Monthly Archives: May 2009

a day of cultural history (pt.1)

On Sunday our friends, Rihards and Ieva, invited us to visit an outdoor museum in Riga that has buildings from the four historic regions of Latvia. We walked in fantastic weather and enjoyed a nice cultural history lesson. The windmills, living quarters, barns, churches, etc… fascinated us. We thought we would post some pictures for you to enjoy, too.
two of the windmills we saw…

our friends

Courtney, Dan, and Peanut

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a day of cultural history (pt.2)


These two churches are from different regions of Latvia. The interior photos come from the octagonal church. The tall, slender church is a Russian Orthodox church. It was neat to compare these with the one in the next post.

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a day of cultural history (pt.3)


This church from the 18th Century had paintings covering the ceiling reminding me of frescoes in some of the cathedrals in Rome. Notice the candle holder on the pulpit – I think it would weird me out to preach with that arm coming out of the wall.

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Getting Ready for Summer

We are getting ready for summer -both at Wesley Camp and in our family. As you can see from the photos, we finally found a stroller! I call it the transformer, because it starts out in bassinet mode – complete with a removable bassinet carrier, and then can be adjusted to hold a child up to 3 years of age… it’s really cool, and I wheel it around the apartment practicing, which makes Courtney laugh. It also comes with winter coverings so we can walk around with Peanut in the snow.

The kitchen remodeling at Wesley Camp is progressing nicely. Three guys – Gatis, Romans, and Kaspars – have worked for the past few weeks and hopefully it will be finished by the time our first camp happens at the end of June! They have added a toilet, sink, and changing room, installed a pass-through window, replaced the rotting wooden beam with a steel one, tiled the floor and walls, and replaced the interior door to the dining room.

Please keep our family and Wesley Camp in your prayers as we are excited, yet don’t know what to expect in the weeks to come!

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In Memory of Bill Van Buren

The Passing of a Dear Friend – Bill Van Buren

The communion cup was a wedding gift from Bill Van Buren. He was the founding member of the L’Arche Daybreak community near Toronto, Canada. He came to live at Daybreak when he was 16 and he passed away a little over a week ago at the age of 56.

The summer before Dan and I married I lived in the Green House at Daybreak with Bill and others. For those of you not familiar with the L’Arche Community – it is a place of community and hospitality where people with disabilities live in community with others. I was invited to come and live in the Green House to serve as part of Duke Divinity’s Center of Reconciliation Summer Internships. It was a summer of transformation and one of unconditional love which will forever be imprinted in my mind and my heart.

Bill was one of the first people to welcome me into the Green House. He greeted me with a joke – which he would repeat many times throughout the summer – “How do you make holy water?” he would ask.
“You boil the h— out of it.”
No matter how many times he said that joke to me or others it would be followed by his deep and loud laughter. As guests would come through the house that summer his jokes eased the initial tension of welcoming the stranger. He was also on the lookout for new jokes, too, but never tired from his familiar ones.

I will never forget the first time I was asked to lead a morning devotion in the Daybreak community. I had no idea what to expect – I had lead devotions before but felt very vulnerable and out of my league leading devotions with people with disabilities. What do I say? How do I communicate the gospel? How do I share? I spent a lot of time praying about it and trying to think through different approaches. I finally decided upon talking about the Beatitudes in Matthew 5. What I wanted to address was not only what Jesus said but the manner in which he said it – “Seeing the crowds, he went up on the mountain, and when he sat down his disciples came to him.” (Matthew 5:1) Bill had decided that morning to join me for the devotion. Having just injured his leg he had to be pushed in a wheelchair to the chapel. I began the devotion with a bit of timidness in my voice and felt at first I was not understood. So I paused – at that moment Bill stepped in and we began the process of leading/sharing together. I think Bill understood my hesitancy and felt like he could share with the teachings also. So we went back and forth sharing about how Jesus taught by sitting among us and what that means with our faith. It was so natural for us to go back and forth with the lesson – almost as if we had prepared beforehand together – but we hadn’t. Yet, I believe Bill had a sense about others’ discomfort and fragileness. He could tell when some one was going to break. It came from a place I believe of living out his own fragileness that helped him identify with others. What we did together that morning was simply God’s glory revealed. It was not my words or Bill’s words but the joined voice that allowed us to share the gospel. That morning we shared, with eachother and the others gathered, the glory of God’s love through Christ who came among us and sat with us.

