Wednesday, June 29, 2016

My Swiss German Family

In my last post, I wrote about putting love into action and how God calls us to do that. I even gave a couple of examples I've encountered recently.  I have another example of this to share today.  It's the family that I've stayed with during the past 3+ weeks during my entire stay here in Niederhasli (Zurich).

I admit that it's not easy to come into a family's home when you've never met them, especially for that long a period, without a sense of intruding or being a burden; yet this family's attitude and welcome allowed me to do just that!  From the first night to the last morning, I felt so welcome and a part of the family.

Their incredible generosity manifested itself in so many forms, and when you are the recipient of such kindness and love--one that you really can't return--you can't help but learn from this.

It reminds me of the concept of grace that EE (and the Bible!) teaches: how the full life that God offers is a free gift from God, and there is no way to repay Him with good behavior or works.  We simply acknowledge that we don't deserve it, but it is right there available to us.  All we can do is receive with grateful hearts and be changed by it.

I am so grateful for the Burgener family who has given me so much more than a place to stay these past 3 weeks, but has loved me through their sacrifice, kindness, and generosity.  And I am so grateful to the Lord for His offer of free life to all who say "yes" to Him.  I hope that all who read this will humbly say "yes" to the greatest gift of all: life to the fullest!

Learning a Life of Love

This past weekend was busy in a restful way. :)  Saturday late morning, I rode up to Jugendhaus with H to pick up his friend.  This was my chance to see the mountains, but also to pass a few interesting landmarks: Heidi’s village and the principality of Liechtenstein.  The view was gorgeous, and it was fun to see several familiar faces from the day I visited ISTL in Zurich.  They were having their end-of-the-year retreat together.  

Over the course of the weekend, I had the privilege of hearing a wonderful man from a sensitive area share about the truly amazing things God is doing there.  Thousands of refugees come each month with nothing, and his church welcomes and feeds them despite the cost and risk.  For the first time in history, M’s are going into churches there because this is the only help they are finding.  The Christians simply welcome, serve, and help them; and after time many are open to hearing the Gospel!  It was amazing to hear God’s provision as well as supernatural ways He has revealed Himself to those attending.  Even the non-Christian government is publicly commending this church because of their actions!

As I considered this church’s actions, I was reminded of the passage of Scripture I had read that very morning.  Though I read it in a different version, the Message translation of Ephesians 5: 1-2 exhorts God’s people to do just this!

Watch what God does, and then you do it, like children who learn proper behavior from their parents. Mostly what God does is love you. Keep company with him and learn a life of love. Observe how Christ loved us. His love was not cautious but extravagant. He didn’t love in order to get something from us but to give everything of himself to us. Love like that.

This man and I discussed how we can learn from others’ examples by the way they handle themselves in situations and by actions that aren’t always what comes naturally, but are right.  I shared with him about the British/Swedish man we met on the bus the night our flight got canceled in London.  

Exhausted and stressed, there was a lot of us who were sent with a very unofficial-looking voucher for transport/hotel/meals.  Even though I was a bit skeptical, there was nothing more to do.  As feared, the bus driver not-so-kindly refused us entry onto his bus because it was operated by the city and had nothing to do with the airlines.  The Frenchman ahead of us was arguing, and I tried to explain that the lady had assured us we didn’t need anything else.  That’s when a young man walked up, gave the Frenchman the 5 pounds he needed, and said “How ‘bout I pay for you, and you just call me a good guy?”   That’s when I realized I actually had 15 pounds left, which was enough to pay for me, H, and the girl behind me (neither who had any pounds left).  

What was more humbling is that we found out that this man, unlike us, had no hotel or meals covered by his airline because they’d run out of the allotted amount due to the large amount of canceled flights that day!  And worse, he’d just bought $150 worth of alcohol which he would not be able to take with him the next day because of them being liquids!!!  And with all this, he wasn’t complaining or cursing the airlines or “powers that be”; instead he was helping!  I was so humbled by his attitude. I’m not sure if he knows Christ; but he is an example for us in how we should “learn a life of love.”  Whether on a city bus or a refugee camp, may we we learn to love the way that God has loved us.

Saturday, June 25, 2016

What a Day in London!

What began as a day-trip to London turned into quite the adventure!  I woke a few minutes before my alarm around 4:15, met H for our flight, and arrived in London before 8AM British-time.  This gave us plenty of time to sightsee a bit before our 2PM meeting.  I was super thankful that it barely rained despite the ominous forecast, especially since Andreas (staying with) jokingly pointed out I’d be gone for 1 of the 3 days that Zurich would have nice weather during my visit.  I told him to send me a post card. :)

Anyhow, as you should well know, Thursday was the big Brexit vote of whether the UK would opt to leave or remain in the EU. We were intrigued and asked a couple of people their opinions of what they thought would happen.  Both said it would be close, but they thought they would stay.  Wanting to capture this historic moment, we took a campaigner's photo (with permission).  Next thing we know, H is being interviewed by the Wall Street Journal, ha!

