Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Wanted- Coffee and a friend! :)

Okay... so I am the sappy one of the 5 of us because I am the first one who has been feeling homesick for my family and friends. I am not depressed or having a horrible time, I just want to hang out with some of my friends and have a cup of coffee(Biggby sugar bear never sounded soooooo good). Beautiful gate is amazing and I am loving all the kids. I like going out with the play groups and just hugging the kids and getting some of their wet sloppy kisses all over my face. It is such a blessing to be here and know that I can in some small way, make the kids' day a little brighter. I feel like I want to just have some of my friends or sisters or moms to share it with, in person (Bryan is wonderful, but it is nice to have a girl to talk to sometimes). I don't feel like I want to go home, I just want to ship some of you here to share this with me and carry some of the burden with me because it is a blessing to serve here, but it is not always an easy load to carry. I know I'll make friends here, it just takes time :) I love all of my wonderful friends who will be reading this and I am thankful that there is facebook and skype because it makes a big difference.
Blessings,
Anita

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Merry Christmas

Hello Friends and Merry Christmas! I hope your Christmas was enjoyable and full of good memories as you celebrated Jesus's birthday with friends and family. We drove to Ladybrand, South Africa and spent the day with Ray, Sue and their family. It was relaxing and enjoyable for all 5 of us. The weather was warm and sunny the entire day so our 3 kids spent every possible minute in the swimming pool with the 4 other children who were there (there was also a baby, but he was too small to join them). The children had a bit of a highlight in the afternoon when Sue gave them some packages from the post office that she had picked up a few days ago. Oma and Papa had sent some Christmas presents for them and they were so excited to get some mail (we also enjoyed a Christmas card from Vern and Mary, thanks) as well as a few gifts:) They did not want to leave when it was time to go, so I'll say they must have enjoyed their Christmas visit. I hope each one of you had a wonderful Christmas too. God Bless You!
Anita
P.S. If you are reading this I want to wish a very happy birthday to my special friend, Julie Wildschut today! I love you Julie!

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Beautiful New Arrival

Okay, so I don't know what I was talking about in the last post. Yesterday, Beautiful Gate had the pleasure of receiving another Child of God into our care. He arrived around 4PM and I dare say that he is probably not more than a few days old. He was found at a mall in Maseru, when someone saw a shopping bag move on it's own. After looking in the bag, the person found this beautiful baby boy! Anita and I have been in that shopping mall a couple of times already. I don't think that we can go back to that mall without watching every corner and bag anymore. We are sad that his mother has made this choice, but we are happy that he was found and brought to Beautiful Gate. We look forward to watching him grow and hopefully be adopted soon into a loving family. Who knows what he will be when he grows up? Only God knows. Mercy has already asked if he could be her brother.....but she quickly followed that with asking to have 10 just like him. :)
Please pray for him and any other abandoned children in Lesotho. We pray that they may be found quickly and brought to safety. And, that they may be united with their forever family as quick as possible.
Bryan

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Beautiful Gate Update

Well, we have been here for 16 days (including today) and our family has been blessed to see 4 kids leave into loving homes. We will be witnessing our third official farewell adoption send off today. And one other family was found and came to pick up their child. I was blessed by being able to help with the farewell ceremony on Monday, as Ray was not able to make it to Beautiful Gate that day. So, I filled in for Ray. There is nothing like "trial by fire". I hope that I did a good job filling in for Ray. Today, I will have the same opportunity as Ray is taking a well deserved Christmas break.

We have also not had any new kids dropped off at Beautiful Gate, which is a blessing! But, I am afraid that January will be a crazy month. Most of Lesotho shuts down from mid December to January for Christmas break. So, I think that the department of Social Welfare is probably at a skeleton crew and will all be back after the new year. But, we will be prepared and love any child that comes through our gates.

We also have had the pleasure of meeting other missionaries here in Africa. Jim and Josephine Zylstra have joined us at Beautiful Gate for the week to tour Lesotho. For those of you at Haven CRC, you will recall that Haven sponsors them through CRWRC as well in their work in Uganda. What a small world! It has been great to see some familiar faces and also be able to show them around Maseru yesterday.

Last Friday, Anita and I were able to witness a new family meeting their child for the very first time. There were many tears of joy and it was such a blessing to see! The only way that I could explain it was when each of my children were born. The very first time that you get to hold your child and nothing else in the world even matters or even exists. That was what they were like. The rest of the room ceased to exist. We could only watch in amazement! I don't think they took their eyes off their new son for the rest of the day! Today is the farewell ceremony for that family. Please pray that their new family will adjust well and that the Lord will fill their lives with love and peace!

We have also been able to locate our home schooling supplies. We have to do one or two more steps yet, but hope to have the supplies by January. This has been an answer to prayer, and now that we know the steps, should make future purchases much easier. Please pray that we receive the supplies soon. They kids are doing well, but having a structured school day could be very helpful. Plus, they have had a long enough Christmas vacation (Nov 20 - Dec 31). We have been working on some reading with the kids and Elijah does have a math book along. But, having all the supplies will make Anita's job much easier.

Please pray that our house in Zeeland will rent soon. It is a tough time to rent as Christmas is a time that no one wants to move. But, we know that God will provide. If you know of anyone, please send them to Corey at Cornerstone Real Estate Management.
Also, please pray for our banking situation. We are having issues trying to transfer funds, but hope to have that resolved in the next week.

Thanks again for all your love, prayers and support. We miss you all!
Bryan

Sunday, December 19, 2010

God's Message

As only God can do, He has turned our disappointed and frustration around today into joy and peace. Nothing has changed in the area of school supplies or banking issues, but we had a good service at church today that went straight to our hearts. The sermon was about Joseph and Mary and the struggle they must have endured with people questioning why he married her even though she was with child and people may have shamed and shunned Mary for her pregnancy outside marriage. The pastor pointed out that it took 30 years for Joseph and Mary to even begin to understand what God had planned. 30 years of questioning looks and 30 years of wondering what did it really mean to be the parents of God's Son.

Then the pastor took an unexpected turn and began to talk about what God has called each of us to do and asked whether or not we are obeying that call. He walked around the congregation and started saying things like has he called you from being a teacher into adopting 10 children from Africa, has He called you from being a regular pilot into being a pastor pilot, and then when he was standing near us (and we have never been to this church and he does not know our story), and said, 'has He called you from being an accountant into being a youth care worker'. My eyes welled up with tears and it was like a message straight from God. He has called us here and we obeyed His call. Why are we disappointed? Why are we not trusting Him for every detail? Why do we have doubts? It was as if we were meant to be there this morning because the message was just for us :)

He went on to talk about what would have happened if Joseph would have refused to marry Mary or what if he decided to not go to Egypt when the angel told him to take Mary and Jesus. Egypt was a foreign land. He had no connections, no family, and no friends and he just had to go for the safety of Jesus who wasn't even his own son (through blood anyway). I have joked a few times with a friend of mine who really did not want me to leave and I told her that I have to come to Lesotho because I don't want to be swallowed by a whale or carried away by an enormous eagle, but in all honesty God has a plan for each and every one of us and we need to just trust His plan and obey it because you never know who you are meant to touch or lead to Christ (it could be just one person or a whole group of people). We needed the reminder and I am sure we will need plenty more in the next 5 years. Thanks you so much for helping us be here and being our encouragement because we KNOW God wants us here right now.

