Redeemer Stories: Meet Ann & Carla (Our new Redeemer Board Members)

Name: Ann Twene
Nationality: British
Favourite Bible verse: Proverbs 22:6 ‘Train up a child in the way he should go and when he is old he will not depart from it.’

Name: Carla Hesseling
Nationality: South African (trying to become more Dutch)
Favourite hobby: cycling and swimming

  1. What is your new role on the board of Redeemer International Church The Hague?
    Ann: Human Resources
    Carla: I’ve taken over the role of Treasurer.
  1. What are you looking forward to in the next season with Redeemer?
    Ann: For spiritual revival in The Hague and beyond.
    Carla: I’m looking forward in the next season to seeing God bring more people, including those we would love to know Jesus, and finding restoration and healing in knowing him. I’m also looking forward to God moving us into new mission in more locations in the Netherlands in multiple languages.
  1. What have you learned about God and who He is in this past year-plus of the COVID pandemic?
    Ann: Trusting God every day and leaning not on my own understanding
    Carla: In last year personally I’ve learnt how God always has a better plan than we do and I’ve learnt partly (still learning) to wait on Him.
  1. Do you have any stories of God answering prayer or breaking through in situations that you’d like to share?
    Ann: Recently, my elderly mother had some test at the hospital and they found that she had a kidney abnormality. My mother is a devout Christian and we prayed together about this and she said she wasn’t worried because God is in full control. When she went back after a week for another test the doctor said he was puzzled as to why the abnormality had completely disappeared.
  1. What are you thankful for?
    Ann: My daughter giving her life to Jesus, I’m proud of her!
    Carla: I’m so thankful for God’s provision beyond our understanding.

Redeemer Stories: Meet the De Jong family

Name: Joshua, Gerlinde, Salem & Azize
Nationality: Dutch
Favorite activity: Discover new places and go on holiday.

  1. What does your day-to-day look like, particularly during the past year since the COVID pandemic?
    We both work three days a week and the other two we are home with our kids. Gerlinde works in Leiden at the hospital in eyecare and Joshua works for Redeemer. He also has his self employed business in IT on the side. Salem, our oldest, has been going to school now for over two years and will start ‘group 3’ after the Summer. Our youngest, Azize, will start school after the Summer and we are both looking forward to the limited free time it will give us at home in the near future. In the beginning of the pandemic our lives, as many others, were brought to a halt. But with the kids returning to school and daycare, life at home has taken back it’s normal form. We enjoy discovering new places in the Netherlands but also abroad while going on holiday. That last part we’ve really missed and we are looking forward to a time we get to travel safely again. Up till that time we’ve been discovering our province and things around Pijnacker. We love our little town just between Rotterdam and The Hague and the community we have around us.
  1. What have you learned about God and who He is in this season?
    It’s so true that God doesn’t forget us and uses our situations for His good. God has remained the same and he didn’t have to go into lockdown. While we had to quiet our lives, he has been there with open arms for us to grow deeper with him. But we also believe he has been using this time for us to grow closer with our neighbours and that the Holy Spirit is using us to be a good influence in our neighbourhood.
  1. How has it been for you to connect with others (friends, family) during this time of distancing?
    This past season, where social contacts have remained mostly digital, we’ve had the privilege of seeing our neighbours quite a lot and have spent time doing “life together”. One of our prayers before the pandemic has been to have a meaningful relationship with them. While the nation was in lockdown our kids have been playing around in our neighbours gardens, which meant we have gotten to know them well.
  1. Do you have any stories of God answering prayer or breaking through in situations that you’d like to share?
    During the last Ashburnham (2019) we both felt that God had spoken to us about our neighbours and to invest into the relationships we have with them. To be open for the Holy Spirit’s prompting and for him to use us. And now looking back we see that God has opened up many doors in our relationship with them.
  1. What are you thankful for?
    We are thankful that we are healthy and that God always provides. Such a short sentence, but such a deep truth. Lastly we are thankful we can almost go back to church. We have really missed out on meeting all of you! We feel God wants all of us to be connected into the community. It’s good to have a community around us like what we have described in our previous answers. But we long to also be into community with our friends and family in church. Our kids have asked us many times when we go back to church (the Nieuwe Kerk). As much as we have enjoyed watching Ollie and seeing our community on the television, we long to see you all soon, already now at the Sunday evening prayer evenings or in the upcoming Sunday morning meetings very soon.

