Thursday, December 30, 2010

End of the Year

Rest and exercise has been my motto this week. Yesterday, I went to the swimming pool and sauna, which of course felt very good with these cold temperatures. This morning, I walked with a friend for two hours and a half through the snowy woods. It was a great walk, even though the sun is still reluctant to show its face.

The year 2010 is coming to an end, and only the Lord knows what 2011 has in store for us. I'm thankful that we don't need to worry about the future, as long as we hang on to our Father's hands. I found this devotional below in "Our High Calling". I like the implication that we are channels of God's love. We can definitely make a difference in this world if people can see Jesus in us. I pray that He may teach me more how to live for Him and bless others. And this is my wish for you as well!

Another year of life is now in the past. A new year is opening before us. What will be its record? What will we each inscribe upon its spotless pages? The manner in which we spend each passing day will decide this question....
Let us enter upon the new year with our hearts cleansed from the defilement of selfishness and pride. Let us put away every sinful indulgence, and seek to become faithful, diligent learners in the school of Christ. A new year opens its unsullied pages before us. What shall we write upon them? ...
Seek to begin this year with right purposes and pure motives, as beings who are accountable to God. Ever bear in mind that your acts are daily passing into history by the pen of the recording angel. You must meet them again when the Judgment shall sit and the books shall be opened.
If we connect with God, the source of peace, and light, and truth, His Spirit will flow through us as a channel, to refresh and bless all around us. This may be the last year of life to us. Shall we not enter upon it with thoughtful consideration? Shall not sincerity, respect, benevolence, mark our deportment toward all?
Let us withhold nothing from Him who gave His precious life for us.... Let us all consecrate to God the property He has entrusted to us. Above all, let us give Him ourselves, a freewill offering.
May the beginning of this year be a time that shall never be forgotten—a time when Christ shall come in among us, and say, “Peace be unto you.” John 20:19. Brethren and sisters, I wish you, one and all, a happy new year. (OHC, p. 7)

Saturday, December 25, 2010

What a Winter!

I safely made it to southwestern Germany this past Thursday. It was snowing in Brussels when I left there, but passing the Rhine River at about half of the trip, the snow turned into rain. However, it started snowing again here - very heavily. What a picture!

It's always with mixed feelings when I spend this time of the year with my family, given the fact that I'm the only Adventist. But I just have to accept that there there are certain traditions in my family. I haven't been home for Christmas since 2006. In the past three years, I've always been somewhere in the US. The fact that it was on Sabbath didn't make it easier, but it was ok. We spent Friday evening at my aunt's house with all the Christmas songs and exchange of presents. Below are some pictured impressions of this celebration as well as of the winter scenery here. I'll write more later.

My younger brother Florian playing music with my cousin Antje

Antje and I
Backyard at my parent's house
We are overwhelmed with so much snow...
...but indeed it's a beautiful scenery!

Sunday, December 19, 2010

I Will Strengthen Thee

This is how my backyard is looking this morning. We are having more snow than ever this season, and there is more to come today.


I can't help feeling a bit overwhelmed these days. One of the reasons is our upcoming seminar with Amazing Facts. There are only 3 1/2 months left and still so many open questions. I had thought it would run smoothly now, but after our yesterday's meeting, I realized that it won't be that easy. What upholds me is the fact that there is still motivation and willingness in the team. The thing is that this event is being organized because I made the contact with the Hargreaves' family, so there is a lot of pressure on me now. But with God's help we can all work it out for sure.

At work it has been rather strenuous lately, especially the last week. Most of my colleagues took vacation as of tomorrow, since there are only 3 working days left until Christmas break. My head of unit will still be there until Wednesday, and we will have to help him a lot to get his boxes packed for the move.

I just hope everything will be fine with my trip to Germany this coming Thursday. I will be with my family for 10 days. I look forward to this change of scenery and to see my loved ones and church family.

Indeed, there are many unanswered questions, and I don't know yet how to handle everything (suffice to say that I could use your prayers). But the God who led the people of Israel through the wilderness is also the God who leads His people today. I really like His promise in Isaiah 41:10:
"Fear thou not; for I am with thee: be not dismayed; for I am thy God: I will strengthen thee; yea, I will help thee; yea I will uphold thee with the right hand of my righteousness."
He has everything under control indeed, and He cares for each one of us individually!

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Eventful Trip

Last weekend in the Black Forest was very blessed. It was good to be with the board members of the German ministry again (even though only for a few short days) and it was also nice to see some of their homes. The meeting was very fruitful. Amongst other topics, we talked about the organization of our camp meeting next August and also about a new name for our magazine. Not all questions have been resolved yet, but with a lot of faith and prayer, everything will work out. What I find remarkable about our team is the fact that we are all very different, yet we harmonize so well as a group. Only the Lord can do this, no doubt.

I was kind of apprehensive about my journey, as you always have to expect delays when travelling by train. The era of high speed trains has added to the problem. Yes, they are supposed to take you somewhere very fast - I think the highest speed is about 280 km/hour (about 175 miles), but especially when it's very cold (or very hot), they can't run up to their peak performance. Thus, I was having delays already on Friday, but finally I arrived only 1/2 hour later at my destination. On Monday morning, everything went pretty well until I arrived in Cologne. From there, I was supposed to transfer to the Thalys (the high-speed train to Brussels and Paris), but to my consternation, this train had been completely cancelled! I had a similar experience last year, when I had to sit for hours at the station in Cologne to wait for the next Thalys. However, this time they ushered us straight to a regional train which was going to Aachen, and for the last 150 km (90 miles), an ad-hoc bus service to Brussels was provided.

On that bus, I happened to sit next to an MEP (member of the European Parliament), a German lady representing the Green Party. I got into a very interesting conversation with her, mainly about EU politics. Being an MEP for already 11 years, she had a lot of insights. She was also aware about the new "Working Time Directive", which will soon be voted on in the Parliament. I had shared on this blog about the conference on the work-free Sunday which was held in March (the issue about working on Sunday is also part of this proposed Directive). I told her that I had seen it just went into consultation within the Commission (from there it will go to the Parliament and finally the Council to decide). This lady had some interesting background knowledge about the topic, and she also gave me her assessment concerning the work-free Sunday, saying that she didn't think that it would be enforceable on EU-level. I can't share anymore about it at this point though, as it hasn't been decided yet.

