Sunday, June 28, 2020

A New Normal?

So it's been a while now that we have been dealing with this pandemic. Here in Europe, the situation has improved remarkably, and therefore a lot of the restrictions have been eased step by step. I'm still working from home though, and it looks like my management is only going to gradually get back to normal office occupation as of September.

However, in other parts of the world, the situation doesn't look good at all, especially in poorer countries like India or South America. In the US, after a period of improvement, the figures are rising again. So it's not all over yet, although I wish it was.

For over a week already, I have been visiting my family in Germany. After all, I had to cancel my planned trip to the US (if the GC Session in Indianapolis didn't have to be postponed, it would be happening right now), and so I can now afford spending longer time than usual in my home country. It's been a blessing to be here, even though every day I'm confronted with the "new normal". While in Belgium you are only required to wear face masks in public transport, here in Germany you also have to wear them in stores. Furthermore, many of our churches have reopened here, but again you cannot meet without face masks. In my home church, they require you to put them on even during congregational singing. You may imagine how challenging this is! But the hardest for me is the fact that it really doesn't help with communication. I miss smiling at people, and the fact that you are not supposed to hug or shake hands seems so pathetic to me. I really hope that this "new normal" will only be a temporary state.

The weather has been very warm here, and we have been enjoying the fruits of the garden. On Tuesday, I'll be heading to Brussels again, but soon, I'll be back to Germany for our annual bible camp. It looks like we will be able to have about 200 participants (instead of 350+ as usual), and it will be quite a challenge to implement all these restrictions and rules. However, we are thankful that it can take place in spite of the situation, even though in a smaller format and without international speakers. May the Lord help us, so that it can be a spiritually uplifting experience especially in these times!

I've been participating in the 100 Days of Prayer organized by our General Conference. It's been a blessing to be part of this, and I've been encouraged by the praise reports, as well as the daily readings. Here is one of my favorites:
“Let not your heart be troubled; you believe in God, believe also in Me. In My Father’s house are many mansions; if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself; that where I am, there you may be also.”– John 14:1-3

“We have no home here; we are only pilgrims and strangers, passing to a better country, even a heavenly. Place your mind upon these things, and while you are doing this, Christ will be right by your side.” – Life Sketches of Ellen G. White, p. 293
Indeed, this world is not our home. I think it's important to indeed place our minds on heavenly things, especially in these times. Things are not going to get better on this earth, but what splendor and glory is waiting for us in our heavenly home that the Lord is preparing for us right now! May we focus on that today and make our calling and election sure!


The castle in my home city


Water fountains on the market place

Our beautiful artichokes in the garden

Saturday, March 21, 2020

Corona Virus

I must admit that I had not expected this to happen, but something that several weeks ago I would have still considered a science fiction scenario has become a reality: Belgium entered lockdown this week, following the example of other European countries.

This corona virus has spread so rapidly that drastic measures have become necessary. As of last Monday, all non-critical staff of the EU Institutions have to work from home, and this also applies to all other employees in the country who can telework. We are only supposed to leave our homes for essential errands like shopping, doctor's appointments, etc. Thank God, outdoor exercising is still allowed. But all non-essential travels are not permitted. This is already the second Sabbath that we couldn't have a regular service in our church. As somebody who lives alone, I find this particularly hard. But thank God we have modern technology, so that we can still stay connected through media like Skype and What's App.

A few evenings ago, the neighbourhoods here in Brussels started a joint action inspired from what they have been doing in Italy: Every night at 8 PM sharp, people come to their windows and balconies and clap their hands, applauding the health care staff and all other people who have been working tirelessly in this critical time in order to serve the community. I really like it, as it gives a sense of solidarity and communal spirit.

