News

In closing (June 5, 2013)

Dear blog readers

Warm greetings from the camp site in Dronten. Amazing… already two weeks since we arrived in the Netherlands. We can stay in a caravan until mid September, after that we will move to a bigger chalet with three bedrooms, where we can live permanently. So wonderful to have a place fully furnished, because for the time being it is not necessary to buy furniture. Also it gives us rest, because there are quite some emotional things we need to work through.

The goodbye party with our Namibian friends and our brothers and sisters in the Evangeliese Sendings Kerk warmed our hearts. In this past year they became family to us and we know this bond will stay no matter what and we definitely hope to come again and visit.

When we arrived at the caravan it was like a warm bath again (as we Dutchies say to express a very warm welcome) although the temperature in Holland was really, really cold.
Friends and brothers and sisters from our church Shekinah outdid themselves to let us know we were welcome. The caravan was decorated with flags and balloons; there were flowers, lots of welcome cards; the fridge was filled with groceries and in the church a collection was taken to help us out with the initial cost of living.

In His Word God promises to never leave nor forsake us … no matter what the circumstances are and we experience the reality of this every day.
We are truly happy that our sponsors are willing to continue to support us for a while until we ‘are back in the saddle again.’
But these past two weeks blessings kept coming.
We have a car, we both have a bike again and someone offered us a washing machine and dryer for free. Carla will soon have a new translation job. Last week we visited Janne’s former workplace in Emmeloord and she got an overwhelming welcome from her Down Syndrome colleagues: open arms and shouts for joy.
Today we heard that she can start there on July 1st and even the daily taxi back and forth will be arranged. With all the changes she recently had a daily routine and peace and quiet is essential for her.

Yesterday we had a concluding talk with René Ruitenberg and Gert van de Weerdhof, the Initiator and the Chairman of the René Kids Centre. From the beginning of the project in 2008 we were intensively involved, but now – after 5 years – it is good to close the door.
We wish the Board, the team and the business men involved all the best and God’s blessing. He promises that He will finish what He has started.

Yesterday evening Janne all of a sudden decided that she wanted to pray for us. Of course people call her handicapped, but she has a surprisingly sensitive spiritual antenna for closure: “Dear Jesus, I pray for daddy and mom and also for myself. You can help, I can’t. Holy Spirit, You are there as well and You are going to help us too in Jesus’ name. Amen!”

In closing we want to thank all of you for your sympathy towards our journey. We always enjoyed the responses to our blog. Thank you so much.

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A special bike tour (April 16,2013)

“Therefore if there is any encouragement in Christ, if there is any consolation of love, if there is any fellowship of the Spirit, if any affection and compassion, make my joy complete by being of the same mind, maintaining the same love, united in spirit, intent on one purpose. Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves; do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others. Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus, who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men. Being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.” Phil.2:1-8

This morning I woke up very angry. This happens to me more often lately. When you have read the last message on our blog you may understand that we do have our questions. Because to me our coming back to the Netherlands is a defeat, I have failed.

Then to jump on my bike is my remedy against anger and frustration and against my feelings of being powerless. But not just that, it is also my way of being alone with my Father and be able to talk to Him.
Also this morning and while talking He immediately gave me the text that I put above this message. This is the Bible verse we consciously chose for our wedding day, because we did not want to only live for ourselves, but also for others.
When we got married very few people believed that our marriage would stand, but now we’re married almost 37 years. In many situations in our life we’ve been led back to this text. We have promised God to follow Him no matter the cost and when we did so, we were hardly aware of the consequences of this vow. Many times we distinctly renewed it and also now we want to stick to it. When I consider what Jesus has done for me and what He gave up to give me life, who am I to ask something different for myself?

But to live this out from day to day is hard, especially when you feel misunderstood and rejected. But still God asks from me to regard another as more important than myself and to give grace to others in the same way as He gave me this immeasurable grace.
This morning He showed this to me afresh and again we want to be obedient. We don’t want to hold on to our feelings and become bitter. We want to forgive the other from our heart and share the grace that has been given to us. Is that easy? Certainly not!!! But it is the only way to deal with difficulty God’s way.

In my life I have hurt and rejected other people countless times by being judgmental or stubbornly holding on to my own views. I know many people who have turned their backs on God because of what Christians did to them. This is an enormous guilt we’ve laid upon ourselves as His Church, His body. I think it is awful to realize that people have become bitter because of me and have blamed God of things that I have done to them, or not done to them. This is what God showed me this morning and I feel sorry for that.

Who am I to judge others? I am not any better.
Initially I wondered whether I should put this message on our blog, but I sense I should do this.
Maybe you read this and maybe you recognize it… or maybe you are the one who turned your back on God because of what people did to you. I want to suggest to you to reconsider what He has done for you and try to surrender your bitterness to Him.
I know He will be delighted to accept this from your hands and He will give you His peace instead.

What then? Don’t we wrestle with questions anymore??? Sure we do. I am not waking up angry just over nothing, but every time we chose consciously to lay our questions at His feet and then we experience His peace in this stormy season.

There is an old Dutch hymn that frequently comes to mind:

Whatever the future may hold
It’s the Lord’s hand that guides me
So with courage I lift my eyes to an unknown land
Teach me to follow without asking questions;
Father, what You do is good!
Just teach me to carry the present quietly, calmly and full of confidence!

Lord, I chose to praise Your love
although my soul does not understand
Blessed is he who dares to believe without understanding
When my ways are dark, I do not ask why
One day in heaven I’ll see Your glory

Don’t let me decide about my future
Even when allowed, I would not dare
Because how I would err if You would let me chose
So please take my hand in Yours
and lead me on as a child

Wherever this path will take me, safely holding my Father’s hand
I can walk with my eyes closed to an unknown land

We’re going back to the Netherlands, but Gods work here goes on.
From our hearts we pray God’s wisdom and discernment for the team and the Board of the RKC, but first and foremost for His love.

God bless you
Bert

An unexpected turn (March 27, 2013)

For personal reasons we have made the extremely difficult decision to go back to the Netherlands.

We already planned a furlough on June 28 – a return ticket was already booked, but now we altered that one in a one way ticket.

You only have to reread the last message on our blog to realize that this came about unexpectedly; a painful decision and not an easy one to make.

No doubt you wonder why, no doubt there are questions. We are open to answer them, but not on the internet, so feel free to contact us per email (see “Contact”).

An old Dutch hymn says:

“Things that are done out of love for Jesus,

they are of worth and remain forever”

We will hold on to that

What is our focus: to root and live here, or to work here? (Feb. 16, 2013)

It’s unbelievable, but we are already 8 months here. A time in which we have been very busy with all kinds of things regarding the vision of the RKC. When you live and work with others in a Centre like we do, then it is hard to avoid that you only talk about work and the vision.

How wonderful and how good it might be to be purpose driven … is that all there is? Is that our all? We came to the conclusion that you risk to become isolated and that’s not what we want. Bert and I have always been very enthusiastic about the fact that the RKC wants to be an organization that is rooted in the Namibian society, otherwise we will always stay a “Dutch bubble” within this community.

That’s why we decided last Fall to join the ‘Evangeliese Sendings Kerk’. We were officially introduced beginning December and from that time on we are known as “those ESK-Lani’s” (a Lani is a white farmer ).
The ESK is a little more formal than we were used to in the Netherlands, but the people are very friendly and we feel at home; we are the only white people there. They have a heart for prayer (especially for the youth) and slowly we are getting to know people there. In short, we are getting a life outside the Centre and we enjoy that very much. During a Church meeting Bert was asked to be part of the financial committee and he will be appointed and prayed for this coming Sunday.

Last Thursday we were at a Valentine’s Dinner of the Church where some 100 couples were present in a hall that was beautifully decorated. Music, an encouraging message and first and foremost a lot of humor. It was organized by a special committee of the Church and for us it was a real ‘date’. And lovely to get to know more people and be busy with other things than ‘the project’. Apparently they also had some sort of raffle of a one night stay in Oanob Lake Resort… and much to our surprise we won! “Now you’re really Basters,” people said (meaning: now you really belong to us!) We love that and we are looking forward to getting to know more people in Rehoboth and build friendships.
We are here for 5 years and that’s why we believe it is God’s intention that we should ROOT and LIVE in the place where He brought us. So in due time we’d love to have people over for a ‘braai’ – a barbecue.