I have some cute little kids to go play with 3 of my own and about 30 others :)
Have a blessed Sunday,
Anita

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Disappointed

Well... The kids and I were anxiously awaiting Friday because our homeschooling supplies were suppose to arrive on Thursday and then Mae Sue would hopefully be bringing some on them on Friday morning. Well Mae Sue came, but not with our school supplies. They are stuck in customs and we need to receive a fax with a detailed description of what is in the boxes and then we have to pay R1700 to get them out of customs. I guess the Geurink Safari class will be postponed until January :(. I knew that our container was going to get stuck in customs, but I did not expect our school supplies to get stuck there too.

I think what has been disappointing us the most is how hard it is to get anything done while here in Lesotho. We had difficulty opening our Lesotho bank account and after 2 days of waiting in lines and getting all the correct paperwork, we opened an account. Now, we tried to transfer money from our American account to our African account, but it won't work because our African routing number only has 6 numbers instead of 7. We can't talk to anyone because we are in Africa and we have been getting the run around on email from our bank! I am beginning to see why everything takes longer to get done in Africa because this has been quite the hassle. I know everyone says TIA=This is Africa and I guess I now know why they say that. I guess my other advice is- there is always a hidden cost too in Africa so be prepared to pay extra for a lot of things (our bank account here is one where you have to pay to deposit and withdrawl money, crazy).

Sorry to do a little blog venting, but Bryan and I have been a little stressed out by some of these details and could use a little prayer while we wait to get them figured out. God is in control and tells us not to worry because He will take care of the details of our lives and we just need to remember that.

Friday, December 17, 2010

A picture.....finally!



It has been an interesting week! It has been raining every day for about a week now. There have been very few spots of sun, and we have been wearing pants and a long sleeve shirt just about every day this week. Not that it is as cold as back in Michigan, but it is supposed to be summer here. The picture above is when the kids gave a sock puppet show to the kids of Beautiful Gate on the last day of really nice weather.

On a side note, I just wanted to update you on the total that was raised by the Haven CRC Middle School Group. A few weeks before we left, we mentioned that they surprised us with collecting pop cans from the neighborhood and donating to the money to us. We were amazed with the amount of pop cans and truly touched by the love that those young adults have shown us. The amount raised was more than $350.00, and by my calculations, that would be over 3,500 pop cans!!! Thank you soooo much. You have no idea how much we were blessed by this!

Yesterday morning, our whole family took the morning time and helped some staff with feeding and holding the kids. This was a great time for us! I even got to meet the new set of twins that came to Beautiful Gate. They are very cute. I hope there is a family out there that will be willing to take both of them.

Anita was able to have a little one on one time with another child that is a little behind developmentally. It was great to see the smiles on everyone's faces, especially the kids!

Elijah, Faith and Mercy seem to be adjusting great! Except for Mercy waking up at about 6AM, due to the sun coming up at about 4:30AM each morning. We will have to work on that. The kids love playing with the play group and holding the kittens. Hopefully our home schooling supplies will arrive soon and the kids will have to "start" school again. Elijah enjoys reading books to the kids, but we only packed a few along.

I have also been reading "The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe" to the kids before they go to bed. They can't wait to finish the book and then be able to see the movie. Then we will have to start on "Prince Caspian" and so on.... It has been a great bonding time for the family at night!

Thank you all for your support! We are eternally blessed by everyone for their love and committment to us. I hope that all of you are able to visit and see Beautiful Gate and Lesotho for yourself! It is worth the cost!

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Whirlwind of fun!

What an interesting weekend! It all started with us skyping about 6 different people on Saturday. What a great time to catch up with family and friends. At one point, we actually had two skype sessions going (one on Anita's laptop, and one on mine) and we also received another call at the same time. Unfortunately, we had to decline the call, but we were able to catch up with them later. Skype has really helped us to keep the worries about our families and friends at a minimum, plus I think it helps us with home sickness. We have not had too much home sickness yet, but it has only been a week, and it still feels like a vacation!
Saturday also brought us our first "red clay dust storm". The wind picked up and carried all the dust along with it. It got so bad that the kids came screaming inside. I was able to take a quick picture (on my Facebook page). The mountains in the background were gone!
Sunday, we went to a CRC church here in Maseru. Sorry, CRC stands for Christian Revival Church, not Christian Reformed Church :). It was a hopping service...literally. Faith really liked the jumping and dancing that took place during the songs. And Elijah had a wonderful time at the Children's service. And today, we found out that his Childrens church teacher is a volunteer at Beautiful Gate! Once we got home from church on Sunday, it began to storm the rest of the day. This caused random power outages and the internet was down all day. It was a good thing that we skyped with so many people on Saturday. That also meant that we missed the Haven Christmas program online. We heard that it was good and that the kids dedicated it to Elijah, Faith & Mercy. We are anxious to see the service, when able. Anita and I are both touched by the thoughtfulness of that dedication.
Monday, I was privaledged to sit in on my first management meeting at Beautiful Gate. This is something that will become one of my primary responsibilities, and I look forward to the challenges that this will present. I was taken by surprise, that during the meeting, the Lord gave me a strange sense of "peace" and I felt that the Lord was truly confirming that I was right where He wants me to be. And, I believe that I have come to Beautiful Gate at just the right time! I didn't hear any voice, but I just felt that. Sorry for all of you who want me to have a terrible time and come home sooner (you know who you are.)
Today, I spent some time in the office getting ready for a meeting that we will have tomorrow as well. Then Anita, the kids and I were given a tour of downtown Maseru. It is nice to be able to "soak in" all the cultural differences. Many of the Basotho people have been very friendly and just stare at us. (We are definately the minority here). Most of them stare at Faith's hair. But, all in all, we are having a great time! We visited the Shop Rite (the other grocery store in town) and had fun exploring that.
I am starting to get used to driving now. I am much more confident in my abilities to drive a stick on the left side of the road. And I don't turn on the wipers (instead of the blinker) nearly as much anymore. It is amazing what you can adjust to.
We ask that you continue to pray for our family in these transitions. Also pray for Beautiful Gate, as the finances continue to be tight. Thanks again to all of you for following our adventures. Please remember that we could not do this without your support. We cannot express how blessed we feel to be able to help these kids!
What a mighty God we serve!

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Adoption Day

Oh... how we have been looking forward to seeing our first adoption, and it is hard to believe that we only had to wait a few days. Friday morning we met two couples from Canada one who would be adopting their son and the other who is in the final stages of paperwork and waiting anxiously for their turn. Bryan, the kids, and I were able to sit in and watch as a family was made whole. It was the most beautiful sight and brought tears to my eyes a couple times. To see the pure joy and happiness on their faces was just a small glimmer of the love our Father has for each of us. I will be praying that their adjustment goes very well and thank God for the reminder of why we are here. These children need a family and seeing them united with their new family is the most rewarding experience.

