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Pictures from Mike and Anita James

Mike and Anita James

Reaching Children – Training Leaders

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Wed
5
Jul '17

We’re Moving

For a while now, we have been feeling that a change was coming in our ministry.  We just didn’t know what it would be.  We have been here in The Netherlands for 12 years, and our kids club is going really well.

On a Monday morning a few months ago, I had a meeting with Samuel’s preschool teacher.  They meet with every parent a few months after the child begins to talk through how things are going.  I knew that Samuel’s speech was behind what it should be, and he had fascinations with things like cabinets.  She told me that we needed to have Samuel assessed for autism.  She noticed those same things but also said that he didn’t play with other children or always respond when they talked to him.  It is difficult to know what he really understands.  He also had problems hitting other children.

I came home and told Mike about it.  To be honest, I cried a bit because, even though I had some of the same suspicions, I wanted for Samuel to have a great childhood and make friends.  I also didn’t know exactly how we would navigate all this in another country and language.  The same day, about 3 hours after my meeting with the teacher, we got a call from an area director in Europe.  We thought that he was going to possibly ask us to do something concerning children’s ministry in his area.  Instead, he asked us to join the Europe Extension Office and help with the training/mentoring of missionaries before they get to the field and also (especially) during their first term in Europe.  This change in position would require us to move to Springfield.

We got off the call and prayed about it.  In the past, when someone mentioned something to me about leaving The Netherlands, I fought it pretty hard.  I told Mike that I didn’t have any fight in me this time.  We were really excited about the idea that we could help new missionaries reach more Europeans.  We also believed that God was preparing a way for Samuel to get the help he needed in America.

We continued the process of accessing Samuel.  He first went to speech therapy and had hearing tests to make sure that there wasn’t any hearing loss that could cause his speech delay. There was no hearing loss.  We also went to a doctor and met with a group that is integrated to help children with development issues.  Absolutely every one of these professionals and a few teachers we have spoken with have said that Samuel needs to be in an English-only environment and that the therapy in America for children like Samuel is better than what he can get here.  I would never have known all that, but again, God prepared this move for our entire family.

We will be transitioning back to America (in the Springfield, Missouri area) this summer and will begin our new assignment soon after arriving.  Of course, we have to get housing, cars, school registration and doctors arranged in the beginning.  There is so much to do, so please pray for us during this time.  We have stopped the assessment process for Samuel here and will continue it when we get to America.  Please pray that we will have wisdom and the doctors and therapists there will know how best to help him.

We were concerned about the kids club and didn’t want it to stop.  We’re so excited that our team is going to continue it.  They have a heart for the children in this part of Leiden and are already preparing for the next season of Fundag.  Please pray that more children will come to know Christ as a result of the kids club.  We will still be Assemblies of God World Missionaries and require monthly support, so thank you to all of our supporters for your faithfulness.  We ask that you continue to support our family financially and with your prayers.

Thu
9
Mar '17

Catching Up

Looking back on our website, I realize that I am WAY behind in posting anything.  So, it’s time to play catch up.  We started our kids club again in the autumn, and it’s continuing to go very well.  We’re reaching new kids and have several parents who stay for the entire thing as well.  We’ve now have the kids club two Saturdays a month and are still praying about the next step for this outreach.

Circus theme for the kids club

The autumn theme was a circus.

We're very glad that some parents stay, and we put them to help with the craft time.

We’re very glad that some parents stay, and we put them to help with the craft time.

We’ve had a nice winter, but we’re all ready to put away our winter jackets.  As nice as it is, we’re looking longingly at our summer clothes.

Even though we complain about it being colder here, the snow that we got was absolutely beautiful!

Even though we complain about it being colder here, the snow that we got was absolutely beautiful!

We are still overseeing the children’s ministry (birth – age 18) at our church.  Once a month, we run Zuper Zondag, a service for the children 4 – 10.  We use our youth group to help, and they are amazing!  Many of these youth were in our children’s church, and they really enjoy coming in to help (and see the puppets again).

At this Zuper Zondag, the kids were painting bread (with milk and food coloring).

At this Zuper Zondag, the kids were painting bread (with milk and food coloring).  They loved it and were able to use their creativity.  As a bonus, after it went into a toaster, they could eat it.

We have started a new season of our kids club again.  This time, our theme is building.  We are looking at people in the Bible who built different things (Noah, Moses, etc).  In a few months, we are looking forward to having an Easter service with the kids and hosting an egg hunt and party for them.  Who knows the lives that can be changed!  In this “christian” nation, many of these children are hearing for the first time the gospel and anything at all about God.  I had a child try to argue with me that Christmas wasn’t about Jesus being born because he had never heard that.  Please be praying for a good Easter turnout and a clear message for these kids and their parents.