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A new year and new courage (January 9, 2013)

The year 2013 has already started but we do want to wish each and every one of you God’s richest blessing. A new year and new courage. A new page and behind you the voice of the Lord: “This is the way, walk in it.”

Here the Summer holidays are almost over. Next week everything starts again. If you are interested in what happens here at the centre, you can watch the short RKC-introduction video, that Bert has placed under “Pic’s”. A nice impression, made by our very gifted cineaste Roel Kok.

Yes, we had our Summer holidays, but for the ones of the team that stayed behind, there was plenty to do. The construction work continued and various young people of our program knocked on our door for help: Alberto was attacked by someone with a broken glass bottle and needed surgery in Windhoek. Elvino fell from a horse and broke his elbow. Then there was the very sad death of Anne-Linda, the baby of Valérie, one of the mothers we help. Valérie has Aids. She is a loving mother for her children, but addicted to alcohol. The father attended the funeral, but otherwise he is never around . Anne-Linda was undernourished and did not make it. Her 3 year old sister Desipanda had to go to hospital as well, but fortunately they could help her in time. She is alright again. Gerlinda and Gerdien of our team stood with Valérie to help her out in various ways, but what a very sad situation.

The moment this happened we were in Durban, so we could only sympathize and encourage the girls by phone. Then it is awkward not to be around.
But for ourselves it was very good to be away for a while. We had 10 wonderful days with our friends Simon and Anneke Taal with whom we worked in the Red Light District in Amsterdam for several years. And after 17 years the friendship continues just like that. It was a very relaxed time with lots of talking, sharing memories, encouragement, lots of laughter and nice dinner outings.
We have similar experiences in ministry, so it was also a time of reflection on the 7 months that we have been here. A time of encouragement and a time in which God spoke again: “Stay standing in the things I told you to do!”

That’s the reason for the title of this post: “A new year, with new courage.”
Our sweet Janne put it this way. Sometimes we are surprised about her spiritual antenna: There was a moment – not at all emotional or sad that she said: “Mom, Jesus says… Be cheerful, because I have risen!”

Well Janne, that’s what we are going to do, because this is exactly the reason why we exist!

We wish you too a cheerful year!

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A comin’ and goin’ of people (December 10)

The RKC year was closed with a splashing Kids Club afternoon where 815 kids showed up. Our highest record so far. All hands were needed to make extra sandwiches; extra apples were bought so everyone had something to eat. Normally some 300 kids come, but the word spread around that the kids would get a present. That’s why so many came. Unfortunately we only had 550 shoeboxes with presents (this is given by children in Holland), so the gifts stayed in the storage for some other day.
Last week the Summer holiday started in Namibia. It is quiet in Block E. Many people went to the farm, because they get to eat there. Helmut, one of our Namibian workers was excited for days: “I get lots of meat, uncle Bertie, lots of meat!”
Our centre is quieter than normally, because Wilfred and Willemien, Auke and Annemieke are off to the Netherlands for a month and both Gerlinda and Gerdien have family visiting them, so they travel here in Namibia.
Last Friday we also said goodbye to our cineaste Roel Kok, who stayed here for more than 2 months. Big tears for Janne and we understand because it is awkward for her to keep saying goodbye to people. While driving back after dropping him off at the airport we heard her talking to herself: “Now it’s done Janne. Roel says: keep smiling, just because you can!” And that was that… done! It’s like a small file in her head that she closes.
It helps her tremendously to have an agenda to see for herself how many nights it takes before people come back!

Moreover during Christmas and New Years Eve we will be gone as well. The three of us will go to Durban (South Africa) to visit Simon and Anneke Taal, longtime friends from our time in Youth with a Mission. We worked with them in the Red Light District in Amsterdam, and we consider it very special to pick up ‘the thread of friendship’ after 17 years and notice that in many ways we’re still thinking along the same lines. They work in the township Mpumalanga. They set up a wonderful ministry. Out of a church they focus on children and adults, they help with food, reach out to people with HIV/Aids, they have a pregnancy centre, do courses on social skills, too much to tell here, but you can see for yourself on their website: http://www.passionforsouthafrica.org.
We are convinced that we can learn many things which will be appropriate for our work here in Rehoboth, but even more important than that… it will be wonderful to celebrate Christmas and spend New Year’s Eve with them, so we are very much looking forward to that.

Anyway, it is a strange experience to celebrate Christmas with this kind of temperature. Of course Christmas has nothing to do with Summer or Winter.
“A Child is born to us, a Son is given…” He – Jesus Christ has come and laid down His life to save the lost. He is our Lord and we want to follow Him.
So from our little corner in the desert we wish you a very blessed Christmas and all the best for the year 2013.

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Something you should not get used to! Never!!! (November 19)

This time it’s my turn to write something for the RKC website, but I would also like to share this with our family and friends so I post this on our blog as well.
For quite some time I am at the computer and stare out of the window to Block E. Don’t I know what to write?
Sure, but how can I put into words the things that are so distressing?
Is it about the poorly built huts? Well, you get used to see those.
Is it about the adults sitting on a crate in the shadow, drinking ‘tombo’ (their own distilled alcohol and you don’t want to know what they put in it).
Well, that too is something you can get used to, because it is a daily occurring thing you see.
Ofcourse it is distressing, but the children who live in these huts are not all unhappy because they hardly have anything.

The thing that pierces your heart and you should not ever get used to is that a child often does not count for anything!
Mother has some children; dad is not around. Oftentimes the kids do not even know their dad. Mom gets a new boyfriend who works in a farm, miles away. The boyfriend wants the mom but not the children. So the children are left behind. they need to take care of themselves. And this is definitely not an exception.
Two sisters (in the age of primary school) who come to our homework class experienced this. They stayed together in their mom’s shed. And every day a man came by and offered them money to have sex with them. They were terrified. The police did not do anything because nothing had happened yet! Fortunately the two could stay for a while with one of our co-workers until a better solution was found.

And then Santos who lives with good willing neighbors; his mom and brothers are also on “the plaas” (on of the big farms around Rehoboth). The neighbors presume he is 14 years old, but no one knows for sure, because he was never registered. Nor were his brothers. And not being registered means you have never been to school and thus cannot read or write.
In fact you do not exist and no one cares. Now Santos is too old to enter the regular school system, so maybe we can offer him a place in the RKC school and he will start with grade 1.

Again I look out of the window and see heaps of waste and plastic that the people of Rehoboth just throw out. It’s no wonder they just throw it off of them, in fact they do that with their children in the same way!
If you talk about distressing… that is distressing and we should not get used to that! Never!!!

Please help us to help them!

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The Place to Be for Us (October 20)

It’s almost five months now since we arrived and the three of us have found our place. Janne enjoys it here to the full! In the morning she leaves home with her apron some 20 meters to the left to the home of her “very good leader” Gerdien and together they discuss the day for Janne. It is each day the same, but to Janne this is an essential ritual. Then she is off to work (another 40 meters from home) and her daily work begins: making sandwiches, doing dishes and the laundry… it is totally her cup of tea and she is always very busy. Actually we hardly see her during the day, only at lunch time. At the end of the afternoon she evaluates with Gerdien and the workday ends with a beautiful sticker in her workbook. She begins to open up to the kids and loves to make jokes. Here in Rehoboth you don’t see kids with Down – we hear they are kept in the homes because parents feel ashamed to have a kid that’s mentally handicapped. But the children in our program are used to Janne now and she loves to laugh with them. Last week she asked us to pray for her to speak better African so she can speak with them more. It is really special to have her with us.