Anyway, I also got to talk to her about health a little bit, and I finally gave her a tract about the 8 laws of health. I also asked her for her card and she said I could contact her if I had any questions. In fact, I may do this at some point! I was very thankful about this encounter, and you may imagine that I gladly accepted my delayed arrival in Brussels!

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Have You Checked Your Oil Lately?

Brussels has been snowed in these days. It's not so common in Belgium to get snow, and maybe that's why most people never clear the walkways in front of their houses. This has made it rather dangerous to get from my place to the metro station, but so far I have only almost slipped!

This coming weekend, I will be in the Black Forest to attend a board meeting of this German ministry I've been working with. I'll be taking the train tomorrow early in the morning and arrive there by 3 in the afternoon. We will be spending the Sabbath together, have our meeting on Sunday, and Monday morning I'll be traveling back. I look forward to this special weekend, I just hope everything is going to work out with the journey.

Below is a little article about an experience that I wanted to share with you. It's almost three years ago that I had to go through a rather precarious situation. I had just finished my Lifestyle Counselor course at Uchee Pines and was going to stay there as volunteer for a few more months. During the Christmas break, I decided to attend the GYC conference in Minneapolis and make some visits. I flew there from Atlanta, leaving my car at the airport. After the conference and a short visit with friends in Pennsylvania, I arrived back in Atlanta to drive up north. My plan was to stop at Wildwood for a couple of days and then finally visit friends in Tennessee before returning to Uchee. Well, what happened on this trip is related in this article. It has been published in a women's devotional, which is an initiative of the Women's Ministries department of the General Conference. They published my first devotional in 2006. After this, I thought this was the end of my inspiration, but there was still more to come. For this one, I have to give credit to my friend Mark Ehrlich from Virginia, as he really did a great job editing it. It still gives me cold chills when I recall this experience...

"It was on a cold December evening that I drove from Atlanta Airport north on Interstate 75. It had just turned dark when I realized that there was something wrong with the car. It made a rattling noise whenever I pushed the accelerator. Then I saw the "Check Gauge" warning appear on the panel. Since I was already late for my appointment, I chose to ignore the warning, not wanting to admit that I might have bigger problems ahead. Sure enough, as I drove on the noise became louder and louder. All of a sudden, the oil gauge plummeted to zero and my engine broke down.
     Now I had no choice other than to park on the shoulder. It didn't take me too long to realize that I could be in serious trouble, and immediately some disconcerting thoughts flooded my mind. Here I was, a woman, all by myself on this freeway in a foreign country. It was dark and I didn't even have a cell phone on me. I knew I had to do something so I started waving to the cars flying by at 70-plus miles (113 kilometers) per hour. Not too long after, a friendly couple, followed by a truck driver, stopped in response to my frantic gestures to check if I was OK and to inspect my car. It was determined that my car would have to stay, but by God's providence the truck driver was heading to Nashville, Tennessee, and my destination was on his way! So he gave me a ride and dropped me off exactly where I needed to go.
     I later found out that I had been driving a car that had not had any oil, thus ruining the engine. The oil gauge was broken and erroneously indicated that there was plenty of oil!
     This incident reminded me of the parable of the 10 virgins told by Jesus. Like the five foolish virgins, I failed to ensure I had enough oil; I believed I had enough. In the same way, Satan likes to deceive us into thinking that we are doing just fine and don't need to grow in our daily walk with Jesus. The five wise virgins knew the source of their supply and ensured they had enough oil. Through daily prayer and Bible study we also can be filled with the oil of the Holy Spirit. Praise the Lord - through Him we can overcome sin. I don't want to play the foolish virgin again. What about you?"

("Love Out Loud", Review and Herald 2010)

Friday, November 26, 2010

Thanksgiving

This is already the second year after my return from the United States and it's always at this time that I long so much to be back there. With each year I was living in this country I became more fond of Thanksgiving, since there is nothing really comparable over here in Europe. In Germany we only have "Erntedank", which basically means giving thanks for the harvest, and it's being held in the churches the first weekend of October. However, it's not a special occasion to celebrate with family and friends.

In order not to let it pass by unnoticed, I decided to make some sweet rolls and cookies to share with my colleagues at work. I got some positive feedback, but the thing is that this day was business as usual and nothing special happened. Indeed, it was quite a busy day, and in the evening I was even too tired to call anybody in the US. When I woke up this morning, I was still feeling sad. After spending an hour in prayer and devotion and working out at the gym, I felt better though. Today, it was rather quiet in the office and now I'm relieved the Sabbath is here.

In fact, it's only now that I'm finally able to pause and contemplate about the things in my life I can thank the Lord for. I'm sure we can all come up with a long list here. But tonight, I'm especially thankful that Christ has paid for my sins and that He is interceding for me in the Most Holy place in Heaven. Indeed, He is blotting out my sin in the Sanctuary. I love this song!

Saturday, November 20, 2010

What a Week

Another Sabbath day has passed and I feel extraordinarily blessed this evening.

This past week, we had kind of an exceptional situation at work. We are normally four assistants who give secretarial/administrative support in our unit, but both of my colleagues who normally assist the head of unit were out of office for most of the week. So I had to share this task with my other co-worker (each of us are usually assigned to one of the two deputies). 

The most challenging day was Wednesday. It was just a simple rejection of a complaint that had to be prepared, but it was accompanied by an elaborate administrative procedure, involving a not so user friendly computer application of our Secretariat-General. The thing is that I had done this procedure only once before, but this was over a year ago. In fact, we are dealing with a lot of complaints in our unit, and we reject a majority of them for various reasons. However, such files tend to stay open for quite some time, since the case handlers have more important things to do (i. e. the complaints and cases that we follow up on) and thus they tend to procrastinate with these "little fish". Anyway, it took me the whole morning to launch the procedure, and I got desperate again and again. However by lunchtime, all the problems were solved and the complainant was still notified by Sec-Gen on Friday. I was really thankful for having accomplished this task, and I now even look forward to the next procedure of this kind.

Today at church, we had another meeting for our Amazing Facts seminar, and I thank the Lord that it went really well. The church leaders are still very cooperative and there seems to be no problem with the finances. In fact, I'm getting really excited about this endeavor. There may still come obstacles and difficulties our way, but I have no doubt that the Lord is in it and that He will bless our efforts abundantly.