This morning, Elijah and I went to 2 of the homes and asked if we could help. We were handed a couple bottles and a couples babies. It was cute to see Elijah trying to hold one of the larger babies as he sat in the chair. I was across the room sitting on a bed and feeding a beautiful little girl. We talked to the babies and then laughed and talked to each other. Not only were we able to bond with the babies, but we also had some quality mother and son time too. Bryan, Faith, and Mercy joined us a little later in the morning and took a few turns holding babies. So far, most of our time had been playing outside with the older kids so it was very nice to have some time inside with the littlest blessings at Beautiful Gate.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Sock Puppets

Yesterday was a nice, quiet day. We did not have anything planned and we could just spend the day as a family, adjusting to the new place. We woke up in the morning and did some school work with the kids. Then I was able to have tea time with Dillon (Ray's son) and Amelie (our suitemate). We were able to spend some time with the kids of Bgate while they were on playtime. Anita read the book, "If you give a moose a muffin" and in that book, the moose puts on a sock puppet show. Then Elijah and Faith came up with the idea of giving a sock puppet show to the kids. So, off they went to their room and came back with the sock puppets that they made on the airplane (Thanks Amy!). They then put on a show for the kids and they all had a great time. A lot of the staff really enjoys having our kids play with the kids of Bgate. And, our kids really like playing with the kids of Bgate.

Elijah and I were able to take a walk outside the walls of Bgate and walked to the river that divides Lesotho from South Africa. I was amazed to see the steep drop off of about 30 feet to the river.

We were also able to make our second trip into town to get some more groceries that we needed. We were also able to take our time and explore the Maseru mall a little more, just to familiarize ourselves with it more.

After dinner, we read our books some more and I have started reading the Chronicles of Narnia to the kids at night before bed.

Please check out my facebook page for more pictures. We miss you all!

Bryan

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

New things learned

Today Anita and I had a meeting with Ray in his office. I joked about how if felt like we were going to the principal's office (or head masters office as Ray calls it), but we had a wonderful meeting. One thing that Anita and I did learn from the meeting is that a 1/2 hour meeting can really take about 2 1/2 hours. All kidding aside, it was a great time of information and prayer.

We were also able to have some magnum bars last night as well. For those of you who don't know what they are, it is probably the best ice cream that you can get around here. We had mint bars last night. The closest way to describe it would be like a nestle crunch ice cream paddle but with mint ice cream instead. They were delicious.

I am still having difficulties putting pictures on the blog, but I am able to get them onto my facebook page. So, if you want to see them, you will need to "friend me" and look in my albums.

I took my first drive to the store last night without someone who lives here. I know that doesn't sound like much, but driving on the left side of the road takes some getting used to. I don't think I made too many errors, but I kept on turning on the windshield wipers instead of indicator (blinker for you Americans). The two levers are on the opposite side of the stearing column over here too. All in all the trip to the Pick N Pay was successful and uneventful (which I was happy for). There are some crazy drivers over here. I almost had to use my "hooter" (horn for you Americans) but refrained as I was too busy telling myself to stay left.

We also had some papa for dinner last night. It is corn that is dried out, then mashed into a flour like substance and then boiled in water to make what looks like grits, or instant mashed potatoes. It is the main staple of the diet over here. We also had some scrambled eggs and some sauce to put over it to give it some flavor. All in all, it was a good dinner, and filling too.

Thanks for all your prayers and support! It is still so unbelievable that we are here!

Bryan

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Let the Journey Begin!

Where to begin.... Well, we checked through the screening checkpoint at Grand Rapids airport on Saturday morning. When we arrived at our gate, we noticed that there was no plane there and the sign said that the flight was delayed. This put Anita and I into a bit of a tailspin to start our new life adventure. But, we just prayed that God would work out the details and that we would get to Beautiful Gate at His appointed time. Shortly after the prayer, I went to the check in counter and asked about future connections. The guy behind the counter was very friendly and helped us to get another connection to Washington D.C. and still make our connection from Washington D.C. to Joberg. So, our flight out of GR was delayed by an hour. After arriving in Chicago, we found our next connection to Washington D.C. and literally had about 5 minutes left to get some lunch (McDonalds) and then they started to board our flight to Washington. After wolfing down the lunch, we boarded the plane and found that we were bumped up to economy plus seating, which has a little more leg room. What a blessing from God! He listened to our prayer and blessed us with more than we asked for. After arriving in Washington D.C., we had to transfer gates again, but this time with only about 1.5 hours, instead of the 3.5 hours that we had originally had planned. So, we once again grabbed the kids and walked to the next gate, which would take us to Johannesburg. After arriving at the gate, we had about 10 minutes to get situated and they started to board that flight as well. But, we were now back onto our normal schedule of flights! Once aboard that plane, we were able to relax a little and just get some rest. The kids had fun watching movies and did a great job with all the sitting. Elijah sat next to a South African lady that helped him a lot on the flight and she taught Elijah many new things. i.e. you "pick up" trash, but you "fetch" people. So, after many hours of flying and having to wait on the plane while they fueled it in Dakar, we finally arrived in Johannesburg on time. We were also amazed that every single piece of luggage arrived too! Yeah God!

Kevin and Sue fetched us at the airport and we spent a wonderful evening at their house. The first thing that Anita and the kids noticed was the heat. The sun was already starting to set and it was about 75-80 degrees. The feal of the open windows in the back of the van to Kevin and Sue's house was wonderful. From what I hear, it sounds like we left just in time (snow). That night at Kevin and Sue's place, the kids had a very restless night (adjusting to the new time zone), but we survived it.

At noon on Monday, Kevin took us to say "cheers" to Sue at her workplace and then proceeded to take us to the airport. We had to do some creative packing, as we needed to adjust some of our carry-on weight. We forgot to move our camera out of a checked in bag, and we believe that we have "donated" the camera to an airport worker. Oh well. So, the only picture we have of traveling is of the kids in front of the giraffe in the Joburg Airport. Anyone who has flown through there will know what I am talking about. The flight to Maseru was on time and uneventful. We were 5 of the people on the flight that had a total of 19 people on it. But, I am pretty sure that we were at least 50% of the luggage on the plane. Once we cleared customs in Maseru, Ray and Sue were there to greet us and help us with the bags. They drove us back to Beatiful Gate and Anita and I both felt as if we were home. We were both uneasy in Joberg, but feel right at home at Beautiful Gate.

Our new "suitemate" made dinner for everyone and we had a great time of fellowship. Then Ray and Sue left to go home and Anita and I put the kids to bed and started to unpack some more. All in all, the Lord has been watching over us and we are greatful for this opportunity to serve "the least of these."

This morning we were able to go outside and play with some of the kids here. As you can see from the pictures, Elijah, Faith & Mercy had very little problem finding friends.

I will try to post pictures later, as I am experiencing some technical difficulties with uploading pictures (slow internet). We pray that God will bless you today, as He has blessed us this past weekend.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

From snow...to orphans

We are almost ready to fly out of Michigan's winter and into Lesotho's summer. I have to admit that we picked a great time to leave :) I promise that wasn't one of the main reasons for us choosing December, but it sure doesn't hurt! The kids are not very excited about missing winter though :( They prayed for snow for several weeks and sure enough, God came through and there was snow on Wednesday morning! They were so excited when they woke up and saw snow that it almost felt like Christmas morning. I sold all their snowpants and boots, so you can probably image what they looked like after an hour outside. It never dawned on me to try the old fashioned trick of putting plastic bags around their shoes till my neighbor mentioned it (thanks Mr. Brian) but they were already a sloppy mess.

Are we ready? Well that I can not give an answer to. Is anyone ever really ready for something like this? I think we are a bit numb from a year of planning, fundraising, traveling, last times for lots of things, very difficult good byes, and a crazy amount of other things (some very major such as brain cancer and the loss of a precious new daughter)that have happened to our close friends. It is hard to leave when we want to be there and be supportive, but...

