Birthday Celebration! 3 September 2009 (Chrisna)

Today is the birthday of Tinus, our firstborn! He was born on 03-09-90 and today 03-09-09 , is his 19th birthday. If it was not for this year of Grace, he would have been far from us now, but we still had this 1 extra year of him living with us, to celebrate this day with him. And did we celebrate! It lasted this whole day, we did not even work at all, and we officially decided that we will celebrate his birthday the whole of next week as well.

I really want to remember the detail of this special day, that's why I decided to dedicate a blog to this 1 day!

We woke Tinus early with "Veels geluk, liewe Tinus"(an Afrikaans birthday song), sung in 4 tunes, but passionately. (We did try to sing one melody, but not 1 of us received the talent of singing.) Tinus and Charlie then went for a jog next to the Mediterranean Sea. Then we had a proper breakfast – bacon and eggs! (It was the first since the cruise in May - we usually have cereal)

Dawie also went to the bakery on top of the hill, to buy fresh croissants, and even there we were blessed. He asked the price of 5 croissants, the French lady wrote the amount down (language is a Big problem here)and he said: no thanks, but it's too expensive." She said: "wait", and wrote a much cheaper amount and he said: "Yes, thank you very much, merci!" and she smiled. We were all excited about the special treat, and each had one. When I cleared the table, there were still 2 croissants left in the bag! This lady did not only give us discount, but gave us 2 extra croissants as well! If you've been to France, you will know that this is not their usual way of doing business. (So far we have encountered many near to rude people here.) Praise God for showing us the goodness in people!

After breakfast, we had our normal family tradition of blessing and praying for the person who has his birthday. Just for the fun of it, we 1st sang the birthday song again (this time in 4 different melodies than earlier) and also a song "We love /bless you with the love of the Lord ". Then we prayed for Tinus – Dawie J, Myself, Charlie and Dawie. It was as if the prayers and blessings were more intense than other times. Perhaps because we realized that we will not do it in this usual way next year – as he will be in Stellenbosch. I think another reason is that he will be entering into a new phase of his life. Perhaps it was just because we appreciate him now, after a close-knit 8 months, even more than before. What I do know is that God heard every one of our requests and will keep him in the Palm of His Hand.

We then gave him his presents: His Switserland knife, which I've lost, (and he gracefully accepted it), but I discovered it 3 days ago in my bag and did not tell him about it. He was very glad and received it as if it was for the first time! He also received the much needed pair of shoes that we bought him in New York, wrapped up. Also a CD, which also has a special story attached to it. At Willow Creek, Dawie gave each of us a "voucher" to buy something in the bookshop. Tinus had difficulty choosing between a book and a CD, but took the book. Dawie J then, instead of buying something for himself, chose the CD which he knew Tinus liked, and gave it to him on his birthday. Dawie J also colored the magnet for Tinus that Tinus bought in Michigan City. (It still needed coloring in.) Charlie gave him all of the money he received when he sold his dog's puppy earlier this year so that Tinus can buy himself a specific thing he wished to get. And there were cards we made and wrote.

After those special moments, we all went for a swim at the small harbour near our house. We reminded each other what a real treat this was: swimming together on a Thursday morning! Back home again we enjoyed tea and chocolate cake, which Dawie J baked.

All of the above took us to 14h00 and we left our house with a long planned mission: Vieux Port, the heart of Marseille. We walked the 3 km to get there, then walked slower and enjoyed the feel of being a tourist.

We walked on and on, to La Vieille Charite in Le Panier – the oldest parts of Marseille. La Vieille Charite was built in 1671 to offer a safe place where refuges, orphans and the homeless could have a place to rest. Yes, people do have a good, caring side in them. God made us that way, but unfortunately we also have a dark, selfish side. We all have the ability to good and bad. At the end, it's the one that gets fed most, that will come out. Feed on God and His Word – good will be visible. Feed on the world – bad will be visible. Each must choose. Whoops, that was just a short interruption in my birthday story. Let me continue.

