Tuesday, September 27, 2011

27 September - "Missionary HouseHunters International" New Episode!

The Lord has led us to our final decision on housing!  We had seen three properties that were all acceptable options, and we were not sure which one was the best.  We could easily have lived in any of the three. We had a personal favorite, but we wanted to be certain that we followed the Holy Spirit's leading, not our own.  So we followed the example of the early church in Acts chapter 1. 

After doing our part, and seeing lots of different places, we narrowed the field to three.  We wrote the names on three pieces of paper.  Then we prayed, "Lord, You know all things.  We do not know the future.  We do not know where we will best serve You and this community.  But You do!  So show us YOUR choice for our housing..."  (See Acts 1:23-26)  It's a "BIG GOD / little human" process.

Living Room
The drawn site was the apartment in the city.  It is a beautiful, newly remodeled apartment (we will be the first in after the remodeling).  It has two balconies, one off the kitchen, one off the Living Room and Bedroom.  It is on a primary road in the city, directly across the street from a high-rise student housing unit for the University.  It is just two blocks from the German Methodist Church, who have indicated we can use their facility for meetings, 5 blocks from the German Baptist Chruch, who have also indicated a willingness to partner with us.  The strassenbahn and bus stops are directly out our door, making it effortless for people to get to us from anywhere in the region.  (If you come to visit us, we won't even need to take the car to pick you up at the airport!)

Bedroom & balcony

Kitchen & balcony

Balcony off Living Room & Bedroom
To be honest, this property was probably our number 2 choice - but the cool thing is that we are confident that God knows best, and that we are going to be living exactly where He wants us!  We have a meeting tomorrow at 2pm to sign the contract and get the keys, then we will begin the process of getting a kitchen, telephone, etc.

On Thursday evening we will be meeting again with our "mission and vision" friends for another time of sharing and praying.  Please be in prayer for us as we continue to pursue the Lord's work in this vital area.

God bless!

Sunday, September 25, 2011

25 September 2011 - Wonderful Weekend

We continue to be blessed with incredible weather - God has been incredibly good to us!  The forecast for this week is for more of the same - sunshine and 70's all week.  Thank you, Lord! 

After viewing another apartment on Friday, Carol and I visited a beautiful palace in Darmstadt.  The Orangerie was built in 1719.  It was the en vogue thing in those days for royalty to have a tropical garden, with things like Oranges (hence the name) - even in non-tropical climates.    Yes, those are ORANGE TREES & PALM TREES in Germany!  They actually take the trees indoors for the winter.  It was a beautiful spot, and close to one of the apartments we are considering.

The weekend was great - lots of work around the home of the Maxwell's where we are living in these early days.  Saturday was spent cutting down a tree in the back yard, trimming shrubs, small trees, rose bushes and removing and replacing an old fence along the back edge of the property.  It was lots of good, hard, sweaty, dirty work.  Just the kind of day we enjoyed back on our farm in Wisconsin - We loved it!

This morning we attended Bethel International Baptist Church in Frankfurt, where we shared our vision for Darmstadt and passion for church planting.  The service was followed by an informal time of fellowship, and then we were invited to join a group from the church for lunch.  There's a group that goes out each Sunday for a meal together - every other week they combine the time with a short Bible study.

We met lots of wonderful people - and gentleman and his wife from Zimbabwe; a graduate student from Indiana; a teacher at the International School from Canada.  There were several people who were visiting the church for the first time - a young man who works at the US Consulate from Pennsylvania, and a gentleman from Toronto, Canada, who has just been transfered to Beijing, China, and is in Frankfurt for training.  International Churches are so much fun!  It was such a joy to invite the consulate worker to join us for lunch, give him a ride to the restaurant, and encourage him to connect with the body of Christ! 

On the way home, Carol made a short "Dash-cam" video as we drove through our current "home town."  If you'd like to see it on our You-Tube page:


We also stopped to put gas in the car. Purchasing fuel here is a sobering experience.  The car we have has a 10 gallon tank.  Filling it from near empty cost over $85.00 in US dollars...needless to say, we will be doing lots of walking, biking and riding trams!  That is a major factor is our search for an apartment. 