We are so blessed. We get to care for orphans! We get to bring 3 new playmates for them who will love on them and do their best to care for them because they are fully convinced that is what God wants them to do. I love the faith of my children and it is so encouraging to me. There is no better place to be that serving God with my family right beside me. We will learn so much together and grow so much closer and that is a blessing that will touch our lives forever. Thanks for praying us through this transition. We will be leaving this Saturday at 10:26am.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Keep your Hands & Feet inside the Roller Coaster at all times!



Thank you again to everyone who supported us and were present at Haven tonight for our send off. It is not easy to say goodbye to everyone and we feel bad that we were not able to give everyone all the time that they deserve. But, we could also feel the love and support of everyone that laid their hands on us and prayed over us. This is just the beginning of what I am sure will be a truly emotional "roller coaster" week. We are truly blessed to know each and every one of you all! It is our prayer that God will bless you in all that you do here at home in the States. And we pray that you will all be blessed through our mission. We could never do this without you!

Oh yeah, the picture above was taken after the middle school youth group spent an evening going around the neighborhood collecting pop cans to help us in our mission. We were surprised and speechless by this act from our friends at Haven! Thanks everyone that was involved with this! We hope to update you with the total raised from this as soon as we have it.

As the last song at Haven was sung...."My friends, may you grow in Grace!"

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

10 Days

My wall around my heart has begun to crumble and I keep crying. I can't believe we will be leaving in 10 days. I am so excited to follow the path God has set before us and I am so honored and humbled that He has chosen our family, but saying good-bye is soooooo hard. I can't write more or I'll cry again...
Anita

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Thank you and Good-bye

Thank you to those of you who helped out with donating $20 on November 20th, it is nice to have a little extra cash up front as we begin to have more expenses such as plane tickets, health insurance, and travel expenses. Thanks again to those of you who participated in our fundraising dinner at Haven CRC on November 10th. It was amazing to see so many friends who care about us and our mission. We were so overwhelmed by the generosity shown toward our family that we were actually left speechless for a few days. It was a great kind of speechless because we felt God's arms around us through each friend.

I ordered the kids homeschooling supplies and it appears that they will be delivered right about the time we arrive so the timing is perfect (not that we will start the first day as we will all be very tired and need a few days to adjust).

Well... the time is very rapidly approaching for us to say good-bye (or see you later, if you prefer) to all our family and friends here in the states. We will board a plane to Maseru, Lesotho, Africa (Technically it is Chicago, Dulles, Jo-berg, and then Maseru) in 11 days. We have already begun the process of saying good-bye in many ways as Mercy had her last dance class, Eli and Faith finished school and children in worship at church, Bryan went for his last hunting trip with his dad, uncles, and cousins, and this week will be our last Sunday at Haven. There will be a special service as they will be sending us off with a blessing as we begin our mission to Beautiful Gate. The service will be at 6pm and we will have some extra time after the service to say good-bye. Please join us on Sunday!
God Bless You

Sunday, November 14, 2010

$20 on the 20th

My friend created a beautiful postcard as a fundraiser for us and I just tried everything I could to copy and paste it, but was unsuccessful. Basically the postcard was an invitation to everyone who knows us and for all their friends and family to help us offset some of our up front costs such as plane tickets and health insurance, by asking all of you to donate $20 on the 20th of November (or close to that date :) ) We are 60% funded which is fantastic, but much of our funding is coming in monthly donations which will be spread out over the next 5 years so our friends wanted to help us by encouraging people to spread the word to friends, family, neighbors, church members, etc. and allow us to have more money to cover our initial costs. If you could help us out with that, we would be very grateful. We have tried to make it easier by putting in 2 paypal buttons. The first one (located on the right side of this page) is for one time donations which is great for the $20 on the 20th fundraiser and the button under it is for those of you who would like to support us with a monthly gift, but do not want to write and mail in a check each month. It will be automatically deducted for whichever day of the month is most convenient for you and for whatever time frame best suits your budget. Thank you so much for considering this fundraiser and for telling others so they can support us too. We leave in a little less that 3 weeks and appreciate your support as we begin this journey of faith!

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

We are in Awe, Shocked & truly Humbled!!

At this time, we cannot find the words to express our gratitude to our Haven CRC family, who came/served the Italian dinner. We were also surprised by the LIME group (Haven's middle school group) with the pop can drive. We don't believe that we have seen that many cans in one room ever! (Picture to come later).
THANK
YOU!
THANK
YOU!
THANK
YOU!
(That's as big a font as I can post)

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Great Weekend!

This was a great weekend for Anita and I! It started on Friday, after work, when we visited with friends in Grand Rapids and had a wonderful meal and great conversation. Then early Saturday morning, I was able to get to church and play board games from 8AM-Midnight. (Since I love to play board games, this was a lot of fun!) Plus, we were able to see soooo many friends and family that are near and dear to us. God has really supplied us with so many perfect people in our lives. Then, Anita and I were able to talk at Gibson CRC (the church I grew up in). What a blessing to go back to where you grew up and still feel loved like you had never left! It was also great to worship our Lord with them and really seeing God show up at the service. I almost began to cry about 4 times during our presentation, but God was able to help me pull it together and show them about Beautiful Gate and the Lord's plans for our lives. It is always exciting to partner with a church. Then, after a few hours of rest, we went back to Grand Rapids and presented our testimony to our friend's Bible study group. What a great bunch of people and fun to see how God works in different people's lives! I can definitely say that there will be a large contingent of saints that will be praying for our mission and Beautiful Gate. We will need that. Lord, continue to bless us in the next 4 weeks!

Thursday, November 4, 2010

1 MONTH!!!!!!!

We leave in exactly one month from today! I'd not be truthful if I didn't admit that Bryan and I are a little freaked out right now! The magnitude of this decision has begun to settle on us and we are a bit overwhelmed. Prayer would be GREAT. We are trusting in God and still know that this is right and in His will, but we are human :)

Monday, November 1, 2010

71% or 57%

While we are still waffling between what our budget should be, we decided to give everyone a little update on how our fundraising is going. If we live on a very tight budget with very little wiggle room (but a lot of trust that God will provide for our needs) we are at 71% with monthly commitments and one time gifts. If we still to our original goal of $250,000 we are at 57%.

We have already purchased our plane tickets and are leaving on December 4th regardless of where we are at in our fundraising because we felt very strongly that God was leading us to just trust Him. He tells us in Matthew not to worry because He provides food for the sparrows and clothes for the lilies and how much more will He provide for His dear children. We feel an amazing amount of peace right now about God's timing. We are also in the process of sending out prayer cards for those of you who are supporting us so you can hang them on your fridge and remember to say a little (or big) prayer for us when you walk by :) If you did not receive a letter from us before but are following our blog please feel free to email us and we can send you a card. So many of you have given so generously to help us with our mission and we are so humbled and grateful for your support. You are being Jesus to the orphans in Lesotho by allowing us to fulfill God's purpose for our family and we are so blessed by your friendship and love.
Anita

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Photo Fundraiser

My mom and brothers, Dan and Bob



Our family friend, Miss Terp (Christina Terpstra), helped support us by having some mini family photo sessions as a fundraiser. She had 30 families sign up for 15 minute sessions and we made just over $1000.00 to help support us for our mission to Beautiful Gate. Last Sunday there was an 80% chance of rain and it rained for about 2 minutes during the first photo session and then a couple drops on the last photo session. We were so thankful that God brought out the sun and provided a gorgeous day for the fundraiser.
I just picked a couple of pictures to post on our blog so I could show off Terp's photo skills and my cute kids :) Plus, I figure that I better learn to upload some pictures on our blog because we will need to add more pictures once we get to Lesotho so you all can keep up with us by reading our blog, but also by seeing some of the things that we will be seeing.
Anita



Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Suitcases!?

