2023, a year full of blessings and challenges

Dear people, so at the end of the year it is time to take a moment to look back over the past year and look ahead to the new year. 2023 was a good year for us with many great moments but also challenges. But God is always good!

The year began with the wedding of Rodrigo and Sophie, two lovely disciples we met during our trip (and they each other). I was allowed to bless their marriage, quite an honor. Meanwhile, they have a son and live in Canada. We do miss them greatly!

Soon after, we went to Holland because my parents celebrated their marriage. This was also a good time to return the camper we had originally come to Spain with. We are very grateful to our brother Johan for letting us borrow him all this time! I went with Thijs and Maarten by motor home, while Evelyn and Ruben and Laurens went by plane.

We had planned a PTS in the summer here in Spain, but due to too few applications coming in, we had to cancel it. Unexpectedly, we were asked to help with the PTS in the Netherlands and went to the Netherlands for 3 weeks. This was also a great time for Thijs to be involved with a Dutch PTS.

We’ve visited the only Evangelical church here in Ronda several times now, and some contacts have come from that. We were allowed to pray for someone who had suffered from her feet for years, after which she healed and experienced God’s nearness. The pastor of the congregation was open to contact and explained that they used to go out into the streets more to pray with people, but that that had become somewhat diluted. Shortly thereafter, an old friend from Holland contacted both us and this zeflde church. She wanted to organize an evangelism outreach week for young people from her church in Spain with us. So right after the PTS in the Netherlands, we were able to continue with this tremendously fun youth group from Dronten who were down in Ronda. We had a good time together, although it was a little tough at times because there was some flu-like symptoms and it’s a very hot period in the summer here! But it was good to meet and we pray it encouraged the young people to follow Jesus in everyday life.

We also organized kickstart weekends in Malaga (all the way south) and Zaragozo (north) of Spain. People heard the gospel, were activated, baptized and urged to follow Jesus. With several participants we kept in touch and met again at connection weekends we organized, among others. People go their way with God and God leads them further in their personal relationship with Him. God is good!

In October, we began taking more intensive Spanish classes. In the village we found someone who teaches English at the village school and Evelyn got in touch with her and it turns out she also teaches Spanish. Our oldest two now take classes with her twice a week and so does Evelyn.

For the two youngest, we were praying for an opportunity to have more contact with other children and to learn the Spanish language (with the children in the village it doesn’t click so well because of the language). Online we came across an international school in Ronda, this is a very small montessori school (total of 15 students). We were going to pray for this, since this is a private school and so we have to pay the cost of this ourselves. That very same day we received a donation that we saw as confirmation and which allowed us to enroll the children for six months at least. For us, it is also really a confirmation that it is a right school for them!

They have been going there for 2 months now and are really enjoying it, have already made some friends and are starting to learn the language better (we hope they can do well within 6 months). It is very nice that Ruben and Laurens both speak and understand English well which makes them feel right at home at school, where thus Spanish and English are spoken.

A very special and emotional moment was when Torben Sondergaard was released and deported from the U.S. to Denmark after spending 412 days in prison. I was in close contact with him in the last days and weeks before his release, because we knew the case was nearing its end. So we made plans to make the crossing to Europe as smooth as possible for Torben and his family.

Not long after his release, I went to Denmark to meet him. It was very special to see Torben again and to hear what he has been through and how hard it has been. But above all, how God worked within him and I found him softer and kinder than ever before.

A while later, we were all of them here in Spain.

It was also the year my dear Evelyn turned 40! That was just before Christmas.

All in all, a good and eventful year with ups and downs. It is not always easy to find your way in another country without your family or friends. Things work differently, life runs differently, people come and go. Even with the children it is sometimes more difficult because we are still searching how best to spend our time and for them also to maintain their friendships and make new ones. Sometimes what we do feels so small, but we know that if we are faithful in the small, He also entrusts us with the big.

All glory to God who truly leads and helps us daily in all the things we find difficult.

We wish you a very good and blessed 2024 and who knows, maybe we’ll meet here in Spain one day!

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