Chicago – 26 July – 11August (Chrisna)

It was a mistake! Procrastination is never good, even if you think you have a good reason- and that is what I did. I kept postponing to write a blog on Chicago, and then on New York and I had a good reason: There was so much to say and so little time to say it. There was never enough time to sit down and pen down all that I felt inside, always something more important to be done, and now I realize that I cannot postpone any more, this is the more important thing right now. But now I have a new problem. There is so much bottled up inside of me, Chicago way down in the bottle, on top of that New York and now even on top of that, Marseille and the French Riviera! It was definitely a mistake to wait so long...

Let me shake my bottle, and let it all just fall out!...........

Chicago was special, very special. We had a special time in Chicago, very special.

We were sad to leave Chicago.

Why? Many different reasons, let me name a few: the beauty, the friendliness, the skyline, the lake, the classical music concerts in the park, the miles and miles of paths for hiking and jogging, the small Chicago apartment we lived in so close to the lake, the many free things to do, the sunrise and sunset, the church, the Leadership summit, the divine connections...

We started off on a bad foot with our home exchange being cancelled. But,this was the only bad part of Chicago. We spent many hours on the internet to find other accommodation and eventually succeeded. We rented an apartment in the basement of a 3 storey building in Lincoln Park. We had the most wonderful landlord, who even gave us a special discount rate and 1 day for free! Miracles happen even in the business world. (If you ever want to go to Chicago, contact us for her detail.)

We had our "goal-meeting" on day 2, and worked very disciplined. During breaktimes, we sat outside in the 3m wide piece of land between our house and the neighboring one and drank tea, or played cricket in that same area. The road is so narrow, with cars parked on both sides of the street, that you have to fold the car's mirrors flat!

From our house to the lake, was 2km. Sometimes we walked from the house to the lake and back, sometimes we drove to the lake, parked, and walked along the lake for 1 hour. This was our daily exercise.

We were there before sunset and walked till it was dark – seeing the colour of the sky change and the city lights go on. We were also there before sunrise, saw the sun lighting up yet another day and the city lights being switched off. Whatever time of day, it was always beautiful – the sky, the lake, the skyline of the city.

We did not only admire the skyline from down below, but also from the top of it all. Yes, we went up the Willis (formerly Sears) tower (for many years the tallest building in the world, but after Dubai's building spree, the highest in USA). We went all the way up to floor 103. If I had a choice, I would have stayed on the ground, but my 4 men took me up. And was I glad they did. What a beautiful sight! Again we saw the setting of the sun and the city lights flickering on. Yes, we were on top of it all, and we were all very excited and appreciated the outing. We were also glad that we could use an elevator this time – and not like always climb to the top!

Mondays are free days at the History Museum. We took this opportunity specifically to see the exhibition on the life of Abraham Lincoln, a great leader. We were impressed with more than his leadership skills alone, because at the same time we could see the good leadership and planning the leaders of the city of Chicago had centuries ago. The beautiful city and many parks did not just happen by coincidence, it was planned. A quote of Daniel Burnham at the entrance of the Willis tower sums it all up: "Make no little plans, they have no magic to stir mens blood."

Dream, Plan, Action (this is my quote!)

We were also blessed to visit with a Namibian girl who lives in Chicago for 5 years already. Her mother gave her details to my mother and we made contact. What a special and brave young lady Nadine is! She stays with a family where she takes 100% care of the children and cooks for the family, while at the same time studying full time. It was wonderful to spend time and share stories in Afrikaans and to make a new friend! Her parents can be so proud of her and Namibia can only hope that she will return, because she will surely be an asset to our country.

The 3 services we attended at Willow Creek Church, as well as the Leadership Summit were obviously highlights. Luckily Dawie shared about that experience, so I will not write about it now other than to say: "Thank you God, for allowing us this blessing!" It was also good to see other Namibians at the conference and as we greeted them on their way back home, to know: we will also return, Namibia is where God wants to have us, but not now, not just yet. (Oh, Thank you that we still have 2 months left before going home...)

What I want to write concerning Willow, is to tell about another miracle that happened to Dawie J and us while we attended the Leadership conference. This lady, Karen, and I corresponded via e-mail about a possible home exchange, which could not work out. When she asked whether all of us will attend the conference, I told her that only Dawie J will not, and she invited him to stay with them. We took Dawie J to these complete strangers on the first day of the conference . When we dropped him there that morning, I had complete peace in my heart. When we went to fetch him, he asked to go there again the next day! They invited us to dinner and we spend the evening with them, parting at midnight as friends.

Friday evening, fetching Dawie J, we were again invited to dinner and enjoyed yet another feast and wonderful fellowship. All three children plays different instruments, and we were blessed with beautiful violin and piano music. (Were we perhaps in heaven for a while?) We had such a special feeling for Lane, Karen and their children in our hearts, that we went back to them on Monday, just to say good-bye. Needless to say, a short good-bye ended up in a feast! Psalm 133:1 (NIV) How good and pleasant it is when brothers live together in unity!

Both Dawie and I had very significant meetings with different people during our Chicago stay. God surely loves to surprise us as He uses us as His instruments. He gives the wisdom when we are out of our comfort zones and can use us even outside of our SHAPE, the only thing we must do is to say: "Yes, Lord".

As I write and write, I understand why I continuously postponed to write about Chicago. We had such wonderful times there and made wonderful special new friends. My words do not do justice to what we truly experienced, and I think that I always felt that my writing will be inadequate to show the whole picture, so it was easier to postpone! Now it is inadequate, but at least something is written. May this be enough to remind us in years to come of how sweet Chicago tasted...

Thank you God, for blessing us in such a way – yet again. Thank you also for using us in different ways in the lives of different people and to use different people to build into our lives. You did it in every single place we called home, even if it was for a few days, during this fast speeding year of 2009! Thank you!

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