For ourselves we also feel this is the place to be. Now that the hectic time of getting our visa is over we can put our energy in the tasks we have here. Bert has already met pastors of various churches here in Rehoboth and could share what the RKC is doing. Next week Saturday the RKC Half Marathon will be held, followed by the RKC Family Fun Day in the Rehoboth stadium, where everybody is welcome. We are curious what the outcome of this will be. Carla enjoys to prepare the Bible studies and as a team we are learning to hear God’s voice. This week we meditated on John 17 where Jesus was praying for those who were entrusted to Him. As a team we felt we had to pray for each child in our program that is entrusted to us. The teachers of our team did so and Bert and I had the privilege to bless them.

Of course it is important to give them an education and food and to help them on by getting a job and a place in society, but “a future is truly hopeful” when they know for sure that they have a Dad in heaven who loves them and leads them every day of their life.

Apart from the Kids Club and the school program during the week, we have a Youth Night on Fridays where some 50 young people come. Last week the theme was Transformation and Willemien had a radical message about choosing for God and bringing change in Block E. A large number of teenagers made a choice for the first time and others were ready to renew their vow to God. On Sunday they stood at the gate to come to church and Tuesday afternoon they came again. Carla spoke about the Holy Spirit and as a team we prayed for them individually. On Thursday they came for a time to pray for each other and yesterday it was another Youth Night and 54 teenagers came to the RKC. This night was about Transforming your city. Bert and the team did a drama about “Being Transformed” and we watched part of the DVD Transformation, a wonderful testimony of cities that were transformed when Christians started to pray. Afterwards the youngsters went out in three groups to pray for change in Rehoboth. They went to the Town Council, the Police Station and the Hospital. Next week they will pray every day together with one of our team at the grounds of their own school. They are sincere and enthusiastic and we are impressed about what God is doing. We already see the impact on parents, but we’ll share about that next time.

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A final word about our visa (October 3)

Finally, they approved our visa request; we have a work permit for 2 years. We don’t have it in writing yet, but we believe it is true this time.
HALLELUJA. We are grateful to the Lord and also to all those who invested so much energy and time to help us, especially Clive and Terlinah Mouton.
How this all worked out is quite incomprehensible. Last week they told us that all our papers were missing and that we had to apply for new certificates in the Netherlands. But thanks to the contacts that Terlinah has with the minister and with someone within Home Affairs to whom she had explained our situation, all of a sudden things were moving and yesterday we had to go head over heels to Windhoek (we just came back from Windhoek and arrived almost in Rehoboth) and there we sat in Wimpy’s filling in the forms to apply for a work permit. Fortunately we were allowed to hand in copies of our lost official papers. It was 5 minutes to 2 pm when Terlinah took our dossier to Home Affairs and the meeting started at 2.30 pm.
We just now had a phone call from Home Affairs that the approval is now a fact. Janne will be included in the work permit of Bert.
Now we wait for the official confirmation with which we can go to Windhoek, pay for the visa and get our passports back with a nice stamp in it.
What a relief!

In closure we want to thank each and everyone of you who prayed for us and encouraged us. Baie baie dankie.

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Update on our visa (September 19)

First of all we want to thank each and everyone of you who has been praying for our visa. Unfortunately there is no solution yet. As you know they showed us the wrong path to follow by telling us to apply for a permanent residence permit.
It would have been sufficient if Bert had applied for a work visa and Janne and I could have come with him, even more so since Bert is legally Janne’s curator, so they would have considered Janne to be a minor.

The Chairman of the RKC in the Netherlands has contacted the honorary consul of Namibia and in turn she contacted the Dutch honorary consul in Namibia. They advice us to withdraw the request for a permanent visa and apply for the work visa for Bert. Also we got a telephone number of a commercial intermediair who could assist us. Bert immediately called and heard that someone would contact us. That didn’t happen.
The next day he called again; same result… and this times 5. Typical African frustration, but it does not build our trust, so to speak.

To be able to apply for a work visa we need the official papers (birth certificates, marriage certificate and so on… and of course our passports). That’s all in a drawer in Home Affairs; we only have copies.
If we do not get back these official papers, we can only do one thing and that is: go back to the Netherlands to get new certificates. According to the regulations we can only come back to Namibia in January 2013, a detour of several months that we would rather avoid.
Bert explained this in a “Letter of Motivation” that was written at the request of the Chief Immigration, with the additional request to give us our papers back. This letter was to be discussed in a committee meeting at Home Affairs but so far we did not hear the result.
So there is nothing we can do. Still, we believe it will work out fine. We had so many confirmations that this is the place where we should be, that we are convinced that God will somehow give a solution.
In the meantime we do not want to let this burden us too much.

Thanks again for your prayers. As soon as we know more we will pass it on.

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Like a mom and dad (September 8)

Most of you know about our concern regarding our visa, so we will not talk about that in this post. Thank you so much to everyone who is praying. We feel encouraged by it.
In the meantime it’s business as usual. Yesterday we had a day apart as a team to brainstorm about the vision of the RKC for the coming years. Against all odds we believe that we will be part of it.
We really enjoy to work with the young people in our team. Everyone so different, but each and everyone a supplement to the whole and as the oldies Bert and I have our place as well. And ofcourse Janne can’t be missed, because who will make all the sandwiches and do the laundry? It is wonderful to see how she gets along with everyone and feels at ease here.
Bert sits with our male co-workers now on a weekly basis. Discipleship, listen to them, coach them and pray for them – that is so important. Most of them do not know a father, already at a young age they were left to take care of themselves. Here are generations after generations that grew up without knowing what it is to be loved. One of our co-workers is 18 years old and just became a dad; a child with a child. His youth was without love, just as of most of the others. He hardly knows how to live for himself, so what about being a husband and dad?
This past Monday it was Volunteers’ Day – a day for all the volunteers of the Kids Club. I had the privilege to encourage them with a Bible meditation in my best African. In closing I mentioned that they were welcome to come and talk if they wanted to. Some did and what a sad stories they share. What a lack of love, what domestic violence, what abuse. The only thing I could do was listen, care and pray for them. “Thank you so much Ma’am Carla, your just like a mom to us. Now we have peace and we can go on.”
We can feel overwhelmed by all the misery around us. And yet… it makes a difference to be here, because it is Jesus who lives in us and it is His love that is seen through us. Yes, the need is overwhelming, here are a few examples:

• The small children alongside the road dragging their wasted mother with them to get her home.
• The two brothers, hardly 5 and 8 years old, who live in a shed without an adult who takes care of them. Their parents left to a farm to work and they have no idea when they will be back.
• The boy of six who rather roams the streets then stay with his grandma who is always drunk
• The retarded girl that can be so aggressive. This past year she was raped various times, since she is an easy prey. The police doesn’t do anything, even when the man was caught in the act.
• The teenage boys who rather go to the dump and lick an empty pot of mayo than go to school because what’s the point in learning to read when you cannot look beyond the need for your meal of today?

That’s why we know we have to be here. Although we miss our own children, our family and friends… this is the place where God wants us to share His love, “soos een pa en ma” (like a mom and dad).
We want to give people hope for the future and yes, that involved education and jobs, but what they need even more is: to learn them how to live and to know for sure that there is a God who loves them in a very personal way. That’s why we are here.

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Three days on a different planet(August 16)

In the past years we have been in Namibia several times. Bert much more often than Janne and me. And yet, so far the three of us did not see much of Namibia. That is not surprising. Namibia is twenty times the Netherlands and has only 2 million inhabitants. You can drive here for hours without passing a single car (Quite different compared to the Netherlands where it is not exceptional to encounter a traffic jam in the middle of the night).

The only things we’ve seen so far is the airport, Windhoek and the road from Windhoek to Rehoboth and back.
But last Sunday this changed. We had booked 3 nights in the wonderful and luxurious Game Park Erindi. An enormous park of 30.502 square miles. For us this was a visit on a totally different planet. Amazing and wonderful to see and experience, but… what a culture shock!