On that front, we have found some really good options, and are seeing two more Monday evening.  We are going to try to have our decision made by mid week.  That will allow us to get an address to the moving company that is holding our boxes in New Orleans.  It takes about 6-8 weeks for delivery - which will put us at late November / early December for delivery - which will include our warm weather clothes!  As we close in on our decision, we are confident of God's leading.  We know that He will lead us to the place He knows will give us the greatest ministry effect.  Proverbs 3:5&6 tells us that as we trust in the Lord with all our hearts, and lean not on our own understanding, and trust Him in all our ways, that He will direct our paths...will you pray with us as we obey that verse - trusting Him and seeking His will?  Thank you!

Thursday, September 22, 2011

22 September - First "Mission & Vision" Meeting

We just returned from a meeting of the people that have expressed an interest in our efforts to plant a new English-language church in Darmstadt.  It was a great time!  We had 9 adults, one teenager and one toddler in the group.  There is one more couple who has also made contact, but they are out of the country today.  Already the group is fully international - people from Ukraine, Germany, Switzerland, Scotland, the US and one guy from West Virginia!


We talked about the call of God on our hearts to see a new, relevant and dynamic church in Darmstadt; one that will reach the entire community - Internationals as well as Germans - with the Gospel of Christ. 

The Mission is to "Love the Lord with all our heart, soul, mind and strength.  Compelled by that love, we connect people to God, each other and the world."

We talked a little about our motivations to see a new church in Darmstadt, and about our lives with Christ.  We shared requests and prayed for each other and for the community.

A great time!  We will be meeting again next week.

This evenings meeting followed a day when we saw a new apartment, which has jumped to Number 1 on the charts.  It is a large apartment with two balconies.  It has been newly remodeled with all new plumbing, wiring, floors, etc.  It's really very nice.  It is also right in the heart of the city.  We would be within a few blocks of two German-language churches that have previously indicated a willingness to work with us in our English-language ministry.  While it would be a stretch for us to live in the middle of the city - there is something about it that has really caught our hearts.

Living Room
The realtor who showed us the place was a very nice young man (mid 20's) who told us that he lived in Central California along the Coast when he was in school - and that his host family was "religious."  We shared with him that his English was very good.  He said, "Ah, I don't get to use it nearly enough!"  And Bob said, "Well, you can always come to an English-language church and get lots of chances to use your English!"  He smiled and said he would come...we will definitely follow up!

We were just on Skype with our daughter Nicole, and she reminded us that it was two weeks ago that she dropped us off at the airport in Des Moines for our journey to Germany.  It is hard to believe all that has transpired in just 14 days.  God has shown Himself to be more than enough over and over again.  We are so blessed!

Pray for the church that God is raising up here in Darmstadt.  Pray for our spiritual protection as we push back the darkness and advance the Kingdom of Light.  Continue to pray for our apartment search, as well.

Thank you!

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Wednesday 21 Sept - And The Search Goes On

We continue to enjoy the blessing of beautiful days here in Darmstadt.  We have heard some horror stories of people coming to this area and not seeing the sun at all from September to May - they seem to be greatly exagerated!

Yesterday we visited several apartments in our efforts to locate housing.  The first was a second floor apartment in a house in a quiet, wooded neighborhood.  The owner family lives on the first floor, and rents the upper level.  It was very large by German standards, with a huge terrace on the west end, a very large room that we thought would be used for the living room, and three rooms to be used as bedroom/office/dining area.  The kitchen is, like many here, one where the renter brings their own counters, cupboards, cabinets, appliances, etc.  The guest- and full- bathroom were...um...interesting.  One had bright red tile with bright green fixtures.  The other was a comparatively calmer blue tile.

"The Red WC"
"The Blue Bath"
The kichen
The Living Room

The apartment also had an attic area, accessible by a pull down ladder in the hall - which was actually three additional rooms - they were rough, but had lots of possibilities.  The apartment is in the same suburb (Eberstadt) as the first place we saw, which is probably still tops on our list.
That is a Latte!
"Meine liebling!"
We had some time between appointments, so we went back to that first apartment, parked on the street, and took a walk from there into the center of Eberstadt.  It was a delightful walk along narrow German streets, with quaint shops, bakeries, coffee stands and restaurants along the way.  We stopped and had some lunch, and continued our walk.  We have really come to like the area, but have a lot more apartments to see - from sububs to right downtown Darmstadt.
"Talk about yer fixer-upper!"
The final visits of the day were at highrise apartments near the city center that were under renovation - which would be fine, except the renter was expected to finish the work.  There were three differnt places available - all in the same condition. Now, we don't mind work - but to do thousands of dollars of work, when you don't own the place, and pay $1400/month for the priviledge???  I don't think so!
We are preparing for our first meeting tomorrow night of people who have indicated an interest in our church plant.  There will be four couples there, with one additional couple out of town. 