It wasn’t until I returned to Duke that following semester that I read for the first time “In the Name of Jesus” by Henri Nouwen in which he shares the story of giving a speech together with Bill Van Buren. I cried all the way through the book – for I too had experienced a sense of togetherness that summer which I will not forget. Bill would not leave you stranded. He enjoyed doing things together with others and took that charge very seriously.

It was often over a game of dominos before dinner that Bill would share stories about his life – his trips to Germany and some of his harder moments. Yet he did not stray away from talking about difficult things. Sometimes his brutal honestly could be shocking, but I came to realize he did not intend to hide the joy or pains of life. I appreciated his willingness to be vulnerable because it called me to confront a lot of my own vulnerability and shortcomings. It was a summer of conviction and forgiveness – both within the Green House and within myself.

Bill was a gift from God for those who knew him and loved him. An encoutner with Bill left people changed. It changed me and for that I am grateful. The communion cups pictured above have people with outstretched arms as if to embrace all of life – it is an image of Bill taking in the stranger and making them the neighbor through a shared joke or a common story – reflecting the love offered in the embracing arms of Christ.

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Where Did April Go?

Okay, we are almost halfway through May and I’m trying to figure out where April went. Court and I have had full schedules – good things. We have still been taking a Sabbath day each week – what a gift in the midst of things to rest, worship, and be refreshed.
Court took me out for lunch at a nice restaurant on Thursday for my birthday – and she bought me a new shirt for the occasion. The lilacs are blooming so we paused for a photo of peanut, the shirt, and the lilacs.

Courtney’s brother, Todd, came to visit during Easter, and we had a great time hanging out, building baby furniture (a crib and changing table), coloring eggs, and walking through Riga.

For the 4 Sundays in April I was in 4 different congregations in 3 different countries. Todd actually arrived in Europe the week before he came to Riga, and I met him in Paris for a few days and then we went to Rome briefly before coming to Riga. I had a chance to worship in the American Church in Paris on Palm Sunday – almost three years since I had last worshiped with that congregation. What an amazing restorative few days in Paris. I thank God for a few friends with whom I was able to reconnect and share the past few years. Todd also came with Courtney and me to the Easter service we led for one of the smaller congregations who met in the kitchen of the lay leader.

The week after Easter I attended worship in a Lithuanian Methodist congregation, and it was the last official duty of Bishop Olsen who has been a great encouragement to Courtney and me these past 18 months.
While I was in Lithuania, Courtney organized an event for the youth called 24-hours of Service with youth from various congregations participating. What an amazing opportunity for youth to engage people across generational and socio-economic lines to discover that sharing our lives’ stories and listening to the stories of others can be encouraging, restoring, and redemptive. At 7 months pregnant Court did awesome staying up until 2.30am and sleeping on the floor.
In gearing up for summer, Court has met with the program leaders for each camp and I have met with our first ever summer staff – We are excited to see how things work this summer.
A group of 6 folks from Tennessee came for a week and we hosted them for part of their time – sharing our lives, going to the Hope Center for bbq, games, and songs, and we even spent a night at Wesley Camp. They brought a few things for the baby. THANK YOU!

Court starts her maternity leave at the end of this week, so she is trying to tie up as many loose ends as she can for the summer. The doctor said we should be prepared for anytime after next week for a delivery… woohoo, peanut is on the way : )
Hopefully we will write more in the time before Peanut (our nickname for baby Randall so we don’t slip out with the name that’s supposed to be a surprise).
Okay, so that is just to catch you up on things : )

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peanut in the park (with mom and bubbles)


Spring has come to Riga – almost overnight, it seems. We took Peanut on a walk to a nearby park and blew some bubbles in the welcomed warm weather : )

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