What a contrast to the place where we live in Block E. The complex was landscaped in a beautiful way with palm trees and green grass. Truly a different world. We heard birds; no yelling, no scolding, no drunk people at the side of the roads, no fights with knives, no noise, no radio’s on top volume, no dust, no sand.
It was so quiet and peaceful, there was fresh air and from the patio of our lodge we could oversee the water place where wildebeests, kudu’s, Oryx, giraffe, elephants, rhino’s came to drink during the day. And also from the restaurant we had a view on another water place with crocs, all kinds of antelopes, ostriches, zebra, hippo’s with young, and a herd of elephants. Very impressive.

Each morning we woke up at 5.30 to go on a game drive with a guide in a Land rover for 3 hours and at the end of the afternoon for another 3 hours to spot the wild life; each time we took a different route. Yesterday morning we even saw two lionesses with a young male lion who had killed a full grown kudu the night before. They had their meal and left the bloody carcass to hyena’s, jackals and vultures.
In due time Bert will put some pictures on our site so you can see for yourselves. We had a wonderful time. Janne too had a very good time.

Yesterday we came back to our own place in Rehoboth… also some sort of “wild life” – only with people. We can hardly take in the contrast between the two. And yet, we know that Rehoboth is the place where we should be.
In the evening we had dinner with the team and after that we attended a special evening on “Satanism”- a meeting where many came to get info, since Satanism is especially practiced by young people in Rehoboth, even with rituals and sacrifices on the grave yard. That’s a quick landing on our two feet. I would almost write: “back to normal…” although in this case that’s not a correct expression!

And today the work awaited us again. Apart from the school program (and the homework class) that is done by other team members I have the privilege to guide 3 young women in cleaning houses. One of them is a mom of 17 and still in our school program. The other two received today their certificate of competence and also we were able to offer them a contract. To us quite staggering – almost shameful – how grateful they are for a part-time job which pays N$ 5,- per hour (= 50 eurocent per hour). This is a normal wage for domestic work.
We can hardly wait until the main building is finished and we can expand and help more people with a job. We have plenty ideas!

But first we have to wait what’s going to happen with our visa. The one we have expires September 8, but we heard that Immigration is willing to extend our temporary tourist visa until we hear the decision on our application for a Permanent Residence Permit for the three of us, somewhere at the end of this year. We’re anxious to hear more about it.
Please, pray with us that this turns out well and that we actually will get a Permanent Residence Permit! Also for Auke and Annemieke who have to apply once more for a work visa because their first one got lost at Home Affairs. Thanks in advance for your prayers.
We hope you will enjoy the pictures of Erindi (see under: pic/photo).

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About a roof and visa applications lost (August 1)

Sometimes we called the time before our departure to Namibia a roller coaster, but now that we’re here we could not describe it any better. From time to time we feel thrown back and forth in many areas.
On the one hand we feel we are in the right spot and all three we have found our way, although there are moments when we do miss the children and our social life with family and friends.
We enjoy the unity in the team and it is funny to see how Janne has also found her spot and how happy she is with “her superior” Gerdien, one of our co-workers who guides her, so we as parents are not too much interfering with Janne’s life during the day.
As a team we are also very enthusiastic in modeling the program more and it is fun to be part of that.
Our enthusiasm got a real boost when last week the roof was finally – after two years – placed on top of the building. It took from early in de morning until late at night to do it, but all the effort was successful (In Dutch you can read all about it on http://www.renekidscentre.nl )
This was quite a stumbling block for the progress of the project, because we really need the main building to be able to expand. All activities – the school, the homework class, the youth nights and so on – are held in the largest of the houses of the centre, but expanding was no longer possible. The kids club on Mondays where 350 to 500 kids come every week is always held outdoors.
Now that the roof is placed on the building the construction work can continue. There are so many plans and ideas once the building is finally finished: Computer courses, courses on applying for a job, courses on budget management and social skills and a lot more. All that will be possible once the building is completed.

But the one obstacle is hardly out of the way or we see another one coming and that is the applications for visa. From the start of the project until now we never had difficulties with obtaining work visa. Officially this takes from 6 weeks to 3 months, so our co-workers often come in with a tourist visa for 3 months, expecting to receive the work permit within that given time and yes, sometimes the permit came a little later, but it never caused any problems.
Auke and Annemieke Drost are here from December 2011 and their application for a work visa was handed in October 27. They got a form to prove they handed in their application, but so far it took 9 months and they still haven’t heard whether their request will be granted, while Gerdien received her work permit within a month. It is totally arbitrary.
We knew beforehand that we could not apply for a work permit, because Janne is an adult woman with Down Syndrom. She is not allowed to come in because her parents apply for work visa and so the Namibian embassy in Brussels adviced us to apply as a family for a “permanent residence permit” This also would take 6 weeks to three months to be settled. We have handed in our application in March and fully confident we also left on a tourist visa to Namibia. The expiring date is September 8.
So, time for Bert to pay a visit to Home Affairs in Windhoek to ask how it stands with both visas.
Now it is said that Dutch people are quite straightforward, even blunt (of course we don’t consider ourselves being blunt, just friendly persuasive and probably the most task oriented people on this globe). But truly, as far as being blunt or having a total lack of interest in people we can learn a lot from the people who work at Home Affairs in Windhoek.

Did you have an appointment, sir? Well sir, too bad for you, Ma’am has her day off. And the receptionist went on munching on her hamburger and French fries. Was there perhaps someone else who could help him out? No idea sir, you’ll have to ask HER (she meant the lady who had the day off). He called the lady… Ah yes, she forgot about the appointment, but he could go to a lady called Inge on the 3rd floor; she knew all about it!
The third floor was packed with files. Files everywhere and behind the stacks some people who just looked at him. The sole response to his question where he could find Mrs. Inge, were 15 fingers pointing to the left, and there she was at her desk of a deputy manager: Inge of the 3rdfloor. But it was clear she did not know anything, neither was she interested.
Well, if it were true that the visa of the Drost family was not yet granted the application was most likely gone lost. She was willing to let someone have a look for one day, but if the application was not found they had to hand in a new one.
And a “Permanent Residence Permit” for the Kwakkel family? That was not supposed to be handed in on this department, sir, and by the way it will be the end of this year that you have a chance to hear something about it. And probably that will be a “No!” because such a permit was seldom granted! Too bad that the embassy in Brussels adviced otherwise!
You can go sir. Good bye sir!
Well that’s hard to swallow. But we have to say that many times we have encouraged others to hold on by quoting Corrie ten Boom: “Don’t doubt in the dark what God told you in the light!”
We know we have come here not because it was an idea of our own. How it will be arranged we don’t know, but God can do far more than we can even think or pray, so we keep trusting Him. And we would really appreciate your prayers on our behalf.

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Lessons in patience (July 12, 2012)

People can tell you; you know for yourself because you’ve been here several times and yet… now that we are here to stay for a few years and things need to be arranged, we are clearly confronted with the fact that everything goes differently than we expected.

Lessens in patience!!!
We expect people to keep an arrangement when promises are made. That is our Western, task oriented mindset and one person can handle that better than another.
Whether it is opening a bank account, the registration of the car, de connection of a telephone line, or installing internet, or the settling of a visa application (just a few minor examples)… it is never ever settled immediately.
That can be very frustrating, especially for Bert when he has to drive to Windhoek five times (90 km to go and 90 to come back) before the official registration of the car is done and the license plates can be adjusted.
Our Namibian friend Clive lovingly suggested to Bert last week: “You better get used to it and accept, because to get a heart attact and be brought to Holland in a bodybag is very expensive.”
How true!

So we came to the following solution: When people promise us: “It will be arranged tomorrow,” we translate that to: “There will come a day that it is all arranged and well.”
And yes… this week the license plates have arrived, we have a telephone line now (You can find our number under “Contact”) and our bank account is arranged. Ons is baie bly (African for: we are happy).

