Friday, November 6, 2020

Black Forest And More

At the time of this writing, I’m enjoying a short retreat at our family vacation resort. It’s a nice apartment in a village located in the Black Forest Highlands (about 3000 ft/900 m above sea level), about a couple hours from my hometown. I haven’t been so lucky with the weather, as it has been mostly cloudy and rainy so far, but this doesn’t spoil the experience of having some quietude, great fresh air, and beautiful nature for a few days. My grandparents acquired this place back in the early 80s. When I was younger, I would come here more often, mainly to go skiing. But there has been less snow over the years, so there hasn’t been so much incentive anymore to come here, and also my priorities changed. And when I moved to Belgium, my visits became even more infrequent. But now I’m much more into hiking than I used to in younger years, and so I’m determined to come here more often in the future. It’s such a blessing to have this place, especially in these pandemic times. As of this past Monday, all hotels and vacation resorts in Germany had to close down for tourism again. It’s a kind of a lockdown, but not as strict as back in April. It’s a desperate attempt to get the rising numbers of Covid-19 infections under control. In Belgium, they now have even gone that far to close down all non-essential stores again. I do not really look forward to going back there on Sunday, I must admit!

Anyway, the ASI Germany meetings were extremely blessed. We were very thankful that this convention could still take place – as it ended just a day prior to the lockdown. The speakers were very inspiring, and I enjoyed the fellowship with like-minded brothers and sisters. It’s always good to connect with old friends again, and also to make new acquaintances.  

So it’s truly quiet where I’m at now, and I don’t even have internet access. That’s an interesting change to the usual pace, but I’m enjoying it to be less distracted by social media and internet – although I must admit that I wouldn’t want to do that much longer than for a few days. Especially being by myself, I appreciate the technical possibilities that we enjoy nowadays, being able to connect with friends and family near and far.

Back home in Brussels, my new roommate is eagerly waiting for my return. Janice moved in with me a couple weeks ago. She is originally from the Philippines, and has been living and working in Brussels for a while. Currently, she is in the process of getting a permanent work permit in Belgium, and for this reason, she temporarily needed another place to stay. I’ve been mentoring her for a while now, and she has been assisting me in my health ministry at church. It’s nice having a roommate again, especially in these pandemic times, where people are required to limit their contacts to a minimum. Janice also turns out to be a great housekeeper. During my absence, she did a deep clean of my kitchen and bathroom, so I’ll be looking forward to that!

The Sabbath sermon at the convention was given by the ASI President Gabriel Maurer. It was entitled: “How to use the time until the second coming in a meaningful way”. He mentioned Daniel in the lion’s den, among other faithful warriors. Their characteristics were steadfastness, courage, faithfulness at all costs, unselfishness, they couldn’t be bought, and they were faithful in worship. Daniel’s faithfulness didn’t only start with the “prohibition to worship”. It is important to know the prophecies to the details, but it has to have consequences for our life. He quoted the Desire of Ages, p. 636:

“Satan sees that his time is short. He has set all his agencies at work that men may be deceived, deluded, occupied and entranced, until the day of probation shall be ended, and the door of mercy be forever shut.”

We live in a world, in which we are being influenced without noticing it – we are being conditioned. The only solution lies in Romans 12:1-2:

“I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, [which is] your reasonable service. And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what [is] that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God.”

Lord, please help us not to allow the world to influence or to condition us, but help us to be steadfast, faithful and always true to you!



Black Forest buffalo


Beautiful flowers

View on lake "Titisee"

Stunning Fall colours

Welcome Janice!


Saturday, October 24, 2020

Volunteer for a Green Change

This past Thursday, I had the privilege of volunteering on a farm near Brussels. It all began a couple years ago when my employer started implementing volunteer actions, where every colleague who wanted could go and help at some project somewhere in or around Brussels. The focus this year was on "green" activities, in connection with the "EU Green Week", which was happening this past week. 

So as the coordinator for environmentally friendly actions in my service, I'm part of a subgroup named "From Farm to Fork"; and this is how I ended up being one of the coordinators for this farm activity. And we had a great time harvesting vegetables and preparing them for their bio baskets that they sell to their collaborators. Our hosts, four young farmers, were extremely hospitable, and the colleagues really enjoyed being out there. I wish I could do that more often instead of office work!


Digging out carrots

Interesting shapes

Fruit of our labour

Beautiful flowers on the farm

Delicious butternut squash

Collecting eggs

Farm animals

Busy chickens

Great production
Preparing onions


Bio baskets for everyone

Group picture (with safe distance, haha!)

