I think these two adjectives best describe my experience this week (more about the saddening part in a minute).
July is usually a very busy month in our offices. A lot of things have to get done before the "Summer Hole" in August (at least this is what we would say in German). In particular, I have been quite busy with a rather complicated procedure, which has to be adopted before the end of this week. The thing is that I have a hard time working with one of my deputy heads of unit, who is the manager of this particular case. She has this Southern European temper, and she just yells at me (or at whoever else working under her) whenever she is stressed out. She is not a mean person at all, but she just can't control the volume of her voice. What especially bothers me is the fact that she apparently doesn't like people to be proactive. Today, I took an initiative that she disliked, and again, I got yelled at (although I had done nothing wrong in that sense). Now I better ask her before I do anything on my own, or she will be angry again. I really don't like being restricted in such a way, and of course it's very hard to deal with this kind of temper-outbursts in a Christian manner. I don't know if I have reacted as I should have, but I pray that the Lord will guide me in this matter.
So I'm definitely ready for vacation now - and thank God it's very close! A week from Monday, our annual "hoffnung weltweit" (hope worldwide) camp meeting will start. It promises to be a blessed experience again. This year, our speakers will be the Nebblett family, Frank Fournier from Eden Valley, and Alberto Treiyer, a theologian from North Carolina. I look forward to the seminars and to the whole experience, which is certainly one of the high points of the year.
However, this year our camp meeting is unfortunately overshadowed by a very sad event. It is not even 3 months ago when Thomas, one of our team members, was diagnosed with a malignant non-hodgkins lymphoma in his throat. Thomas used to be our treasurer and his wife Sonja the clerk of our ministry. In 2009, after their first child was born, they decided to resign from their offices, yet still remained involved in the ministry work (that's why I was asked to take over Sonja's office). When Thomas found out about his disease, he decided to go the non-conventional way and found a naturopathic doctor to help him treating this. He also got a lot of support from his father-in-law, who knows about natural healing methods, and who also gave him some fever treatments. When it became evident that the tumor wouldn't shrink properly, they decided to have surgery done. This took place at the end of June and it was successful. Things apparently started going better for him, although he was still weak. Ten days ago, Alberto and his wife Patricia from our team visited them and an anointing service was held in their home. We were all prayerful and very confident that the Lord would heal him. Last Saturday though, he had to be admitted to the hospital again. He was in very bad shape and the doctors didn't think that he would survive the night. On Sunday morning, Thomas passed away - only four days after the birth of their second child. Of course, this came like a shock to all of us. Nobody would have ever expected such a sudden demise. I feel so sorry for Sonja and the rest of the family. Of course it's also very hard on Thomas' parents. How do you comfort somebody who has to go through such an experience? I think there are no words that can take away this pain. I just pray that the peace of our Lord and Saviour may surround them in this difficult time. It shows me again that there is absolutely nothing here on earth we can take for granted. Things may happen in our lives that we may never fully understand, yet the Lord is still in control, and there is nothing that He doesn't allow for a reason.
Anyway, I spontaneously decided to travel to Germany on Thursday afternoon, in order to attend the funeral on Friday. It will take place about 5 hours up north from my home town, but since I have family (of my father's side) living very close, I decided to visit them over the weekend. It will be a 6 1/2 hours train ride from Brussels. Please join me in prayer for Thomas' family.