Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Some Personal Reflections...

The past nine days of my life (or something like that) have been some of the most special I have ever experienced. It will take me a while to process all that my family and I have experienced and there are many highlights I will blog about, but here are two that are just burning to be written about.

First, I cannot brag enough about the team Grace Church sent over on this missions trip. They are a group of people that I knew and even served with before this trip, but my love and respect for each of them has grown in ways I never expected. I know that all of us have been borderline sleep deprived and fighting some sort of sickness at some point and yet everyone has served and given of themselves for their teammates in a wonderful fashion. I have been around the block enough to know that sometimes short term mission trip teams can have relational struggles, but I can honestly say that this team has enjoyed being and serving together immensely. We have worked hard, laughed hard, prayed hard and served hard to accomplish what God set forth for us to do. More on the team in another blog...

I can also say that I am so impressed with the quality of programming, care and love they provided to those kids. I am amazed at what we were able to pull off out of five suitcases that made the trip over. Our goal was to bring five full suitcases over and return with five empty suitcases. We wanted to make sure we blessed the churches over here with supplies and other items that are so precious to them. To see that heart attitude within the team members from Grace Church just blesses me incredibly. It has been an absolute privilege to serve alongside each and every one of them.

Secondly, I had the privilege on our last night of the conference to spend a little over and hour with the Beckers (Missionary family in Ireland that Grace Church supports). In that short timeframe, this couple absolutely blew me away. To hear them speak of their passion and love for the people of Ireland moved me incredibly. To hear the stories of what it is they are dealing with in that secular setting put our petty issues in the American church to shame. Let me just say this... That is one couple that is well worth Grace Church pouring into. They are a couple of excellence serving God with excellence. They are truly an extension of the Grace Church ministry as they Meet and Move in Ireland to the glory of God. God is doing something incredible in and through them and my love and respect for them went through the roof in just that short hour. They are truly called to be shepherds for Jesus amongst a people who are so lost. Please keep the Becker family in your prayers.

Well it is late and I'm sure that my above ramblings don't communciate all that I am feeling right now, but it is a start as I continue to digest what God has impressed upon my heart these past number of days... What day is it anyhow??? Good night to all and to all a good night.

Barcelona Pics (Tuesday Afternoon)

The busy streets of Barcelona.

The Auld family in the main square of Barcelona where we were dropped off.

I could not get over the number of Scooters parked every where that people rode. I also could not get over how crazy these scooter riders were as they zipped in and out of traffic. Inches at best kept them from being run over at any given moment. Entertaining to say the least!

The team enjoying Starbucks coffee!!!

The center square of Barcelona where we enjoyed our lunch.

Wednesday Update!

It is Wednesday night and quite a bit has transpired since my last post. It has been a travel day so it has taken me a while to get to this. Here are a few of the highlights from the past 24 hours...
  • We had the opportunity to spend 3 hours in the center of Barcelona yesterday. It was a wonderful experience. The best part for me was that we found a Starbucks and I was able to get a great cup of coffee that was bigger than the tiny shot of Espresso found at the hotel. I may hook myself up to a coffee IV when we return.
  • We wrapped up our last session of VBS with the kids. One of the highlights was when Jill had all of the kids pray and the kids did so in the language of the country in which they were from. It was very cool to realize that no matter the language, our great big God understood it just fine.
  • Our VBS kids performed in the missionary talent show over dinner and they were the hit of the night with their song.
  • One of the highlights for some of our team members was to hear the many wonderful comments from the parents of these kids. The comment we heard over and over again is that they (as parents) never once had to force/make their kids go to our program. They were always asking mom and dad if it was time yet to go.
  • After a late night of packing we were up bright and early and on to the bus where nine hours later we arrived once again at the Chateau. We are all very thankful for safety with the many miles covered over the past week.
  • We enjoyed some French pizza, some great conversation and many laughs tonight as we sat around the Chateau dining room playing games and just relaxing a bit after a very full week of going hard.
Let me just finish this blog by stating how grateful I am for all the prayers that have been offered up on behalf of our team. We have covered thousands of Kilometers, some travel challenges, some health issues (colds, sore throats, exhaustion etc...) and yet God continues to show Himself so faithful. Please continue to pray for our team as we wrap up our time here in France and prepare for our trip home.

Tomorrow we are going to do some sightseeing in Macon and then celebrate New Year's Eve with the Macon Church Family. I am looking forward to interacting with some French Christ followers as we ring in the New Year six hours earlier than most of us have every done before.

In my next post I am going to take some time to reflect on two of my personal highlights and growing experiences on this trip.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

The UnSung VBS Heros of the Week!