Redeemer Stories: Meet the Danso family

Name:  Richard, Lolu, Kristin, Benjamin and Jeremiah Danso
Nationality: Ghanaian
Favourite hobbies: road trips and walks in the forest

  1. What does your day-to-day look like, particularly during the past year since the COVID pandemic?
    We are blessed with 3 wonderful children. So although the world seems to have slowed down the Danso household is still very busy. We work 4 or 5 days a week so most week days are a rush to get the kids to school and get to work. Due to the nature of our work, we need to be physically present at work most days of the week. At the end of the day we get to enjoy our evening as a family at dinner time. On Wednesdays we have life group at our home in Alphen aan den rijn. We are so happy that the restrictions have been slightly lifted. Since we are a small life group,it’s been nice to meet together again in person. We always look forward to the weekend when we get to be “lazy” after a busy week. We enjoy a Pyjama day as a family, movie night on Fridays, go out on a bike ride or work in the garden together amongst many other things.
  2. What have you learned about God and who He is in this season?
    In this season one of the lessons we have learned is that God is still working in peoples lives and doing big things despite the fact that we don’t get to see or hear testimonies as often as we did before the pandemic. Hearing testimonies of Gods faithfulness in peoples lives has always been a faith booster for us. Not being able to see people/other Christians as much as we used to and hear about how He is working on the lives of others made it sometimes difficult to believe and hold on in faith like we used to before the pandemic. As we have been able to be in contact with more people, we really see that God didn’t go on a break and He has been doing wonders in peoples lives. This has encouraged us to continue to have faith in God and hold on to His promises.
  3. How has it been for you to connect with others (friends, family) during this time of distancing?
    Our parents and siblings live outside the Netherlands so staying connected with them hasn’t really changed since the pandemic.Being a part of  Redeemer church, we have met friends that have become like family. Since we live quite far from Den Haag, we have really missed being around our friends from Redeemer and haven’t been able to stay connected or see as much as we love to.
  4. Do you have any stories of God answering prayer or breaking through in situations that you’d like to share?
    God gave us a breakthrough  and answer to prayers for our last born son.  For over a year he couldn’t sleep through the night… he woke up every two hours and this was very exhausting. But thank God now he sleeps much better at night and only wakes up once.
  5. What are you thankful for?
    We are thankful for Gods protection. On the 23rd of May we joined Malieveld prayer event in The Hague. Upon returning home we realized that we left the front door wide open. We are thankful that nothing was taken from the house. Praise the Lord!

Redeemer Stories: Meet Katherine

Name:  Katherine Voorvelt
Nationality: South African
Favourite book: YouVersion Bible App