In summary, I would say this past week was a roller coaster emotionally for me. However, fear and worry does not come from the Lord, because He "hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind" (2 Timothy 1:7).

So I'm ready for another week now. I don't know yet what kind of challenges I will be facing, but I know the Lord is still at my side to cheer, strengthen, guide and uphold me. I cannot thank Him enough for His presence and His transforming power in the lives of His children. Yes, He is able!

  1. ’Tis so sweet to trust in Jesus,
    Just to take Him at His Word;
    Just to rest upon His promise,
    And to know, “Thus saith the Lord!”
    • Jesus, Jesus, how I trust Him!
      How I’ve proved Him o’er and o’er;
      Jesus, Jesus, precious Jesus!
      Oh, for grace to trust Him more!
  2. Oh, how sweet to trust in Jesus,
    Just to trust His cleansing blood;
    And in simple faith to plunge me
    ’Neath the healing, cleansing flood!
  3. Yes, ’tis sweet to trust in Jesus,
    Just from sin and self to cease;
    Just from Jesus simply taking
    Life and rest, and joy and peace.
  4. I’m so glad I learned to trust Thee,
    Precious Jesus, Savior, Friend;
    And I know that Thou art with me,
    Wilt be with me to the end.

Friday, November 12, 2010

His Perfect Example

The week is over and I'm so glad it's time to rest again.

The training course I attended on Tuesday and Wednesday was very fruitful. It was on public speaking and given by a British lady who had a theater background. My primary motivation to follow this course was to improve my skills in this area, mainly for my medical missionary endeavors (and also for my work whenever necessary). We all had to give a 10 minute presentation in front of the group, and I chose the topic on sugar and its impact on the immune function. I had presented this before at Uchee Pines and even at my last cooking class, but after learning all the theory about public speaking, I was quite apprehensive. The teacher was very encouraging, as I honestly didn't think that my performance was "fantastic", but this is what she said. I also got positive feedback on the topic itself, as they were quite intrigued by it. The improvement suggestions were very useful, and I hope to be able to apply them in the future.

I went through chapter 7 of the Desire of Ages this evening and I'm really touched by it. Jesus gave us such a perfect example of a life fully consecrated to the Lord and to the people around Him - already during His childhood and youth:

As a child, Jesus manifested a peculiar loveliness of disposition. His willing hands were ever ready to serve others. He manifested a patience that nothing could disturb, and a truthfulness that would never sacrifice integrity. In principle firm as a rock, His life revealed the grace of unselfish courtesy.  {DA 68.3}  

Jesus was the fountain of healing mercy for the world; and through all those secluded years at Nazareth, His life flowed out in currents of sympathy and tenderness. The aged, the sorrowing, and the sin-burdened, the children at play in their innocent joy, the little creatures of the groves, the patient beasts of burden,--all were happier for His presence. He whose word of power upheld the worlds would stoop to relieve a wounded bird. There was nothing beneath His notice, nothing to which He disdained to minister.  {DA 74.1} 


Reading these quotes, I wish so much more to be a blessing to the people around me - at church, at work, or wherever else I get in touch with people who are sorrowful and sin-burdened. However, I tend to think that I'm still far away from Jesus' example. I can only pray that He may draw me closer to Him and mold me more into His image. But the key is that we draw closer to Jesus, and this is only possible by studying His Word, His life, and His character.

Every child may gain knowledge as Jesus did. As we try to become acquainted with our heavenly Father through His word, angels will draw near, our minds will be strengthened, our characters will be elevated and refined. We shall become more like our Saviour. And as we behold the beautiful and grand in nature, our affections go out after God. While the spirit is awed, the soul is invigorated by coming in contact with the Infinite through His works. Communion with God through prayer develops the mental and moral faculties, and the spiritual powers strengthen as we cultivate thoughts upon spiritual things.  {DA 70.4}  

May this be all our experience!

Monday, November 8, 2010

Overwhelmed

I'm back to my daily routine for almost a week now. It has been fairly easy for me to readjust to the time zone (since I had never really shifted into Colorado time while I was there), but I would have rather stayed in the sunny mountains for a little while than coming back into the grey city. In fact, November is one of the most ugly months here. Nevertheless, here is my place of duty, and it was definitely time to come back.

Last Sabbath afternoon, we had the first co-ordination meeting for our Amazing Facts seminar, which is going to take place next spring. It was really high time to get together with the responsibles of the three participating churches, since the event is only about five months away. I was encouraged that the leaders of the French speaking church were very cooperative, but this whole thing is still so unstructured. So many things to think about and so little time to accomplish everything.

At work it was still quiet last week, as many colleagues took advantage of the holidays beginning of November to take the whole week off. In fact, my head of unit came in just for Thursday afternoon, but went on a business trip the next day. He certainly has been working on important things in the past few weeks, but he hasn't gotten around to look into his pile of incoming letters, which have been accumulating again. Well, I can't do anything else but reminding him of urgent matters to be allocated. The "big wave" may come anytime. But I will be on a training course for the next two days, so they will have to manage without me.

Bottom line: I feel a bit overwhelmed. I'm just praying for God's strength, wisdom, and guidance. At lunchtime, the sun came out and I decided to go for a walk to the nearby park, which was really invigorating. However, I managed to lose my cellphone. I don't think it was a pick-pocket, I was just being careless. Of course this was the last thing I needed today. But I called the phone company and they are going to send me a new chip. The fact that it was a very inexpensive phone gives me some comfort. Of course I could have avoided this to happen but maybe I needed this lesson. But there are definitely worse things than that.

I've just been thinking about one of my favorite quotes in Christ Object Lessons:

"Press with determination in the right direction, and circumstances will be your helpers, not your hindrances” (COL, 332)

Well, it's time for me to go to my voice lesson!

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Eden Valley part II

The rest of my time at Eden Valley was very enjoyable. Especially the weather on Friday and Saturday turned out exceptional, as it was very sunny and mild. I also got to hike some more and was able to visit with several people.