This is from our most recent kids club.  The kids were learning that God's love can't be measured or weighed.  It's too great!

This is from our most recent kids club. The kids were learning that God’s love can’t be measured or weighed. It’s too great!

 

Fri
8
Jul '16

High School Bound

Today marked Grace’s official last day of middle school.  How is it possible that the little girl who moved to The Netherlands when she was three-years old is now a high school student?!

Grace James, high school student

Grace James, officially a high school student

People often ask us what her school is like and what classes she takes.  In some ways, it’s similar to her American school, but in other ways, it’s very different.  Each year is divided into four terms.  Some classes (English, Spanish, Dutch, math, PE) are taken in all four terms.  Other classes are taken for only two terms (chemistry, biology, physics, history, geography, design, art, music).  In each term, Grace takes each classes twice per week, and the class length is much longer than her American classes.  It’s much more like a college schedule.

Grace did a great job this school year.  The level of work required became much harder than past years, and she not only made good grades, she also made better grades than she has in the past.

Today was the closing ceremony for the school.  Because she is a class representative, she had to give a speech about the school year.  We went to the school to support her, and when they were giving out class awards, we were so proud when Grace was chosen for her class.

Grace and other students were honored at the closing ceremony at school.

Grace and other students were honored at the closing ceremony at school.

 

In the school system she is in, they have qualities that they want each student to have.  Grace was chosen as the student who exemplifies a principled person.  This is a portion of what the head teacher said when she gave the award to Grace: Principled people act with integrity and honesty.  They have a strong sense of fairness and justice.  They also respect the rights and dignity of others around them and people everywhere.  They take responsibility for their action and the consequences that belong to those actions.  This principled person (Grace) takes care of her own affairs and also those of her class.

We are very proud of the principled, godly person that Grace is and are excited to see what lies ahead in her future!

I am so proud to call this beauty my daughter.

I am so proud to call this beauty my daughter.

Wed
18
May '16

When do you find time to…

Yes, I am WAY behind on blogging anything.  What can I say? Life has been very busy lately.  We have been busy with Fundag, our kids club.  It meets once a month, and we’re really excited about the future.  As far as our church goes, we’re still over family ministry – everything from birth through 18 years old.  We lead the youth and coordinate the elementary aged children.  Busy?  Yes, I’d say that we’re definitely busy.

We’re going to be helping with a neighborhood party that the community center where we meet is a part of.  That will be one week from today.  We have one more Fundag in June before we break for the summer.  We had some kids and parents very concerned that we would start back when school starts again.

Fundag 2016

Fundag 2016

In the autumn, we’re also praying about a next step – something that would involve kids and parents.  We’re praying and planning with our Fundag team about when/what to do.  It would be a family-style service in Dutch but that would most likely also meet at the community center.  We had a Good Friday service for the whole family already.  It was mostly children with some parents as well.  It really excited us about things to come!

Fundag Good Friday service

Fundag Good Friday service

Personally, our lives are very full.  Grace is in her final term of the school year.  She doesn’t get out until early in July, so when she sees that her American family and friends are finished in a few weeks, I’m sure we’ll hear about it!  She’s doing really well in school, and we’re very proud of her.

I'm pretty sure we have the cutest children to ever grace this world!

I’m pretty sure we have the cutest children to ever grace this world!

Samuel is a very busy little boy.  I remember when Grace was little, and I would talk to other moms, I didn’t appreciate enough the differences between a calm, little girl and a very active little boy.  Seriously, so far while typing this blog post, I’ve had to stop at least five times to tell him to stop doing something.  My mantra for these days is “It’s a phase.”

We had a Europe-wide retreat recently that was near a sea.  The hotel had a wonderful lobby area with plenty of seating, but we found that we couldn’t sit as a family because one of us could talk to people and the other had to chase after Samuel.  I used to look at children whose parents put a harness on them and think, “Can’t you have better control over that child?!”  Now, I totally get it.  While sitting trying to talk to friends, one asked, “What if you just let him go?  What’s the worst that could happen?”  Since he ran straight for the sea every time he had a chance, I said that there was plenty of terrible things that could happen.  Now, we’re happy to be at home where the running is more contained.  I’ve learned to lock the back gate when we go outside, or he can open it and take off.  Seriously!  How can a 20 month be so fast?!  At least I’m in decent physical shape and can keep up with him.

