“Do you want to go to Israel with me??”

Kathy & Bryan Vandertuig in the Negev desert of Israel

Oceans Ministries is planning another Israel trip in 2020, so I asked Kathy Vandertuig and John DeVries to share a few highlights from our last trip to give you a taste of the gift of visiting the land of Promise.

“Do you want to go to Israel with me??”  These words had been spoken to me by my husband, Bryan, several times in the previous years.  He was now planning his 4th trip and really hoping I would say “Yes!” this time. But… I’m not an international traveler.  What would I do with my boys for that many days? I don’t think I can be on a plane that long. Will I be able to handle the rigors of the trip…walking, heat, long days, overnight flights, etc.?

Somehow, after much prodding by Tim and Patty, he got me to go on this trip!  And, OH, what I would have missed had I stayed home! The group was a mix of people from all over the country… some that I’ve known for years and others that I got to know and it soon felt like I’d known for a long time. Not only did I become an international traveler that is excited to go back, my kids survived just fine without me,  the plane rides went faster than I anticipated, and the other parts of the trip I worried about were nothing in comparison to what God taught me while I was there. I am continually amazed at how the pictures I have in my mind make the Bible so much more real to me. I used my 5 stones from the brook in the Valley of Elah to lead a chapel for elementary students and made the David and Goliath story come alive for them!  During the week leading up to Easter, I pictured Jesus among the olive trees praying in the Garden of Gethsemane and then later walking on the Via Dolorosa carrying his cross with the crowds on each side of that narrow road watching and jeering at him. I realized why Jesus and His disciples spent so much time on the Sea of Galilee–it’s peaceful and beautiful! And I remembered the amazing times of worship we had as our group sang songs of thanksgiving and praise to our God in so many different places. 

We are having an Israel 2018 reunion in a couple of weeks and I am so excited to see the group again and hear how their lives have been impacted this past year with all that they saw and learned while in Israel.  My husband is planning another trip for next summer, and he doesn’t even need to ask if I want to go this time! The answer is, “OF COURSE!!”

John & Wanda DeVries at the oasis of En Gedi,

There are many reasons to want to go to Israel.  For me, I just wanted see where the Old Testament stories happened and experience walking were Jesus walked.

In 2017, Tim and Brian announced that they would be hosting a 2018 trip to the Holy Land, and they promised that our Israeli guide, Boaz, would be awesome.  That truly was a great combination.  If you have had the privilege to listen to Pastors Tim and Brian, they are teachers.  Boaz is a Jew who taught why the places we visited are so important for a Jew.  So much was seen, so many things explained, so much taught.  So, I really did get my chance to see and feel.  But also, to learn.

But for me, the real wonder of the trip has been the year after.

I now see the Bible with different eyes.   Passages from the Bible, which I have heard before, sound different, the image in my mind is different, and then it occurs to me, “Hey, I was there!”  Old Testament people and places; The sea of Galilee; The Garden as it looks over the city; The hilly terrain; The Jewish lifestyle.  It is as if God is saying: If from that one visit you see the Bible in a new way, what else is there for you to learn again?  The teaching continues.

There are so many things about the landscape of Israel that are just like the arid regions in Southern California.  However, there are so many parts of the land which are just like they were, so many years ago.  There are archaeological digs all over the country and so much of the former Israel being uncovered.  New things will be seen that weren’t there just a couple years ago.  I am planning to go again, in 2020.  I have been told it is better the second time.   

If you are interested in finding out more information about the trip please visit our website at www.oceansministries.org or email us at israel.trip@oceansministries.org.

When the God of Creation Speaks …

Hanging Lake, Colorado

Sitting down with my freshly brewed coffee in one hand and Bible in the other my quiet time was abruptly interrupted two mornings in a row. The first morning the visitor just starred at me through the window until I raised my hand to wave and she scatted off. Same time, same place the very next morning the visitor greeted me again. This time I sat motionless and we had a stare down for a few minutes. There was something brown dangling out of her mouth and after a few minutes she again took off. I left my chair and rushed outside to follow her and this is what I found.

The robin led me to her nest with two babies who had just received a worm for breakfast. That nest protected the two chicks from a few massive thunder storms with torrential rain and hail. And the nest provided a powerful word of the LORD to my heart. I had been praying for Abba to fill me with peace and faith, to be freed from fear as we are launching new ministries in South Africa, buying a retreat center, and looking at the prospect of relocating there in the near future. My early morning visitor led me back to the Creator Jesus, and His life giving words:

“So I tell you, don’t worry about everyday life – whether you have enough food, drink, and clothes. Doesn’t life consist of more than food and clothing? Look at the birds. They don’t need to plant or harvest or put food in barns because your heavenly Father feeds them. And you are far more valuable to Him than they are…” (Mt. 6:25-26 NLT).

My feathery visitor reminded me of these truths from the lips of Jesus which sealed my spirit with an overwhelming sense of peace even in the midst of uncertain future. Since the visit from the robin I daily go to the tree in my front yard to say observe the chicks-resting secure in their amazing nest and feasting on big brown worms from our rain soaked yard. And the Spirit reminds me through creation and the Word – “…And you are far more valuable to Him than they are…”

Take sometime during this week and get out in God’s creation. Let your Father show you His unfailing love for you, (Psalm 19). Remember if He cares for His creation certainly, He cares for you and me!