Dawie(the older one) found a restaurant with WiFi and sat down to work, while the rest of us explored more of Marseille. We joined him at 18h00 to eat. We've planned this weeks ago, that we will have a meal in one of the street restaurants on Tinus's birthday. It was just as we planned it, with the only exception that we found a place much cheaper than what we expected – so we even ended up well below budget! And more than that – we met another friendly Frenchman, our waiter. He even tried to speak English! Tinus could also skype with Ouma, which was good for both of them. We sat there until the sun dropped into the sea. Then we walked the 3km back home.

We reached home at 21h00. We were happy and fulfilled. We had a special celebration of the birthday of a special young man.

May God continue to bless you, Tinus and may you walk with Him in righteousness and know Him more and more each day. Thank you for who you are. Thank you that there is so much goodness in you. We love you and we like you!

New York, New York! 11-18 August 2009 (Chrisna)

The blessing that was waiting for us in New York, started 4 weeks before we reached the Big City. Finding no home exchange, we were forced to book a hotel for 1 week and changed our air tickets to fly out on 18 instead of 20 August. While in Georgia, we received a mail from a lady from New York, whom I contacted a year ago about a home exchange (which was impossible at the time). She read our blog and wanted to bless us. "Their family is going on a surprise-tour to Namibia during the same time that we will be in NY and we are welcome to stay in their house – no strings attached!"

Now, if that is not a miracle! We all shouted: "Praise the Lord!" Another miracle was that we could cancel our hotel booking without cost.

Although we were sad when we left Chicago, we were looking forward to yet another adventure. Our focus was on New York now - what will God teach us and show us in the Big City? Will there be more divine connections, since we already experienced so much blessing through the correspondence with Patty (the lady of the house)? Our sadness about leaving Chicago, turned into fond memories and excitement developed, also since none of us have ever been to NY before.

We had to take a taxi from La Guardia airport to our house in South Orange, New Jersey. We were shocked to find out that the cheapest taxi was US$ 112,00! We then chose to make the best of the taxi ride and see it as a sight seeing tour. We asked questions and took photos. We drove through 2 tunnels – 1st onto Manhattan island and then again to get off the island into New Jersey. The taxi stopped in front of a castle – it was our house!

The house has 4 storey's. Each boy had his own room with a desk, there was a gym, a swimmingpool...I can go on! We closed some doors – that was "no entry" rooms (less to clean when leaving!) The miracle was real and super big. Glory to God and thank you to the BC-gang for blessing us in such a way!

As everyone was a little flu-ish and behind on goals, we decided to stay home for the first 2 days. Dawie and myself only went to the nearest grocery store to buy food. Everyone worked hard, making the most of each day, but it felt like holiday all the time – because of what our environment offered. On day 3, the day that we planned to start to explore New York, the vote was to stay home yet another day. At the end we remained in our castle for 5 days without leaving the yard!

Friday evening we were invited to dinner by our neighbors. What a fantastic evening! We went to their golf club and had to wear our best clothes from our suitcases. It was wonderful food and the conversation was even better. We discussed many different stimulating subjects and knew, this was yet another divine connection God had in stall for us. That evening after we returned home, all 5 of us ended up in our huge bed, and chatted away until after 2h00 in the morning!

Here is yet another divine connection. Special friends of the BC's (our home's owners), brought us a cherry-pie, our first one in America. Boy, it was a special treat! We invited them to stay for tea and had a delightful visit for many hours. We were privileged to have 2 more such special visits with them .(We surely hope that Paul and Shelley, John and Barbara and their families will come visit Namibia real soon...)

Sunday morning, day 6 of our 8 days in NY, we left the house! We drove all the way to Brooklyn, crossing 2 long bridges and Staten island to get there. Our destination was the Brooklyn Tabernacle. Once again, Dawie did not make a mistake by the choice of church we visited. The fellowship, the choir, the message, everything was bringing glory to God and food to our souls.