On Sunday, I got to do something for my health and wellness which I really needed after my long travels and all the packing at Cindy's place. After breakfast at the President's house (it's always good to know that there are people who care for you), I had a massage appointment with a former staff volunteer at EVI who is currently a student nearby in Fort Collins. Joy and I worked together on the farm when I was there in 2008. She gave me an excellent treatment, and I felt so much better. ´

On my flight back from Denver to London, I happened to sit next to a lady from India. I figured that she was a Hindu, since she had a caste mark painted on her forehead. She seemed to be very obese, and from her hands I could tell that she was either affected by rheumatoid arthritis or gout. I felt impressed to reach out to her, and so when they distributed the special meals, I asked her if she knew the difference between her hindu meal and my vegan-vegetarian meal. Then she shared her dessert with me, and she also gave me a sample of an Indian specialty. It was a mixture of seeds that they eat there as and after-meal digestive and breath freshener (roasted anise, fennel and other seeds). I had a flyer with me with an outline of the eight laws of health which I gave to her. She looked it over and seemed to be quite interested. In fact, she asked me about coffee, and I told her about the importance of drinking water. So she got the health message now, and I pray that the Holy Spirit will touch her life. 

I'm very thankful that I could do this trip, and I guess this is part of the answer to the question why I wasn't able to change my job this past summer. If I had started a different post as from September, I would have never asked for a vacation end of October. So the Lord definitely knows what's best! Of course it wasn't easy to come back to dreary Brussels yesterday afternoon. But arriving at my place, I looked out of my living room and saw some beautifully colored trees in the backyard. That made it easier for me to get back to reality!

What follows are a few picture impressions of my stay:


Eden Valley Campus

A deer
Snowy mountains
Valley View


And here the look from my living room - no Colorado mountains in the background, but  beautiful fall colors!

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Eden Valley

safely made it to Eden Valley last Thursday evening, and I'm so grateful to be here. The weather is getting better and better and there is a nice bunch of people here right now. This place has a lot of potential, and lots of dedicated hands to bring into fruition whatever the Lord has planned here. I pray that He will continue to guide and lead.

I'm also thankful that I was able to see Cindy, who was one of my roommates at Uchee Pines when I took the Lifestyle Counselor course in 2007. She is the one who lost her 23-year old daughter in a tragic drowning accident here on campus in June of this year. I met Brittany when I came to visit last winter. She was a nice and lively girl. After her passing, Cindy got a lot of support from Eden Valley family and beyond, however she felt she couldn't stay here, as everything would remind her of Brittany. She and her eldest son Eric finally left campus yesterday evening - after a long process of packing. She likes to keep things, and thus there was indeed a lot to pack. In addition, all of Brittany's belongings needed to be stowed in boxes, since Cindy didn't want to give away anything. However, she felt she couldn't go through these items by herself. So I was glad to help her with this task, which ended up being a little journey through Brittany's life ("this was one of her favorite shirts" - " these are her pictures from high school graduation" - "This she gave me for my last birthday", etc.) I think she has been coping with the loss of her daughter in a healthy way, since it is normal that you want to talk about the person you have lost. We had good conversations and we also cried together. In fact, I was able to relate some happenings pertaining to my grandfather's passing in 2008. At that time, I was volunteering right here at Eden Valley. He had become very ill and I learned that he was dying. When I arrived in Germany couple of days later, he had already passed away. Cindy couldn't see her daughter alive anymore either. But God never makes a mistake, and I'm thankful that He has been helping her through this terrible loss. Indeed, the packing was a tedious task, but finally, also with the help of some ladies from campus, they were ready to go. I pray that Cindy and Eric will make it safely to Tulsa, Oklahoma, were they are going to live now.

So now the relaxing part of my vacation begins. I can’t express how relieved I am to be out of the city for a little while. I think I had almost forgotten how it is to live in the country! The weather has been gorgeous today - warm & sunny, blue sky, and beautiful fall colors on campus. This morning, I decided to go to the graveyard, which is about a 10 minute walk uphill. The gravestone they got for Brittany is beautiful; and she has a marvelous, peaceful place to rest. Besides some other people, there is also a 2-year old child buried there who died back in the 70’s - also through a tragic accident. I was thinking what a happy place this will be on resurrection morning…

Monday, October 18, 2010

Visiting Places

Yesterday, I got back from a quite eventful weekend. I had mentioned about this psychiatrist from the US who was going to speak in Germany. Given the fact that my friend and her husband was supposed to be there to do the recordings, and the city of Aachen is only about an hour away by train, I decided to go there. Well, we had a great time together. I also liked the doctor's presentations, although I don't fully agree with his medical approach. However, I found his insights about brain function and spirituality very valuable. They rented a public place in the middle of downtown Aachen (which is a city of about 250,000 inhabitants) and lots of visitors came. There are some families from former Yougoslavia in the local church, and they seem to be running the outreach activities. They were very hospitable and invited me to come again. On Saturday evening after the event, the organizers still wanted to take out the doctor and his wife to a restaurant. It was 10 o'clock and already past my bedtime, but I didn't want to miss out on the fellowship. So we finally made it to bed around 1:30 AM. Yesterday, my friends and I went to see the city of Maastricht in Holland, which reminded me a lot of Antwerp. We had some junk food there, but I'm not going to share what it was (well, at least it was vegetarian :-).

So the trip was really worthwhile, and I think my body can deal with getting off-schedule every once in a while. After all, the late night on Saturday was also a good training for the change of time zone during my upcoming visit to the US. Indeed, I'm going to fly out there in a few days! I hadn't thought I would make it over again so soon after my last visit, but I had some annual leave left which I was able to combine with the two holidays we are going to have here November 1 and 2. I wasn't quite sure what to do, but finally I decided to visit my friends at Eden Valley again. I just love the mountains, and I haven't been there in the fall yet after all. So far, it looks like it's going to be very sunny there, and I look forward to seeing the people and climbing mountains. I just wish I had more time to visit also other places, but it won't be even two weeks, and the highest "density" of friends is still at the self-supporting places.

I just hope they will be doing fine in the office during my absence. I learned this morning that one of my colleagues will be on sick leave for the next two weeks at least, and so there will be only two colleagues left in the secretariat when I'm gone. Such situations always give me a bad conscience, but what can I do? On the other hand, we got the good news this morning that one of the cases that I've been working on is coming to an abrupt end. It was about two mining giants starting a joint venture which was not compatible with competition rules. We had just told them in a meeting last week that we were going to object to their plans and this was the last nail in the coffin. My deputy head of unit, who was the case manager, is very relieved as he can focus on other things now. So hopefully everything will be fine as for my work as well.