  1. What does your day-to-day look like, particularly during the past year since the COVID pandemic?
    This is a difficult question for sure.  So much has happened in my life since the start of the pandemic that almost every day held unexpected things, so there was no real pattern of day-to-day same activity at the same time. Except perhaps that I went to sleep very late each night and woke up very late each morning. This habit, and not a good one, started before the pandemic now that I think about it. It started when my husband died and I retired. The pandemic did not help me kick this habit, quite the opposite in fact. I am only now regulating and disciplining myself in this area with God’s help.
  2. What have you learned about God and who He is in this season?
    Oh my gosh! Where to begin? I have been reminded of the steadfast love of God in a very real way.  I have learned more deeply how much He loves us to love Him, and rely on Him fully in our strengths and weaknesses. Our God just loves to be loved, trusted, believed and obeyed.  I was so blessed that Pieter Jan preached using the Book of Acts last Sunday regarding faith and obedience. This is currently what I have been strongly reminded of in the past couple of months, through the Word and through my intimate times being with the Lord and praying for help and direction regarding certain real difficulties I was experiencing. I also learnt afresh and deeper about how indescribably massive God’s forgiveness is and the humongous act of love Jesus did on the cross and also coming to earth and living as a man amongst us to birth the Body of Christ.
  3. How has it been for you to connect with others (friends, family) during this time of distancing?
    I don’t think I have struggled with the “lock-down” and restrictions due to the pandemic as much as some. Only because for a while prior to the pandemic I was physically restricted from going about and around, so it was not a shock for me. I was also used to connecting with dear friends, family and prayer partners outside of The Netherlands using the wonderful tools afforded us like WhatsApp and so forth.
    However, the most wonderful things is that many very dear friends here in The Hague visited me very often one-on-one, and when I went into isolation a couple of time, I found a way in my home to meet with a friend or family by placing chairs on either side of a glass door in my passage, so it was safe.
    Much good praying, chatting, testimony sharing, trouble sharing, and Word happened as always even during this weird time we find ourselves living in.
  4. Do you have any stories of God answering prayer or breaking through in situations that you’d like to share?
    Shooowhee Oh yes! I don’t know where to start. Perhaps I will start by saying that while I can testify a lot to God answering prayers and break through situations, I think it behooves me to say that these past few years have been the hardest in my living memory. I was challenged by so many difficult circumstances and events.  I felt like that song “I get knocked down, get up again” was written especially for me. But GOD, my Redeemer… my reason for living and indeed even being alive… he was with me through it all. I cannot go into all the testimonies and stories, you would be reading this “until the cows come home”. So I choose to speak of the greatest of my testimonies of God’s unfailing love in recent months.
    I have struggled with a severe eating disorder since I was a small child. It was affecting, for many years, my physical and emotional health more than I can say.  It drove me time and time again to the Lord, repenting and asking for help.  I had on a number of occasions felt I had some victory, as I would lose weight, and eat healthily even for a few years, but always I felt this band like barbed wired wrapping my brain and fear that I would fail and start the disorder behaviour again… and sure enough I would.
    Then, when I all but gave up hope of being delivered of this killer disorder, my daughter told me to stop saying I was trying my best, but to just get on and stop it! I was shocked and embarrassed and not a little hurt. Then she insisted that I confessed that “It is done, it is finished”. It was really difficult for me to confess this but I did. As I said it, I remembered that it was what Jesus had said on the Cross! “IT IS FINISHED”. Being delivered from the eating disorder was part of why He took the Cross on my behalf!  A day or two later I realised that the barbed wire around my brain was gone, for the first time since I was a little girl, it was just gone.  It is indeed for Freedom sake that we are set free…. free indeed.  So that’s the faith and now the obedience – to walk in this incredible freedom. IT IS FINISHED!
  5. What are you thankful for?
    I am so grateful for all of the above, and more, for what the Lord is busy with in my family.  What would we do without God? I hate to even imagine.

Redeemer Stories: Meet Franz

Name: Franz Tapia Chaca
Nationality: Born in Peru, naturalised as Dutch in Sint Maarten
Favourite hobby: Getting to know and spending time with church family. Second favourite: studying the Bible with church family. Third favourite: cooking new dishes (for others) 😉

  1. What does your day-to-day look like, particularly during the past year since the COVID pandemic?

My current day-to-day is taking each day as it comes, striving to be faithful in all things!

I began a job at a warehouse in October. I work here 4 days a week. Specifically, we receive the Albert Heijn shop returns, i.e. paper, plastic, and beer bottle recycling, as well as food waste and lots of unique things used in the AH shops. Depending on the item, we work with machines to stack or clean them accordingly. I’ve gotten used to the manual nature by now, but still very few days I can go to sleep sore! Interesting estimate: each day, 30-60 years worth of daily food (nutritional value) for one person is thrown away at this one centre. Crazy!

When I’m not working, I’m filling out applications for further study or another job. I’ve mostly focused on MSc applications to study Bioinformatics and Systems Biology. Since protein folding structures were predicted with amazing accuracy simply from their amino acid sequences last November, I’ve been fascinated by the potential of artificial intelligence in solving problems using the big data in biology. I have a Master of Engineering in Biomedical Engineering. I want to use my God-given talents to serve others, and in this new technology I see a growing opportunity to really change people’s lives with respect to their healthcare! So it would be a pleasure to study this through an MSc, or work further in biomedical research again! Each day I strive to lift my eyes to God in trust for my next step, and I’m learning to trust him more.

Besides these things, I cook, meet and read the Bible with my beloved life group (Students & Young Adults <3), and I’ve been learning to play the guitar just a bit! On Friday lunchtimes, I join the Student Life Mission Possible evangelism group, and we mainly meet outside De Haagse Hogeschool. On Saturdays, I co-lead a Bible study group of three through Romans. We’re now on chapter 11! On Sundays, I get to join the evening prayer meeting – prayer with church family has lifted my soul many times!