But should Christians be surprised by such developments? Not at all. It's predicted in the Bible after all:
"For nation shall rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom: and there shall be famines, and pestilences, and earthquakes, in divers places.  All these are the beginning of sorrows." (Matthew 24:7-8, emphasis added)
Ellen White also mentions pestilences in several of her writings. I found the following quote very interesting:
"In the last scenes of this earth’s history, war will rage. There will be pestilence, plague, and famine. The waters of the deep will overflow their boundaries. Property and life will be destroyed by fire and flood. We should be preparing for the mansions that Christ has gone to prepare for them that love Him. There is a rest from earth’s conflict." (Maranatha, p. 174.6)
Indeed, all these things are happening around us. But we are to prepare for a better world - for the homes that Christ is preparing for us in Heaven!
"And I saw a new heaven and a new earth: for the first heaven and the first earth were passed away; and there was no more sea. And I John saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down from God out of heaven, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a great voice out of heaven saying, Behold, the tabernacle of God [is] with men, and he will dwell with them, and they shall be his people, and God himself shall be with them, and be their God. And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away." (Revelation 21:1-4)

Teleworking has definitely increased my productivity, like
doing a spring cleaning in my kitchen....

...or sewing fabric baskets :-)

Thursday, February 13, 2020

Brexit

On the first of this month it became a reality: the United Kingdom of Great Britain officially left the EU. After almost three years of seemingly unending discussions and debate, they now entered a transition period, which is supposed to last until December of this year, and during which the EU and the UK are going to negotiate their future relationship. But officially, they are now already a so-called Third Country.

The day before the withdrawal came into force, all staff of the European Commission received an email from our new President Ursula von der Leyen. Here is an excerpt of her message:
"As the sun rises tomorrow, a new chapter for our Union of 27 will begin. And with it comes a once-in-a-generation opportunity to ensure Europe leads the way on the twin ecological and digital transitions. To build a more prosperous and more just society. To uphold the values that we hold dear. To project Europe’s brand of responsible global leadership in today’s world."
Indeed, the European Union came with many privileges and advantages, many of which I wouldn't want to miss any more today, including my very interesting workplace. But at the same time, with these happenings I see the fulfilment of biblical prophecy right in front of our eyes:
"And whereas you saw the iron mixed with miry clay, they shall mix with one another but they shall not hold together, even as iron does not mix with clay." ~ The book of Daniel chapter 2, verse 43
Indeed, iron doesn't mix with clay, i. e. the strong and the weak don't hold together well. So what will be next? Only time will tell. In the meantime, I'm endeavouring to make my calling and election sure, and I'm asking the Lord to use me in whatever way to hasten His coming. I'm tired of this world. It's really time that Jesus comes back to take us home!

On another note, I'm continuing with health work at my church. Recently, we had our first Health Club meeting, which was a blessing. Although there were only about half the attendees then at our Health Emphasis Weekend in October, I would still consider it a success - and I will certainly continue to organise such events. I hope and pray that the Lord will continue to use me and my team as we reach out with the Right Arm of the Gospel.

Layane (to the left) teaching about Aloe Vera



Wednesday, November 20, 2019

Health Emphasis Weekend

And here are some impressions of our Health Emphasis Weekend in October:









Monday, November 11, 2019

Time Flies!

Wow, I can't believe it's already November and we are approaching year end! I've been wanting to post an update for weeks, but I'm sure you all know how it goes if you are busy...

Today, I enjoyed a very nice and sunny afternoon in the park - probably the last nice and sunny day during this month of November, as from tomorrow on, the weather is forecasted to be as it's usually the case at this time of year: grey and dreary. However, this doesn't really bother me right now, as Ihave sunshine in my heart! :-)

Many great things happened during the past couple months. One of the highlights were the ASI Germany meetings in Bielefeld. It was a nice experience for me to go there again after six years of not attending. The main speakers were Taj Pacleb and Nicola Taubert; and it was so nice to see so many people again I hadn't seen in quite a while.

Another one was our Health Emphasis Weekend at my church a couple weeks ago. I decided to do it exactly in the same format as we would do at Uchee Pines, i. e. health presentations on Friday and Saturday, followed by a cooking class Sunday morning, and natural remedies in the afternoon. We had a great team and the presentations and demonstrations were well received. We even got an invitation to do the same in Luxembourg during the first quarter of 2020!