Tanja and I

I love that picture of her

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Cooking Class

Well, it's all over and I feel kind of drained, but I'm satisfied about the turn-out. Actually, this time I only had five ladies attending, which is about half the number of last time. There were a few more who had confirmed, but due to a marathon taking place in Brussels today they had some traffic problems. Given the relatively small attendance, I was contemplating if it was worthwhile at all having done all these preparations and being all tired out afterwards. But I decided it was worth it! All I could do in the afternoon was going outside and soak up some sunshine. Later on, I chilled out some more in the sauna, and so I think I'm ready for another working week now!


Lots of goodies - we would have only needed a few more eaters!

"No-cheese cake" - delicious!

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

I hate mosquitos!

Indeed, I detest these critters, especially if they make my bedroom a place of habitation! The mild temperatures seem to keep them active, and the last two nights in a row I've been really molested by one of them. Both nights I got up and opened my bedroom door, hoping that she would find a more interesting place in my apartment, but to no avail. I don't know yet what to do next, maybe I should switch bedrooms or so!

It's definitely not a slow season at my workplace, but this mainly applies to our case-handlers and not necessarily to me as an assistant. My major cases are somehow hanging in the balance and are not giving me much work, and my horizontal tasks are not filling out my time either. So I have to find other ways to keep myself busy, which has been a blessing lately. I've been able to do some translations, including a few Power Point presentations of an Adventist Psychiatrist from the US. His name is Timothy Jennings, and he will be speaking in Germany this month. A friend of mine whose husband runs a freelance media ministry asked me to help out with this, as they will be in charge of the recording. He is going to talk about addictions, depression, the brain, and spirituality. The studies seemed interesting to me, and I hope to be able to go there next weekend. It will take place in the very West of Germany, only 1 1/2 hours from Brussels.

Other than that, I've been preparing my next cooking school, which is going to take place this coming Sunday again at my home. This time, I'm going to focus on healthy sweets (well, at least a healthier alternative to the stuff they usually bring along for potluck). Since we are going to have lunch together after the demonstrations, I chose to show them also how to make "Chickpea à la King". I tried two different recipes at home, in order to find out which one is better, which has forced me to eat nothing but this for the last several days. I'm kind of fed up now - but on Sunday I will have to eat it again! Anyway, several ladies from my church have already signed up, and they may bring some visitors as well, so I'm quite excited.

As for the evangelistic series with Amazing Facts next year, there have been some developments. Lowell Hargreaves knows a former Pastor and Evangelist from California, who is supposed to be an excellent health educator. He is the interim President at Weimar right now, and him and his wife are willing to come for the health seminar. This would take a burden off my shoulders, since I will be super busy with the preparations of the whole thing anyway. Now we have to see if and what we can pay for their expenses. I haven't managed yet to get a committee of the three participating churches together. This is quite challenging, but I hope all open questions can be answered very soon.

Well, I just received quite a task to accomplish. A colleague of mine is not here this week and I'm replacing her. I was already wondering why they hadn't bombarded me yet. So I'd better roll up my sleeves now!

Friday, October 1, 2010

Quo Vadis?

It's a beautiful sunny day, but it started with a disturbing dream I had this morning. At times (I'm glad it's not very often) I get really upset with my dream world, but I'm thankful it wasn't reality. Well, I prayed about it, and I also prayed about my work day. In principle, all is fine and relaxed today. My deputy head of unit had to go for an inspection to Germany (the follow-up of our recent dawn-raid), so I can do as I please. However, there is this note to our Commissioner that has to go to the cabinet today. Mr. Almunia has to be consulted for every important step to be taken in any of our cases, and these notes are usually finalized last minute. So we started circulating it through the hierarchy yesterday, but it didn't go smoothly. Some changes had to be made, and I already anticipated that this would keep me from getting home early this Friday afternoon. I'm thankful that sunset is still after 7 PM at this time of the year (and my superiors know about my Sabbath issue), but I would like to get home by 5 PM anyway. So I was delighted to see that everything still got solved yesterday evening and the note is now with our Director General (who never tarries to sign them). That saved my day!

Another thing that I find disturbing are the developments in our church in Germany. It's difficult to explain (all the more I haven't lived in my country for nearly 7 years), but there have been divisions on doctrine for a long time, the South of Germany (and especially my home conference) being much more conservative than other areas. I still get some insights through e-mails that I receive, and things started heating up through a very controversial paper issued by the leaders of the North and South German Union called "Quo Vadis Adventist Church?" I don't want to go into details of this paper, fact is that it was severely criticized by our Biblical Research Institute at the GC headquarters. Then it seems that the GC session in Atlanta has brought the dissensions to a boil. It was the Sabbath sermon of Ted Wilson in particular that lead to a lot of controversy, as quite a few people in my home country didn't like what he said. The bottom line is that many Adventists in Germany can't identify themselves with the heritage of our church and they don't want to accept the Spirit of Prophecy. They are striving to have their own German Adventist culture. The leaders now have been bombarded with a lot of letters from individual church members, former Pastors, etc. who are still faithful. Where is this development heading? Well, the Lord still knows His own, and He will bring us through this sifting process.

This morning, I watched a video clip on the internet broadcasted by a radio station in the city of Bremen (Northern Germany). At the beginning of this year, some SDA churches started a big campaign on creation vs. evolution, featuring a beautiful film on creation and a series of talks with Professor Walter Veith (who is not allowed anymore to speak in the Adventist churches in Germany by the way). This has been taking place in public places all over Germany, with lots of success. Anyway, in this broadcast they basically mocked about the concepts presented, pointing out the absurdity of the concept of creation. They even featured interviews with some leaders of the two state churches in Germany, saying that evolution is absolutely compatible with Christian beliefs. “But as the days of Noah were, so also will the coming of the Son of Man be"... (Matth. 24:37). It tends not to shock me anymore to hear such news, but these developments should certainly wake us up! I really don't want to get desensitized to the signs of the times, and I pray that nobody will deceive us into thinking that the Lord's second coming is still far away.

