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Pictures from Mike and Anita James

Mike and Anita James

Reaching Children – Training Leaders

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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!

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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.

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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.

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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.

Wed
25
Mar '15

Life with a Baby

When we came back to The Netherlands, we came with a 13-year old and a baby who was days away from being 4-months old.  The travel alone with a baby was different.  You have to realize that Grace was almost 4 when we moved here the first time.  All my experiences with a baby were all in America with Grace.  Most things are the same here, but there are a few differences.  Here are some differences that I’ve observed.

1) You really have to bundle your baby up more here.  Because we’re outside walking more than when we are in America, we have to make sure that he’s got enough layers on.  Plus, we need to make sure that we have enough covers for him when he’s in his stroller.

Grace can't get enough of him in this hat!

Grace can’t get enough of him in this hat!

2) Going for a walk with your baby is a much more common thing to do here.  Putting your baby in a stroller isn’t just for going to the store.  Getting fresh air is pretty important for babies here – no matter how cold it is.

Samuel and Mom going for a walk with Boomer

Samuel and Mom going for a walk with Boomer

3) If you wait for the weather to be perfect before you go outside with your baby, you’ll never go.  Rain covers here are very practical and wonderful so that you can go out whenever you need to.

Protected from the elements

Protected from the elements

4) I know that I’ve been talking about going out for walks for a while now, but besides getting him out and enjoying our neighborhood, walking with my stroller to the store is wonderful.  Samuel is still a little bit too small to be able to sit in a seat on my bike, so I walk with him a lot to the shops.  I’m shocked at how much I can get in that stroller!

Samuel's stroller loaded down after going to the shops.  If you look carefully, you can see him too. :)

Samuel’s stroller loaded down after going to the shops. If you look carefully, you can see him too. 🙂

These are all the groceries I was able to get on the trip.

These are all the groceries I was able to get on the trip.

5) Because it’s often cloudy here, children suffer from Vitamin D deficiencies.  You have to give him Vitamin D every day for several years.

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6) Finally, going to the doctor is a little different.  In America, everything is done through the pediatrician.  Here, you go to the doctor when the baby is sick, but they don’t give antibiotics nearly as often as they do in America (and I think that’s a good thing). There is a government department that is in charge of many things that a pediatrician would take care of in America.  They are there to help when a baby is born and growing up.  They give all the vaccines, weigh and measure your baby, give information about how to feed and raise your child.  They’re very helpful people!  Samuel saw one of the ladies from this department yesterday, and he’ll go into their office next month, so we can see just how much he has grown.

I’m sure many more differences will crop up in the months and years to come.  Since it’s been 13 years since we’ve had a baby, I would have to learn everything again anyway, so I might as well learn it in a different culture.

Thu
12
Mar '15

Zuper Zondag & Our New Ride

People often ask me if we’re adjusting to being back in The Netherlands.  Yes, we are.  Last Sunday, we led Zuper Zondag, our special children’s service.  It was a lot of fun, but one of the most satisfying parts was being able to lead it with teenagers who used to be in our children’s church themselves.  It was pretty funny to hear them remembering how it was when they were kids.

Zuper Zondag

Zuper Zondag

We were also able to drive our new Speed the Light car to the service.  It’s a great car that holds all of us (including Missionary Associate Michelle Chapman).  It also holds all the equipment we need for the service. It’s incredibly humbling to know that so many people sacrifice and give so that we can have such a great car!  I remember giving to Speed the Light for years,a nd now I know first-hand just how grateful missionaries are to those who give.

Our new car

Our new car

Loaded down and ready for Zuper Zondag

Loaded down and ready for Zuper Zondag

The family with the new car - the windmill made a great backdrop

The family with the new car – the windmill made a great backdrop