Back at the house, it was time to pack and clean. We left our castle Sunday evening after a final swim. We drove 10 minutes to our hotel and in the process went from one of the richest to one of the poorest neighborhoods in New Jersey. Back to reality in our 1 small hotel room, but we were grateful to have a safe place to stay and even more so to have the memories of the miracle.

Monday morning, day 7, was the day for New York City! We decided to go on until we drop. We left at 8h30 and returned, tired but satisfied, at 23h30. We've covered NYC right from the Statue of Liberty up to Time Square – all on foot.

We really experienced the city! What's more, is that we also got our very first suntan of the whole tour in NYC! It was a hot, sunshine day and the boat trip on the Hudson river in the NYC harbour, was the right setting to "feel summer".

Dawie already wrote about some of the sites we passed as we walked for miles and miles. I want to add one personal experience: the horror of 9/11 became a different reality as we saw the gap where the Twin Towers once were, as we walked where people died and read the stories in the churches, which became havens during those days. America's face and heart was ripped open. Oh, the horror of where human minds can go to! Oh, the ability to love that people have in them to care for others in need! As we sat in a nearby small park, I had time to meditate on this. And then the terrifying thought of how often we go down that road of destruction – with a word we say, or even something we insinuate, something we do, or something we neglect to do –so many different ways how we can hit each other in the face, and then move on. A terrible, but true picture of this world we live in.

I realized that 2 things are necessary to overcome any a tragedy and to live a satisfying, abundant life in this world. The first action step is that you have to forgive to become free of the hurt of the past, otherwise you allow the horror of the past to continue to harm you. The second thing is to hold on to the Hope that there is in Jesus Christ, to walk as He has walked, to live His love to the people around you and in that way be part of the goodness that there can be in the world. I found a good summary of guidelines on how to live the good life:

Mic 6:8 The LORD God has told us what is right and what he demands: "See that justice is done, let mercy be your first concern, and humbly obey your God."

May we all find the courage to live this way. May we be willing to submit ourselves to the Lord and be part of the solution and not the problem!

After 9/11 New York went on with life, and we also continued our journey. We walked the whole day, stopping, looking, chatting, taking pictures and walking. We had picnic in one of the many parks, we sat at the tables which are conveniently on the islands in the middle of Broadway and simply watched and enjoyed, and we walked.

We loved it. We walked till way past sunset and was greeted at Time Square with millions of lights, 360 degrees around us. There were as many people as there were lights. It was vibrant, alive, fun and so New York!

Tuesday morning came too soon, but we were up and ready. This time we went to Central park where we walked, sat, played ball and walked - enjoying this massive park in the middle of the hustle and bustle of the Big City. We walked south to Penn Station, past Time Square (still as many lights, but not as impressive as during nighttime) and were on time for the 13h30 train. Our destination was our castle in South Orange. The BC's were home, and we went there to meet them and personally say thank you. The visit was a blessing, we said good-bye as true friends.

Back at the hotel, we had a short time to pack and go to the airport. It was time to greet New York, but more than that – it was time to greet the USA.

Oh, what a wonderful 7 days we had in NY and what a wonderful 4 months we had in America! This was good, very good times. We could become part of the locals, but we could also stay objective and look from the outside. We learned many different lessons: we took note of the many things we liked and appreciated and will make sure that it will be true of us as well AND we also recognized the wrongs, the mistakes and can learn from that and take extra care to avoid the wrong roads.

If my place was not in Namibia, Africa and God gives me the choice to live any place else, I,and the rest of my family, will choose America.

We were blessed to be able to live and learn there for 4 months of our lives. Thank you God for the abundant life we have in You!

Chicago 26 July – 11 Aug (Dawie J)

Chicago was great. There is such a beautiful skyline and we had a nice home the first 12 days and then went to a hotel (near Willow Creek) for 5 days.

We went up the Willis Tower to the Skydeck. There were spectacular views, it feels as if you're on the top of the world. It was cool to stand on the glass balcony and look right down to the street 103 storeys below!

We played cricket in Lincoln Park, and I came 2nd after my dad (who always wins). We often also played mini-cricket in the small area next to our house.

The visit to the Science and Industry museum was great. Me and my 2 brothers went. We saw the German U-boat (World War II submarine) and many other interesting things. Tinus and Charlie explained all the stuff that I did not understand. It is a privilege to have 2 older brothers like them.

My parents and brothers went to the Leadership Summit and I did not have a place to stay. I worried about it. We asked God to provide a place for me to stay. That really put my faith to a test. A family we have not met before, invited me to stay with them. So, I went to the Lowmans on Thursday. I had so much fun, that I asked to stay with them on the Friday as well, instead of staying in the Hotel room. I learned that to trust God, is the best and that when God provides, He provides the best!

Once we went to a restaurant as a special treat. It was buffet. We stayed there for 4 hours, not because we ate so much, but because we talked so much! I just love to be part of my family. We loved the eating as well!

Now I say good bye!

What I’ve Learned: Germany (Tinus) 1 September 2009

I guess I knew I was behind schedule when we revisited Germany before my post on what I learned the first time round, was published. Ironically (or tragically, to be more truthful) the very thing I chose to remember from my Germany experience is the axiom: "Do it, do it right, do it now."

Slightly embarrassed, I am thus doing it right now.

Every time I visit Germany (OK, I have only been there twice, but it is certainly true of both those occasions) I am struck by the efficiency and excellence with which the Germans do everything. From the passport control to the coffee machines to the bathrooms. Everything just works. I respect them for that.

Funny though, that it was a Lufthansa airplane (on our flight from New York to Munich) that had a malfunctioning in-flight entertainment system.

Elaborate on my axiom, I cannot do too much of though. You'll agree that it does not address a part of my life I am particularly proud of. All I can do is shorten it even more: "Do Right Now" and make a few comments.

  • Doing the right things adequately is far better that doing the wrong things beautifully.
  • Do whatever you do to the best of your ability, as for the Lord.
  • Do not postpone.

I realize that this installment on what this tour has taught me is woefully short, but true it is nonetheless. I can also proudly assert that I shall continue learning...especially in this regard.

Chicago, Chicago (21 Jul – 6 Aug)Charlie

A lot has been said about this memorable stop on our world tour and although all stops were definitely memorable, this one was especially special. Although I am currently in the south of France and still behind on a lot of blogs I still deem it necessary to elaborate on my own experiences and feelings about the windy city. I am sure that at the end of this tour, we will be able to recall a lot of special things from our memory, but I know that as soon as we start thinking the first memories that jumps impulsively into our heads will be that of Chicago.

As you know already from my mother's blogs, the first week after landing at the Chicago's O'Hare airport was one of adventure and discovery. It was, by the grace of God, one of the very few times we had nothing planned in terms of where we will stay or in what we will stay! We were left to challenge the void of imagination and adventure in our thoughts. The only problem at the beginning of these few days was that everyone started to think for a change. Usually we plan the basic things beforehand and then during our time there the tour co-ordinator, my mother, would make suggestions as to what she felt had to be done. In these few days on the other hand, we didn't even have the basic stuff planned… Luckily we booked one thing ahead of time which was the car. That helped us more than you could ever imagine. You see, if you have wheels, your horizon of possibilities becomes broader by the second. In retrospect I think it was a good thing but at that time I wasn't sure if more possibilities was making things easier or more difficult.

