Do you sometimes have thoughts like what happened in your life x years ago at this time? I have been reminiscing lately about the amazing ways the Lord has been leading me ever since I left my home country. This month, it is exactly seven years ago that I first came to Brussels, and of course this meant a big change in my life.
After I had finished my training in 2000, I was indeed ready for an adventure - I had no intentions to stay in my home city, but none of my endeavors to go to another country (like working for the German embassies, the GC headquarters, the Euro-Africa-Division...) were fruitful. So I happened to become a temporary staff at a research center of the European Commission located in my home city, and the Lord kept me there for 3 1/2 years. In 2003, I succeeded in a staff competition in Brussels. This is an achievement envied by many people, as it means being placed on a so-called "reserve list". One has to be on such a list to be able to apply for a permanent position at the EU. The problem was that they couldn't offer me such a post in Germany at this time, so this meant I had to apply for a job at headquarters. However, I had already established my life in my home town now: I had my first own apartment, I was active at my local church, etc. Now I didn't want to leave anymore. Yes, I still wanted to go abroad sometime, but definitely not to Belgium! I was devastated. I remember coming back from my job interviews in Brussels, realizing that this relocation was inevitable. I went to bed that night and I just cried. It was indeed a difficult time, but there were indications that the Lord was leading me to go to Brussels. Thus, I not only came to accept it, but I also started looking forward to this new era in my life.
Of course, every beginning is difficult. I remember passing through a snowstorm when I drove my car to Brussels, which I found a bit scary. For the first few months, I had a furnished place in a rather shabby area of town where lots of people from Turkey and North Africa live. I don't have very pleasant memories of this. The first two weeks were the most difficult for me. I remember one day getting lost again in one of these Commission buildings. I felt like crying, but then I asked myself: "Hey, what is the problem?" I think this was some kind of a turning point. I was somehow fully adapted after this short time, and I felt like having lived in this town for quite a while already.
Being a permanent official of the EU, I was now granted the privilege of taking an unpaid leave from my job. This opened the door for my long-cherished desire to get some medical missionary training in the US. So off I went there after I had worked in Brussels for a little over two years. The Lord couldn't have orchestrated it in a better way, since I'm the only Adventist in my family, and they would have certainly decleared me insane if I had completely given up my job in order to go the States. But I could tell them that I'm only taking a prolonged leave from my work and that the door was open to go back there.
And finally, I'm still amazed how the Lord worked out my comeback to Europe. When the time of my planned return drew closer, I started to get worried about my living situation there. It had worked out that a young couple from the church in Brussels took over the lease for my apartment, but there was no guarantee that they would move out again upon my return. But "coincidentally", they happened to move exactly around the time when I came back. They had taken over most of my furniture and they even left some of their own stuff for me, so I didn't need much to get re-established. If this hadn't worked out, it would have been so much more difficult to settle back.
To sum it up, I'm really grateful about how God took care of me during these seven years. It makes me think of the quote in Life Sketches, p. 196:
"We have nothing to fear for the future, except as we shall forget the way the Lord has led us, and His teaching in our past history."
Indeed, what shall I fear for the future?