Most of you know that for a few days we were without water because NamWater had closed down everything in Rehoboth because of a huge debt of the town to NamWater. NamPower also threatened to close down all electricity but luckily that did not happen so far. The government jumped in and covered partly for the debt.
The Council of Churches here in Rehoboth is very engaged in the social affairs of the town and the government ruled that this Council would form a Committee of trustworthy christians to inspect the financial affairs of the local government. This is something we can hardly imagine happening in the Netherlands. This committee regularly convenes and will report to the government. At the same time the locals will be encouraged by the churches to pay overdue bills.
Every day (each day on a different time) the water is closed off for several hours. We have no idea why. It is inconvenient, especially when you want to take a shower or put on the washing machine, but it is also risky healthwise. We are privileged to be able to buy bottled water. Several of our team already had an intestinal infection. According to the doctor this is caused by the regular closing down of the water.

Apart from this we are doing very well and we know for sure that we are on the right spot. Janne too is finding her way around. She has a clear map with her daily jobs explained in picto’s (images) and that works very well. She works hard and in the evening she is quite tired.
Bert is busy – together with Wilfred – to arrange all kinds of financial and managerial things. Carla started coaching Petrina in domestic work; she is a teenage mom who is still in our school program for one day a week; the other days she is working at the centre to earn some ‘coins’ so she can take care of her one and a half year old son. There was another teenage mom, Michell, who is pregnant of her second child, but as soon as she was aware that something was expected from her, she did not show up anymore. Very sad, because she and her small daughter of almost 2 had daily meals here and also she could earn a little.

To our Western mindset that is very hard to comprehend. That you let go of a paid job because your hope doesn’t go any further than “Owe my kos” (Give me food).

We realize this is a project that takes time. Maybe a change of mind will occur in the youngest kids of our program, but their parents and even the young adults have no hope and no dreams. The little they have is spend immediately (preferably on alcohol or drugs) to be ‘away’ for a while and tomorrow is another day.

We truly need God’s love and patience – and especially His wisdom – to not handle things in our Western energetic way but we also need to keep in mind that God is bigger than the despair here!

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Life in Rehoboth (June 26, 2012)

Time flies. It’s almost 3 weeks that we are here but it seems much longer. I guess because we were here before, also in the same house. That makes a difference.
We thought to start slow – a few weeks of rest to begin with, but that does not really work. And to be honest, we are not that kind of people. So work it is, for Janne as well and that makes her very happy.

Rehoboth is approx 90 km (60 miles) south of the capital Windhoek on the B-1, the highway from Angola all the way down to South Africa. The scenery is smashing, a rough and dry prairie landscape with mountains in the distance. Bert told me it’s beautiful in the rainy season, lush and green, but so far I haven’t seen it like that. Once and a while you see a group of baboons alongside the road.
The capital Windhoek is a luxurious and modern city with various malls. Quite different from Rehoboth.
Here we have one robot (= traffic light) at an asphalt crossing; for the rest it’s gravel roads – impossible to go by bike, except perhaps a sturdy mountainbike. When a car passes by you don’t see a thing, so much dust is flying around.

The René Kids Centre is at the edge of Block E, the poorest area of Rehoboth with lots of small huts of corrugated material poorly put together. Around these huts is quite some space, they are not closely built together. Nevertheless the scene is dreary and cheerless.
Day and night there’s a constant racket in Block E: music, yelling and fighting people, barking dogs and early in the morning the constant crowing of roosters. Almost on every corner you see ‘chabins’ (cheap joints) where they sell self made alcohol. Especially on payday (the last weekend of the month) it’s very intense. It made me think of the old situation in the Red Light area in Amsterdam where a lot of drug addicts used to hang out in the streets and alleys.
Hardly a place to raise children.

This is the area where the RKC wants to make a difference, wants to bring hope, although it sometimes seems like a drop in the ocean.
Our compound is a large terrain with a fence and a gate that can be closed off. There are 7 small houses built together in a L-shape around the main building that’s not yet finished. We have a team of 9 people: three couples and 3 singles (Janne included) and we offer a program for children focused on getting them out of this vicious cycle of Block E.
For instance, each Monday afternoon we have a kids club were all children in the age of 3 to 16 are welcome. The amount of children is varying from 200 to 500 children. There’s singing and in various age groups they hear a Bible story and after that play or crafts. Before they go home they get to eat. Because the main building is not ready yet we give them sandwiches and an apple but in the future we are able to cook for up to 500 kids.
From Tuesday through Thursday a school program is offered in the mornings for teens who are too old for the regular school system. Oftentimes they cannot read or write, so they learn it in the RKC school and also they learn mecanic stuff, cooking and other practical skills
In the afternoon other kids come in the homework class. The RKC supports them to be able to attend the regular school and in the afternoon they come here to be helped with their homework and for sports and play and a weekly shower. All kids are being fed here every day. At the moment we help around 40 kids, but we can extend that once the main building is finished. We have reached our limits space wise, because all the activities take place in “the Holland house” (this is the largest house on the premises that is temporarily transformed into a school with 3 class rooms and a kitchen/dining area.
On Fridays we have a group of young mothers with their baba’s (baby’s); they do crafts. These moms have no work and some of them suffer from Aids. They make small souvenirs that we sell later on and they are paid by a plastic coin per hour.
Unfortunately we cannot as yet offer our Namibian volunteers a salary in money. But in order to help them anyway we have invented “the coinshop”. They are paid per hour with a plastic coin which has the equivalent of a normal Namibian time wage. In our coinshop they can buy almost everything from food to clothing, except for alcohol and drugs. In this way we are able to get to know each other and when the time comes that we can offer people a contract with a salary in money they already proved to be trustworthy.

On Friday nights it is Youth Night (comparable with the Youth Alpha). Some 50 boys and girls come every week for a time of worship and a devotional and once every month a movie night – always closed off with a warm meal. In case you’re interested to learn more about what is going on here, you can go to http://www.renekidscentre.nl
There is news posted on a weekly basis.
Next time you’ll hear more. Much love from Bert, Carla and Janne

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Welcome to Rehoboth (June 13, 2012)

With our suitcases stuffed and overfull handluggage we left the Netherlands last Friday. We feared the worst, since 1 kilo too much costs 30 euros and all in all we had more than 15 kilo overweight, but Bert with his familiar friendly Amsterdam babble managed to bring us through with only some things that had to go from the suitcases into the already heavy handluggage. A true miracle.

We arrived in Windhoek at 5 am Namibian time. Oops, with temperature around zero degree, so quickly we ran into the arrival area to go through customs. We know from others who went before us that the customs officer can give you a hard time when you don’t have a return ticket, but again Bert used his natural charm and handed the severe lady officer a sheet of paper as proof that we already applied for a permanent visa last March. No problem.
Within 5 minutes we had our passports stamped and we could move on to reclaim our luggage. Another miracle: now we have a 3 months delay before we need our real visa.
With 3 kingsize suitcases, 3 huge handbags, two laptop bags and two ladies bags we wrestled through the doors into Namibia.
Clive and Terlinah were awaiting us. They had left Rehoboth at half past two that morning to come and get us. What a welcome!
After a nice cappuccino (and Bert of course a double espresso!) we left the airport direction Rehoboth, a trip of 1 1/2 hours.

Upon arrival at the René Kids Centre we saw the fence wide open. We assumed another warm welcome, a nice gesture from the team, we thought… now we can move on straight to our house! But everyone was still sleeping. We got our house key and within a short time all the luggage was inside.
An hour later we heard that thieves had broken the lock of the gate and one of the vans of the RKC was stolen!
Yes… WELCOME TO REHOBOTH!
Late that afternoon we watched the EC soccer game Netherlands-Danmark, together with the team. The orange outfits we brought for the team members did not make the Dutch succeed Not even Janne’s beautiful orange Tshirt that was made by her colleagues in Emmeloord nor did the beautiful orange socks that were a gift from Gideon Dik.
And even not our own enthusiasm for soccer (another miracle in itself).

Today the Dutch soccer team can try again against Germany, for those who know more about soccer a dubious undertaking, but who cares… we can store our orange stuff in a suitcase until Queensday (the celebration of our queen’s birthday) when we are invited by the Embassy to come and eat Dutch croquettes to honor the queen.

