Settling In

It’s finally happening. After 2 months in Saint Louis, we’re actually finding routine. It’s been quite the rollercoaster of events these past few months.

First we had the move, unpacking, finding our way around St Louis and preparing for a baby.

Then came the baby. Ellie joined our family one month ago and Brandon’s RA staff arrived the same day. (Talk about impeccable timing). Brandon was super busy with training and preparing for campus to open so Grandma Barb was here for the first week and Grandma Kathy came for week 2. Kathy’s visit was cut a bit short due to the death of Brandon’s Grandma Van Marel.

We got word on Saturday that it probably wouldn’t be much longer for Grandma so Brandon drove Kathy back to Orange City. He was able to talk to Grandma and say his goodbyes. She passed away Sunday morning. After being in OC 13 hours, he was on the road again for the 9 hour trip home. We had 3 days to pack and get things in order here, and then we were all headed to Orange City.

On Thursday made the trip to Orange City in 10 hours…not bad with 2 kids. 🙂 We were able to be at the visitation that evening and the funeral the next morning. Grandma was a special lady and she blessed many people in her 97 years.

Friday afternoon we traveled to Omaha for Kelly’s brother’s wedding. Friday night was rehearsal and Saturday afternoon we had the wedding. Joanna was a super cute flower girl. She ran down the aisle, realized she hadn’t dropped any flowers, proceeded to hold the basket high above her head to dump out all the flowers, and promptly found her place by Grandma and Grandpa. Three week old, Eliana slept through the whole thing, but she sure looked cute in the dress Grandma Barb made for her. Hopefully our beauties didn’t show up the bride and groom. Brett couldn’t have found a better match and we’re glad to have Amanda as our sister-in-law.

Sunday we headed back to Saint Louis. Unfortunately this trip also took us 10 hours when we expected it to take 8. Boo! Oh well, at least we were home safe.

Last week was our detox week. (Grandparents and aunts/uncles sure know how to spoil these kids.) This week I think we’re all finally on track. Although life has been a bit of a whirlwind, God has sustained us through it all. We are grateful for his strength. Who knows what September will bring.


We met the Blystra’s today. Keith and Laura are originally from Michigan, grew up CRC, studied at Calvin, taught at Ontario Christian in California and were married by George DeJong. George led the trip Brandon went on last summer. Keith is hoping to lead trips with That the World May Know ministries and they are planning to be here 2-5 years. Their daughter Maryanne turned 1 on August 5. It appears that God has even provided us with friends. God is so good!

This morning I went to church with Laura while Brandon and Keith had orientation. The service was great and the congregation is very welcoming. After the service, they had a potluck, so I got to know a few more people in the congregation. Many of them actually live near us, and the moms meet in a park around the corner quite frequently. They also have a Time for Tots on Tuesday mornings where Joanna can “play” with other kids.

Brandon met some more people at orientation today too. The Blystra’s live around one corner and another couple lives just up our street, and another guy in the program lives in our apartment complex. Yeah for friends! Tonight we had dinner at JUC and tomorrow afternoon we’ll be going on a tour of the Old City. We meant to take a picture at the school today (sorry mom). We’ll do that tomorrow.

We accomplished two major things — internet, access to cash — and learned very quickly that everything takes longer in Israel. Darla said if you can get 3 things done in a day you’ve accomplished something.

Internet. Step 1 – rent the modem from the cable company. Step 2 – pick a service provider. Step 3 – stay on the phone for 1 1/2 hours until the service provider can get your internet hooked up. And again we give thanks to Darla for coaching us through that one.

Access to Cash. Until recently it was impossible for foreigners to get cash without a major fee from credit card companies. Now, money changers are willing to take personal dollar checks and give you shekels in return. First you need to find a money changer that trusts you, or in our case trusts your friend. Darla took me to the money changer she uses at 11 am. He was out when we arrived but we were told he’d be back in 1/2 hour. Darla said, “1/2 hour in Israel can be tomorrow.” And sure enough, a little over an hour later her returned. He was a bit hesitant to deal with me, but Darla assured him she’d track me down herself if the check didn’t clear. Actually she threatened to send Oz across the hall for us. He’s known to be an ex-cop and still volunteers for the Israeli border patrol. So 1 1/2 hours after I left for the money changer, I returned with our shekels.

Now for the fun part. We went exploring today and found ourselves in Amsterdam.


Actually, this is the Montefiore Windmill which stands just above the oldest Jewish neighborhood outside the Old City. Unfortunately the museum was closed, but we enjoyed the little Dutch treat. We can see the windmill from our apartment and it often reminds me of OC. (PS – Joanna is indeed wearing only a diaper in this picture. We had just come from the fountain and she got a bit wetter than we anticipated. Unfortunately we had forgotten to take an extra set of clothes. Ah well. It was fun!)


Yesterday, Saturday, we decided to scout out the parks nearby to see if there was a swing for Joanna. Directly across the street is a small park but it is for older kids and unfortuantely has no swing. We walked about 10 minutes to another park and found a fountain along the way. There were several kids playing in it and it was a very hot day. “Why not?” we said, and in a manner of minutes Joanna had her first experience playing in the fountain. I’m certain it won’t be her last. She had tons of fun splashing with the other kids. It was a great place to cool off.  Oh, and the park does indeed have a swing. 🙂

Today we decided to visit the Baptist church. We estimated it would take 45-60 minutes to get there. It did take 45 minutes and we arrived in plenty of time to cool off in the airconditioning before the service. There were about 50 people worshipping there, and 6 kids. Joanna was by far the youngest and no nusery. If you know Joanna, that’s not a good thing. I spent most of the service in the narthex. We’re still not sure if we’ll go there again. It’s quite a walk and without nusery seems a bit difficult, expecially when Brandon will be gone frequently for field trips on the weekends. However, it was good to fellowship with other believers and here how they have come to live in Israel. Many of them are involved in mission work of some sort and all were very welcoming.

Several of you have asked for our address. We love getting mail, however please hold off on packages. We’ve been told taxes on packages can be as high as $100 depending on what’s inside. We hope to get more details on this soon and will post a follow up. Here’s the address:
Rehov Ein Rogel #14/32
Jerusalem 93543  Israel

Also, we’ve made a video of our apartment and I’ll be putting it on facebook soon. If I figure out how to put it on the blog, I’ll do that too.  Shalom

So what’s so unique about Fridays in Israel? It’s the start of Shabbat, the Jewish sabbath. Normally we hear all kinds of horns honking, calls to prayer, traffic and city noise all day long…not to mention the really loud outdoor concert that happens in the park across the valley from us every evening. Just before supper this evening however, everything got really still. Now it’s perfectly quiet. You would think that we’re back in Orange City. 

Like our neighbors Darla and Oz, nearly everyone in Israel is preparing for Shabbat. Today is a day of preparation, few work. It’s similar to our Saturday. We walked to a nearby shopping district today (Emek Refraim) and all kinds of people were out. They even have an outdoor market and kids carnival every Friday. