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Pictures from Mike and Anita James

Mike and Anita James

Reaching Children – Training Leaders

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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

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)

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.  :)

Jul '15


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.

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.


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.

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

Jan '15

Getting Settled

On the 12th, we took all the things we had packed and headed to the airport.  It’s amazing how much you can accumulate after a year and a half.  We were able to get a rate where we each got two bags, but we found that it wasn’t enough.  I wondered why we had collected so much, but I realized that we were going back with an extra person as well.  Getting through the airport with 7 plastic tubs, 3 suitcases, 8 carry-ons and a stroller wasn’t exactly easy.  When we got to the airport, a valet asked if we needed help.  The cheap in me said, “No, I think we can get it.”  Then, after I asked Mike, I realized that we really did need some help.  We thought we had extra cash, but since we won’t be using dollars for a while, we only had $2.  That definitely wasn’t enough to give him.  Fortunately, our wonderful sister-in-law was parking her car and coming in.  She was gracious enough to give us some money to give him.  (Janella, I owe you when we get back!!)


Going through security was a challenge, but we made it.  I had Samuel in my lap during the trip to London.  Mike had him from London to Amsterdam.  He did exceptionally well.  It’s crazy to think that his first flight was an international one just three days shy of his four-month birthday.  On the way to London, he slept most of the way.  The poor family in front of us had a 20-month old and 4-month old twins.  Once again, the 13 year gap between our children was looking better than ever!


We’ve officially been in The Netherlands for 10 days.  At times, it seems like it’s been longer, but most times, it feels like we just got here.  In those 10 days, many things have happened.  We arrived on a Tuesday and on Thursday, we had our things moved into our new house.  As you can imagine, we’ve been unpacking ever since then.  As of today, I have 3 boxes to go.  Since I’m so close to being finished, I’ve started reorganizing what we’ve put away.  Why didn’t we get rid of some of our DVDs before we moved?!


We tried to go register with the city.  When we first moved here in 2005, we were so excited about all the things we were going to do on certain days.  We finally learned to say, “Today, we hope to…” That way, if what you were planning didn’t happen, it was just your plan, not something that absolutely must happen.  Well, we hoped to register with the city, but we had to make an appointment for this coming Friday.  We also hoped to get everything done with the Immigration Department that we needed to.  They needed to take our fingerprints, pictures and signatures.  They were able to do that for Mike, Grace and me.  Samuel wasn’t in their system yet, so we’ll have to go back on another date to take care of him.

I “hope to” get a new oven on Tuesday.  The one left in the house is nearly impossible to use.  The knobs don’t have any markings at all, the seal on the door is broken, and when I tried to turn the oven on (at least I think I was since there’s nothing written on it at all), I immediately smelled gas.  I’ve been doing a lot of cooking on the stovetop and pulled out my crockpot today.

We got our sweet dog, Boomer, back on Saturday.  He ran immediately to Mike and wouldn’t stop jumping up onto him. He really didn’t bother with Grace or me.  We think it might be because since having a baby, my scent has changed a little.  Grace’s scent has definitely changed since she discovered Bath & Body Works!  We were a little concerned about how he would do with Samuel.  He really doesn’t bother with him at all.  Well, that’s not totally true.  When trying to feed Samuel some rice cereal, Samuel hit my hand, and the cereal went all over the floor.  As it turns out, Boomer loves rice cereal, and he won’t leave our sides when I’m feeding Samuel anymore.  Silly dog!


Grace starts school on Monday and is ready to be in school and see her friends again.  We’ll see how she feels about it all when she gets some homework.

Jan '15

Observations after 48 Hours

When we moved back to the States in the summer of 2013, I wrote a blog 24 hours after we arrived.  I just wanted to write down some things we noticed.  I fully intended to do the same thing after moving back to The Netherlands this time after 24 hours, but between jet lag and doing this with a new baby, I’m doing pretty good to do it after 48 hours.

We arrived Tuesday afternoon.  Wednesday was spent mostly walking through our house and deciding where things would go. We also had to get a few things from the store.  Today, we had movers putting all our things in our house.  Everything is in the house, but it’s far from finished.  Beds are put together, but we’ve still got a lot to unpack.  This house is also a little smaller, so we’ve got some furniture to give away.

So, since we’re all still pretty tired, I decided to poll Mike and Grace and come up with our Top 10 observations.  Here they are:

1) It is cold and wet.  Yes, we’ve lived here before, and yes, we know this.  We normally come back in the summer.  That gives us time to adjust to the colder weather as it changes. Let’s just say that July and January in The Netherlands are pretty different.  Don’t worry; we’ll adjust soon enough.

2) The bread is better.  There’s not much more to say about this.  (Well, our strange daughter, Grace, likes American bread better, but Mike and I definitely like the Dutch bread better.)

3) Gas prices haven’t gone down like they have in America.  For our American friends and family, enjoy the low prices and feel sorry for us.

4) Parking spaces are much smaller here.  Sliding doors on the side of the car can come in handy as it’s hard to get out of a parking space with doors that open outward.

5) Houses are much smaller.  Plus, since we’re in a row house, you see and hear your neighbors much more than in America.

6) Stairs are much steeper and smaller.  It usually takes us a few days for us to get used to them.  We’re getting there.  One stairwell in our new house doesn’t have a handrail but has a rope.  That is also taking some getting used it.

7) Fewer commercials – We were watching an American show last night waiting on a commercial break to get something done, but it actually didn’t happen.

8) Formula is much cheaper here.  There isn’t all that much that is less expensive here, but we were pleasantly surprised to find that baby formula is less than half the price of the American formula.  Hooray!!

9) I constantly wonder if I’m doing things correctly.  Things do change over time, and since we’ve been gone a year and a half.  When I started to buy something, I wondered if I was using my bank card correctly, wondered if they still did it the same way as they did when we left.

10) What Dutch we lost is coming back.  It usually takes a few weeks for me to feel normal speaking in Dutch.  Yesterday, I was speaking to the cashier at the grocery store in Dutch, and I was so happy that he kept speaking in Dutch and didn’t switch to English.  Today, however, when talking to the movers, I told them to put something in badkamer 1.  The man looked at me strangely, and I realized that I told him the bathroom in stead of the bedroom (slaapkamer).  Oh well, it’ll get there soon enough.


Dec '14

The Countdown

We have tickets to go back to The Netherlands.  We were going to leave a little earlier, but we’ve been having trouble getting our Visa this time.  We were officially rejected, but we have appealed the process and are waiting to hear from the immigration department.  Please pray with us that we will get it very quickly.

We will leave on January 12 and get into Amsterdam on the 13th.  I’ve been trying to get everything done, but we still have a bit more work before we can say our final goodbyes.

First of all, we’ve been getting everything packed up and ready to go with us.  It’s quite a process deciding what to take, what to give away and what to throw away.  We’ve said in the past that moving so often really helps you decide what you need and what you can live without.

Some of the bags we'll be taking with us

Some of the baggage we’ll be taking with us

In the meantime, the goodbyes have started.  Over Christmas, I saw some family that we won’t see again for a few years.  Yesterday, I said another goodbye to my sister and her family.  On Saturday, we decided to have a goodbye party of sorts.  We’re going to be at a Starbucks and hope that a few people can come by.  It’s a nice place to sit around for a few hours, and no one has to host or clean anything.  Win win!

We’re 12 days away from leaving…12 days!!!  We’re also in the process of getting the condo we bought prepared to rent out while we’re gone.  Goodwill has to come pick up furniture, the last of our things must be given away and the carpet must be cleaned.  It goes without saying that I will be very happy when it is all said and done!

Dec '14

I’m Making a List…and Checking It More Than Twice

There seems to be so much to do in the few weeks we have left in the States.  I’m normally a list maker.  Mike laughs at me often because my lists can become quite lengthy.  I have a working to-do list at the moment.  Every day I try to get as much checked off as I can, but every day, I seem to think of something else to add to the list.

We’re in the middle of getting our condo totally ready to rent out while we are gone.  We are also getting the house in The Netherlands totally ready for us to move into in January.  It’s a pretty stressful time in our lives, but if we take the list one thing at a time, we’ll get it all done.

Here are some of the things on our list:

  • Get haircuts before leaving
  • Go to doctors right before leaving.  Samuel will be so happy to have one last shot before moving.
  • Get luggage and start packing up our house.  We’ll need to get things into many bags and have some bags to live out of for the next few weeks.
  • Cancel things like internet, utilities, phone, etc

Getting all this done is a bit stressful.  There is an added stress of saying goodbye to family and friends.  We never have enough time to see everyone, and that is extremely hard on us.  Every goodbye is difficult, and they seem to get harder instead of easier.  This one will be even harder since we’ll be taking a baby away from family.  As excited as I am about getting back to The Netherlands and sleeping on my own bed, having my couch again, getting our dog back, etc, I’m dreading the goodbye when we leave our family again.