On Sunday we were invited to the 80th birthday of Clive’s ma, together with Wilfred and Willemien who work in Rehoboth since November 2009. A large company in a beautifully decorated party tent. We were introduced as “our Dutch family”… Again a true warm welcome in Rehoboth!

These coming two weeks we use to settle and rest a little, because the past months were quite hectic and intense. Nevertheless we already have plans for some catching up talks with our six team members who work here and of course we will have meals together regularly. The team planned a teambuilding day this Saturday, so we’re curious.
But our plan is for a slow start, because Janne too needs time to settle and make the transition and we want to help her with that as much as we can.
By the way, Janne has her own blog (only in Dutch): http://www.janne1984.waarbenjij.nu
She tells me what to write and she is really anxious to read/hear how people respond.

Well, this is it for now. Next time we will write some more about life in Rehoboth

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“I am sending you” (May 29, 2012)

Again we’ve got a precious confirmation for our big adventure. Bert has a digital subscription on Daily Bible and this morning he received the following Scripture: “You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you so that you might go and bear fruit that will last and so that whatever you ask in my name the Father will give you” (John 15:16).
A wonderful promise might doubt strike us.
Corrie ten Boom once said: “Don’t question in the dark what God has spoken in the light!” So it is good to remember this verse from John 15, because we do realize that our journey will not always be easy.

Yesterday evening we came back from the Pentecostal Conference. We consider it a privilege that we could be part of the team during ten years. We have given our tasks over to others, but in our heart we will always be connected. It was precious and faith building to see the wonders God performed in the lives of so many people.

Now a new task is waiting en while we are preparing our suitcases and get rid of our last belongings, our thoughts drift off to the things that await us in Namibia.
We are full of enthusiasm to go and strengthen the team that is already there.

What will you be doing there?
That’s a question we hear a lot. Well, first go and have a look at the website of the René Kids Centre (www.renekidscentre.nl). The Vision and Goals & Objectives are in English and also through the pictures you will get an idea what this project is all about.

The young people in our team do a tremendous job and we consider it a huge compliment that they want us – “oldies” – to come.
We want to be there for them, to build ‘togetherness’ (Hey guys, that stands for a lot of barbecues), to equip them and coach them and be a ‘listening ear’; and not only to them but also to our Namibian co-workers.
Bert will also work at starting small scale work projects, maintain good contacts with the government, connect with companies and organizations in Rehoboth and we will both build relationships with the local churches.
As RKC we do not want to stay in our Dutch circle, but we want to be rooted in the Namibian society, building friendship relationships with Namibian people.

Janne will also be busy in the centre. She will do the laundry, since the children take a shower at the centre; and she will also help in preparing meals and making sandwiches for the kids club. We are very happy someone in the team will mentor her so her work and her home are truly separate.

But for now this will be our last week of goodbye’s

As we said before, you are most welcome to attend our goodbye party on Saturday June 2. For details see our former message.
And our next message will come all the way from Namibia

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In May all birds lay eggs… Kwakkels (quails) as well (April 29)

April has flown by with a special evening on April 12 with Otto de Bruijne, Elise Mannah and Henk Doest. Again, thank you so much all three of you! We’re convinced that everyone present has enjoyed this evening as much as we did. We also want to thank everyone who has committed to support us. It’s great to have you as partners in this ministry.

Blikkiesdorp (for our Dutch speaking readers: you can hear the audio recording of the evening of April 12, click on “Blikkiesdorp” on the homepage.

After this we had also a special time with our Namibian friends Clive and Terry and our French friends Liliane & Alain and Claude & Annie. Of course we could not host them in our small chalet, so we hired some cottages; everyone his own space, but close to one another.
African, French, Dutch and sign language – all mixed up.
Outings to Amsterdam, tourist trips within our own country – an overdose of tulips, but first and foremost: MEALS TOGETHER!
This past Friday our French friends left and this coming Tuesday Bert will bring our Namibian friends to the airport of Frankfurt, direction Windhoek.

And now our countdown really starts: Another 39 days.

We have a Dutch expression: “In May all birds lay eggs” … Kwakkels (quails) as well. To lay an egg is another Dutch expression for doing something difficult, something costly.
For us May is a month of “seeing this person for the last time” and “doing that for the last time.”

For the last time, we volunteer in the Pentecostal Conference of Stichting Opwekking (A Dutch Evangelical Organization). Bert works with finances; Carla will host the prayertent and Janne will enjoy herself helping out in the Volunteertent with the meals. We will surely miss this event!

Then May 25, it is the 5th birthday of our grandson Tijs; for the moment this will also be the last we will attend. Quite difficult.

And finally our goodbye party on Saturday June 2
(see our former message for the details). YOU’RE MOST WELCOME.
On Sunday June 3 at 10 o’clock we will be prayed for in our Church (Evangeliegemeente Shekinah, De Roef 1, Dronten). We truly think it special that we have a place in this Church and that we will be supported in prayer. Thank you so much, and of course we will keep you informed.

In the days that rest we only want to spend time with our children before we leave on Friday June 8 from Schiphol, via Frankfurt to Namibia. We have consciously chosen to go to the airport in Amsterdam just the three of us, because we do not want to make it any harder for Janne (and for ourselves) than it already is.
A whole new time awaits us, but we have experienced so clearly that this is God’s leading for us, that we sense a lot of peace as well, no matter how hard it is to say goodbye!

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Partir c’est mourir un peu – To depart is to die a little (post April 7)

Another month went by. Bert is in Namibia, for the last time on his own, and he celebrates Easter in Rehoboth. The past week there were church services every night to remember how Jesus suffered on our behalf. Impressive to do this every night and no doubt it will be a very enthusiastic Easter celebration tomorrow. The Lord is truly risen! By His death He erased our sin forever (Heb.1). No charges against us any longer! What a wonderful news, what a wonderful hope, and what a wonderful God we have.
This God we serve and obey, whatever it takes!

When we came to our wonderful chalet on the camping our focus was on “living here temporarily”. Our daily rythm continued the same as always. But now the date of our departure is getting near, we start thinking differently. Now we are staying “for a little while”. There are more and more things we have to let go of, or we transfer our tasks to others, or we do things for the last time. We realize this is only logical, it is our own decision and yet, it is strange.
This time of transition asks a lot from us emotionally.
That’s why I started with a French saying: “Partir c’est mourir un peu.” To depart is to die a little.
Fortunately we also see the humor side of things: Last week I was in the supermarket and saw a real bargain for toiletpaper: 24 rolls for the price of 8… Well, hopefully we won’t need them and I can just leave them in the store!

The coming weeks are for saying goodbye. Our agenda is pretty full. It will be very hard to plan some more and yet we would love to see everyone of you. That’s why we’re very happy for the two possibilities there are.

This coming Thursday April 12 you’re most welcome to a joyous event that is offered to us by our good friends Otto & Renée de Bruijne. Henk Doest and Elise Mannah will attend and do a concert. It will also be an opportunity for us to share some things of what we will be doing in the project in Rehoboth. The evening starts at 7.30 pm. You’re most welcome in the Curchbuilding of “Evangeliegemeente Shekinah” De Roef 1, 8251 BJ Dronten.

The second opportunity to see each other is our “Goodbye party” on Saturday June 2nd from 10-2 pm in the Menorah kapel of Near East Ministry, Voorthuizerweg 5, 3862 PZ Nijkerk (N303). Please let us know when you are planning to come, because of lunch preparations.

You are most welcome

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Each life precious (post March 3)

When people hear about our plans to go to Namibia we often get comments like: “What are you thinking?” And then: “And you even take Janne with you!!!”
Yes, that’s what we do; because we are convinced that God will not only use us, but He also has a plan and purpose for Janne in Africa. Someone prophecied over us and added: “Janne goes to Africa… and you go with her!” ‘
Maybe it is good to tell what God has done in Janne’s life and in ours.

