening we would visit a sister church in Leeuwarden and Pastor Nomdo Schuitema. We would listen to a fellowship hero in rapper Ernie Toppin. Great service and then had some fellowship at the pastor’s home afterwards. His wife treated us to some nice delicacies. Turned out to be a moment of discovery. First, he turned us on (old 60’s slang) to a youtube channel that had some very cool gospel soul. Here is the link. Talk moved from here to there and it seemed like we were living a 60’s moment where we were talking to learn and discover from each other. Very unusual nowadays. Sparta, life, close to the Lincoln museum. Civil War, Baptists splitting rather than leading the nation in overcoming slavery. Lincoln’s faith. Modern Black Lives Matter. Ernie Topping, a black Jamaican who came to England to succeed and really unable to relate to the rejection and projection of inferiority that American blacks have to overcome. Kind of cool.

The next morning we would backpack to the train station and take the train into Amsterdam. It was a steady rain as we made our way to our hotel. I was content to call it a day, but Joan had dreams of windmills. She had been given the name of a town that had maintained about 10 of over 150 windmills north of the airport. We went into the central station at Amsterdam and caught a train going to our destination. We missed, but tried again and found our way there. Toured the mills and had a nice walk in a mild rain. Made our way back to Amsterdam. One last dinner: Peter and his wife when asked about Dutch food mentioned that Indonesian food had captured Dutch hearts and stomachs. We found a yelped Indonesian restaurant and enjoyed our last meal this side of the Atlantic. And home we came.

 

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Logos

Inspired by the “Marine Way of War” I am starting a reading/study session at my house this Friday at 7:00. I have read over the years of the pregnant meaning that went with the word Logos that John uses to describe Jesus. So I have been investigating.

Here is a quote from Vincent’s Dictionary:

“To those Hellenists and Hellenistic Jews, on the one hand, who were vainly philosophizing on the relations of the finite and infinite; to those investigators of the letter of the Scriptures, on the other, who speculated about the theocratic revelations, John said, by giving this name Logos to Jesus: ‘The unknown Mediator between God and the world, the knowledge of whom you are striving after, we have seen, heard, and touched. Your philosophical speculations and your scriptural subtleties will never raise you to Him. Believe as we do in Jesus, and you will possess in Him that divine Revealer who engages your thoughts'” (Godet).

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Into Germany

Saturday September 2 we arose early and headed for the train station. We hit our first train problem, a breakdown and long-term repair forced us from the train to a bus and then back onto the train. We arrived into Karlsruhe, Germany and checked into a modern economy motel just across from the station. That afternoon we met with Pastor Johnnes Spies and his wife Elizabeth. They took us to the Karlsruhe Castle. The castle, built in the 1700’s, sits in the middle of the city and the streets go out as spokes from the castle. It is surrounded by park and a arboretum.

We were going to hang around and watch a multi-media presentation that is displayed on the front of the castle. We opted for pizza and fellowship at their house before heading home.

We had met the Spies’ at one of our fellowship parties in Prescott years ago. (I mentioned those parties to Paul Arps once and he said with a far away look, “the Hansston parties”.) We have stayed in touch over the years with Christmas cards. Johannes was the first member of the first church planted in Germany so many years ago. Now he is pastoring, his son is pastoring and his daughter is married to a pastor. Church had hit a tough spot and he tried to bow out; but hopefully Joan and I could be an encouragement to them. They picked us up for church that morning. We would have people attend both services which was a blessing that went along with his sigh of relief.

Sunday would include the two services. After the morning service we had lunch at their house. Lunch was wonderful and they brewed up a wonderful cup of coffee. That evening we came to church and watched a clip from the Jesus movement days. This is the part I remember: “listen to your heart before your mind rejects”. After church that night we went with Marvin to the basketball court where we played some basketball and did a one minute bible study. Kind of cool. Here is Marvin and another disciple whose name I cannot remember.

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Their life was busy. They were renovating the house they owned. That house’s rent underwrote their ministry. They took time off to take us up to the Black Forest on the Monday following church. We had visited the Black Forest in the 90’s when we took the girls to Paris for a Valentine’s dinner. Reiner and Louise had taken us into the forest where we bought a clock. The snow was coming down and we found ourselves pushing the car through the snow to get us along our way. This day would be much easier.