Please pray for this meeting.  We will have some time to talk about the vision for a new International Church in Darmstadt, answer some questions as we are able, and spend time in prayer for the city, the church and each other.  We will let you know how it goes!

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Sunday, 18 September, 2011  What a weekend! 

Sorry about the lack of updates for a few days.  I actually worked on an update late Friday evening, but then, after having it all done, I closed the browser, instead of saving the post, and lost it all.  It was too late to re-do it, and we left on Saturday morning for Ramstein, so a Sunday evening update it is!  Because there are a few days to catch up with, this might be a longer blog - but read on to the end - it will be worth it!

On Thursday last week, Carol and I got our German bank account opened, and then spent some time setting up financial details.  Part of our salary will stay at our bank in Wisconsin, and part will be wired to our bank in Germany, so there were some "strategery" to work on.

In the afternoon we headed off to Darmstadt to meet with a pastor that we had been in contact with on facebook for several months before we arrived in Germany.  William is a great guy, and was very generous with his time and expertise, having been in ministry in Germany since 1989, in both German and English language churches.  We met at the Starbucks in downtown Darmstadt that we had visited on Tuesday when we asked for directions - you might remember that we mentioned in an earlier blog that we met an American woman who works there.  We soon discovered that the woman behind the counter was William's wife, Kathy!  It was great to talk to William, and it seems possible that God has once again blessed us - this time with a local partner in spreading the gospel in the city!

On Friday morning we went and visited an apartment.  On the way to the place, Carol said, "What if we really like this place?  We don't have any money in our German account yet.  How will we pay a deposit?"  I replied, "Well, we're not going to rent the first place we see..."  I just may have to eat those words!  It was a really nice place.  It has just two bedrooms, a living room/dining room area, kitchen and bath, but the rooms are decent sized, and the location is very nice.  It's on the third level of a mult-family home, with patio doors leading to an east balcony. 

There is a strassenbahn and bus station right across the street, with multiple trains into the city every hour.  That is very imortant for us, as we need to be easily accessable to people who will travel to our home for bible studies, meetings, etc.  It was also a pretty decent price.  We are not sold on it...but it was an encouraging start to the search, and may very well end up as the place. 

On Saturday, we drove to Ramstein to visit our friends at Frontline Community Church. http://www.frontlinecommunity.org/index.shtml 

Frontline is a 6-year old church in the IBC and minsiters primarily to the military personnel at the Ramstein Air Force Base. The American population on the base and in the surrounding German communities makes it the largest American City outside the US.  It's a wonderful church with lots of young families.   It was a beautiful 90-minute drive across the German countryside on the Autobahn.  It probably could have been less, but I was not comfortable going over 150 kph (93mph).

When we arrived at the home of Pastor Darryl and Debra, they couldn't wait to get us over to the church building - Jana Shankle, a ministry leader at the church, had organized an effort called, "Operation Home Sweet Home" among the families at the church.  In front of the worship center they had two tables full of household items - electronics, china and flatware, bath towels, pots and pans, room fans, a television, a recliner - an almost indescribable assortment of items for our new German home.  Someone had even donated a car, which will probably be sold...since God  had already provided one...They are helping us furnish our entire apartment!

Worship at Frontline was a great experience.  Pastor Darryl said they have about 500 people at the church.  I don't know how many were there this morning, but the second service was near standing-room.  The praise, prayer and worship time was powerful and engaging.  I hardly felt like it was necessary for me to speak after such a deep time of connecting with the Father!  A Soup & Salad lunch was served after the second service, and we had a great time of fellowship. 

Later in the afternoon, Darryl and Debra took us to a Fest in the downtown region of Ramstein.  It was a very familiar setting.  Food booths, some carnival rides, more food booths, some music, more food booths.  A great way to spend the afternoon.  We bade them goodbye, and drove back to Darmstadt this evening, where we updated the Maxwells, had a nice Skype call with our daughter, and updated the blog. 

We are absolutely amazed at the way God  has provided for us - from the wonderful connections we have made with people in the Darmstadt area, to the home that we are staying in while we search for an apartment, to the car that was provided before we arrived on the field, and now the amazing provision of supplies and furnishings for our future apartment!  How can we possibly describe or express our feelings? 