All week long I've been posting pics of our team with the older VBS kids. What I haven't mentioned is that there were three members of our Grace Team that went above and beyond these past three days. For well over 3 hours each day, this team provided care for 3-5 young children from newborn-2 years old. They were happy in these pictures, but I can assure you that there were a few very long crying sessions that this team handled with excellence and love. So.... JOB WELL DONE Sue & Marlin Weaver and Dean Lutz for giving these missionary parents some time together as a couple without having to worry about their little children.

Tuesday AM VBS Pics

Monday Beach & Girona Pics

The ancient city of Girona was very cool at night. There were portions of the cathederal that dated back nearly 700 years. We also saw a doorway that was noted as dating back to the 3rd Century.

Josh & Emma Auld swimming in the Sea. It was nearly 60 degrees today but the water was still quite cold.

Jill Lutz and some other Grace Team members talking alot of the VBS girls for an afternoon walk along the coastline. Just beautiful and the kids of course got wet.

Our Hotel overlooking the Sea. Just beautiful!

Fun along the Sea & a visit to the old city of Girona

Monday was a very full and fun day. Here are a few of the happenings of the day.
  • A couple of sessions of VBS.
  • A game of American football on the beach with the missionary kids. (One plays DE for an American college and he hit hard. Dean and I are a bit sore)
  • A long walk along an ancient path along the Med. Sea.
  • A game of basketball at a court in downtown Platjo D'Aro with some missionaries.
  • A great dinner with fish soup & four different meats (Chicken, Sausage, Rabbit, Pork)
  • A fun trip into an ancient city that has some stone walls that date back to the Roman period.
  • Some chocolate drink in a smoky cafe that had us dipping some sort of European cookies. Delicious!!!!

The bus pulled in around 12:15 AM local time and we then crashed and burned!


It is now Tuesday morning and after a quick breakfast we are now in the middle of our next VBS session with the kids. Peter (a.k.a. Brad Lutz) paid us a visit and talked about our need to tell others the good news of Jesus all around the world. That truth resonated with the kids as they are living it daily. It all tied into our need to obey God's call to tell others about Jesus. It is hard to believe that we only have one more to go with them. We are also performing one of our VBS songs for the talent show tonight.

In the next few blogs I will post some pics from the past few days of activities.


Monday, December 28, 2009

More Pics...

Some of the kids enjoying their Cheetos snack!

Some of the kids singing and doing actions with their newly decorated VBS t-shirts.

Queen Esther (a.k.a. Larua Lutz) pays the kids a visit.

Two Groups Pics of the kids on a rock overlooking the Sea.

VBS Continues in Spain

It is Tuesday afternoon here in Spain and our adventures continue. We continue to draw closer to the kids we are ministering to and are having a great time with them. They are very excited to be here and are full of energy. We are all feeling a little tired, but feel like we are pretty much over our jet lag.

Here are some of the highlights from the past 18 hours here in Spain...
  • The team continues to gel well and are having a wonderful time together.
  • The kids are just soooo excited about all that is happening within VBS. From the visits from Gideon and Queen Esther, to games, to hanging out with our kids the fun never seems to stop.
  • The kids are singing out at the top of their lungs already to the songs and doing the actions. We are in the talent show together on the final night of the conference. Not sure how that happened???
  • We loved watching the kids dig into the Amercian snacks we brought over with us. The Cheetos are the hit of the week thus far. Combos bombed.
  • The guys taught some of the European kids how to play American football this morning on the beach. It had to be tackle of course and let me just say that some of them had no problem hitting us older guys.
  • We have enjoyed a few brief moments with the Becker family (Grace Church supports them) and are looking forward to some longer conversations over the next day and a half. They are serving Jesus well in Ireland.
  • A few of us had the privilege of having dinner with Jay and Debbie Hocking (Grace Church supports them) and just love their servants heart.
I'll look to post some more pics of our time here over the next few posts.

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Barcelona Harbor Pics

Historic Building at the Barcelona Harbor.

Team Members Dean, Jill & Maggie Lutz enjoying lunch along the harborfront.

Team members Brad & Laura Lutz, Marlin & Sue Weaver and Susan, Josh & Emma Auld enjoying their lunch at the Barcelona Harbor.

Christopher Columbus pointing to the New World!

Session One VBS Pics

Below are pics of the kids and our team singing, introducing themselves and doing crafts.

First Day of VBS in Spain

It is Sunday afternoon here in Spain and we are settling into our routine. I'll take a little time to write about our adventures in this blog and then post some pictures in a few other blogs.