They have a route they take visitors that stops in several towns. You go up one way and come down another. Beautiful walks, good fellowship and then an excellent meal. It all added up to a good feeling share by all of us. Here are some photos:

 

Tuesday would be our free day in Karlsruhe. We had discovered a small café that we visited Monday and Tuesday mornings. The coffee was delicious in large cups and the pastry selection was worth the view. The fact that our hostess spoke no English just made it better. We had taken the tram to church that Sunday evening and we were finding the town easy to navigate. We eventually would view the media show at the palace. All I could think about was how this would look on drugs, and other than the dazzling display of technological wonderfulness there was no message. It’s like I used to tell my girls, protest on college campus seems to center on killing babies, after that what is it they want to communicate to me with any kind of passion?

I found when I would try to recount my Zambian trips the further and further out from the trip I waited to write the more details I forget. So on with our free Tuesday. We went up north along the Rhine to a little spot overlooking the vineyards. Great walk, great coffee with Joan getting her Black Forest Cake and me trying a plum pie dish. Took trains and trams to move around. Visited a fortress, or what remained of it, and enjoyed the days. Got home walked downtown and watched the light show and made ready for The Netherlands on the morrow.

One last German note. I have been enjoying the fresh fruit all along our trip. I always am looking for an apricot taste that usually escapes me. I had a few apricots in Italy and Croatia that were OK but nothing that was great (the figs were great). We would pass by a market and go through the zoo to walk to our café, the church and the castle. I noticed at the market “Turkish Apricots”. I knew Turkey produced the most apricots. These did not look like the standard apricot. They were smaller and had a more yellow appearance. I had to buy some and was pleased to find them quite delicious. Little joys keep coming. So we travelled on with sparkling waters, our delicatessen and Turkish apricots.

 

 

 

 

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Youth Literature, Dystopian Future

…Except the future is now. Robert Tracinski makes this point in an essay entitled: “We Live in the Dystopian Future Young Adult Fiction Warned Us About”.

Here are his eleven bullet points:

1. Speech Codes

2. Mobs Enforcing Vague and Arbitrary Offences

3. Punishment Without Due Process

4. Masked and Black-Clad Gangs Who Beat Dissenters

5. Requiring People to Accept Obvious Falsehoods as True

6. Dividing People into Groups by Race

7. Getting News from Entertainment Shows Run by Comedians

8. A Long Period of Dependency and Infantilization

9. Strange, Artificial Systems for Relationships and Sex

10. Employment Blacklists for Dissenters

11. Culture and Politics Are Dominated by a Corrupt Capitol

Welcome to the future now!

 

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Great Insight

Mathew Continetti wrote a great piece entitled “The American Earthquake”.  Here is one quote of many good ones:

Finally, there is the ongoing decline of religion. Five decades ago, Kristol called this “the most profound change of all.” Today, the fastest growing religious affiliation in the country is Americans professing no religious affiliation. “All human societies have to respond to two fundamental questions. The first is: ‘Why?’ The second is: ‘Why not?’ … It is religion that, traditionally, has supplied the answers to these questions.” Increasing numbers of Americans, however, look elsewhere.

Add to technology, entitlement, intergenerational antagonism, popular culture, and secularization the changes that have eroded the bourgeois conception of the stable, married, two-parent family. “Among those who currently follow the old precepts, regardless of their level of education or affluence, the homicide rate is tiny, opioid addiction is rare, and poverty rates are low,” noted Amy Wax and Larry Alexander last August in the Philadelphia Inquirer. For her troubles, Wax was tarred as a racist and protested at the University of Pennsylvania Law School where she teaches.

I am hearing this formula more and more for how to properly live life.

Get Educated

Get Working

Get Married

Get Children

If done in that order, life will probably be worth living without all of the negative drama that happens when you don’t do it in that order.

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Zagreb to Zurich to Lucerne

On the train again! Early morning departure has us backpacking to the station and onto the train, even found a coffee stand with “coffee to go”; a new sales tactic for Europe. Saying our goodbye to Croatia as the train makes its way through Slovenia. There is still a slight third world feel to the train ride. That will change once we reach Graf. Showing papers, making sure our train schedule is filled out on our global pass and everyone being polite and friendly makes this a great way to travel. We were falling behind schedule, but the treats we brought onto the train would help us along.

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My first surprise was a young man who wanted to know if I was “Kevin”. He had somehow gotten access to my computer and let me know that he couldn’t enter in unless he had my password. I told him I wasn’t going to give it to him. His name was Jacob. His mother was Croatian and his father was German. This little computer genius did a “Pokémon” bible study with me, as we talked about how big God must be. He would come and hang out with us off and on during the trip as we shared some chocolates and treats with him.