Taking the Long View

Picture of East Colfax by Amy Forestieri, a volunteer for Jesus on Colfax

In our instant fast paced culture it is good to be reminded to put on the brakes and take the long view of God’s glorious Kingdom plan. My wife Patty introduced me to the prayer reflection below and it helped me reframe my thoughts about looking at life and ministry with vision that goes beyond our efforts. Working with prisoners, the poor, spiritual and physical orphans, and those experiencing injustice as well as the daily grind of life can get overwhelming at times. Take a moment to read and reflect on these words written by Bishop Ken Untener of Saginaw, Michigan, hopefully it will help you take the Long View!

No statement says all that could be said. No prayer fully expresses our faith. No confession brings perfection. No pastoral visit brings wholeness. No program accomplishes the Church’s mission. No set of goals and objectives includes everything.

This is what we are about. We plant the seeds that one day will grow. We water seeds already planted, knowing that they hold future promise. We lay foundations that will need further development. We provide yeast that produces far beyond our capabilities.

We cannot do everything, and there is a sense of liberation in realizing that. This enable us to do something, and to do it very well. It may be incomplete, but it is a beginning a step along the way, an opportunity for the Lord’s grace to enter and do the rest.

We may never see the end results, but that is the difference between the master builder and the worker. We are workers, not masters builders; ministers, not messiahs. We are prophets of a future not our own.

Bishop Untener wrote this reflection to honor Oscar Romero a priest in El Salvador. Oscar worked tirelessly to be the voice of Jesus and social justice, speaking out against violence and oppression in the land. Oscar Romero was assassinated in 1980.

Finding the Father’s Heart in Lesotho, Africa

Written by Mike Verkaik

Ministry Team from Holland Christian

As I write this I am riding through the streets of Lesotho. It is 6:45 AM and the streets are crowded with taxis and people, thousands of them.  As we crawl down the street the walkers pass us by, all heading to a small entrance in a fence leading to another day in the factory.  It is a powerful picture of daily living in Lesotho.  As an ambassador for Oceans Ministries I’ve had the privilege of leading this group of students from Holland Christian. Over the last two weeks we have been immersed in the culture and lives of the Basotho people, and built relationships through shared experiences and hands on projects.

Last night I listened to students share what they were taking away from their time spent in Lesotho and at Beautiful Gate.  Here is a short list of the ways their hearts have been opened to the heart of the Father:

  • Prayer – How powerful prayer is. How many ministries were birthed through prayer. How the people of Lesotho rely on it.
  • Trust – Having courage to step out and surrender our fears and insecurities to our Abba Father who has shown Himself trustworthy.
  • Freedom – To worship. How we are led and to be who our Father created us to be. Importance of resting in dependence on Him.
  • Joy – True joy, not happiness.  Joy experienced through relationships with the people they dwelt with.

Though every trip and team is different one thing remains the same – The Father pours out the River of His Holy Spirit in life transforming ways that will leave us forever changed for His Kingdom! Here are a few pictures high lighting our trip:

We shared our stories of God’s healing and faithfulness in chapel.
We helped with the building of Abba’s Play House.
We experienced a powerful anointing and freedom to worship.

The children of Beautiful Gate taught us joy and that we are no longer orphans but sons and daughters of the King!

The Grind After Grace – Part 2

Written by Mike Verkaik/Elizabeth Bruxvoort

The word “grit” has been echoing in my mind for the past week.  I thought of it watching Lizzy run her last leg of the 1600-meter relay with determination. It came to the forefront as I prayed over three young people after they shared their love for Jesus.  Inside there was a deep longing for them to have courage, boldness and discipline to run the race well as they face their spiritual battles.

However, as much as I resonated with Lizzy’s wrestling thoughts on her relationship with Jesus, it was the conclusion of her paper that sent me away rejoicing.  I was reminded again of the heart of the Father, and a prayer I learned while reading Climbing Prayer Mountain (Tim Spykstra), “Father, show me the love you have for your Son is the same love you have for me.”

May the following reflections of Lizzy’s on Frederick Buechner’s writings be a reminder of the Father’s love, which is kneaded through the process of sanctification.

A relationship with God was not intended to be simple, but satisfying. It’s a paradox. In part God requires nothing of us, as “God’s love’s all gift, for God has need of naught” (Buechner 48).  Yet God also requires everything.  He requires us to sacrifice every ounce of that nothing we have to offer, in order to be used for something.  God continually asks us to offer up our trivial gifts to Him until we “can give to Jesus nothing that I have, for I have nothing left to give” (Buechner 110).  Jesus didn’t need to make his mission simple to draw people to the call.  Just being with Jesus was enough for countless believers to brave the high stake that Jesus laid out for sainthood.  Jesus is still enough for followers like us today.

That day that I sat down in a puddle halfway through my 300’s and cried was the closest I’ve ever come to quitting track.  Maybe I would have if my coach hadn’t tapped me on the shoulder, pulled me up out of my puddle, looked me right in the eyes, and said, “Lizzy, you can be done if you want, but your grit is what I love so much about you.”

I stared in disbelief at this comment because I felt the exact opposite of gritty in that moment, but that’s who he believed I was, and so when he looked at me crying in a puddle, grit is what he saw.  So, on that thirty-five degree day with slapping sleet and pooling puddles, I marched to the starting line and did the rest of my 300’s.  I didn’t hit a single split, but I finished.  That’s the thing about grit, it’s not about the production, it’s about the process.

God is a lot like my coach.  He looks at us in our puddle of sin, offers his hand, and says, “Saint.”  When we feel as far from the way God sees us as possible, grace is the reminder of our identity.  

Let us be a people who celebrates grace, but let us also be a people who lives with grit.  May we rise above the mistaken belief that a life of faith will be easy and remember that the hope of salvation brings with it the hard work of sanctification.