About a year ago, I was coming to the end of a 1-year ministry traineeship at Christ Church Mayfair in London. I began following Jesus there four years ago (30 April 2017)! I ended my internship last August. I then moved to the Netherlands in September to grow closer to my two brothers. With the pandemic, we also had to adjust to ministry in distancing and online! Back then, my day-to-day involved weekly bible studies, organising zoom logistics, attending staff meetings and going to Cornhill Bible college one day a week. Cornhill was the weekly highlight (besides in-person Sunday services…)!

  1. What have you learned about God and who He is in this season?

– Colossians 3:23-24: My job has many times felt totally insignificant! But according to God, it isn’t. I have learned to view it in perspective of things above (3:2). God has been teaching me that I ultimately work for him, and that I am to do it with all my heart! So I can rejoice that God promises me an eternal reward for my wholehearted faithfulness at my job. Since starting to recall these verses, I have put better effort, and I’m thankful to have consequently received the respect of my colleagues and supervisors and their appreciation of my work!

– 1 Chronicles 16:27: I was recently reminded that in Christ, I have complete, uninterrupted access to joy. Joy is found in the presence of the God, and he is ever with us in each of his persons (Is. 41:10, Mat. 28:20, 1 Cor. 6:19). So, I wish to keep coming back to him at every moment!

– 1 Timothy 1:15: I have learned more of the grace of God. Many times I feel like David (Ps. 51:3), when I am reminded of all my sin. But I have learned to remind myself each day of God’s sweet grace like Paul did. In his letters, Paul expresses his undeserving of every blessing he has in Christ, because he persecuted God’s church (1 Cor. 15:9, 1 Tim. 1:13). But he continually dwelt upon the grace of God, and this grace strengthened him to work harder than the apostles around him (1 Cor. 15:10) and to struggle, even through imprisonment, for the sake of the church (Col 1:29).

  1. How has it been for you to connect with others (friends, family) during this time of distancing?

Family: I’m staying at my older brother’s place. Before September, we hadn’t lived together for 5 years, besides the occasional visit home while I was studying in London. It was very nice to celebrate Christmas 2020 together with him and my little brother with lots of food. I was in charge of catering 🙂 We also have occasionally watched movies together. I’m thankful for all the time we’ve gotten to spend so far, because our relationship has developed a lot since I first arrived. He’s recently returned from Sint Maarten after 2 months. I gave his place a thorough clean, and he appreciated it! My little brother lives in Tilburg. I don’t get to see him much, but once I spent a few days at his place. It was fun! In February, I got a chance to visit my family in Sint Maarten after 1.5 years – they threw me a birthday party with lots of foooooood. It was also nice to go out with them for dinner from time to time. See my collage for pictures 🙂

Friends: I’ve been fortunate to have made lots of new friends since moving to the Netherlands! I didn’t know anyone well except for one person at first (Ronald), but I was warmly welcomed to Redeemer and my life group. Since joining the Students & Young Adults life group, I’ve had the opportunity to meet with them mostly every week, for which I have been very thankful. I’ve also gotten to know and meet other Redeemer members during the week or online! See my collage for highlights with Redeemer members this past year! 🙂

Colleagues: I have gotten to develop beautiful friendships with some colleagues over tram rides, lunch breaks and complements/encouragements. I’m very thankful for the Christian brothers I have here, whose presence has encouraged me. Also, I’m thankful that I get along very well with one Christian brother, and that I get to talk with him about spiritual matters on train rides, such as marriage. He’s preparing to propose to his girlfriend!

  1. Do you have any stories of God answering prayer or breaking through in situations that you’d like to share?

Since Feb 2020, while I was in London, I have been reading the Bible (first John’s Gospel, now Romans) with Lucian. He is now in Romania. My co-leader, Brian, is in Hong Kong. We believe that Lucian has come to put his faith in Jesus! It’s been our prayer since we began reading the Bible with him, and God has been gracious. Now, he’s displaying submission to God’s word (Rom. 8:7), and he prays with a childlikeness and humility that refreshes and lifts up my soul every time! We now wish to help him settle at a church to be fed more locally, and for him to exercise his God-given gifts for the upbuilding of the church.