Monday, September 27, 2010

O Lord whose mercies numberless

After I returned from the US last year, I decided to start taking music lessons again. I was blessed to find somebody here in Brussels who can teach both voice and piano. He is a freelance musician and former boy chorister at St. Paul's Cathedral in London. He is a great teacher and likes to pratice sacred songs with me.

Recently, he asked me if I would like to go for Händel's Saul. I think this is the most challenging song I've ever practiced, but it's so beautiful!

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TxQTDfVeuPA

Other than that, he is helping me with our church hymns, i. e. figuring out the chords, as this is the only way I can play them. Thus, I have been able to fill in at church with the accompaniment whenever there is a need. We also do some classical compositions, and scales over and over again (I haven't seen the benefit of these exercises, but maybe one day it will pay!). It's only hard for me to sit down and practice for longer than 10-20 minutes in a row. I think it's in my nature that I quickly hop from one task or activity to the next. This certainly facilitates my daily work, but not really the advancement of my skills. I'm thinking about taking the lessons weekly instead of fortnightly, as this would push me to practice more. Of course it's a question whether I would like to make the investment, but maybe I should take advantage as long as I have the opportunity and time. I just hope my voice will be ready for the drill tonight, as I'm still coughing from time to time. It's almost a month ago that I was sick, but the cough is always the last that leaves my system due to my weak respiratory tract. Oh well, I'd better get over it!
O Lord, whose mercies numberless
O'er all Thy works prevail, o'er all Thy works prevail;
Though daily man Thy laws transgress,
Thy patience cannot fail, no, cannot fail.
If yet his sins be not too great,
The busy fiend control, the busy fiend control.
Yet longer for repentance wait,
And heal his wounded soul, and heal his wounded soul.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Opportunities

We are currently enjoying some mild and sunny days here in Brussels. During late summer/early fall this is quite common here, and of course I like it. Last weekend, there was the annual car-free Sunday taking place again, i. e. no vehicle with an engine was allowed to be driven (except with special permission) in the 19 communes of Brussels. It was nice to see only bikers and roller bladers on the streets, and it was a great feeling to walk along that road near my place which is normally so busy and even breathe kind of fresh air.

I've had some interesting witnessing opportunities lately - well, at least I made some prospective contacts. A couple of weeks ago, there was a gathering of some people residing in my quarter. This was organized by a few dedicated neighbours who invited everyone to come out to get acquainted with the other neighbours. I had never attended such an encounter before, but I realized that this was a great opportunity for me to get in touch with unchurched, common people. At first, I wasn't feeling quite comfortable going there. My French is not too great after all, and I'm a little bit shy when it comes to meeting a whole bunch of people I have never met before. But I overcame my bashfulness, and it actually turned out quite pleasant. There was even a young couple who both work as translators for the European Commission. And there were others that I had greeted before but never talked to. So next time when I see them on the street, I can at least say more than only "Bonjour". And this already worked out! The President of this small neighbours association is a widowed man in his 60's. Last Sabbath, I was on my way for a short walk at the nearby university premises, and there he was walking his dog, so we got to talk for a little while. He shared with me that it wasn't easy for him to live alone. So what do we have to offer to those people who obviously feel some sort of emptiness in their lives? Well, there is a lot we can offer, but how can we make it attractive and interesting for them?

Another encounter also happened on Sabbath. When I was on my way home from church, I walked by one of these sightseeing buses which was stationed near the city center. Suddenly, I heard someone calling me. It was the driver of the bus that I had taken together with the Campos last week. He was very nice letting us on the tour at the student rate. So he asked me if I was taking a walk, and I said I was on my way home from church. He said he liked it if people go pray, but then he went a bit too far by asking me whether I lived alone and if I could give him my number. Basically, he wanted to invite me on a free tour on his bus (is this all he wanted, I wonder?). Too bad that I didn't have any literature to give him. But now, I'm trying to be always prepared. So this morning, I gave a health flyer to my hairdresser. She said "oh, I smoke!" So maybe that was the right candidate!

Anyway, by God's grace I'm still hoping to accomplish more than I have so far. Where are the big fish? Maybe I need to make this a real matter of prayer. It's quite humbling to realize that there are some opportunities in life that may come along only once. Are you prepared to witness or share a piece of literature wherever you go?

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Sabbath

I'm particularly enjoying the peace of the Sabbath hours today. The past week wasn't really strenuous for me, yet there is something special about this day of rest. I also like the fellowship at church, but if there is no afternoon program there, I get to commune with the Lord more deeply. Indeed, it's not only me, myself and I at home, He is there with me; and today I don't have all these distractions. How wonderful!

Earlier this week, I had the opportunity to do some sightseeing here in Brussels. I got together with Juan Campos and his wife, after it hadn't work out to see them at the Hispanic church last weekend. They ended up staying in Antwerp and not in Brussels, and so they went to church there. But they were very interested in an audio-guided tour through the European Parliament that I had told them about. So they took the train to Brussels Tuesday morning and I picked them up at the station. However, they came too late for the morning tour through the Parliament, and so we decided to take one of the numerous sightseeing buses to explore the main highlights of the city. It was a bit windy that day (especially on top of this open double-deck bus!), but they were glad that they got to see Brussels. In the afternoon, I was able to drop them off for the 3 o'clock tour at the Parliament and went back to work. So during their almost one month stay in Europe, they ended up seeing four countries and three capitals. Not bad for the first visit! I love to take friends around here whenever I have the opportunity, and I hope you will be one of my next visitors :o)

A Japanese Tower

The main Commission building - they frequently change the outside advertisement. This one is about organ donation

At the European Parliament

Juan Campos and his wife Magda

Monday, September 6, 2010

Success

The weekend with the Hargreaves was a real blessing. I knew the Lord would use this man to touch the hearts of the church members. I liked his presentations as they were very illustrative. On Friday evening, he compared soul winning with fishing, referring to the incidence in the gospel of Luke. There are indeed many parallels as for the keys of success in both activities. The sermon was about "searching for gold", and with another illustration and many poignant quotations of the Spirit of Prophecy, he made the urgency of the matter very clear. The result was that we got 100 decision cards filled out, in which church members committed themselves to soul winning in one way or the other. The morning service was followed by an afternoon topic on some practical steps in outreach and evangelism. It was held in the English-speaking church, but I was pleased to see some of the French speaking members staying as well. A concern that our Pastor mentioned was that the Belgians might be reluctant with everything that comes from America. But they will have to get over it, as this is going to fly now! On this note, I'm glad that the Romanian Pastor also showed interest, so that we will have this church also join in.

