The Gift of Wheels

For two months after we arrived in Germany, we made do with vehicles that we could borrow from friends or the Wycliffe offices. There was a waiting period for receiving our setup funds, so we couldn’t buy a car of our own immediately. That didn’t stop from researching the possibilities, and I felt ready to pounce on some good used cars when those funds came through.

One day, though, a friend and colleague at Wycliffe Germany stopped me and mentioned that he had received word of a person who was interested in giving a car to a missionary. Might this be a good option for us? I’m still not sure how one says “Duh!” in German, but I probably replied “Stimmt ja!”

After receiving the contact information for the donor, I carefully crafted a message in German that explained who we are and how very much we’d like to have the car. Would he be willing to send me more information?

Later that day, he wrote back. In English. Yes, he had a car for us. Could I call him so that we could chat about it? And, indeed, his own mother tongue is English. Will God’s wonders never cease? (No, they won’t.) I had been a little nervous about conducting potentially complicated transactions, such as this one, in German. Double Hallelujah!

This fellow and his wife came to Germany from South Africa to work with their respective companies German offices. They had lived here for several years, and now it was time to go home. As followers of Christ, they felt that at least one of their possessions here – this car – could benefit someone doing work for the Kingdom of God. And now they were very generously giving it to us!

Well, perhaps I shouldn’t write that they gave it to us. To reduce the complexity of the transaction, we agreed to conduct it as a sale. We set a date to meet in Köln (a.k.a. Cologne) at the main train station, and I set about arranging for insurance.

[singlepic id=58 w=320 h=240 float=left] So in the second week of October, I rode the train out to Cologne. But shortly before my arrival at the Hauptbahnhof, I got a call from the donor. There was a lot of construction traffic around the main station – could I get off a stop or two early? I got off the train one stop ahead almost exactly after I got off the phone. Whew! Now to wait for them to arrive …

While I was waiting, a fellow walked up to me and asked how to get to the train platform – the path wasn’t terribly obvious from the parking lot. I gave him awful directions. Not long after that, though, I got another call from the donor. He was on the platform – where was I? I’m in the parking lot, I replied … oh, you were just there? Ah, I see.

[singlepic id=59 w=320 h=240 float=right] Can either of us be blamed for not recognizing people we don’t know? Well, all’s well that ends well. I clambered into the car that was soon to be ours, and we drove off to a shopping center where there was a copy service to take care of our sales contract. His wife gave me an overview of the car – it had been her main vehicle – and we transferred the snow tires from the back of his car. Most importantly, I handed over our payment: a single 1 € coin. Hallelujah! After many signatures, we parted ways, each of us thankful for our God’s provision for our needs. They had a car they needed to give, and we needed to receive one!

What a blessing this car has been to us so far. It’s perfect for our daily use. And we know who to thank: “Whatever is good and perfect comes down to us from God our Father, who created all the lights in the heavens.” (James 1:17) Thank the Lord our God with us for our little Renault Mégane!

Next up: the boys’ experience of school in Germany … in German (not the next post – the experience)

Beyond the countdown … and getting adjusted

It’s been a whirlwind of a few weeks, friends, but at last we are here in Germany!

After leaving Missouri with a full trailer behind our car, we bolted east to Pennsylvania, where we spent time with my (David’s) side of the family down at the shore and in lovely Lancaster County. Then the real packing began, and we managed to fit all of our belongings into duffels, trunks, and boxes that met the weight requirements. There was so much that we needed a limo service to cart us to the airport.

We had some concerns that an air traffic controller strike in Frankfurt might cause some delays for our flights, but that strike never happened. Praise God! Our travel through London-Heathrow to Frankfurt went very smoothly. We even found a restaurant in London that could accommodate Caleb’s food allergies and provide him with a hamburger patty. Again, praise God!

In Frankfurt, we were met by my colleagues Martijn de Vries and Jeff Pubols, who lives and works in South Africa. They brought two vehicles to carry us up to Niederdresselndorf, where we are staying at Meisenweg 1 at the home of our director and his wife, Frank and Uschi Lautenschlager. Jonathan and Caleb are thrilled to be here, and it’s hard to rein in their curiosity and desire to explore absolutely everything.

Katherine and I have accomplished a few of those little bureaucratic details since we arrived. Yesterday, we registered with the township, the Gemeinde Burbach, which is an important step towards acquiring the final work permit and visa. We looked at a flat to rent, but it was too small for us to be content during the long rental period required by the landlord — we do expect guests, after all. We also made arrangements with Wycliffe Germany for them to handle the transfer of donations from our generous financial partners through Wycliffe USA. Thank you, friends, for making this all possible!

This morning, I’m going to drive out with Martijn to Muecke and the site of the Deaf Bible Translation Conference that we will provide support for next month. We’ll be assessing what we need to help make the technological part of the conference a success. It’s great to be getting down to work again!

More to share, including pictures, later — tschuss!

Recalculating …

If you own one of those GPS units that’s designed to help you navigate the roads, you may have seen or heard the phrase, “Recalculating …” after you took a wrong turn, stopped somewhere off-route, or turned to avoid construction and traffic. But imagine how you would feel if, towards the end of a very long trip, your little electronic buddy suddenly piped up with a new route — one that cut hundreds of miles off your trip?

Yesterday, our Wycliffe personnel administrator (PA) — the man who’s overseeing us while we’re between assignments — encouraged me to recalculate our ministry budget with a new method that Wycliffe put together within the last year. I had expressed to him our hope and concern that we get to Germany in August so that the boys could start school there on time. (Germany splits students into different tracks around Jonathan’s age and, even as things are now, he needs to be held back to give his teachers time to evaluate him properly.) Jim, our PA, wanted to see how our present support level compared to the results of this new method.

When I filled out the form, I had to double- and triple-check my work, because to my great shock, the amount went down! I called Katherine over to look, too. Even more astounding was our realization that the new estimate was at the level of our currently pledged support! It was all we could do to control our response until we could get the figures checked and confirmed by Jim and by Frank Lautenschlager, our director in Germany. This morning, we received the final approval from Frank, and a phone call with Jim Lear verified that we are clear to finalize our departure. WE ARE GOING!

There’s a lot to do over the next few weeks as we prepare to leave Missouri and head to Pennsylvania for our flights to Germany on August 8th. We have to pack up, sell a few things we kept for this stay, and fill out a fair amount of paperwork. (There’s never a shortage of paperwork, is there?) And then there are the good-byes ….

Most importantly, we want to express thanks to our great God, who has worked through many of you to provide what we need to go. Some have been stalwart supporters for a long time, laying a foundation to which several have added in the last few months to cap off our need. We only need four tickets for the trip, but in reality there are dozens of you going with us in prayer and financial support. May the Lord our God reward and bless you for the sacrifice you are making for our sake and for the sake of the Good News!

P.S. You can still become a financial partner with us, especially if you wish to give to our setup costs, which are presently at 59%. Just go to this page to read more information. Thanks!