During our meeting with some Brits doing international ministry, I really enjoyed hearing some of the encouraging things that are happening in the UK: different outreaches and how people are growing in their faith in Christ.  I also really enjoy the various responsibilities I’ve had and am feeling affirmed and confident with my upcoming and even actual role as assistant.  Not to say that there aren’t challenges, but they are in the context of what I love and what I’m good at.

H and I were just discussing my role and thoughts at Heathrow Thursday evening when we heard over the loud speaker that our flight back to Zurich was canceled! Come to find out, it was one of 76 that were canceled that day!  Needless to say, it was a bit chaotic as many passengers were lined up waiting to hear our fate.  I was so thankful they gave us a hotel voucher, and at the Hilton no less!  Even though we’d just eaten supper, we decided to take advantage of our free buffet meal where we ran into the passengers who we’d been chatting with in line as we waited!  So, we ended our evening with good food, fun, and laughter with a very international crowd!

Represented is France, Germany, India, Poland, Switzerland, and USA. So fun!

A bit refreshed after a good night’s sleep, I woke to the breaking news that not only had the UK voted to leave the EU, but also David Cameron will resign from his position as prime minister this October. 

 It was pretty surreal to be there on this day in history which is already showing signs of drastic changes both for the UK, Europe, and the rest of the world.  That said, I’m really glad to be back in the Zurich area where I have less than a week left!

Monday, June 20, 2016

The Right Place at the Right Time

I've been encouraged by a few in my life to pray to be in the right place at the right time. I don't do it on a daily basis, but it has become a recurrent prayer.  As I've been here for less than two weeks, I'm very aware of the significance of the timing of my visit and plans to return.  I've arrived at a time that has allowed me privileges to attend events that I wouldn't have if I had come another time.  

Also, as I traveled to Darmstadt, Germany last Friday to meet with other leaders with EE, we all had to  recognize that the timing of me joining the team in Europe is remarkable.  It's humbling to be valued when I am so aware of my limitations--both with EE as well as my language skills.  Yet I admire the team's ability to recognize each person's individual strengths and how they bring them together to create a strong force.  I believe that's how God wants us to be as His Body, but they do a good job of this here.  I'm excited to be able to join the team here "at such a time as this."

Sometimes I think "in God's perfect timing" can seem like a cop-out effort to explain those things that we've prayed for and don't understand why they haven't been realized yet, whether in our own lives or in those we love.  And when we lose perspective that God really is in control, it's easy to gripe when things don't go our way.  I was reminded Friday that we don't always see the bigger picture, though.  Due to rain and traffic, we arrived 1.5 hours late in Darmstadt, which means we didn't leave till 9PM.  That alone projected a 1AM arrival back home...if we hadn't come to a 2-hour stand still in traffic.   As we stood outside of out own vehicle, we all recognized that if we had left a few minutes earlier, we too could've been in the horrendous accident that brought over 25 rescue workers.  

Whether in our daily circumstances or major life decisions, may we be in the right place at the right time. And may we have eyes to see or at least hearts to trust when we can't understand the seeming (or real) hold-ups in our lives.  As a very wise man said, "[God] has made everything beautiful in its time."  

Thursday, June 16, 2016

Beyond Switzerland

This week has been full of all sorts of meetings, correspondence, and travel arrangements.  And I love it!  It's been so helpful to start gaining a picture of who EE Europe is as well as my place here.  While I genuinely enjoy using administrative skills to assist and relieve others to do their job better, I've also loved getting to "meet" others via Skype and in person.

This week, we've had Skype meetings with people in the Czech Republic, Albania, and Hungary.  It's encouraging to see those with a heart and vision to invest in God's Kingdom.  On the other hand, we also hear the challenges and difficulties.  It's both humbling and exciting to be a part of a team who is responsible to face these challenges and help support them to bring the needed changes for growth.

Later today I'll get to go to the Swiss capital of Bern to attend Helmut's class at a seminary there.  Then tomorrow we'll travel to Frankfurt, Germany for an EE meeting. Super thankful for all that I'm getting to observe and experience in these few weeks here.  

Monday, June 13, 2016

From Niederhasli to Zurich

Yesterday I went to a Swiss German church and was pleasantly surprised that I understood the sermon--well, the overall message!  I was thankful for the songs in high German and one in English. :)  I was also thankful to have a family invite me and take a walk with despite the rain!!!  In the afternoon, my "own" family returned from their weekend away, and we watched a couple of soccer games together.  Love it!

Then today was theology class in Zurich!  Confession School, which is a year-long program one day per week, first met with students from ISTL, a local seminary, for worship.  Then we went to the last class of the year.  They all spoke high German for me, which was very helpful.  I again understood the big picture...somewhat...but definitely not everything. The people were really great, and we ended our time at a restaurant eating tiramisu!  