So it all began… We climbed in our newly rented Cadillac and hit the road with absolutely no idea of where we were off to. We impulsively just decided to stay on the I- 90 E and see where that leads us. It took us past the city, past all Chicago's beautiful skyscrapers and finally out of Illinois. Then we were a bit unsure of what to do next, because as soon as we brought the inevitable question to the table a kaleidoscope of different views and ideas flushed through the car. Where were we headed? That question still remains a companion to me, not only in the practical sense of where to travel but in life as to where we will take our own life, where will we steer our own ship? After a lot of arguing, we decided to take it further in a stationary position, off of the interstate. The big problems was different paradigms, predictions and thoughts as at what this will consist of. A few of us felt that this was always going to be a road trip. Where we would put many American miles under our belts. Others felt like making it a more personal journey through the country, experiencing everything a single place has to offer, progressing slowly. At the end we came to the conclusion that everyone imagined these few days differently and that we needed to do more research about the area. Thus we headed to the Indiana Visitor's Centre.

Unfortunately it was already closed. We saw this as a decision being made for us. That night we would spend close to the Visitor's centre. The next morning we spent another two hours to decide where to go and in all the confusion I think we all saw the light. Simultaneously we decided to make it the best of both worlds. We were going to give attentive detail to the country but also put a few miles between us and Chicago. Thus it worked out perfectly in the end. We never got tired of driving and we got to see a variety of people and places. You might wander as to what gave us the necessary insight and wisdom. It was after we prayed and began to make sacrifices on our own terms and began to think of the other people in the family that we could come to a conclusion. This was a special few days for me, not only because of the beautiful places we could see, but because of the insight on the way I would steer my life's direction, in the wake of God's leadership!

After the week of adventure, unfortunate confrontation and reconsolidating freedom we headed back towards Chicago. From the beginning, Chicago had been on our list of places we had to visit because of the Willow creek Community Church. So when we thought about the few days without agenda beforehand, we came to one agreement. We had to be back on the Sunday to go to the Willow service. Thus, when heading towards Chicago, after these few days, we stopped by Willow on our way there. It was then that we got another taste of a beautiful, working church in the will of God. Thinking back now, I can only thank and praise God for leading us to so many inspirational churches. There is truly nothing like the local church when it is functioning according to the will of God. Not only did the worship capture the individuals Spirit in the essence of God, but the sermon captivated the soul, enlightening God's greatness. We got to listen to David Nasser. I will elaborate more on his service next time. After this first enriching service at Willow we headed to our new house which would become our home away from home for the next 10 days.

This apartment was in the heart and soul of a beautiful part of the city. Certainly not the most wealthy part, but one of the most enjoyable parts. Yes, our new apartment was in Lincoln park. Not in down town but a bit to the north west. Still, it was near enough to jog to downtown and to see the John Hancock side of the skyline from the lake side. It was situated about 2,5 km from the great lake. Thus setting up a beautiful opportunity for jogging to and next to the lake. It is so beautiful in day and night that jogging really becomes a dream. It appeared as the destination where it would be perfect to get a few running miles behind our backs and as it appeared, it was.

We got up early some mornings and ran our hearts out. Other days we would take an afternoon run. This for me was the most special. Not because of the beautiful colors in the sky, but because of all the people that joined us in exercise. All around us, there appeared locals with roller blades, bikes and the ever trustworthy running shoe. Chicago is certainly a calorie burning machine! There are people who says that the location isn't that important when you run - I was one of those. When I first ran in Chicago my views changed. Running certainly is a breeze there! Although the breeze may be in my face, I still enjoedy it because of all the beauty and because of all the people doing it with you. I could also learn from this that when there are others doing something with you, it is easier, although they even might be headed in the other direction.

More about our apartment. The whole apartment was in an old, small Chicago house basement. It was a bit of a downsizing from the Atlanta house and mountain cabin, but it still was a lot more worth than a hotel room. We spend those ten days mostly in our small apartment. It was a fruitful week for work, but also an eye-opener to what city culture and diversity could be like. During our few afternoons and days off, we did a few memorable Chicago city ventures including the Willis Tower Sky Deck, Lincoln Park zoo, Millennium Park, Navy pier and the Museum of Science and Industry.