On a different note, God’s grace has kept me persevering in him. In December, I watched a scientific documentary that completely shocked the foundations of my faith. I felt that I could no longer believe in God, that I could do whatever I wanted, and that I could no longer trust anyone in the church. I was beginning to think about walking out from all the relationships I have developed over the past four years. I questioned the foundations of everything, including the purpose of continuing to live. Fortunately for me, I had strong feelings and anxieties that I couldn’t shake. I was trying to come back to Jesus. In desperation to find comfort in a Bible verse, my eyes fell upon Jesus’ words to Thomas instead: “Stop doubting and believe” (John 20:27). I kept doubting, however. Each day, I was trying hard to hold on to Jesus’ words “I am the way, the truth and the life”. One day, as I was struggling inside and working, I finally decided to message, and not avoid, a very close friend in whom I fully trust. About a year ago, I was being discipled one-to-one by him, and we became very close. Somehow afterwards I remembered an objective event that God worked through his life. Together with all the science I had been presented with, I had to take into consideration this individual, objective event. This gave me the footing to cry out to God to help me believe in him again, and he helped me. Just over an hour after sending the message, I was fine and confident that God lives, because he is active according to his will in people’s lives.

  1. What are you thankful for?

I am most thankful for God’s grace. I am also thankful for my work, which has allowed me to remain in the Netherlands when it looked like I couldn’t, and to build relationships at Redeemer. I am thankful that my family relationships are growing.

Redeemer Stories: Meet Bastiaan and Elodie

Names: Bastiaan & Elodie Verweij
Nationality: Dutch
Favourite food: We are both in love with Italy, including Italian cuisine. The pastas, the pizzas and of course the wines and Italian aperitivos.

1. What does your day-to-day look like, particularly during the past year since the COVID pandemic?

We are a totally atypical couple if you ask us about our activities during the COVID pandemic.

Elodie: I work as Chief of Politics at a daily talk show (Jinek & BEAU) on the commercial channel RTL4. I work both in the studio in Amsterdam and at the parliament in The Hague. Behind the scenes I’ve been busy every day arranging and briefing the guests of that day, from virologists and doctors to ministers and members of parliament. And then I also had to deal with national elections last March. The biggest change was that we could no longer receive audience at the talk show and that I got tested I don’t know how many times. I will never forget the feeling of having a stick in my nose I guess. And! I think I am one of the few people in this entire world who never had a Zoom-meeting for work.

Bastiaan: I’ve been working from home a few days of the week, but last year I also had to go to the office in Amstelveen regularly. As Director of Communication Project Management and Internal Communication at KLM Royal Dutch Airlines, I had to work very hard, especially during the first months. KLM is hit hard by the COVID pandemic and there was a continuous and necessary need for communication to all KLM staff. It is a very challenging time and unfortunately many people have already had to leave our airline. I still really appreciate working from home due to the fact that I also can go to the office some days. At home I have more time for reflections, for walks or to read a book.

2. What have you learned about God and who He is in this season?

Time and time again we see how faithful God is. In big and small things. Even when things go wrong or when we feel tired about the whole COVID situation, we see that God gives rest and peace and that we receive the strength to continue. We also feel very blessed to be healthy and have jobs.

3. How has it been for you to connect with others (friends, family) during this time of distancing?

During this COVID time, we both found it by far the most difficult thing that there have been so many restrictions. Not being able to visit friends and family freely, not being able to go to church on Sundays, not being able to eat or meet outdoors to relax. And for Elodie: not to shop!! We are enjoying life, and as extraverts we love face-to-face connections and meetings with others. That is why this feels sometimes difficult. But we also understand very well that these are necessary measures from a health perspective that we fully support. And we have seen so many blessings. The mere fact that there are endless opportunities  to meet online and stay in touch with others for example

4. Do you have any stories of God answering prayer or breaking through in situations that you’d like to share?

We both believe in the power of prayer. Our whole life is made up of major and minor breakthroughs through the grace of God. For example for Bastiaan: I had to take a couple of very difficult managerial decisions. Even when I couldn’t steer the outcome – because  a lot of things were out of my hands – I still saw God answering prayers.

5. What are you thankful for?

For health, for Redeemer, for all the possibilities that still exist to connect with others and perhaps also for the fact that COVID has also paid attention to us that freedom, health, social security, jobs etc. cannot be taken for granted. It all makes us feel more grateful and humble.