Hello Everyone! We have begun the process of putting piles together to decide what we will take with us on the airplane. As I looked in the closet at all the things I had in the airplane pile, it suddenly dawned on me.... I don't have 10 big suitcases! I only have 4! So we are in need of some old suitcases that still zip if anyone who lives close enough to us has any available and don't mind us using them for say....5 years :) I figure I'll ask all of you first and then start looking around at second hand stores if necessary. Please leave a comment or email us at bageurink@hotmail.com and let us know (or you can aways call if you have our phone #). Thanks everyone!
Anita

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Elijah's Thoughts

Elijah is going to share what is on his mind abut moving to Lesotho, Africa on Dec. 4th.
"I'll miss my friends and I'll miss my stuffed animals that are with my friends (all 3 kids are leaving some animals for their special friends so they can remember them). I am excited to know Mr. Ray (current director of Beautiful Gate) more. I am excited about meeting all the kids in Beautiful Gate. The airplane ride will hopefully be fun. I hope Dad's job will be fun and I hope we will spend more time with Dad because Dad is awesome! I am looking forward to reading to the orphans. I'm glad Mom is going to be homeschooling me because I have been waiting for that my whole life! I love Mom and Dad (apparently he is trying to earn brownie points right now hahaha). I will miss Halloween and Valentine's Day and 4th of July. I am happy that they still celebrate Christmas. I am excited to go whale watching (I didn't know we were going to be doing that). Thanks for reading!"
Dictated by Elijah with a few comments by Anita.. the typist

Sunday, October 10, 2010

A truly blessed weekend

After many busy weekends of replacing flooring, cleaning the house, and preparing for garage sales, we took this weekend off. Bryan went fishing with my brother all day on Saturday and had a fantastic time. I stayed home with Elijah, Faith, and Mercy and we went hiking with our neighbors Saturday morning, played at two parks, and met some old neighbors for dinner. Today we went to the late service at church and were the last ones to leave church. Bryan washed the van and car with the kids. Can you believe that my kids were outside in bathing suits on October 10th...in Michigan!!!! It was awesome. We then enjoyed a picnic lunch outside and then had some friends over for dinner. I think there were 10 kids playing in my yard at one time today and it was wonderful. Our house was a mess with toys everywhere and lots of dishes to do, but we didn't care. It was just fantastic to have a weekend of relaxation (oddly enough it was relaxing despite sounding busy) and beautiful weather. I am feeling so blessed!
Anita

Monday, October 4, 2010

It's Official...Dec 4, 2010 we leave!!!!!!

It's official!!! We have purchased the plane tickets to go to Lesotho! We will be leaving from Grand Rapids Airport on December 4 and arriving in Maseru on Dec 6. That is less than 9 weeks away! Shortly after we bought the plane tickets today, the total reality of this calling started to set in again.....we will be living in Lesotho before Christmas!! How exciting and how scary!! I can't wait to see the kids at Beautiful Gate again and begin to impact their lives for God! And yet, at the same time, we are leaving behind a lot of loving friends and family.

We made the decision about a week ago to start looking for the plane tickets, and the Lord provided a good rate for our family. We are truly taking a "step off a cliff" and trusting that the Lord will be there for us. We are still not fully funded for the 5 years yet. After talking with Ray and Sue last week, we were able to adjust our budget down from prior estimates, but we still have a lot of fundraising to do before we leave. But, we feel that God has called us to this mission and that He will take care of us and provide for our family while we are there.

There is so much to do before then. Sometimes I can't even begin to think about how all that will happen before we need to leave. Plus, we are still looking for renters for our house, but, for some strange reason, I am completely at peace with that as I know that God will take care of the housing situation in His timing.

Please pray for our final preparations in the next 9 weeks!

Stepping out in faith.... Bryan

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

God's promise

Bryan and I have had a lot on our minds, especially having had Ray and Sue from Beautiful Gate visiting this past weekend. It was a time to be challenged, encouraged, warned, prepared, and many more things when they were speaking with us. Ray does not sugar coat anything and expressed that this journey will be life changing, but it won't be easy. We will have high points when we will see God moving and feel His presence like we have NEVER experienced before, but we will also have valleys that will be dark and it will be easy to begin questioning whether we really heard from God and are still following in His will. He told us to keep a journal because it will be our reminder that He has called us and He has shown us clearly that He wants our family to go to Beautiful Gate. Satan will try to discourage us, lie to us, and hurt us, but God will never let go of us.

I decided to read Romans 4:13-25 today. This scripture talks about Abraham and the promise that was granted to him because of his faith. He could have easily given up on God when he was 100 years old (I always smile when it says he was as good as dead, what a description)and his wife was 99 and well past the time of child bearing, but he believed that God would follow through. Verse 21 says, "and being fully convinced that what He had promised He was also able to perform." Even when experience and common sense told Abraham, there was no way God could come through and give them a child, he had faith like a child that God can and will do everything that He promises to do.

I have not had the luxury of hearing God speak out loud like Abraham did, but God has given us clear signs that He wants us to follow Him. He has used our son, Elijah and He has used a chance encounter on a airplane to tell us to follow Him and trust Him. I know that He would not call us to be missionaries and then leave us hanging. He will come through and He will give us everything we NEED. It won't be an easy road to travel, but we will not travel the road alone.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Let's Go!

Anita and I have decided that we are going to put a lot of trust into God's hands for our future in Lesotho. We have called the travel agency to start looking for airline tickets for the beginning of December. We will post the exact dates when we have the tickets. This is a really big and really scary step for us. We are only have about 60% of our total commitment that is needed for our journey for the 5 years. We are taking a gigantic leap of faith and trusting that God will supply for our needs while we are at Beautiful Gate. He has called us to this, and now we are going to trust that He will bring us through this. We would like to thank all the people that have donated/committed to our mission so far. This has truly been a humbling experience for me. I have always been the type of person that likes to "take care of things myself" and now we are going to let God and family and friends help with the final portion of the fundraising. But, we are also very anxious to get to Beautiful Gate. Buying tickets may not sound like a large step, but it gives us a very real date to be there and will mark a large change in our family's journey. There have been many small signs from God telling us to get the tickets. One of which was reading from the book of Matthew the other day and it was about Jesus calling some of his first disciples. They were simple fishermen, and when Jesus asked them to follow him, they IMMEDIATELY left their fishing job and followed Jesus. Some of them even said good-bye to their father and followed Jesus that day! Sometimes that makes me feel really bad, in that, we had to take so long to follow our calling. But, the Lord's plans will not be deterred! We just need to "Let Go and Let God!"
Bryan

Monday, September 20, 2010

Preparations

We have been extremely busy these past few days installing a new floor in the kitchen and dining room. We are mostly done, but still have to put up the baseboards in the kitchen. Bryan, Randy and his parents did a fantastic job. Now we have to get the house cleaned up and an appraiser will be coming through on Wednesday so we can refinance our house and get it on the market for renters.