Samuel had fun playing at our retreat.  This was a moment when I could take a picture instead of chase him.  Thank goodness for moments like that!

Samuel had fun playing at our retreat. This was a moment when I could take a picture instead of chase him. Thank goodness for moments like that!

Fri
8
Jan '16

Driving and Diplomas

A few months ago, I had to take several Dutch tests given by a government department.  If you can’t pass the tests, you eventually will not be able to stay in the country.  The tests are reading, writing, listening, speaking and culture.  I thought that my diploma from the university in Leiden (Dutch Studies program) would be enough for them, but it apparently wasn’t.  So, 250 euros later, I took all the tests and passed them.  As much as I didn’t want to pay the money or take the tests, it’s done, and I shouldn’t have to worry about that anymore.  This week, I picked up my inburgeringsdiploma.  I’m not as proud of it as I am about my university diploma, but I’m very happy to have it!

IMG_0912

We also had to renew our drivers licenses.  They are good here for 10 years.  When we got them when we first moved here.  Well, we got them after passing a written test, driving lessons and a driving test.  It’s hard to believe that the entire process happened over ten years ago.  The drivers licenses we got were very large compared to what we were used to in America.  They were a trifold, and you had to buy a special wallet that would fit it.  Just months after we got ours, they changed the layout and made them the same size of an American license.  So, when we’ve had to use our licenses in the last year, people look at us oddly and ask if those type of licenses are still good.  I guess this means that after we pick up our licenses next week, I can finally replace my well-used wallet.

IMG_0914

 

 

 

Wed
23
Dec '15

Prettige Kerstdagen

Today is 23 December.  All of the craziness of Christmas preparation and services is over for us.  We had two weekends in a row with Fundag (Funday), our kids club.  One was a normal day (on the 12th), and the following week, we had a special Christmas party for the kids and invited their parents as well.  We had our biggest turnout yet for that one.  It was exciting to tell the Christmas story and let the kids and some parents know that Jesus came not only for people in the Bible but for them as well.

Kids at Fundag playing a game "Do You Want to Build a Snowman"

Kids at Fundag playing a game “Do You Want to Build a Snowman”

Parents and children at Fundag hearing that Jesus is what Christmas is all about

Parents and children at Fundag hearing that Jesus is what Christmas is all about

We’re planning now the next theme and services for Fundag starting back in February.  We’re excited to reach more people and build relationships with more parents.

In the last month, we’ve been enjoying the advent.  We make a calendar and each day look at scriptures together.  The month starts with Old Testament verses prophesying about Christ, and then it leads to scripture of His birth.  We also enjoy activities every day.  The activities include everything from making cookies to singing carols to having a candlelit dinner.  It’s a nice way to celebrate all month together.

Our advent calendar

Our advent calendar

Activity - decorate a door.  Decorations must be above the reach of a certain little boy.

Activity – decorate a door. Decorations must be above the reach of a certain little boy.

Activity - go see a Christmas display.  As you can see, Samuel really enjoyed this sleeping/snoring Santa.

Activity – go see a Christmas display. As you can see, Samuel really enjoyed this sleeping/snoring Santa.

On a final note, yesterday, we started gaining daylight.  I hear from people in America that they understand because it’s darker in the winter there too.  We’re much further north, so we really feel the darkness in the winter.  Poor Grace rides her bike to school in the dark and comes home in the dark.  When we come downstairs in the morning, we are grateful for flashlights on our phones.  Otherwise, we might just come down faster than we had planned.  Starting 22 December, we gain daylight every day until June 21.  Every year, I look forward to the 22nd.  It’s a nice day to start looking forward.

We have more than just more daylight to look forward to this year.  We have Fundag starting again, which is not only fun; it’s also reaching kids who have never heard the gospel.  That’s so exciting for us.  We are also looking forward to what God will do building from this kids club.  We’re meeting more parents and are praying about the next steps to take – be it an Alpha course for parents, a parenting class or building a Dutch speaking small group.  Please pray with us that God will direct our steps and we will follow His will in all of this.

Thu
8
Oct '15

The Puppet Lady

Earlier this week, Mike’s Aunt Fredda passed away.  In many people’s lives, there are some who have a great influence.  Fredda was definitely that!  Fredda ran House of Puppetry for many years, and she was known as The Puppet Lady.  She handmade puppets and probably gave more of them away than she tried to sell.  Missionaries all over the world used House of Puppetry puppets.