Monday, October 19, 2020

Enjoying Country Life

So since Friday I've been staying in West Flanders. My former Pastor and his family are living here at a nice little farmyard. It's quite a big property, and they are keeping hens, a donkey, a goat, and a cat there. They especially needed someone to take care of the chickens while they are traveling for a few days; and today, a church member came to drop off their young dog, which I also took under my supervision until Wednesday. It's been fun taking care of the animals, although the dog is quite exhausting! I'm especially enjoying the beautiful country side out here. In this kind of setting, you don't think about a pandemic raging or anything else of that nature. 

Indeed, things have gotten worse in Europe, as we are facing a second wave with this corona virus. Rules have become more strict, and doing everyday life is challenging in different ways. One positive aspect is the fact that my organisation is still strongly encouraging staff to work from home. Thus, I can stay here at my friend's place without having to take a vacation. I just hope that my travel plans for the end of the month will not be hindered in any way. I'm scheduled to attend the ASI Germany meetings, and then stay with my folks for a week. Since Belgium is considered a "red zone" or a risk area, the German government requires a negative corona test or alternatively quarantine when people arrive from this country. Of course quarantining myself is not an option, and therefore I will go for the test. It's such a nuisance, but I will comply - even though probably nobody will stop me at the border or ask me any questions. It's outright impossible to trace everyone. I'm just thankful that they still allow travels at all. 

So I'm looking back to quite an eventful summer with lots of joys, but also many lessons learned. All in all, I'm thankful for the Lord's leading and for His never changing love, patience and faithfulness. 

Our German summer camp meeting turned out a great blessing, in spite of corona restrictions. At the same time, I'm sad for the loss of my former boss from Uchee Pines, Mircea Dragomir, who unfortunately died from this insidious disease. I authored an obituary in his honor, and if you can read German, you are welcome to check it out under this link

Back in September, we held our first Health Club via Zoom, which was great success. There were about 15 participants, including some non-SDAs. I'm very thankful for these online opportunities to share the health message, and I'm planning another one before the end of the year. 

We are indeed living in interesting times. But these signs and happenings are making it clear to me that we need to double our efforts to finish the work here on earth rather sooner than later. It's really time for the Lord to come back! I recently read a sobering statement in the devotional "The Faith I Live By":

The very last deception of Satan will be to make of none effect the testimony of the Spirit of God. “Where there is no vision, the people perish.” Proverbs 29:18. Satan will work ingeniously, in different ways and through different agencies, to unsettle the confidence of God’s remnant people in the true testimony. He will bring in spurious visions, to mislead and mingle the false with the true, and so disgust people that they will regard everything that bears the name of visions, as a species of fanaticism; but honest souls, by contrasting false and true, will be enabled to distinguish between them. {FLB 296.6} 

May we be among those honest souls, who will be able to distinguish between truth and error!



With the Voerman family in front of their house waiting...


...for the "Tour of Flanders" (like the Tour de France of Belgium) coming through.

My new friend Stacy

The hens

The donkey

And the goat! 


Monday, September 28, 2020

What Do You Tell Yourself Every Morning As You Start The Day?

Oh my, I can't believe it's been three months that I have posted something here! I'm determined to write more regularly now. In fact, so many things have happened lately, and I will make sure to fill you in as soon as possible. In the meantime, I would like to share an encouraging post that someone forwarded to me recently:

What Do You Tell Yourself Every Morning As You Start The Day?

-MOSES would say, "Lord, if You don't go with us or before us, we are not going anywhere."​​
-ABRAHAM would say, "The Lord will provide."​​
-JACOB would say, "I won't let go of You unless You bless me."​​
-JOSHUA would say, "As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord."​​
-SAMUEL would say, "Speak, Lord, for Your servant is listening."​​
-NEHEMIAH  would say, "The joy of the Lord is my strength."​​
-DAVID would say, "The Lord is my Shepherd, I shall not want."​​ and "This is the day that the Lord has made and I will rejoice and be glad in it."​
-SALOMON would say, "Trust in the Lord, oh my soul, and lean not on your own understanding, in all your ways acknowledge Him and He shall direct your path."​​
-ISAIAH would say, "Arise and shine for my Glory has come." and "No weapon formed against me shall prosper."​​
-JEREMIAH would say, "The Lord has plans to prosper me and not to harm or fail me."​​
-JABEZ would say, "Oh, that you may bless me and enlarge my territory."​​
-SHADRACH, MESHACH and ABEDNEGO would say, "We will not bow down to any image but will serve the Lord."​​
-EZEKIEL would say, "Any dry bones in my life, live again."​​

May the above spoken words give you courage everytime you begin your day!🙏🏽



                                       A beautiful sunrise in the Westerwald/Germany

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