Faith has surgery scheduled next Monday to have her adenoids removed and tubes placed in her ears. She has been struggling with her hearing for 2 years off and on, so hopefully this will fix her hearing loss. Please pray that the surgery will go well and that she will have no complications. I am so excited for her to be able to hear well and hope that she will enjoy not having to sit so close to the TV or asking us to repeat ourselves over and over :)

We are still in the process of weeding through our belongings and deciding what to bring and what we should sell or give away. Our garage sale pile in the basement is HUGE and I feel like I still have so much to sort through. It is amazing how many things we accumulate over the years! Some is important and some is just junk. Trying to prioritize the kids "treasures" is interesting. I am amazed by how many toys I thought they would want, but they say give it away, and other toys are super special and I thought we could give them away.

Ray and Sue from Beautiful Gate are coming to Zeeland this weekend. I have a hundred questions and am looking forward to seeing them and talking to them. It will be great to get updated on what is happening there and will help renew our spirits and remind us that all this preparation is for a good goal. I need to end this post and get some work done! :)
Have a Blessed Day,
Anita

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Interview with Mercy

Mercy and I are enjoying a little one on one time while her brother and sister are at school. I thought it would be nice to get a 3 year old's perspective about us moving to Africa. The joys of a 3 year old is that you never know what they might say:)
1. Mercy, do you want to move to Africa? "Yes"
2. Why? "Because I want to pet animals. Are we going to Africa today? I want to pet a giraffe. We don't have an airplane at our house, we need an airplane."
3. Why do we need an airplane? "So we can fly to Africa."
4. Are you excited to meet some new kids? "Yes"
5. Why? "Because I like new kids."

That is as far as we got in our conversation. She was so focused on animals and seeing animals that I lost her attention. With Mercy being 3, I am sure she thinks this is all just a fun vacation that we are planning. She has no idea that by the time we spend 5 years in Lesotho, she will be more African than she is American in her culture and maybe even her language. That it all from Mercy for today!
Anita

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Small miracles are still miracles

Today, Bryan and I were privileged with the opportunity to travel to my old church from my junior high and high school years. We shared our story/ testimony and then were able to show a video our good friend Terp made for us. It was an amazing experience. Any of you who have known me for long, know that public speaking is the last thing I would ever, ever want to do. I HATE it and do not feel that I can do it well. I usually get sick to my stomach hours before hand and shake violently when I am speaking. God did a miracle for me because that did not happen for me at all today. I was only mildly nervous and the nerves were gone as soon as I started to speak. It was amazing. I know I often look for big miracles in life, but to me this was a miracle. God is good!

Being back at Jasper Bible Church was like going home for the holidays and seeing extended family that you have not seen in years (15 years to be exact). I forgot a few names, but not the faces of some great friends. It was wonderful to share our story and hear their excitement for us. I enjoyed sharing how God has worked in our lives for the past 11 years and it was a reminder to me that God is still at work in our lives and will continue working on us until we meet Him in heaven. God has blessed us so much and I am so thankful for all the family, friends, and neighbors He has brought into our lives.
To God be the glory!
Anita

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

To buy, or not to buy. That is the question!

After watching that movie (Faith Like Potatoes, see earlier post) and talking with a friend the other night, I have been debating something very important and very scary for a person who likes to have everything all planned out..... Do we buy our plane tickets for late November/early December now, or do we wait a little longer before purchasing them? This friend challenged me the other night by saying that we need to just "go ahead and buy the tickets. God will supply for your needs. The money will take care of itself." This got me really thinking about my trust in the Lord. While it is easy to say that I trust Him, have I really given Him the COMPLETE control in this situation? Is our self imposed goal of a monetary amount too restrictive? On the other hand, I don't want to get to Lesotho and have to come back early because of lack of funds. (Or is that me not completely trusting that God will take care of us). Or am I just worrying too much. Please pray with us about this decision.

On a lighter note, a close friend just finished a beautiful video for us to use for our presentations to churches and friends about our mission. I will try to post it on our blog at a later time.

Bryan

Monday, September 6, 2010

Faith like Potatoes

We just watched a movie called "Faith like Potatoes." It was a good movie about a farmer in South Africa who becomes a christian and really takes some HUGE leaps of faith. It is based on a true story and I was just amazed by some of his prayers and how quickly they were answered by God. Rain during a drought to put out a fire, life back into a body that had been struck by lightning, and a crop that everyone thought he was foolish to plant. Not all of his prayers were answered the way he hoped, but his trust in God and faith were unbelievable. This man had faith that was compared to a potatoe, but we are told in the bible that we only need faith the size of a mustard seed and we could move mountains. I want that kind of faith for myself and for my family. I want to pray and then expectantly wait for my prayer to be answered. I want to love and trust Him, even when His answer is no or not yet. So, I guess if I have a prayer request right now, it would be that my faith, and that of my family can grow deeper and stronger and we will learn to give complete control to God as we move and get settled at Beautiful Gate.
Anita

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Humbled and Blessed

Today, a friend from church stopped by my house and dropped off a tub of money his son saved for our mission. His son is a college student and over the summer, he saved up his extra money to help us get to Beautiful Gate. As I stood by the door after his father left, I just began to cry. I got the vision of the widow walking up to the offering plate and putting in all she had. College students do not have much. What a beautiful offering from a young man. He could have used his money for so many other things like eating out, entertainment, or college books, but he choose to give it to our family. I am humbled by his generous heart and proud of his parents for raising him to be a young man who cares so much for others and for God's kingdom.

This week's report from AFBGI was a very good report for us too. Our fundraising support has been very slow in coming in, but this week we have hit the mark of being 35% of the way to buying our plane tickets and 25% of our way to being completely funded. God's faithfullness in this tough economy is blowing us away. Thank you friends and family who have sent in your support! Thank you friends and family who cannot afford to send us financial support but have been praying for us. God is hearing all our prayers.
God Bless all of you!
Anita

Friday, August 27, 2010

Educating my kids

I just got back from our first trip to the Outdoor Discovery Center in Holland, MI. My kids and my nieces had the most wonderful time and did not want to leave. On the ride home, I was telling Mercy that we would have to come back a few times for a little field trip while Elijah and Faith are at school in a couple weeks. That comment sparked a conversation between my kids and my nieces about school and field trips. As they were talking Elijah said he can't wait for me to be his teacher. He said that he is looking forward to doing some worksheets on his own and learning lots of things with me as his teacher and his sisters as his classmates.
It made me really think about God's way of doing things because Elijah has been asking me to homeschool him since he was in preschool. It did not make sense to me because he is an awesome student and is very social at school so he has plenty of friends, yet each summer he begs me to be his teacher. Bryan and I prayed about what school our kids should attend years ago and really felt God leading us to send them to public school so they could be a light to their friends and teachers. It was hard to try to explain that to Eli each year and tell him it was not because I did not want to have him around and to teach him, but I want to let him be a witness for God to all the people he meets.
For those of you who really know Eli, you will know that he has a way of praying and as Bryan describes it "pushing God" a little to get his prayers answered. This year Eli's prayer for his mommy to homeschool him will be answered as well. I hope he has also prayed for patience and grace for his mommy and him as this will be a very new and bumpy road that he, Faith, and Mercy will be traveling on with their mommy. One of many new and different and sometimes challenging things we will all do together. Today, I am excited and ready for that challenge, but other days it will be harder. God is allowing me not only to give my children an education, but also a chance to change their eyes and hearts to the things He has preplanned for us to witness. Much of their learning will have nothing to do with a text book. They will see poverty, brokenness, rejection, disease, death, but also happiness, true wealth, adoption, and love.