Perhaps it is best expressed by the license plates that were on our car when we purchased it...did you notice the plates in the pictures?  

PS 136
 1 Give thanks to the LORD, for He is good.
            His love endures forever.
2 Give thanks to the God of gods.
            His love endures forever.
3 Give thanks to the Lord of lords:
            His love endures forever.
 4 to Him who alone does great wonders,
            His love endures forever.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

14 September 2011  "Baby Steps!  Baby Steps!"

It was a beautiful day in Germany today!  The sun shone all day, the temps were very mild (about 73 degrees F). 

In the movie What About Bob?, a psychologist played by Richard Dreyfuss encourages "Bob",  played by Bill Murray, to learn to face the world by taking a series of "baby steps."  Bob leaves the office celebrating each baby step he takes.


We are celebrating baby steps these days!

Baby steps to the car....Carol has officially driven in Germany!  She has never driven during our previous visits, but she drove like a champ today!

Baby steps to the grocery store...Carol drove us to a large Kaufland store in a village a few kilometers away.  It's like a small version of a super Wal-Mart - has groceries, and various other items, too.  We had a great time just walking the aisles, picking up a few items for dinner, and noticing the differences.  On the phone, my mom asked how the prices compared for groceries...we have no idea!!!  Between the differnces in the weight and volumn (metric) and the exchange of the currency (Dollars to Euros), we haven't quite got a feeling for the prices yet - but we have been told they are quite high compared to the US.

Baby steps in the kitchen...Carol made a nice casserole for dinner last night - with ingredients we were able to find and purchase at the store.

Baby steps in the laundry...Carol downloaded an app for her ipod that translates German to English, so that she could read the settings on the washer and dryer!

Baby steps...umm, baby talk???  Bob has been overwhelmed by how much German he does NOT know!  High School German was over 35 years ago...a lot of brain cells have seemingly gone on to their eternal reward in those years!  But we plug along, doing our best and asking for patience and forgiveness at the bank, the grocery store, the coffee shop...

Continue to pray for us as we seek an apartment - we know God will lead us to the right place in the right neighborhood.  Pray for our sensetivity to His leading.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Tuesday, Sept 13

Meet Germany's newest legal resident aliens!

Yesterday we went to the Rossdorf Rathaus (government offices) and received our Anmeldung - we are now legally registered residents of Germany!  This is not our visa - that will take longer - but it is a step toward getting everything else done.  With an Anmeldung we can open bank accounts, rent an apartment, own a car, etc.

It was a beautiful day in Darmstadt!  Sunny and comfortable - 23 degrees (74 F).  We did a lot of internet searching for an apartment, and found a couple of possibilities.  We are still praying about the neighborhood that we will live in.  Pray with us that the Lord will lead us to the spot He has for us!

Today we went to Bad Homburg and purchased our car!  It is very  nice, and Mr Broekman also gave us a complete set of winter tires as part of the deal.  In Germany, we are required to change to winter tires no later than November 1.  We visited the offices of the International Baptist Convention (IBC) in Frankfurt, and got to visit with Lorraine (the Administrative Assistant) and Marci, whose husband is the interim pastor at the Bethel IBC church next door.  She is helping out around the office.  Judith Lynn Maxwell, who has opened her home to us, works at the IBC office, too.  It was nice to visit with them all.

We then travelled into Darmstadt, where we shopped in the downtown street-mall area.  It was great to begin to get a better feel for the city.  We met an American from Missouri in the local Starbucks (Bob asked her for directions in German, and she answered in perfect English, with a slight southern accent)!  At a Saturn store (think Best Buy) we purchased a Garmin "Navi" for the car, so that we could find our way home!

"Are not five sparrows sold for two pennies?  Yet not one of them is forgotten by God.  Indeed, the very hairs of your head are numbered.  Do not be affraid; you are worth more than many sparrows."
~Luke 12:6&7

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Sunday, 11 Sept 2011

Worshiped this morning at Immanuel Baptist Church in Wiesbaden.  Immanuel was the first International Baptist Convention Church, begun in 1958.  The International, English-language Baptist Church and the German-language Baptist Church jointly built the building in the 1970’s, and they share it. 

