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.