Fredda with Grace several years ago in her puppet shop

Fredda with Grace several years ago in her puppet shop

When Mike was younger, he would go and spend time in the summers in his Aunt Fredda’s shop.  He helped her make puppets, but he says that it was more of keeping him busy and that he didn’t really help all that much.  During these times, however, Fredda taught Mike the basics of puppetry.

Years later, when Mike was going to university, he went to his associate pastor and asked for something to do in the church.  They needed someone to do the children’s ministry.  As he started doing it, he remembered the days of helping his Aunt Fredda and learning puppetry.  He developed a few characters, and she made some puppets for him to use. One of those puppets, Steve, is even older than our marriage.  He has taught thousands of children Bible verses and annoyed Anita for years.

Anita with Steve

Anita with Steve

She has also made other puppets we use very often like Timmy the Turtle and Bubba.

Anita with Bubba

Anita with Bubba

Saying that Fredda had an influence on our ministry is an understatement.  She was known as The Puppet Lady, and Mike is often called The Puppet Guy.  She will be greatly missed, but her influence will live on for years to come.

Family with puppets

Sat
12
Sep '15

First Fundag Is in the Books

We had our first kids club, Fundag, happened today.  We got there and set everything up.  Grace asked us this morning how many kids would come.  We had no idea.  We knew that there would be kids from our church, but they were also inviting friends, and we had invited many people in the neighborhood.

Ahoy, matey!

Ahoy, matey!

For today and the next three months, we have a pirate theme.  JJ, who at one time was in our children’s church, played the part of Angry Pirate.  The kids had to work together to get back the treasure that anger steals from us: health, peace, friends and self-control.  The kids really responded well to the entire service, and they took plenty of flyers to invite their friends.  We had 15 kids today, and I think that we’ll have more the next time.

The craft - an edible angry bird

The craft – an edible angry bird

Some parents even stayed to see what Fundag was all about.  It was great to get to know some of them as well. We had people outside of the room who were amazed that there could be a service just for kids.

It was so wonderful to do this as a family.  Grace helped with a modern day chalk drawing.  Instead of chalk, she used an iPad.  Wow, how things have changed!

Grace drew a picture while a story was being told about the dangers of letting anger build.

Grace drew a picture while a story was being told about the dangers of letting anger build.

The cutest pirate around!

The cutest pirate around! (and the dear friend who watched him during the service)

Sat
5
Sep '15

One week to go

We met today to pass out flyers for Fundag.  It’s hard to believe that it starts next week! We were worried that we wouldn’t get the flyers in time, but we got them with a whole 30 minutes to spare.  Several people who will be involved with Fundag met in front of the epicentrum (the place where we’ll meet) to go to several apartment blocks to pass out flyers.

Two of our workers going out to pass out flyers

Two of our workers going out to pass out flyers

The flyers are pretty cool.  You can even roll them up so that they look like a telescope that pirates would use.

IMG_0632 IMG_0633

 

Please pray for us as we continue to prepare and for plenty of kids to come.  We also have a website up for the kids club.  Check it out if you’d lik, www.fundag.net.  Of course, it would help you some if you could read Dutch.  🙂

Tue
7
Jul '15

Fundag

We have been in the planning stages of a monthly outreach in the area of Leiden where we live, Merenwijk. We have been praying about this for quite a while.  We have contacted a few places about the possibility of renting from them.  We never heard anything from a school we contacted, so we went to a community center.  For now, we have a yes from them, but because the city owns the building, it must officially be approved by the city.

The community center where we should have Fundag

The community center where we should have Fundag

The community center does a lot to help in the area it’s located.  They work mostly with immigrants helping them learn Dutch and helping them get involved in the community and ready for work.  They also do things like homework tutoring.  They are really excited about the possibility of partnering with us, and we are pretty excited about it too.

The outreach will be a kids club called Fundag (Funday).  It will be on Saturdays.  We’re planning on a fun, pirate theme where the kids will defeat pirates (anger, rudeness, lying & stealing).  We’ will have songs, drama, puppets, Bible stories, games and crafts for kids ages 6 – 12. We’re currently working with someone to build a website and advertise for Fundag.

We have asked people in our church to help us, and we’ve had several people come to us who want to help.  In fact, one lady’s children go to school in the area of the community center.  She has been praying abut children there.  She told us that she has prayed, “God, how will they know you?”  We believe that God is leading us to have Fundag so that these children can hear about and follow God.  We are excited that God is laying this area on other people’s hearts as well as ours.

Please pray with us that 1) the building will come through for us, 2) we are able to reach many kids/families in this area, 3) we can build a team to work with us.