The Sky Deck was an experience that left me feeling above the clouds – literally! Beforehand, being a Namibian, I felt a strange sense of awe and admiration as well as a bit of fear staring at the humongous structure. Before even going up I could understand that the Lord truly wants us to reach our full potential for the age we live in. When climbing in the elevator I felt a bit unsure… This feeling was futile though, because the elevator started to move. We went up, and up and up, surpassing other structural landmarks on the way. When we rose above the Eifel with 20 floors to go, a new feeling entered my thoughts, excitement! After my ears popped a few times we got to the 103 floor… I stepped out and saw the beauty of a skyline I've seen before, only this time it was from above! Everything was breathtaking! The lake in the east, the sunset in the west, everything! When we got down I felt an aspiration to reach my full potential and let God take me to new heights in my life!

Lincoln Park zoo was on the list only because it is for free, one of very few zoos in the world that are still free. Summarizing that experience, I did feel a bit sorry for the creatures in captivity because my own spirit is free, but I saw it as an opportunity for people who do not have the privilege to go to the wild, to see these animals there! Millennium Park is coupled not only with beauty in sight but in hearing as well. We went to the park to see a full orchestra performance. It was my first an definitely not my last. It was beautiful, even though I do not have an expert's ear for music. It will bring out the classical side in Rambo!

The Navy pier, also synonymous to Chicago, was an experience of cultural hospitality and restful pleasure. When you walk on to the navy pier, you not only walk and see the skyline but you drift through all the cheerful laughter and restaurant smells. All around there are tourists busy buying tickets for a boat ride or standing in the line to buy a Bud light. The locals could be found on the bicycle / jogging / skating trail and in one of the many restaurants each with a unique and special atmosphere. We, on the other hand, could not be found on a boat trip, in a restaurant or in a line to buy beer. We had the lovely privilege of attending Aladdin, the musical, at the Shakespeare theater at the Navy pier. After that joyous, funny and intriguing experience, we enjoyed the essence of pleasant atmosphere and cheerful conversing by walking around the pier.

Another experience of a life time and a must do when visiting Chicago is a visit to the Museum of Science and Industry. Me and my two "engineer to be" brothers were the lucky ones selected to go. There were a lot of very interesting things, but I want to only name a few. We couldn't nearly get to everything it had to offer. I think that a annual pass wouldn't even be enough! Immediately when you enter, you are astonished by the mere size of the place, not even knowing of the beauties there are to follow. The highlight of the place was definitely the German WWII U-boat that was captured by the Americans during the war. It was a testament as to what man is capable of and how beautifully God has made us. Unfortunately it is also a symbol of how atrocious war is and how we should all keep striving for peace. I mean, you know something is bad, when the enemy that is captured is glad because they are freed from the clutches of war. Another highlight was the model train track from Chicago To Seattle occupying a whole hall. The detail and the story around it was astonishing. There was so much more we learned and enjoyed, but I do not have that much time to spend on blogging!

Before moving away from Lincoln Park, Tinus and I decided that Chicago is definitely the best place to attempt your first half-marathon. So, two nights before we moved closer to Willow, we decided to do it! We set off at about seven o'clock, planning to run in the dark on the way back to experience the skyline from all angles in all its lit up glory. The first 6 km were a breeze! Beautiful scenery and ABBA ringing in my ears, life seemed right. It was after 8 km that I started to feel a bit of pain in my leg, but I was still okay. The scenery of the sky line and lake kept changing and held remarkable beauty. When we turned at the half way mark it was completely different again. The Skyline now gave its own light and gave a totally new running inspiration! After 15km everything started to cramp up. I had pain in my legs in places I didn't know existed ! We kept on going despite the pain and finally reached the finish line. It was a big achievement! Although everything was sore for the next week, I felt great!

I hope You understand a bit more of the beauty of Chicago now and feel part of the city. In my next blog I will elaborate on the last week in Chicago, which is all about the Leadership summit!

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!