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Sunday, January 30, 2011

Baptized by Brothers

Today was a good day to take Rhoda (Mom and Dad's GPS) out for another drive.  I started out slow at 8 am as the roads were sheer ice.  Once I reached the toll roads, the pavement dried and Sir Winston (my car) began to speed up.   My cousin Shawna and her husband Jake were baptizing their twins this morning.  This morning was totally planned by God.  1. That Hannah and Bethany survived a difficult time in the womb.  Hannah was stealing Bethany's nutrients.  2. That the girls were healthy enough to be off of their heart monitors for a morning and go to church.   3. That I was able to be in Illinois when the immediate Knetsch family gathered together to celebrate this momentous day!
Shawna wrote a beautiful and touching song, which she sang with Jake.  Such a humble and strong couple.  It was about thanking God through the trials and delighting in the simplest of things, like smiles and heart beats.  And then an added blessing: two of Shawna's brothers are ordained pastors and they both came to baptize the babies.   
Uncle Brad proudly baptized little Bethany into God's family.
Uncle Mark emotionally baptized Hannah with the Covenant of Baptism.
After the touching service at Suburban Community, close to 40 of us shared a simple meal together.

Elgin Museum

Yesterday morning Gale (a new apartment mate) and I decided to escape the apartments for a few hours and go explore Elgin, Illinois.  First we hit the supermarket: Meijer... and compared to Canada, groceries are much cheaper.  And then we decided to drive around and check out some of the cool local architecture.
"The Painted Lady"
Driving up US 31, we noticed that Elgin looked like a quaint, old town, so we crossed an old train bridge and headed for the downtown area.  Since we were in no rush, we followed signs to a historical museum and ended up having a blast. 
When we first walked in to the Elgin Historical Museum we weren't even sure it was open, no one was around.  Moments later, a lady named Lucy introduced herself, took our $3 and gave us a brief description of the museum.  While Gale and I were watching a short video another lady came and welcomed us... Marge wanted to make sure we felt at home and she was curious where we were from... Ontario and Pennsylvania are not their typical answers.  We soon became special guests at the museum.

We learned about the famous watches made in Elgin between 1866 and 1966.  There was also a brief section on Hiawatha and Pioneer history.  Gale and I took in the full experience by playing with objects that were accompanied with a red velvet hand... I believe it is part of a scavenger hunt for children who go through the museum.  :)  By the time we left, yet another staff was at the register in the gift shop and she said, "Are you the two who are here from I.T.?"  Wow, word gets around fast. 

Sabbath Salutations

Elgin, Illinois:
Carrying my yellow back pack up the stairs, to the auditorium classroom at International Teams, I feel the weight of all that needs to be learned. Desperation and delight fills my mind as I realize I have so much I want to accomplish, grasp, and learn before I am able to head to Uganda. For the past week now I have felt like a college student once again. I’ve moved into a dorm setting and have three room-mates. 28 of us are studying missions together and loving every moment of it.
Hosting a birthday party in our apartment

A three week, intensive pre-field course is now occupying my time. Every morning we spend at least two hours hearing stories of how others have seen God move and searching the Scriptures together. We role play games of cross-cultural communication and chat about the do’s and don’ts of living in a foreign country. Finances, practising our stories, understanding the values and mission of International Teams, learning about the needs of the world, and so much more consume my days from 8 am til 5 pm.
In the evenings I fellowship with my floor mates, cook meals with my apartment mates, hang out with another family heading to Soroti with me, and try to get some sleep. I am one week down – two to go. Please pray for my training time as I truly desire to be a valuable servant in Uganda. I am still hoping to leave in April... Lord willing.
Steve and Tanya Tiesenga - I look forward to serving with this wonderful couple

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Surrounded by the Overwhelmed

Last Wednesday I left the comforts of home to cross the US border once again.  I went to my second home, Grand Rapids, MI - where I caught up with my dear cousin Judy and her family, had lunch with my college roomie, and hung out at the CRWM building for a while.  CRWM (Christian Reformed World Missions) is the mission agency from my home church and I am in the process of gaining partnership through them.  It is a very exciting time to go on the mission field with both CRWM and International Teams (IT).

Friday afternoon, I found myself back in the car heading for Chicago to see my cousin Shawna and her family.  The twins are gorgeous, at three months old, but Hannah is still not breathing well... Please pray for her troubled coughing episodes. 