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As we got closer to Graf both we and Jacob’s mother began to realize we would be missing our connections. We were told not to worry, so we didn’t.

Amazingly, the first world train system, aware of the slightly third world train system, were waiting for our train so that we could all make our connections. When I saw the schedules for our train rides I wondered how in the world we would make the changes in the time allotted. A couple of them would have been impossible if we were lugging luggage; but with backpacks it was a breeze.

As we climbed up into Switzerland we had our first rains. The views of the mountains would not be ours to see this trip. I mentioned our communication with Harold in an earlier post. It was nice and proper that he would help us understand how to catch the trolley to where we were staying. We made it to the trolley and another man, recognizing our circumstances, further instructed us on exactly where to get off. He gave us one warning: do not go over the bridge, it is the red light district. It has been a long day, it is late and we are tired; yet our spirits are not dampened. We get to our room, our check in is automated. We take a midnight stroll that brought us to a little store where the non-Swiss mid-easterner let us know he supports Trump. Kind of cool.

Groups of Somali or Ethiopian men (I think I can see the difference) roam around as we do. Just like every human being I have ever met we “cross the bridge”; but really nothing to see, got information about a cool place for coffee and breakfast. The marker for our apartment is the “pot” place next to it, I think the Eagles described it as “the warm smell of colitis”. When our friends would drop us off the next day after our day in Lucerne; they were shocked that we were staying in the same district where the Christian ministries reach out to the prostitutes and such. It was a picture of a 1980 American downtown. Not quite the Zurich, Switzerland I had imagined.

The next morning we took the trolley (more like a light commuter train) south to where Reiner and Louise live. Louise was doing a geological internship in Arizona in the early 80’s. She met Joan. One thing led to another and Louise would get saved and take her salvation back to Germany with her. She and her future husband would come through Wickenburg while Joan and I were dating with a German youth group touring the states. Years later, they would visit us in Seattle, as Louise would take a special creationist geologist interest in Mt. St. Helens. We would then take our three daughters to Paris for Valentine’s dinner and then onto Freiburg where Reiner had a dental practice. Since then Reiner has moved to Switzerland where he owns two dental practices south of Zurich.

They are a refreshing couple to be with. Their children have grown, married and kept the faith. Louise does a special yearly tour of Provence with her daughter. They go to an international church full of expatriates from all over the world. Louise describes the Swiss as Germans on hyper-drive. There is a cultural divide that Rainer can move through easily as a competent dentist; it is a little more difficult for Louise; yet God is helping her. Reiner is fun to talk to. In the past his English was minimal but now he is able to communicate perfectly. He is a Trump conservative in a world run by the liberal “good people”. I had never heard the phrase before; it fits.

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We got a tour of his offices, some cookies and coffee and then a ferry across lake Lucerne with a visit to the city.

We were not able to view the mountains from the ferry as we traversed the lake. We would have to purchase an umbrella while we walked Lucerne. We passed by the Marc Rich estate. Rainer reminded me that he was the guy who gave the Clintons and democrats millions and then amazingly enough received a 12th hour pardon from the Clinton’s for his illegal business dealings with Iran. No worries, he is buried in Israel now. Life goes on as the rich and famous still come to Lucerne to purchase the things that the rich and famous purchase. We walked the wooden bridge that burned and generally enjoyed the sights, sounds (tourists) and tastes of the city.

The highlight was the visit to the Lion of Lucerne dedicated to the loyalty and bravery of the Swiss. Mark Twain call it “the most mournful and moving piece of stone in the world.” I have to agree. The Swiss guard, who still function for the Papacy, were charged with the defense of the Kings of France. It was Louis XVI, married to Marie, who would have their courage and faithfulness tested. The French Revolution should be taught side by side with the American Revolution. Without defending war or revolution there are some differences to behold. If this can be said; one with God the other without God. The Swiss in their fulfilling of duty were treated in a manner unworthy of praise by the people standing for “liberty, equality and brotherhood”. They had 900 go to battle to defend the King. Most would die in battle with about 200 dying in prison from wounds or executed. The engraving was put together by Karl Pfyffer von Altishofen, an officer on leave in Lucerne at the time of the attack.

We would finish the night off with a cheese fondue at a convent up in the Swiss hills overlooking their town. They gave us a ride home that night as we got ready to move north into Germany.

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Wednesday in Zagreb

Joan and I got up, made coffee and then I tried to get the water heater to work. I learned how these small water heaters work from our stay in Dubrovnik; but I couldn’t get this one to work so we boiled water and did our best. Made our way to the market area and enjoyed picking out some fresh fruit for the upcoming train rides. We went to the underground section and purchased three meats and two cheeses. About then we met up with the Connors.