We were always convinced that it was not a merit of our own to be born and raised in relative wealth compared to people in other countries. We did not do anything to deserve that; we are born here and it might as well be some place else.
Also to receive two healthy boys who were our heart’s desire was not so obvious to us. We knew it could have been different and because there was room in our heart and family for more children we became a foster family for crisis situations.
After a few very intense placings we got Janne, 6 months old; tiny and fragile like a newborn baby. A wonderful girl with Down Syndrome who quickly got our love and that of our boys.
Janne did have a serious heart problem. When we would go to the AMC the team of cardiologists asked: “What do you want with this child? She will never be older than 10, never walk, and get more and more health problems!” It felt like they were not willing, or not able to do anything for her. But she lived! And we had to watch her struggle to finish her bottle of milk. After a lot of hassle about the question who had the authority to sign for the heart catheterisation, she could finally undergo some tests.
We desperately wanted Janne healed and in this situation we asked God very specifically to come and do something: “Lord, You are able to heal her!”
We were powerless. God was the Only One who could interefere… that we knew for sure!
AND SO HE DID!!!
When we came for the result the cardiologist mumbled something about “a miraculous feature of nature”. Tissue was growing over the hole between the two heart chambers and it was slowly closing. They expected it to close completely so surgery would not be necessary!

To us it was truly a miracle of God! Each life is precious and also Janne’s life was precious in the eyes of God.
This miracle has set the life of our family upside down… this was God and we wanted to follow Him, no matter what He would ask from us. And when you say that to God, He takes that seriously and one thing will lead to the other.

Bert worked as a volunteer in the Sam’s Inn, the coffeebar of Youth with a Mission in Amsterdam, across of Central Station. A lot of homeless people and addicts would come there. In that time (in the eighties) nothing was done for addicts who had contracted Aids. We did a Discipleship Training School in YwaM and worked for 2 years in the Cleft in the Red Light District of Amsterdam and after that we moved with our kids to a community for 6 years where we helped people to live a life without drugs or alcohol.
It was not always easy, but it was a wonderful time.
Because of various circumstances we had to stop in 1995. A very hard decision to take.
When we were prayed out of Youth with a Mission many times we heard the text about the kernel of wheat that had to die in the ground in order to be fruitful and multiply and somebody said to us: “What you have experienced in the past years is a learning process for later.”

Although we found it very hard we have seen God’s faithfulness in everything we lived through after that. God provided in a job and we knew He was carrying us through alle the storms we experienced as a family. We found our way through serving in various churches we had joined.

IN 2008 we came in contact with René Ruitenberg and became involved in the wonderful initiative to bring hope to the children in Rehoboth Namibia (see http://www.renekidscentre.nl). First as members of the Board here in the Netherlands, but when the team in Namibia repeatedly mentioned that “something needed to be done about the problem of addiction they encountered” it was for us as if our life became full circle.
Yet we wanted God’s confirmation: “Lord, is this our own idea, or is it Yours?”
The next day we had our answer through Philip. 2:13, a Scripture that jumped off the page: “It is God who Who is all the while effectually at work in you both to will and to work for His good pleasure.”
It could not be more clear you would say, but still we asked for two more confirmations:
Our house needed to be sold – in this time of crisis this would really be a miracle! Within a month there was a buyer and this obstacle was removed.
Another question we had: “Lord, we do not decide for ourselves, but also for Janne. She needs to like it to go with us, because we do not leave her behind.” And what happened? Janne felt totally at ease in Africa! She helped out where she could and totally enjoyed it. Last year we stayed five weeks in Rehoboth and she cried when she had to say goodbye. She would rather stay!

This tiny vulnerable little baby, that actually was not allowed to live – not wise in the eyes of the world – found mercy with God (that is the meaning of her name Janne given to her by her natural parents). We are convinced that God is going to use her. She is precious in the eyes of God and she will reach out to other kids who are as precious as she is in His eyes.
And we are privileged to be able to witness it.

Are these steps easy? No, absolutely not! Our sons are adults and have their own life, but it is not easy to leave Jeroen & Manon, Martin and grandson Tijs behind. It is quite a price to pay. Yet we are in peace. God knows us, and what is in our heart. He will take care of them too!

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In between two worlds (post February 1)
February already and Bert’s suitcase is packed again, ready for the next trip to Namibia. He will leave tomorrow for one week; his agenda full with appointments. It is now so convenient that he already quit his job, because he would not have had the time, although ofcourse it is wonderful that he has an official goodbye party from the company Turck at the end of February.
In the meantime Janne and I have our own “women’s party” as Janne calls it. That’s fun too. We enjoy our mobilhome on the camping very much.

Nevertheless it is also a weird time. We are in between two worlds. Our life pretty much goes on the way it did. Janne goes to work every day in Emmeloord; ofcourse we see Jeroen and Manon, Martin and grandson Tijs, family and friends, but at the same time we’re really busy with our visa, X-ray of the lungs, medical examinations, last injections, new passports, fundraising by building a circle of friends who want to partner in the work with us, the planning of a goodbye party and the preparation for our leave. The date for our goodbye party is Saturday June 2. Details will follow. And the date of our leave is also set: On Friday June 8 we fly from Schiphol, via Frankfurt to Windhoek.
All in all we have mixed feelings – double feelings, we say in Dutch – because we have peace and certainty about the way we should go and we are looking forward to it – but also we find it very hard to say goodbye, especially to our children. That’s quite a price to pay for the choice we have made.

The past weekend we have been to France, the two of us, to say goodbye to our precious friends there. Janne stayed with my sister Wilma. “I am not going, mom,” she said, “They speak a funny kind of English!” And sure, it is hard when you do not speak any French and moreover, she had a super time in Bennekom.
For us it was a special time in Roche lès Blamont – it is quite something to celebrate 50 years of friendship (since 1962), yes…really fifty years! The father of our friend Liliane – who has reached a respectable age – blessed us like a patriarch with the words of 1 Corinthians 1:7-8 (taken from Ampl.Version): “You are not lacking in any spiritual endowment or Christian grace, while you wait and watch constantly living in hope for the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and His being made visible to all. And He will establish you to the end, keep you steadfast, give you strength.God is faithful, reliable and trustworthy, and therefore ever true to His promise.” He also reminded us that the Lord of perseverance would be with us! That touched us deeply.

Regarding the René Kids Centre we can say that the construction of the main building is in full swing. We are told that this will be finished by the end of 2012. We are immensely grateful for the entrepreneurs from the Netherlands who joined together to help us realize our vision. Last november they went with René Ruitenberg to visit the project in Rehoboth and like us, they came back deeply touched by the dire circumstances in which the people in Block E (the slums) live. Thanks to these brothers it is finally possible to place the roof on the building.
Then we can use the four classrooms and that will enable us to extend our activities. At the moment the schoolprogram is realized in one of the houses. Halfway January the 3rd RKC schoolyear started and although it is a cramped situation new students could be added.
Once the building is ready we also have a huge kitchen in which we can cook for 500 children at once. What a difference that will be. At the moment the children who come to the kidsclub on Monday have a double jam sandwich, an apple and something to drink. We also have a huge hall for all kinds of activities, a dining hall, room for a crèche, library, a shop, etc. Plenty plans and ideas.
If you want to read more you can visit http://www.renekidscentre.nl You can read also about the Benjamin Kids, a sponsorplan for the children of Rehoboth.
Would you like to consider to be one of our partners in this work? We would really appreciate it when you would support us on a monthly basis. This is possible via the bankaccount of the Rene Kids Centre, with the notation “Kwakkel family” (for bank details, see our Contact page). Most of all we would really appreciate your prayers.

In God’s eyes there is no difference between someone who goes, like we do, or someone who stays in the Netherlands (or some other place in this world). He loves us all the same way. The most important thing is that we will grow to be more like Him and show to the people around us that God exists and loves us with an eternal love.

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An impression from Rehoboth (post January 11)

At the moment Bert is in Namibia, together with Roel and Ruben of Prominent to make an inventory of what needs to be done concerning the finishing of the main building, necessary equipment etc. Ofcourse he has the time of his life. Nice warm weather and being busy with the things that have his heart. Bert thrives on that. This Friday he comes back – we’re looking forward to seeing him again.
A short phone call now and then and lots of text messages, that’s the way Janne and I had contact with him, but now the internet is installed I can read the reports of Ruben and from a distance I can join in with what they experience.