I can hardly believe it that the series will already begin in about seven months. It will be preceeded by a one week health seminar, for which I will be responsible. Of course the question comes up how I'm going to do this, and who is going to help me. This will be the entering wedge after all. I feel humbled to be in this position, and I'm also wondering how the whole campaign is going to be coordinated. I think the main organisational work will stick with me. If I hadn't taken everything into my own hands for the preparation of this past weekend, hardly anything would have been done. The African mentality is a bit different from the German, but these are the people I will largely have to rely on. Another challenge is bringing together team members from different language groups. So I guess I need to start praying for strength and wisdom!

Nevertheless, the Lord must have His leading hand in this endeavor, as there are just too many "coincidences" coming together. He must have sent me back to Brussels for such a time as this. May everything play out to His glory.

The Hargreaves family in Brussels

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Recovering

Since last Sunday, I've been up and running again - at least my fever disappeared and I started to function relatively normal again. I wish I could already exercise, but after walking the six floors to my office this morning as usual, I was still coughing pretty hard.

At work, it has been fairly easy so far. Although since yesterday my hierarchy is complete again, I don't really see the big wave coming yet. I got to talk to my head of unit yesterday. He told me that he had had an accident last week. While visiting a castle somewhere, he fell down from a 4 meter (4 yard) wall! He said there was a grass patch just at the area where he bounced down, otherwise this could have become a very serious accident. Thank God, he only bruised his hip and rib cage. I told him that he had had a guardian angel, which he vividly affirmed.

Yesterday, my parents passed by for a short visit. They were on their way to Holland in order to meet up with my Dad's sailor friends from the old times when he was still traveling the oceans with the merchant marine. So they stopped at my place for one night, which was nice. I won't see them again before Christmas after all. My father brought me two bell pepper plants with lots of colorful fruits almost ready to be picked. Great idea. So far, I've only kept some herbs on my balcony, but now my independence from the supermarket has even increased!

Tomorrow, our special weekend with the Hargreaves from Amazing Facts is going to start. They are on their way by car from Budapest to Brussels now. This weekend will be crucial as for our further planning for a health seminar and evangelistic series next spring. I've been praying a lot for this to happen if it's God's will. But are the church members ready? I have no doubt that the harvest is ready. There must be some searching souls out there; even in this secular place. So why wait for the church to be ready then? I hope the Lord will give answers soon.

My bell pepper supply

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Sick but happy

Yesterday, I returned from the German camp meeting. Although I got sick there on the last day, I'm very thankful I attended. This is one of the very few camps in my country (and probably in the rest of Europe) where Present Truth is still represented. Of course it's difficult to absorb everything, especially as we are always having parallel seminars, but I've been greatly inspired during this week. A special blessing to me was the seminar of Pastor Juan Campos from Colombia, who spoke about sanctification and getting ready to receive the Latter Rain. The fellowship was also very nice; there were over 300 people at the weekend and about 250 during the week. As a nice surprise, some former youth members from my home church came with their families. However, this bug that I caught there has put me out of action now. After a warm and sunny weekend, it became rather wet and chilly, and the fact that other people got sick, lack of sleep, and draft in the house added to it. I'm thankful that it got hold of me only after the meetings ended, and that I was able to drive home safely in spite of it. I only had to cancel the weekend retreat with my church here in Brussels, which is taking place now. I was hoping to be able to go there at least for the Sabbath, but I realized this morning that it wouldn't make any sense.

So I'm recovering at home now, reminiscing and digesting the events of this past week. There is one thing the Lord came through to me more, and this is the fact that it's only Christ who can fulfill our deepest needs. He is the One who can give us true peace and happiness in life that nothing else in this world can give. Would you like to enter into a deeper relationship with Him? I certainly do.

"As for me, I will behold thy face in righteousness: I shall be satisfied, when I awake, with thy likeness." (Psalm 17:15)

Attendance on Sabbath

Derrol Sawyer - we were very blessed by his music
Marco Barrios explaining prophecy
Interpreting John Davis from California


Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Flower Carpet

Last weekend was a special event in Brussels. I had totally forgotten that every summer, a flower carpet is spread out on the historic Grand Place in the city center. I found out about it in the German news, and so I decided to go there on Sabbath after church. Well, I wasn't the only one who had this idea, so we went with a whole group of church members. It was impressive to look at the myriads of flower petals nicely arranged in a beautiful pattern. However, it never lasts longer than a few days, and given the rain we had on Sunday, I was glad that I made it there before.

Everything hand made!
Another view
close view
People watching from the balcony of the town hall
This is a picture from a previous year - I wasn't able to get that view!

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Getting ready for vacation

It is still quiet at work and I'm enjoying this time to the fullest. Whenever my hierarchy is out of office, the most senior desk worker is in charge and signs everything on behalf of the head of unit. This week it's my colleague John from the UK who is very easy going. He attends to everything promptly, which is a nice change of course :-). However, it also tends to get rather boring, but I've been trying to keep myself busy.

Last week, I had the opportunity of having lunch together with a former co-worker of mine from Greece. We used to work together in a research institute of the European Commission in Germany. This was my first work place after I had finished my training and education. He transferred to Brussels some time before I came here, and somehow, we managed to keep in touch throughout the years. This time, our conversation took an interesting turn, as he asked me about the differences of my church to other denominations. So we ended up talking about the Sabbath, baptism, and unclean foods. He seems to be very open, but as usual I'm wondering how I could take this further. I really need the Lord's guidance here.

Next week, I will finally go for a short summer vacation, which promises to be filled with spiritual blessings. I'll be attending a camp meeting in the "Westerwald", a beautiful area in the mid-west of Germany. It is organized by "hoffnung weltweit e. V.", a supporting ministry of the church founded by lay people. I was called to become a board member after I returned from the US, and I've been since acting as secretary for this ministry. These camp meetings take place every summer, and some of this years' speakers will be Derrol Sawyer from the US and Juan Campos from South America. After this, I will be back to Belgium right in time to attend the yearly spiritual retreat of the International Church, which will take place the last weekend of August in a beautiful rural seeting in the south west of the country. So I probably won't write again until after I'm back.

