Sunday, March 25, 2012

Welkom bij Holland

Yes, we are in the Netherlands!  One week ago, we arrived, tired and weary of long travel from hot southern Africa to the cool dampness of the Netherlands.   The sun followed us and we've had a beautiful week of sunshine and relatively warm weather--still feels cool to us after the heat of Africa but we're not complaining!

We have had an adventurous week--some highs and some hard times too.  But the best way to summarize our time so far is with the word 


We have been so blessed throughout our trip by the generous hospitality of gracious people--our guides in China worked hard to make us comfortable, our dear friends in Botswana opened their homes and their friends became our friends. 

And now--when we had no idea what to expect--when all our other plans fell through and we didn't know where to turn or whom to lean on--God sent even more people to demonstrate his loving care toward us. I'm already melting into a little puddle as I write this.  I thought a week's perspective might make me less weepy, but everyday I am overwhelmed by the welcome that we have been given in this place--and by people who have only known us for 7 days.  

Last fall, my dad went to Nigeria on behalf of the Christian Reformed Church in North America for the 100 year anniversary of the Tiv church.  There he met Marike Blok, who was representing the Dutch church at that same anniversary.  They got to talking and my dad mentioned that I was coming to the Netherlands in March.  Marike graciously gave him her email and said I could contact her.  Marike became my life-line!  She has been our WELKOM!

When all our other contacts and plans started to fall through and I was sitting in Botswana with limited email connections, Marike read between the lines and understood the stress of our upcoming arrival in Holland.  Not only did she secure a place for us to stay for a few nights, she insisted that no one should arrive at the airport without being greeted by a live person!   She drove over an hour from Nijkerk to Schipol on a Sunday morning (her husband is a pastor, so Sundays are busy days in her household!) to meet us--3 lonely travelers whom she had never met before.   That's WELKOM BIJ HOLLAND! 

Marike arranged for us to stay a few nights with the Lanting family of their church.  Jan and Marina have a lovely apartment in their backyard.  It's part of their entire life-system of hospitality.  They store their silverware in buckets--a bucket for the forks, a bucket for the spoons, etc.  They have 2 dishwashers, extra tables are stashed along the wall, the doors of the apartment open out to yet another table on the porch, --everything about this place exudes an expectation that a party is about to begin.  And Jan is the life of the party, while Marina is the heart of the gathering! 

Front of the Lanting's home

Last Sunday evening we spent with Marike Blok and her husband,  Thijs and sons Daan and Niek.  Thijs looked at us and said, "please treat this like your home while you are here."  Every moment that we have been with them, they have helped us to feel every bit at home!    

Ana and Mia with Nick Blok and his cousin Pelle

I feel like I've known these people all my life!  God willing, I will know them all the rest of my life!  And I pray that not only will God bless these people for their faithful acts of hospitality, but that the Lord will shape my own heart into a more generous expression of WELKOM to others.  
Inside the Apartment

Our bedroom

Our backdoor (left) and the Lanting's back porch

Down the block from "our" place--the church in the center of Nijkerk
 Jan and Marina have agreed to allow us to rent this apartment for the whole month.  As it turns out--Nijkerk is in the middle of Holland, easily accessible by train, so we can come and go from here!  And on the days in between, we'll just soak up the welcome of Holland right in our own backyard!

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