It is interesting to notice that – although I know the situation – it really touches me when I read the story of Ruben. I would like to share this with you as well, so here is his report of last Monday.

Monday
One of the confronting areas we visit is the garbage dump. It’s the place where all citizens of Rehoboth and ofcourse the RKC as well bring their garbage. You can hardly believe your eyes… Children, age 14-15, register the licence plate of our car on a notepad – a requirement of the towncouncil – it has no further consequences.
Because the RKC has many of these kids in the school program we get a warm welcome. Again we see how positive children think about the RKC. One of them shows an area where we have to dump the garbage. and the next thing we know is that 5 kids (age 10 to 17) jump in the car without asking ofcourse. We drive to the spot that was shown to us and the kids help unloading the barrels with garbage bags.
Then the recycling procedure starts; quickly the kids look for edible stuff or iron – One of the kids quickly “snatches away” 3 garbage bags when the others are not watching (they were distracted by the camera of Roel – all very interesting!) and the boy runs away with his trophy as if he’d robbed the bank.
The next step in the procedure is to remove glass and then the rest is put on fire. Then only some tin or iron remains. The kids will grind the glass in big plastic barrels (without any protection for eyes, hands or bare feet) and the cans and iron is collected by the older ones – they will be paid for it. The younger kids are primarily looking for food in all the garbage.
Another unbelievable impression added to what we’ve already experienced.

So far the report of Ruben.
It is a world we can hardly imagine to be true, but over there it is the every day life.
When I read Ruben’s report I realized afresh: That’s where we want to be; just showing them the love of Jesus and bringing hope for the future. Maybe our help is just a drop in the ocean, but a drop is a drop and better than nothing, right?
Schindler, the man who rescued a lot of Jews from the concentration camps in World War 2 once said: “When you rescue one, you have rescued the world.” When we can help these boys get a life, and they dare to believe there is a God after all… well, then we also rescued the world.”

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Warm greetings from Casa Kwakkel (post Dec.15)

After two very hectic months – the selling of our belongings, the storage of some personal stuff and the transition from our house to our wonderful chalet on Camping ’t Wisentbos, we long for more restful times ahead. We’re quite breathless.

And to be honest, now we’ve moved to this cozy, snug chalet, we need time to align our head and heart to all that has happened so sudden. On our last day in our house De Amazone 1, Janne wanted to go through all the rooms by herself. When she was in her own room in the attic, I heard her say: “Bye house… thank you for everything.. in Jesus’ Name!” I started laughing a bit, but really… we would not have put it in better words than she did. We had a wonderful 10 years there, but that door is closed and now we have a wonderful temporary place for the three of us. And Janne put everything behind her this way.

Again we were able to decorate Janne’s room in Pip-style (for those of you, non-Dutchies, who do not know what Pip style is, you google Pip home decoration, bedding etc. and you find Janne’s bright and colorful favorites; you’ll love it).
To her it is important. It helps her adjust to a new situation. It is quite a process to help someone with mental limitations through a time of transition. We see this with Janne as well, but more and more she understands what is going on.

For Bert these are the last days at work. Really weird. But the last time we wrote on this blog we were a bit confused that he would stop January 1st, now we are truly happy with this decision. It could not be better and God of course had foreseen this.
What has happened? In November René Ruitenberg has been to Rehoboth, Namibia, with a couple of Christian businessmen. They were moved by the situation they encountered and decided to help out the RKC by enabling the finishing of the main building in 2012. In order for this to happen smoothly they asked Bert – since he will not be working anymore – to be the contact between them and our contractor Clive and to travel back and forth every now and then. Bert is bubbling!!!
It is so wonderful that these men come alongside the RKC to give a boost to the project. Awesome!

We are in awe of God in how He is leading even the smallest detail and we are looking forward to what He has in store for us.
We only need to clean house on the Amazone 1 and after Christmas the sale will be official, so we can close that door. That feels good. We envision a real peaceful time of Christmas with our children. To take new breath and let the real meaning of Christmas sink in… our God who left His glory and came to earth to save us.
We’re not sending Christmas cards, but we wish you a wonderful time this Christmas, and the best we can give you is Gods richest blessings.
Much love
Bert, Carla and Janne

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Roller coaster, second round

In this post we want to take you with us on our next roller coaster ride.
Yesterday we were informed that the Board of Directors in Germany, the mother company of Turck Zwolle where Bert is working, accepted his request to leave the company per January 1st instead of June 1st 2012. We had prayed that God would lead us according to His will, so we choose to trust this is according to His plan for us. It will give us the time to apply for our visa, to raise financial support and prepare for our move to Namibia. This coming Monday the personnel will be informed about Bert leaving the company.

Nevertheless this feels like another wild round on our roller coaster
In one month time our house was sold, we leave this house within 3 weeks, we move to a caravan and after Christmas the official transferance of the house as well as Bert exiting work. It is a dazzling time for sure! And we need time to adjust to the quick changes.
Ofcourse we are full of enthousiasm to go to Namibia and we are in awe of how detailed God is guiding every step of our way, but our emotions are running behind.
In the meantime we are very busy sorting out our stuff: what do we take with us? (Only our clothes and some nice decorative things for Janne’s room). What do we store? What do we sell? We have to cancel subscriptions, write changes of address… many things to do.
We are really looking forward to have some rest later on in the caravan, because then we have brought closure to the busiest time. These coming months will also be very good for Janne. Although we try to keep her out of the most hectic things we are experiencing… for her as well it is a stormy time of transition.

We use the opportunity to remind you of our Garage Sale
Saturday November 26, from 10 – 3 pm at De Amazone 1, Dronten
(N.B. Ofcourse you can pay in cash, but we do have some authorization cards to pay with.)

Come and make a good deal. Everything needs to go
You’re most welcome. Coffee and tea, with cookies and cake at the ready… we would love to tell you more about the privilege of working with the René Kids Centre in Rehoboth.
We look forward to see you.

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We can barely contain it… life in the fast lane

Never a dull moment in the lives of Kwakkels. Who could know that our house would be sold that quick? Ofcourse we had hopes and ideas, but the Lord had to confirm it and we knew that the selling of our house would be THE ultimate confirmation that He would open the door for usto go to Rehoboth, Namibia for 5 years. Within 30 days our house was sold and that in this time of crisis!
For sure we did not expect that. So we had to look for a temporary place to stay. We would like to stay in Dronten, close to our children and our grandson Tijs, until we leave in June 2012. That’s why I went to the local Camping ‘t Wisentbos. “Madam, apparently it’s meant to be; actually we did not have a caravan available for you, but last week somebody left quite unexpectedly, so we have a 4 person caravan for you.”
Even our neighbor says: “It’s obvious that heaven wants you to go to Africa.”
Slowly everything is packed in boxes, for storage, for sale, or for someone else. The only things we can take with us in the plane are our clothes, and ofcourse Janne’s favourite Pip wallpaper for her room.
Our house is slowly dismantled and it sounds hollow already. We plan to move to the caravan December 10.
Janne is a little anxious about all the things that are disappearing, but she knows where we will be staying at the Rene Kids Centre and ofcourse we will make it very nice and cozy. Her little tv is gone already, but fortunately Martin has room in the attic for the storage of the rest of her furniture. And… she has all the episodes of Little House on the Prairie on her netbook. And playing Yahtzee with your mom and dad is nice too. Especially when you win!

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Welcome English speaking friends to the first post on our blog
About the middle of June 2012 we hope to leave for approx. 5 years to Rehoboth, Namibia, together with our daughter Janne. We are going to work with the Rene Kids Centre, a project in the poorest area of Rehoboth. For more information you can go to the English pages on the website of the RKC – http://www.renekidscentre.nl – to read more about the background of this project and the vision and mission.
In the coming days we will dress up this blog to keep you posted.

Warmest greetings,
Bert, Carla & Janne Kwakkel

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