Last weekend, I attended the fourth edition of the ENAD Conference (European Adventist medical network) in Bad Überkingen, which is not too far away from Stuttgart, Germany. It was a great blessing. The main speaker was Dr. Daniel Binus, psychiatrist from California. It was all about "mindset", i. e. mental health. It was really nice to (re-)connect with many people, although this also tends to get a bit frustrating, since there is just not enough time to have all the conversations you want. But I was able to do quite a bit of networking, notably with a family from Aachen church that I've known for quite a while. They are doing great things there in terms of health work. I'm so excited that we are planning to work together in the future. It's high time that Brussels and the Rhineland area start getting busy together for the Lord's cause; and also that we reach the German part of Belgium, which is an unreached territory of 60,000 souls.

Overall, I would say I'm blessed beyond measure. It's wonderful to see how things are moving forward, and that I can play a small part in this. When I see all this sickness and suffering around me, it makes me long for Heaven more and more.

This morning, as it is the 11th November today, I read in Proverbs chapter 11. My personal highlight in this chapter is verse 25:
"The liberal soul shall be made fat: and he that watereth shall be watered also himself."
Let us be a blessing today for someone!

And here comes a glimpse in pictures about the most recent highlights:

Beautiful vineyards near Bad Überkingen

A little video I made from the train

ENAD Conference

More to follow soon!

Tuesday, September 3, 2019

So Blessed!

This week marks the "Rentrée" in Brussels, which means that after nine weeks of vacation, the children are going back to school and thus, things are back to normal here in Belgium. It also entails that there is more traffic here (thank God this doesn't really affect me, as I go to work by bicycle) and that the work at the EU institutions is taking up again. There is pressure on many services now to finish certain procedures before the Christmas break, which is actually less than four months away. Especially this fall promises to be interesting, because as of 1st November, a new Commission will be implemented, headed by the German politician Ursula von der Leyen. Being abroad for so long, I haven't followed much the political life in my home country, but I like this woman. I wouldn't have expected that a female would get this high rank position, but she really seems to be the right choice in this political chaos. I especially like the fact that she is actually a medical doctor. Thus, she might be open to implementing more health enhancing programmes and activities among the workers in our institution.

It's always interesting when a new Commission is implemented after five years. You can feel the wind of change blowing; new Commissioners bringing new ideas, there are staff changes (especially in the senior management of the different services), and the "foot soldiers" (i. e. little officials like me) are motivated to give their best in this new term.

This past Sunday, we returned from our annual church retreat in Eupen, German part of Belgium. It was such a blessing to be there once more. We have a very nice venue there, which is a relatively newly renovated hostel. The staff is very pleasant, and they are even able to somewhat accommodate our dietary needs. This year, I decided to supplement the choice of foods they could offer us, namely by making some plant-based spreads, granola, and getting some avocados. We were a smaller group than last year, mainly due to the fact that since then, quite a few families left our church for other pastures. Nevertheless, we were very blessed with Pastor Denny from Brazil as our main speaker. Our own Pastor, who is a close friend of Pastor Denny, was also present and involved in the programme. There was something in it for everybody, and our time together really helped to bond with each other. The messages were very practical, and I think everybody learned something that they are going to apply in their lives. My main resolution is that I'm going to start a prayer journal, as I think this will be really helpful. Thus, you can document answers to prayer requests and keep track how the Lord has worked.

I would like to share one thought I took home from our spiritual weekend:
"He that dwelleth in the secret place of the most High shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty. I will say of the Lord, He is my refuge and my fortress: my God, in Him will I trust." ~Psalms 91:1-2~
To dwell in the secret place of the most High (or to "live in His shelter" as the Common English Bible translates) doesn't mean to just visit, or to come by for tea. It means to spend time in His presence. It's also quantity that counts here. Do I spend adequate time with the Lord in the daily hustle and bustle of life? Do I praise Him for who He is, i. e. for His attributes, like His omnipotence, faithfulness, His infinite power? Do I also pause from time to time to listen to His voice? And not only "bombarding" God with the "T's" and "G's", i. e. saying thank you for xyz and please give me this and that? May the Lord help us to get closer to Him, and thus get ready to spend an eternity in His holy presence!

With Pastor Denny and his mother Marli

Love that picture of our children!
Group picture on Sunday - unfortunately we forgot to do it on
Sabbath when more people were there and sun was shining brightly!