I'm still pondering about my futile efforts to change my job, and how the outcome is a reminder that the Lord is in charge over my life. The One who numbers the hair on our head and who knows all the stars by their names certainly knows what He is doing in the lives of each of His children. He may say "wait" sometimes, but this doesn't mean that He is not fully in control. Indeed, He has given me peace and acceptance with this outcome, and although I cannot see the big picture right now, I know He will reveal Himself to me in this matter whenever the time comes. There is a quote on page 331 of Desire of Ages that spoke to me in particular:

Those who take Christ at His word, and surrender their souls to His keeping, their lives to His ordering, will find peace and quietude. Nothing of the world can make them sad when Jesus makes them glad by His presence. In perfect acquiescence there is perfect rest. The Lord says, "Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on Thee: because he trusteth in Thee." Isaiah 26:3

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Antwerp

Since it is nice and quiet in the office these days, I decided to take Tuesday off and go to Antwerp, which is about 45 minutes north east of Brussels. I had never been there before, and it was interesting to explore this town. Of course the old architecture is quite similar to Brussels, but the fact that it is a seaport gives a special touch to this place. However, after having visited the major tourist places in my adopted home country, I came to the conclusion that there is no place as charming as the little town of Bruges. If you ever come visit me here, I would be glad to take you there! Anyway, I had a good day away from work, and even the sun was shining nicely.

The railway station
The clock at the station
Cute architecture
Fountain
Interesting Statue
The houses of the Guilds or corporations. There are many of such historic buildings in Brussels as well
The town hall
The "Groete Markt"
Small alleyways
And somebody playing the piano in front of a department store

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Final Spurt

August is approaching, and this is the prime holiday time for most Eurocrats here in Brussels. My hierarchy is busy finishing up things before leaving on their well-deserved vacation. Today, my head of unit proudly drew my attention to his desk, which indeed looks very clean now! I still don't like it that he keeps piling things up until last, but what can I do. However, as of next week we will be taking it easy here :-)

Last week, I decided to send a message to our new General Conference President, Ted Wilson. I thought he might remember our talk at the GYC in Kentucky last winter, and I just wanted to send him my best wishes and let him know that I'm praying for him. I didn't really expect a reply from his side, since I assumed that GC Presidents have other things to do than responding to e-mails of individual church members. Well, this is what he replied to me still the same day:

"Greetings, Daniela. Thank you so much for your encouraging email.  What a privilege to serve the Lord at this time in earth's history as part of the mighty Advent movement.  Certainly the unfolding of the Great Controversy Theme is coming to a climax.  Jesus' return is imminent.  Let us humbly submit ourselves to Christ and seek revival and reformation through the power of the Holy Spirit so that the Lord can pour out the latter rain and Jesus can come.  Let us proclaim God's grace and the three angels' messages that focus on Christ and His righteousness.  This precious Seventh-day Adventist message, empowered by the Holy Spirit, is to turn people back to the true worship of God.  The Lord will bless your special efforts for Him.  Let us work together through the power of the Holy Spirit as we fulfill God's unique evangelistic mission entrusted to the Seventh-day Adventist Church.  May God bless your special work in Brussels for Him as you lift up Jesus and proclaim His soon coming!  Regards.  Ted."

This was very encouraging to me and motivating to go forward doing the work the Lord is entrusting me here in Brussels. It looks like things are falling into place for a possible evangelistic series with Amazing Facts, as I was able to arrange for the Hargreaves' to come here the first weekend of September. They will be in Europe anyway around this time, and thus the church members will be able to meet them and hopefully get motivated. It seems that the Lord is opening one door after the other.

This bible verse has been an encouragement to me lately:
"Ye have not chosen me, but I have chosen you, and ordained you, that ye should go and bring forth fruit, and that your fruit should remain: that whatsoever ye shall ask of the Father in my name, he may give it you." (John 15:16)

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Baptismal anniversary

This past Friday was kind of a special day for me, as it was exactly 15 years ago that I got baptized into the Seventh-Day-Adventist Church. Well, that's quite a number, and I'm very thankful for God's leading in my life.

It was already in 1990 when I gave my heart to Jesus, in a group of sincere Christians within the German YMCA. However, I wasn't really part of a church, yet I was searching and praying. Then, in the beginning of 1994, I was invited on the street to attend a youth meeting at the local SDA Church. From then on, I started coming to church more and more, followed by my decision to get baptized and the break-up with my boyfriend.

My baptism took place in a beautiful lake near my home city. I always like to look at these old pictures.

At this occasion, I have been reminiscing a bit, and my heart is filled with gratitude for all the wonderful people the Lord has placed into my path since I joined this church - here in Europe, over in the US, as well as in other places. People who blessed me with their love, friendship, and time. It's impossible to name them all, but if you are one of them, please feel hugged today!




There is a fountain filled with blood
drawn from Immanuel's veins;
and sinners plunged beneath that flood
lose all their guilty stains

The dying thief rejoiced to see
that fountain in his day;
and there may I, though vile as he,
wash all my sins away




"...there is joy in in the presence
of the holy angels of God
over one sinner that repenteth"
Luke 15:10


Thursday, July 22, 2010

July 21

Yesterday was the national holiday in Belgium. Since in the past I've always been out of the country on that day, and given the fact that we don't really have such kind of spectacles in Germany, I decided to go and see the military parade that was taking place around the King's Palace. I only know that Belgium celebrates having a democracy since 1945, so this was actually the 65th anniversary. Many people came to cheer, but it was quite a long wait until it started. Only one ambassador after the other passed by in their fancy cars, as they were all special guests to the Royal family for this event. But then they started the procession with military horsemen trotting in large groups, which was followed by a short intervention of the street cleaning vehicles (since all the other military groups were following on foot, so they didn't have to walk on the horse droppings!) Below you can see a few impressions in pictures and little video clips.

Anyway, it was good to have the day off. Being back at work today, I thought I would finally hear about my potential new post, but still no news. They are keeping me on hold, and so I'm just trying to put up with it!


Military on horses

The marine corps

The parachutists
I think those inflatable crowns sold very well that day!
Passing by in front of a government building - I couldn't get near the King's Palace,
as this area was reserved for special guests 




People lining up at the street