A lady was going to take me home, but when she had car troubles, she dropped me off at a train station.  I was up for the challenge of ordering my first train ticket and all by myself!  I overheard the man in front of me who sounded great to me, but the clerk detected an accent and spoke to him in English. Determined to not be the next victim, I greeted him in high German and asked for a one-way ticket to Niederhasli.  Success!  At least until he continued and asked me a little too quickly if I wanted the next train. That's when I had to humbly admit that I needed him to speak English.  ;)  On the way home, I was wondering how I would find where I'm staying because I've never been to the Bahnhof (train station).  So I did what anyone should do in a small European village: just keep walking and act like you know where you're going!  And once I crossed the street, I was relieved to see a sign for Spar, one of the grocery stores about 5 minutes from home.  So, I made it back home in one piece just in time to catch the Northern Ireland/Sweden game! :)

Saturday, June 11, 2016


Honestly, it’s been an effort to keep track of which day it is!  Friday (yesterday) was a blend of work and fun!  I spent the morning getting some work done. At noon, Aurora and I had a very nice meal outside because it was “hot” (our spring :) and sunny!!!  In the afternoon, she and I went for a walk and some errands.  I thought we were walking to the shops in our village (about 2 minutes away).  We actually walked to the next village (½ hour?) where there is a shopping center!  I love Europeans!  By the time we got back, it was time for me to head over to meet Helmut.  Got lots of small tasks done and was able to dialogue more about expectations and future plans before the European Championship came on.  

I think I was the only person in the room cheering for France, ha!  But today I’ll be cheering for Switzerland, of course! I have much to be thankful for and see God’s hand in the small things as well as the large.  The key is always looking to Him and being able to see or at least trust that this is the case.  

Thursday, June 9, 2016

The Sun'll Come Out...

Today, thankfully!  I was a little disappointed when the forecast was all rain for today (and every day next week)  and started out fairly gloomy.  And chilly according to a southern girl's standards!   So I was very grateful when it warmed up to a spring-like day for Charleston.

I spent the morning taking my time unpacking and organizing my things and revising notes before fixing the meal for me and Aurora who came home to eat.  By the way, the Swiss--similar to a lot of Germans--eat a large meal at midday and then don't eat (much) at night.  I'm still on a 3 decent meals a day regime. :)

I went to the office this afternoon to do some planning with H, worked at home afterward before walking the dogs with Aurora in the beautiful nearby forest/field/pathways that surround the village of Niederhassli where I'm staying.  

Tomorrow's plan is get a few (research) tasks for EE completed during the day before I help H with a project and then watch the European Championships (soccer) tomorrow night!  Since the sun is not projected to come out this weekend, I'll try to enjoy it while it lasts tomorrow as well!

First Day in Zurich

I got in late Tuesday night and hit the ground running Wednesday morning...quite literally actually!  H--who I'm talking with about being his assistant--came to the home where I'm staying to walk over to the church at 8:30 AM.  En route, the rain came down, so we picked up the pace and had just reached a good speed when the pastor of his church honked the horn at us and picked us up in his vehicle.  Impeccable timing!

I spent the day at a New Life meeting.  This is a group of local and regional pastors and para-church leaders who meet together four times per year to share what is happening and pray for each other.  Despite my lack of understanding (all in Swiss German), it was wonderful getting to be there and witness the efforts they take to create and maintain unity!  In the afternoon, the EE Switzerland team met for a meeting, so I performed my first task of taking minutes.  Thankfully the official language of EE Europe is English!

Afterward, I met H's family and saw the office.  At home, I got to meet my host family's daughter and hold her one-month old baby when they stopped in for a visit!  We watched some television together before I got a good night's sleep.  Overall, a great first day!

A New Season!

The question is: which season is it?  I’m leaving a very hot, humid hometown of Charleston, SC for a much milder, even cooler Europe!  But it’s still summer there.   And yet it’s winter in the hemisphere I’ll head to next!  Anyhow, life is interesting how it presents us with different “seasons,” one contrast being a time for birth and a time for death.  That’s very real to me and those in my life right now as there’s been a bit of “dying.” Not to be morbid or overly dramatic, but emotionally--for me and for them--as I leave those I love.  Yet it’s with the hope of the birth of something new--not just for my own ife, but I hope for many others.

What I love about the Christian life is that it is marked by resurrection!  Even though we will experience loss and death of all sorts, we can live with hope for new life.  The greatest hope is a full life that will never end, one void of sadness, sickness, or death, where we are in perfect harmony and unity in our relationships... even with our Creator Himself who offers to meet all our needs.  How could we say no to such an offer?  Seasons come and seasons go, but the offer of a full life is for all time!       

(Written in JFK Airport June 6, 2016)