June 2016 Europe Report
This past weekend, I returned from a 10-day trip to Europe, along with 17 other people from Betenbough Homes. As you may recall from previous writings, one of the unique decisions the leadership of Betenbough Homes made about 10 years ago was to strategically align their employees with the work of the company’s ministry partners all over the world. Beginning in 2007, they began funding these “Vision Trips,” and for the second year in a row, on behalf of Prepare International, I was asked to plan and lead one of these trips to Europe.
We packed in quite a busy itinerary covering two countries – Belgium and The Netherlands. Upon landing in Brussels, we spent a large part of the day walking around the city of Brussels, attempting to fool our jet lag with loads of sunshine and caffeine! Obviously, Brussels has been the center of much publicity over the last 6 months with the March terrorist attacks, and the ever-popular news stories surrounding the European Union (based in Brussels). Despite all the recent happenings there, the city seemed to be “normal” and our team enjoyed the day there, sharing quite a few new cultural experiences, including French fries with mayonnaise!
We traveled by train from Brussels to Antwerp, Belgium, where we spent Saturday and Sunday partnering on a project with our friend Rance Bland. Rance is a Lubbock native living in Belgium for the past 4+ years with his wife, Stacy, and their young son. He oversees all of the international work of SportQuest, and has many great relational and ministry connections in Belgium. Back in January, he and I visited the Antwerp Bijbelhuis (“Biblehouse”), met its director, Ernst, and had discussed the needs that our Betenbough team could meet. As it turns out, those needs became more urgent in the week prior to our arrival. The local city inspector had delivered some not-so-good news to Ernst regarding the condition of the Bijbelhuis facility. It needed some major upgrades immediately, and Ernst was able to joyfully inform the city inspector that he had a team of Americans about to arrive who were prepared to lend a hand! And lend a hand we did! We worked feverishly and effectively for two days, insulating ceilings, installing Sheetrock, tearing down walls, building new walls, reinforcing floor joists, etc. It was a really fun couple of days participating with the Betenbough team who obviously know a thing or two about construction. Rance, Ernst and the Bijbelhuis team were in awe as we accomplished much more than they had anticipated. We didn’t finish everything that was needed, but we were able to leave the project at a point where Ernst and a team of local volunteers can successfully complete the tasks in a reasonable amount of time in order to satisfy the local inspectors’ requirements.
We completed our weekend in Antwerp by joining a local congregation led by a Syrian pastor who had joined us during our two days of work at the Bijbelhuis. It indeed was an eye-opening and encouraging experience to witness an Arabic-speaking church service! It was also good for us to open our hearts and minds to receive people of a much different culture. In addition to the Iraqi and Afghans in attendance, many of the attendees at the church were Syrian refugees. Despite the fact that not all of them were Believers, it gave our team a chance to meet them and gain a much different perspective and worldview. It became one of the top highlights of our entire trip!
The last several days of our trip were spent in central Holland. We partnered with my friend, Volkert Muijs and his wife Karoline, whom you have likely heard me mention many times before. They are highly influential Kingdom business and ministry leaders in their country, and we worked on their behalf to serve a local business called the Eemlandhoeve, whose motto is “Peace, Inspiration, Good Eating.” The owner, whom we referred to as Farmer John, is a highly educated passionate follower of Jesus. He and his team employ many farm-to-table methods, have a popular restaurant, and have many multi-use spaces available for meetings and gatherings.
For two days, our team served Farmer John by helping Spring-clean the property and inch them closer to their vision of being able to host camps and retreats on site. Our construction-minded guys helped prepare a shower and bathroom facility for plumbing, while others worked in their large garden, and some of us erected two large semi-permanent tents to be used for additional sleeping space.
The Eemlandhoeve was truly a place unlike any we had seen before, but all of our team agrees that we experienced their motto first-hand! We also participated in a Dutch worship service there on Wednesday night in which I was able to preach and minister. It was yet another eye-opening, cultural experience for our team to worship alongside Believers from a different country.
We then spent a day of exploring the local community of Bunschoten, the hometown of Volkert and Karoline. Our team was able to learn more about the history of the The Netherlands and enjoy many of the local Dutch traditions. We concluded our time in Holland by spending a day and a night in Amsterdam prior to departing early last Saturday morning. While Amsterdam indeed has “earned” its widely-held reputation, we were able to successfully avoid certain parts of the city and really enjoy the beauty and culture it has to offer.
I continue to be amazed at how the Lord will use every day people to accomplish the extraordinary! This trip was a great and encouraging reminder of the truth of Ephesians 3:20, that He “is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that works in us.” When we say “YES” to His call, whether it is a long-term opportunity, or even a short-term, 10-day opportunity in Europe, there is no limit to what He can do through a heart submitted to His leadership. As the verse says, it is not our power working in Him, but rather His power working in us. He requires only a heart willing to say YES!
I am so thankful for the Betenbough team who chose to say YES to this particular opportunity, and to the Betenbough Homes company that has said YES to an overall different way of conducting business. They truly are outlet of the Kingdom, through which God is performing miracles, and pouring out His Spirit in unprecedented ways. One confirmation of this is the fact that Betenbough Homes ranked as the #53 home building company in the nation, according to the 2015 Builder 100. They continue to grow and expand, despite a difficult nationwide home building economy over the last several years. Their influence among Christian leaders also continues to grow, and I believe there absolutely is a connection tied between their influence & growth and their decision to surrender their business to the Kingdom of God! What a testimony.
As always, thank you for partnering with our family to help make trips like this possible. You are an equal partner in this adventure, and we continue to be humbled by your partnership.
September 2016: Rich Smith and I travel to Slovakia and the Ukraine to minister in PI Training Schools
November 2016: Dana and I, along with Rick & Holly Betenbough, travel to Europe to minister in leadership conferences and PI Training Schools