Hannah and Bethany
Saturday I finally reached my destination.  International Teams headquarters in Elgin, Illinois.  28 of us are in training to prepare for the foreign mission field.  It was a strange feeling on Saturday night when we moved in to the dorms... there was a "first day of college" atmosphere about the place as people had arrived from across the US to unpack their bags in the dorms and meet all sorts of new people.  We had a buffet meal and a time of introduction and it was incredible to meet such a diversity of people, heading to 13 different countries, who are all passionate about the same thing - reaching the ends of the earth... (and honestly - fundraising to get there).

Sunday morning I slept in a little before joining the car pool to Willow Creek Community Church.  It was amazing to worship in a building that seats 7000.  After the service we went to the food court that is inside the church building and all bought lunches and got to know eachother better.  In the afternoon we were able to relax, but each dorm (of which I have 4 roomies) was given an envelope of money for groceries - so we planned menus and went grocery shopping at Aldi's. 

After a good night of sleep the trainings began... I'll fill you in soon.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Americana in Niagara Falls

Crashing on the couch in my colourful fish print nightgown, I'm reflecting on the weekend we just had.  Friday was a blast.  As a local paper, Christian Week, wrote "Missions veteran joins newbie to raise funds for school", I teamed up with a delightful high schooler from my church to raise money for missions.  My young friend is heading to Belize for a spring break building project with some peers from her high school.  We decided to do a "Coffee That Counts" fundraiser... and wow, it is a blessing to be a part of an amazing church community. 
Friday night, some 140 people came to share snacks, coffees, and fellowship, while bidding on silent auction items and listening to the live music that various people from our church provided.  The fellowship hall of the church was decorated with couches, paper lanterns, Christmas lights, round tables with bright table clothes and calming candles.  I am beyond grateful for the support that was raised! 
Saturday morning I packed my bags and hopped in the car with my parents and youngest brother.  We met up with my other two brothers, their wives, and my 3 nephews and niece at the Americana in Niagara Falls.  This was our Christmas gift as a family.
 For two days we played in the water park.  Racing each other down water slides, hanging out with the kids, or trying to stay afloat in the wave pool. 
 Here I took on Kylee!  She won this race.
 Tubing was also fun.
The 12 of us spent one night at this activity filled hotel... after a long dinner we relaxed in our rooms.  Mom and Dad were kind enough to take all the grandchildren for the night, so us 6 adult children could rest peacefully.  Two double beds and a bunk bed is a much more spacious way to travel than the 6 man tent trailer we shared when we were younger.
 This afternoon, we left the hotel and went to explore Niagara Falls in the winter.  The ice buildup was phenomenal. 
 Enough sunlight shone through the clouds for a brief moment - may God's promises be remembered.
 The power of the falls, the beauty of the snow, the sharpness of the cold air... were all the perfect touch to a weekend getaway.

Sunday, January 2, 2011

"Coffee That Counts"

Friendship.  Sharing joys.  Carrying burdens.  Encouraging.  Crying.  Hugging.  Singing.  Sharing talents and passions.  Praying.  Those are some of the privileges I find in being a part of the church.  I am honoured to be surrounded by people who love and care for me.  I have been amazed at how many people are willing to help out Holly and I as we host "Coffee That Counts" - a coffee house fundraiser.  Both of us desire to go on missions trips this spring, and so it is fun to work together to host a fun event.  I am grateful for the people who have written articles, promoted the event on the radio, offered to bake goodies, or donated items and time... the Lord is good. 
I can't wait for the Coffee House to happen!
Friday night - January 7, 2010 at Bethel CRC in Newmarket.
7-10 pm - anyone is welcome!!   
The Lord continues to give me a heart for the people of Uganda.  I am truly praying that God will allow me to go back on the foreign mission field by April (I will GO if all my funds are raised or pledged by then). 
Please read the following article called: "Ritual murder on the rise in Uganda" - a hard, but true story of a nation that needs more of the Lord.  Another touching article to read from Christian Week is 'In Uganda, the "war of childbirth" continues'.  An older article tries to ask "Where is African Spirituality Heading?"  May God strengthen the church in Uganda and may God use me to encourage, pray for, serve, and love His people, whether here or there.