The IBC has Sunday School at 11:15 and the Worship service at 12:30.  It was a very nice service, with lots of young families in attendance – about 1/3 are from the nearby Wiesbaden US Military facility.
After church, we went with several families to the Army base Food Court, where we had a choice of several US-based options.  Carol and I had Popeye’s Chicken.  By this time it was about 3:30 local time, about 9:30 in New York, so the big screen TV’s were showing coverage of the 9-11 memorial service at Ground Zero.  It was rather surreal to be on a US military base in a foreign land on this date.  It was on everyone’s minds, and just about everyone had some story to share about their experience 10 years ago.

By the time we got back to Darmstadt, it was late afternoon/early evening.  Stewart and Judith Lynn turned on the TV, and ESPN was broadcasting NFL games live from the US.  We watched the Steelers/Ravens game, and the beginning of the Redskins/Giants – but it is getting too late to stay up for that one!

Hopefully we will be much more recovered from jet lag.  At any rate, we are going to begin to put things in order.  We will be setting up bank accounts, registering with the German government, beginning the Driver’s License process, getting phones, etc.  On Tuesday, we hope to pick up the car, so that we can begin searching for an apartment.

Pray for us as we seek God’s direction to the right Darmstadt neighborhood / region for our housing, as that will have an impact on our ministry area.  We want to be sensitive and obedient to His prompting for our housing and the location of the Bible studies and prayer meetings that will develop into the new church.  Pray for our Spiritual preparation, our physical safety and health, and for the people who are already, and who will one day be part of this work.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

A wonderful second day in Germany!  After sleeping away most of the jetlag, Carol and I enoyed a great day with the Maxwells.  We took a walk to the local grocery store, where we baught a couple of items.  We had a great lunch of bacon-wrapped wurst that Stewart grilled, served with fresh rolls and salad.  We did a little work around the house to get ready for tonight's Welcome to Germany party. 

The gathering tonight was delightful.  Pastor Mason Smith and his wife Kim, along with their boys Wesley and Wilson, came from Wiesbaden.  Lorraine Stringer, from the International Baptist Convention office joined us, along with Igor and Maya Zayer.  The Zayers had contacted us in March after hearing about our plans to plant a new church in Darmstadt.  Igor works for the European Space Agency Operations Center.  They have lived in the US, the Netherlands and now most recently in Darmstadt.  They are excited about the possibility of being part of a new church here.

We had a great time of getting to know one another, sharing a lovely meal in the Maxwells back yard.  It was a good way to get things started!

Friday, September 9, 2011

Darmstadt Digest Day One

Converge International Fellowship
Darmstadt, Hesse, Germany
Yesterday we were pushing our grandson Asher on the tire swing,  

and playing a little baseball in the back yard, spending the last morning Nicole, Eric and Asher. 

Today we are in Germany!

We packed our bags - lots of heavy bags, containing all we will have for the next couple of months -into a van, went to the Des Moines airport and left at 1:30 in the afternoon.  We flew from there to Chicago, had a brief layover, then flew from Chicago to London.  After another brief wait, we flew the final leg from London to Frankfurt.  We arrived at 10:10am Frankfurt time on Friday, 9 September.

Judith Lynn Maxwell met us there.  She and her husband, Stewart, have invited us to live in their home in the Darmstadt suburb of Rossdorf until we find our own apartment.  They are a wonderful couple who have been praying and waiting for a new International Church in Darmstadt for many years.  We are blessed to have them as friends and partners in this ministry! 

Last Friday, out of the blue, we received an email from our friend Manfred at International Christian Fellowship in Oberursel, Germany.  Manfred had a friend, Louis, who was moving to Singapore, and had a vehicle for sale.  He was wondering if we were interested in it.  It is a beautiful vehicle, still covered by factory waranty, and the owner was willing to give us a 1,000 Euro discount on it - about $1400!  So the Lord provided us with a car at an amazing price before we even arrived in country!  Amazing!

Tomorrow night Judith Lynn and Stewart are hosting a "Welcome To Geramany"  party for us.   This will represent the first of many meetings where we will be sharing our vision for the work in Darmstadt with some friends we have previously met, and some potential new partners in our church planting work.  Please pray for that gathering.

Carol has turned in early - not much sleep in the last 36 hours.  I was able, on my first afternoon in Germany, to watch a Milwaukee Brewers baseball game on ESPN America, and tonight I am watching a replay of the Green Bay Packers/New Orleans Saints game from last night - SWEET!