Money was very easy all through Europe. My understanding via Rick Steves was to use bank machines at banks and you would avoid hidden fees. Card goes in, English chosen (sometimes automatic) choose amount and money comes out. Using the credit card or debit card for a transaction seemed as normal as could be with everything looking fine when I got home. The extra Kunas I would have from Croatia would be turned into Swiss Francs in Switzerland without missing a beat and then into Euro’s for use everywhere else.

We would spend the day with the Connors. We had some coffee together and then walked back toward the train station where we put our things away. We brought our church clothes with us; an African shirt for me, and a simple dress for Joan. We headed to the West side of the city, I think I have my directions right, by their church and apartment. They took us out into the countryside past the house they had lived in when they first got here out to a village they enjoy visiting.

While in Zambia I took advantage of every minute I could to spend with visiting pastors and evangelists. I encouraged pastors to bring their wives so that my wife could have some fellowship also. Every visitor gave us an opportunity to share our burdens and hopes along with the uniqueness of the culture we were living in. We were happy to get a little bit of that “American” thing on us. Tom carries that quiet confidence that seems essential to being American; and is certainly needed as a pastor.

We had already gotten onto a theme of “desperation” in prayer. We could both relate to the times in our lives and ministry that we were desperate before God and seemingly He would always respond to us during those desperate times. Might there be an issue of complacency that enters our life as things are going well that keep us from having that desperation? Can desperation be turned off and on? These thoughts were not thoughts in a vacuum.

Tom and Christine related their start here in Zagreb. You always arrive with high hopes and even that touch of messianic arrival. My three starts never fulfilled that messianic arrival thing; but you persevere and you manage as you preach and minister to the people God gives you. They started with no people, a month later no people, not even visitors. Three or four months in no people with the standard crazies showing up occasionally. At 8 months with no people they were “desperate”. The level of frustration can never be described fully. It is not like business where you try different advertising or sales approaches. It’s not about money, the best financed pioneer works can experience this also. What is it about? Does God not want us to succeed? What about all the money that people have given so that we can reach souls here in Croatia? On top of that there is the normal male ego and the wife’s desire for her husband to do well. “Desperation” doesn’t even begin to describe what we experience under these circumstances. We see though a “glass darkly”.

Church should have started but they were not willing to sing songs together and have Tom preach to Christine. They continued in prayer. Loud, Pentecostal and desperate. They sensed someone’s presence. Caught! It was a woman. She said she had been Catholic her whole life and she didn’t know if she was going to heaven. They told her how she could know for sure and she prayed with them and started coming to church. That was a couple of years ago. Her son is now the main disciple and interpreter for the services. Her daughter plays the piano for service. They related all of this before we had church with them. In a moment of desperate prayer; one lady changes the dynamics of their ministry in Zagreb.

We took a pleasant drive out into the country. There was some castle remains we could have hiked to but we opted for the easy walk and coffee in the town square. This was the place where Tom wanted me to remember the taste from the night before and compare it to this restaurant’s version of it. It is a custard cake or a cream cake. In the city it had a thin chocolate icing. This one would have a sprinkling of powdered sugar. The pastry on both was perfect, apparently these are made fresh everyday throughout Croatia. It was the taste of the cream or custard that made the difference. Yes, I could taste the difference and yes, I was on Tom’s side, I prefer this one. This is an on-going debate between Tom and his disciples. Delicious!

We spent the afternoon with the Connors, opting to eat at their house with some fresh Croatian bread that Tom bought, rather than making them take two trips into the city center to get us. We walked their dog and enjoyed the time together. Church was at the edge of the Zagreb city limits. Nice looking building from the outside and everything in order on the inside. Prayed, sang some songs and preached. Any fears that Tom has about the job he is doing were put aside for me as I looked out at a congregation that included some men who were disciples.

The command is to go into all the world and make disciples. Find faithful men and teach them as I have taught you so that they can teach others. That is what was happening in the Zagreb church and it is always a wonder to behold. My landlord in Prescott Valley would quiz me as to why I was going to Sparta. He knew my church history and his comment was “How does Mitchell get you guys to do all of this?” Pastor Mitchell is doing what the bible says and so is Tom and we are planning on the men and women in his church to do the same. It was a great evening. I felt some Croatian roots as I was introduced and as I preached.

We took it easy after church, had some ice cream and got a ride back into the city. Blessings from God upon the Connors and their church is Zagreb.

 

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