Redeemer Stories: Meet Trevor and Bettie

Names: Trevor and Bettie Nielsen
Nationality: Dutch (naturalized from South Africa)
Favorite food: Italian and Moroccan

1. What does your day-to-day look like, particularly during the past year since the COVID pandemic?
Having spent more than 20 years working/living in several faraway countries (Vietnam, Indonesia, Romania, Turkmenistan, Serbia, Albania, Kenya) which exposed us to much travel, cultural differences and many interesting experiences (weather, food, habits and traditions, etc), before the slowdown/lockdown related to the COVID pandemic, this has taken some getting used to. Our days are now much slower, quieter, less active with the daily highlight being feeding the cat!! We have, however, started walking more than we did before the pandemic.
Trevor joins the Redeemer prayer meeting every weekday morning and Sunday evenings and is busy with the study of the Book of Revelation. Bettie connects with 2 women’s Bible study groups on a weekly basis.  And we do a lot of reminiscing about faraway tropical beaches which we plan to visit once the COVID restrictions allow this.

2.  What have you learned about God and who He is in this season?
We learned that God keeps His word.  He does not change and he remains faithful. We thank God every day even when life is sometimes not easy and He has honoured that.
He has kept us healthy and has met all our physical as well as spiritual needs.  We have come to realize that the more one seeks Him, the closer He comes. He spoke to us about things that needed changing in our lives and issues that needed to be addressed. We have both come to a deeper appreciation of His word and the value of prayer.  We speak more to Him and He speaks more to us.

3.  How has it been for you to connect with others (friends, family) during this time of distancing?
Connecting to other Redeemer members has been difficult.  In fact apart from a few times that we’ve had some of them over to watch the Sunday morning online church service, we’ve restricted our contact to our children and grandchildren once a week. Before the summer  we sometimes met with our Lifegroup in the park near our home. Thereafter contact was only through Zoom.
We have learned a lot about Video conferences, Zoom meetings, Facetime, WhatsApp and Skype! We connect regularly with our friends and family all over the world. We are so thankful to the Lord that this technology is available.

4.  Do you have any stories of God answering prayer or breaking through in situations that you’d like to share?
Our big story about answered prayers is that despite being in the vulnerable group we have had absolutely no problems with COVID, with ‘flu’ or any other physical health issues. We are so thankful for God’s constant protection and provision.
Another answer to prayer is when Trevor lost his wallet containing credit cards, debit cards vehicle licenses etc. during a visit to a town far from home, God miraculously answered a very short simple prayer and a stranger, who had earlier found it, brought the wallet back to us as we were sitting in our car with everything in it!

5. What are you thankful for?
We are thankful that we were given this extra time to spend in meditation, studying God’s word and prayer.  We have both grown much closer to our Lord!

Redeemer Stories: Meet Ihor and Marine

Names: Ihor and Marine Okhrimenko
Nationality: Ihor is Ukrainian and Marine is French
Favourite hobby: We both like running, one can say sport is our hobby.

1. What does your day-to-day look like, particularly during the past year since the COVID pandemic?
We recently married so our honeymoon or like the Dutch say ‘Wittebroodsweken’ 😉 were at home. We tried to work out or go running 3 times a week but don’t always succeed. We keep on trying.

2. What have you learned about God and who He is in this season?
We’ve learnt to be more trusting the Lord with ‘holy uncertainty’ about the future. Lord Jesus is very generous and loving God. He cares even for smallest details too, as well as the ‘big picture’.

3. How has it been for you to connect with others (friends, family) during this time of distancing?
Not easy. There will be no Zoom and Microsoft Teams in heaven!

4. Do you have any stories of God answering prayer or breaking through in situations that you’d like to share?
Our biggest testimony of 2020 is about goodness of God and His provision of clarity, conviction and confirmation about us meeting and getting married. Optically it looked like a very short period but it was as clear as day. In June 2020 we did not know about each other at all. We were engaged in October and married in December 2020.

5. What are you thankful for?
Simple things that are actually very big things, if you think about it: clean water from the tap, bread on the table, roof over our heads. Knowing that we are loved and cared for by the God of the universe!