Monday, August 23, 2010

My Dream Job

Within the past 2 weeks, I was sharing my testimony with a friend and I came to a new realization about our upcoming mission. Back in 2002 when I was working full time at Wedgwood, I began to look around for a different job. I had been assaulted a couple times and began to wonder if working with abused and neglected teen girls was where I should stay. I started to research different job options, and found the job I considered to be my dream job. Adoption Associated was looking for a person who would do home studies and help place children with their adoptive parents. I applied for the job and was very excited about the possibility of helping connect children with their new moms and dads. I had worked with teenagers who grew up in the foster system and rarely saw them be adopted, and thought that being a part of something so beautiful as bringing families together would be amazing.

I was turned down for the job because my college degree is in criminal justice and not social work. There was nothing I could do to get my dream job because we were thinking of starting our own family and I did not have the time or money to go get my masters in social work. The dream job was put aside and I moved on. I had my 3 kids, worked on-call for Wedgwood and began to watch my nieces.

It did not occur to me right away after Bryan brought up moving to Lesotho and working at Beautiful Gate, that we would be doing exactly what I wanted to do here. We may not be the front runner who finds the families and goes to court to advocate for the children, but we will help keep Beautiful Gate running smoothly while the director is gone. We will be involved in the kid's lives and witness God's amazing hand at work as each child finds a new home. We will rejoice when we see each kid and their new parents meet and leave Beautiful Gate together. I know that a few will never get the chance to find an earthly home as some will pass on to their heavenly home due to HIV/AIDS, but we will be blessed to have been a part of their family.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

We are 10% closer to our plane tickets

We got an update from Danell last week so she could update us on our fundraising. We have 10% of the funds we need committed in order to buy our plane tickets. I am so humbled and feel so blessed by the love and generosity of our family, friends, and church family. The reality of us moving to Africa is beginning to take hold in many different ways for our family. I spent most of Thursday, Friday, and Saturday selling many of our non essential clothes, toys, books, movies, etc at our second garage sale. Bryan has begun to feel the reality of this move when a neighbor asked to go through our house (not sure how serious she is about buying) and another person showed interest in buying our couches. But saying goodbye to our house and our belongings is not a very hard part for either of us. We know it is only material possessions which can be here today and gone tomorrow. The hardest part is starting to realize how much we will miss our family and friends.

This was evident today when I was having a conversation with my son Elijah. He had a few problems while staying with his grandparents this past weekend and I wanted to talk to him about his lack of patience when he wants to do something. During our talk, I mentioned that this was probably the last weekend that he will have stayed with them before we leave for Africa because he will be in school soon. I meant that they will not have the kids alone again (they will be stuck with Bryan and I visiting too), but Eli misunderstood my meaning. I later found him on the couch with his head buried in his lap trying his best not to cry. I came over to him and asked what was wrong and he just started to sob uncontrollably. He told me he would not get to see Oma or Papa for 5 years and he felt bad that he had not been good on their last visit. It took me awhile to explain that we will see them again before we leave, but that was the last time he would go without mom and dad coming with him.

That is the hardest part of following this call to move to Africa. We have such a great family who all love us and are wonderful to be around. We have fantastic neighbors and friends whom we have known for years and our church family is amazing and welcoming. I have a greater respect for Abraham in the bible now because he did not have the convenience of modern technology. When God said go, he went knowing that was the last time he would see some of his family and friends. We have the privilege of having email, skype, letters, facebook, mission trips, and other ways to keep touch. So, after all that rambling, please know that we do not take any of your friendships for granted and appreciate all you have done and will continue to do for us. With all our love......the Geurinks

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Mustard

I had about 8 friends coming over to my house this past weekend for one of our last board game nights. Bryan and I have been hosting these game nights for about 8 years with neighbors, family, college friends, and of course Mel :) We like to have lots of snacks, pop, dinner, and desserts to offer our friends, so I headed off to Meijer to buy groceries.
There was nothing really going through my mind except crossing items off my list, and then I headed down the aisle to pick up some mustard. I grabbed the mustard and then (I have no idea where the thought came from) I thought to myself, "This is probably the last bottle of mustard I am going to buy in the US for the next 5 years." My heart started racing as that thought ran through my head. Sometimes I feel like this is going to all happen sometime way out into the future and the reality of November being only a few months away gets me all nervous because I feel like that is tomorrow when I look at all that needs to be accomplished.
It may be my last bottle of mustard but soon we will be learning to buy a lot of new and different things in a new country. Will they even have mustard? Will it taste the same if they do? I don't know. I'll be sure to let you all know when we get there!
Anita

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Nervous Excitement

This week has been a nerve racking and exciting week for me (Bryan). A lot of support letters went in the mail last week and many more went into the Haven Church mailboxes last Sunday. We are eagerly awaiting to watch God and His provision for us as we step out and take on this journey. We are very anxious for the day that we reach our first goal and can actually book our plane tickets. It is very hard for me to just "let God do the work" and trust Him with every aspect of this process. Currently, He is teaching me patience, which will come in handy in Africa from what I hear. But, I am confident that He will supply our every need and hopefully overflow our funding, so that we can help others to come and be missionaries to Beautiful Gate with us!
Please pray for our funding and for our family to once again "gear up" for any battles that may come our way with the sword of scripture, the belt of truth and the breastplate of righteousness. Our "feet are already fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace." See Ephesians 6:10-18.
Thanks again for your support and love!
Bryan

Thursday, July 22, 2010

God always answers our prayers!

I(Anita) was reading back through the journal I kept, while on my trip to Beautiful Gate, this past October. It made me smile to read my journal entry because when I wrote all my thoughts, it never once occurred to me that I would be returning to Beautiful Gate.

October 11, 2009
"After church, we spent lots of time in the baby houses holding the littlest orphans here at Beautiful Gate. I love holding them and praying that they will have families soon. It has been the saddest, happiest, most beautiful, and most heart breaking week of my life. I don't even know how to journal my thoughts and feelings. I love it here. I don't want to leave the orphans, the people, the singing, the mountains, and the closeness I feel to God. I hope I am changed for my whole life and my heart will break for all the things that break God's heart. I never want to forget the hopelessness and tears that I felt and shed on Tuesday when we visited a different orphanage (no where near as bright, beautiful, or caring as Beautiful Gate) or when we drove past the little girl who was sitting all alone in her tin structure that was her home. God please burn them in my mind so I can be a better person, mom, wife, friend, and neighbor."

God will not let me forget, so He is sending my whole family to Beautiful Gate so we can all grow, learn, experience Him, bless others, and be blessed. I am still amazed at the way God chose to answer my prayer because I never would have guessed His plan for us. It is with excitement that I look forward to His calling on our lives and above all else, I am learning that God always answers our prayers, just be prepared to be shocked and amazed at times by His answer. I know that this journey will be very hard too as I am already struggling a lot with the idea of leaving my family and friends for 5 years, but God has made His will clear and I know He will comfort me and my loved ones while we are apart

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

A brief history of our family and our decision

Shortly after Anita & I married, I was happy helping clients complete tax returns and helping businesses, but still had a feeling that I needed to do something more to further God’s Kingdom here on earth. Anita was already helping troubled teens at a residential treatment facility in Grand Rapids. But, we felt something “tugging” at us to do something to help in the lives of other less fortunate people. Some of those ideas were, infant foster care, living at a troubled teens home as mentors, or even helping pregnant teen mothers that did not receive support from their family. But, in no way did we see ourselves leaving West Michigan.