Yesterday (Saturday) we left the Chateau in France and took a ten hour bus ride down to the Costa Brava hotel and coast in Spain. We arrived in time to check into our rooms and then sit down to a 2 hour dinner. The highlight of dinner was watching our children eat what they thought to be "onion rings" only to find out that it was deep fried calamari that looked like onion rings. It is a fantastic setting as all of our hotel rooms overlook the Mediterranean Sea. It was wonderful to see the sun rising over the sea as we awoke and ate b-fast looking out into it.

Today we held our first session with the kids and are having a great time with them already. They are a wonderful group of children who enjoy each other and are enjoying the short time they have already had with us. This afternoon as we were walking down the hallways before our evening session with them, we heard a number of the girls trying to sing the song and do the actions they learned this AM. It's going to be a great week!

Our team also had the privilege of spending the afternoon down at the Barcelona harbor which was also very nice. It is a large city that is full of activity as there were people everywhere since it was a nice 62 degree day on the sea. I was struck with the reality that as we watched and thought about all the people in this city, very few if any had given any thought to attending a church or living for our Savior. The need to see the Good News of Jesus spread is truly heart breaking the more we learn and experience. Pray that God would strengthen our missionary families serving in this very difficult field.

Well... time to move onto our evenings session with the kids and then on to another 2 hour dinner where we will see what surprises await us tonight on our plates.

Hope to post again tonight or early tomorrow. Enjoy the pics in the next few blogs.

Friday, December 25, 2009

Christmas Dinner and Birthday Party Pics

Grace Team Members Brad & Laura Lutz at the gift exchange!

Group Pic # 1 of our Christmas Dinner!

Maggie Lutz turns 7 on Christmas day in France! Very Cool!!!

This was one incredible french birthday cake. Don't find these at the local grocery store back in the U.S.

Group Pic # 2 of our Christmas Dinner!

A French Christmas and Birthday Party!

It is 9:15 at night here in France and we've just finished a French Christmas dinner, a birthday party and gift exchange along with a carol sing. I knew we were hanging out with Grace Brethren missionaries when a rule of our gift exchange was changed. Instead of being able to steal gifts two times per round we bumped it up to three because of the importance of "trine" everything within our tradition. It was a fun night as I somehow ended up with a tin of Tim Hortons! God does indeed provide manna in the wilderness...

The Christmas dinner was great as we individually melted all sorts of french cheeses in our own little pans (bigger version of fondue) and then placed it over ham and other vegetables. The fresh french bread and other pasteries are hard to beat as well!!!

The highlight of the dinner though was the birthday celebration to wrap it up. One of our team members (Maggie Lutz) turned 7 today and we enjoyed a very beautiful and tasty french cake that had been freshly made and picked up earlier today. She was sung to in both English and French and it was just lots of fun to see her huge smile. Happy Birthday Maggie as I'm sure it is one you will remember for a lifetime.

As the night moves on, we will pack up our things and prepare for our trip to Spain tomorrow at 8:00 AM when the bus pulls out. It will be another long travel day (10 hour bus trip) but well worth it as we are getting anxious to meet the kids we will be ministering to.

Here are a few things you can continue praying for:
  • Pray that God would give us safety in our travel tomorrow.
  • Pray that God would refresh the many European missionaries through this conference.
  • Pray that God would use the Grace team to give the kids a fun and fruitful few days.
  • Pray for the health of the team. (There are a few of us not feeling great - I have no voice as of tonight)

Hope to post more from Spain if I can get an internet connection!

Mission Team Pics at the Chateau

The Chateau Tower (It was nice to have some sunshine on Christmas Day)

The team enjoying a Christmas Eve dinner at the Chateau compliments of Marlin and Sue. (From left to right... Dean, Montana, Jill, Emma, Brad, Laura, Debbie Hocking, Jay Hocking, Tim, Sue, Marlin & Josh)

Jill and Dean Lutz by one of the old Chateau walls!

Josh, Emma and Montana playing X-Box in the Cave at the Chateau!

Mission Team Pics Geneva

The Team walking up to St. Peter's Church (I believe one of the only Protestant Churches in Geneva)

Josh, Sue, Emma & Marlin on the train from Geneva back to the Airport.

Tim standing next to John Calvin's chair!

We stored all of our luggage at the airport while touring Geneva.

Mission Team London Travel Pics

The Auld Family awaiting a flight at Heathrow International Airport!
(Thankful for Starbucks Coffee)

BIG BEN on Wednesday Evening!

Double Decker Bus downtown London!

Getting Ready to ride the Tube (Subway)

Josh & Maggie Awaiting Luggage at the London Airport!