Redeemer Stories: Meet Matt and Kristen

Matt and Kristen Bowersox
Nationality: American (Ohio), moved to The Hague in June 2019
Favourite hobby: travelling and going for walks/hikes
What does your day-to-day look like, particularly during the past year since the COVID pandemic?
Matt – I have been working from home since the pandemic began (my job is in insurance auditing).  It is challenging not being able to interact with coworkers in person, but I am super thankful for a decent desk chair and computer monitor at my kitchen-table office! On the weekends, Kristen and I enjoy going for long walks around The Hague and getting to know the city better.
Kristen – Although the volunteer activities I was involved in before the pandemic have been significantly cut down (tour-guiding at the Corrie ten Boom Huis, helping with children’s ministry at Redeemer International Church, etc.), I am still able to do some things virtually. Matt and I were thankful to be able to do a bit of COVID-safe travelling back in the summer and get to see parts of Europe that were new to us!  I have also enjoyed having more opportunities to read, spend safe socially-distanced time with friends in our life group, and experiment with new recipes and cooking techniques.
What have you learned about God and who He is in this season?
Matt – The biggest thing I have been learning is the reality of God’s faithfulness despite the uncertainty of the world around us.  He is constant and unchanging, even when the world around us seems to be turned upside down.
Kristen – God has been teaching me the value of slowing, silence, and rest.  I tend to be a “go! go! go!” person, so this time of pandemic restrictions has been challenging, but I see how the Lord is using it to help me grow.  I find myself often praying, “Lord, please show me if I’m missing something I’m supposed to be doing!” and He has answered, “My daughter, you are right where I want you.  Be still and know that I am God.”  This brings so much peace!  I am also learning about trusting God to let me know His plans at the time He needs me to know them, not necessarily as early as I would like to have the answers for what is coming next.
How has it been for you to connect with others during this time of distancing?
Although we were disappointed that our family members in the USA had to cancel their plans to come visit us last year due to the pandemic, we are so thankful for the technology that allows us to keep in touch with them by WhatsApp messages and video-call.  We are also very blessed to live close to the other members of our Life Group so in addition to our weekly virtual Bible study time we have been able to see each other in person (in safe, socially-distanced ways of course).
What are you thankful for at this time?
We find we have so much to be thankful for!  Particularly now in the weeks leading up to Good Friday and Easter, we are reminded of God’s amazing love and grace seen in Jesus coming to Earth as the perfect sacrifice, paying the penalty for our sins through his death on the cross, and conquering over the grave in the resurrection.  We are thankful to have forgiveness, relationship with God, and the hope of eternity with Him!

Redeemer Stories: Meet Dietra

Name: Dietra Sober
Nationality: American
Favourite hobby: Exploring outdoors

What does your day-to-day look like, particularly during these COVID times?
I came to The Netherlands at the end of January 2020 to do a University exchange program in The Hague. Not long after, most international students returned home as all classes went online. I remained and continued my time in the Netherlands exploring all of what God had / has in store for me. The Redeemer community has been so crucial to me over the past year as nearly all of my relationships are from Redeemer.

What have you learned about God and who He is in this season?
I have learned that God hears me and provides for me abundantly. Being abroad with no family nearby, God has put people in my life and given me exactly what I need when I needed it. He has shown me Psalm 84, how lovely His dwelling place is, blessing those whose hearts are set on Him and how he graciously bestows favor and honor upon us. He is delighted in us as we are delighted.

What has it been like connecting with others (friends, family) during this time of distancing?
Having my life group during this COVID season has been such a source of much needed human interaction and care. Meeting when we can and getting together in smaller groups has been a key part to my joy here in The Netherlands. I have also been so blessed by people within Redeemer who have reached out to me though I had never met them in person! I am so thankful for the Spirit of Christ that forms a special bond and unites us. With my family back at home, I try to video call them. I am thankful for this technology because it makes me feel as if I am there with them.

How has God answered prayer or provided in situations recently?
I was praying for an opportunity to stay in the Netherlands over the summer. My student visa was due to expire at the end of October. I had applied for jobs / internships and about one week from the expiration of my visa I received a job through someone within Redeemer. Now I have been able to stay in the Netherlands and continue to grow alongside the Redeemer community. I am working with international students in housing and would love prayer for wisdom and to love them with the steadfast love of Christ.

What are you thankful for at this time?
I am thankful that God is not changed or held back by pandemics. I am thankful that His plans are not changed and that he has good and complete plans for us!

—> Want to get to know Dietra a little more? Visit her blog to find out more about her journey!