We were living in Hudsonville at this time, but we wanted to move closer to our church home of Madison Square CRC to be a “light into the inner city”. So, we packed up and moved to the inner city of Grand Rapids. This presented us with many challenges, as we lived as the “minority” in our neighborhood. But, little did we know, that God was already starting to prepare our lives for living in Lesotho. Anita and I were happy there, but after a couple years, God had other plans for our lives. During that time, we were robbed three times. After a “three strikes and we are out policy”, I made the decision that we needed to get out of Grand Rapids. But, I can remember looking Anita in the eyes one night and feeling helpless as to how to get out. We could not afford two mortgages, or rent while we tried to sell. Also, at this time, our small group was having some conflict with our church. I felt “at the end of my rope”. And as we all know, that is when God can step in and do His best work. Just when I felt trapped in Grand Rapids and our church life was having difficulties, I could ACTUALLY feel that God was moving in my life. He was telling me to “Trust Him”. So I did! And, God provided a miraculous way for my family to move to Zeeland. While leaving our “home church” of about 8 years hurt us emotionally, I knew that God was “closing this door” and opening a new opportunity for us.

That is what led us to looking for a church home in Zeeland, and we found Haven CRC. We actually visited once and decided it wasn’t for us, but God led me back there for one more try on a Good Friday service. Anita and I fell in love with Haven and have been here ever since. Little did we know that God was already setting us up to know Beautiful Gate through Haven. Shortly after that time, Ray Haakonsen came and talked to Haven about some of the kid’s stories at Beautiful Gate. During that service, Anita leaned over to me and said, “I am going there someday!” Then came the announcement in the News and Notes 1 year later, that Haven was organizing a mission trip to Beautiful Gate. Immediately after reading the announcement, I leaned over to Anita and said, “I guess you are going, huh?” She just looked at me with that sparkle in her eye and said “Yup!”

So, Anita prepared for the next year to go to Beautiful Gate on the mission trip. Little did we know that God had started the process of changing our hearts. During that year, Anita and I had become disgusted with all our materialism and pride. We had even made a family motto of “More family, less stuff!” But, it did not seem to stop us enough, or even change us enough, for more than one or two days.

Then Anita left on her journey to Beautiful Gate in October 2009. It was then that the passage of James 1:27 became more real to us. It says, “Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.” It is very easy to understand the first part of that verse, but many people stop reading the second part. That part also “touched” Anita and myself about “not being polluted by the world”. After many time of trying to change our lives, we kept feeling that we were pulled back “into the world.” Our small group was also studying the book “Crazy Love” by Francis Chan at the time. That book was very challenging to us, as he talked about the “Radical Christians”, but that we should not call them radical, but “on fire.” (Note: this book is not for the faint of heart, but can be life changing). It was for me!

Anita returned from Beautiful Gate as a changed person. I had the pleasure of reading her journal and was also moved by God. We both felt that we needed to do “something more,” but still did not know how God wanted to use us.
Then, in late October, came the e-mail that sent our lives into a “spin”. We became aware of a position that Ray was looking to fill with the right person to become the operations manager at Beautiful Gate. Lori’s e-mail had said, “I think that you would be great for this position!” Wow!!! That was not something we saw coming!! But, we did not rule it out. We decided to pray about it and ask for more information from Keith and Lori about it. Then after some serious praying, Anita and I had decided that we were not ready for this in our lives. But, God was not to be deterred in His plans for us. So, on November 12, 2009, Lori once again e-mailed us asking to reconsider our decision. So, Anita and I decided once again to go to God in prayer about this more, and to ask other close friends and family for their input on this option. We decided to take more time in making this decision. In January, we decided that we were open to taking this position, but we asked God for a sign to confirm His will for us.

Then came the sign! On the first Monday in February, I woke up discouraged about not hearing from God yet, so I told Anita to “Just pray for our decision”. I went on to work and Anita continued her normal day’s activities, with prayer of course. Then I returned home for dinner. As our family was eating around the dinner table, talking about daily stuff, Elijah, out of the blue, said “Mom and Dad, God is telling me in my heart that we need to go to Africa, and take care of the orphans, because they don’t have a mom and dad.” Anita was just about in tears, and I just about fell out of my chair. After recovering from our shock, he also said, “I am serious, God is telling me right here (pointing at his chest).” At that moment, Anita and I knew that God had just spoken directly to us through Elijah! Wow!! So, that evening we decided to start to filling out the application for the position. On the following Monday, we also told our small group to pray for this. I think they were shocked as well! I can remember thinking, “God, I am an accountant, I don’t know how to run an orphanage. Are you sure this is what you want me to do?” But, I figured that God could still stop this process at any time by having Ray deny our application. So we applied!

It didn’t take long before Beautiful Gate accepted our application and was excited for us to get there! Again, wow! But, I still had one more reservation. I needed to see Beautiful Gate and Lesotho for myself before making a final commitment for 5 years. So, I applied for my passport and booked my flights for after tax season. In the meantime, Anita and I had many e-mail questions for Ray. The waiting for my trip felt like an eternity.

Then came the time for my trip to Beautiful Gate. I had long layovers at the airports. During the 7 hour layover in London, I decided to continue my reading of the book of Mark. And sitting in the terminal I read Mark 11:24, which says, “Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask for in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours.” After reading that, I put my Bible in my lap and prayed to God . I said, “God, Anita and I are willing to be your servants in Lesotho, but please give me one more sign during my trip to confirm your will.” (Romans 12:1-4) And I prayed believing that I would receive the answer. What I did not foresee was how quickly God answered that prayer. While I was boarding the 747 plane in London to go to Johannesburg, I sat down in my seat and another man came to sit in the seat right next to me. I asked, “Where are you going?” He said, “To a little country inside South Africa.” I said, “Lesotho?” He said, “yup!” I asked, “Why are you going there?” He said, “To adopt a child.” Now I knew that there were going to be a couple of kids adopted out while I was at Beautiful Gate, so I asked, “You are not, by chance, going to Beautiful Gate?” He looked at me incredulously and said, “How did you know?!” At that moment, my heart leaped with joy as I knew that God had just given me the sign!!! What were the odds that the two of us would even be on the same plane and even more staggering to think about was that we were sitting right next to each other on that huge plane!! We spent the next couple hours getting to know each other and telling our stories. I had a hard time trying to fall asleep that night on the plane, as I could not stop smiling from ear to ear at having heard from God!! Now I knew that I could spend the rest of my time at Beautiful Gate without the worry of looking for the sign. And I had a wonderful time! I was also able to meet Brent again on Friday, as he and his wife finalized their adoption that day at Beautiful Gate. It was amazing to see the “sheer joy” that each parent had with their child that morning! I could see how God smiles when one of his “lost sheep” finds their way “home”.

So, here we are, becoming missionaries to do God’s will! If you had asked us in September, we would have told you, “We are not missionaries! We are not ready for that!” But, God works in amazing ways. And we would be proud to have you partner with us in this endeavor with prayers, mission trips and financial support!

Bryan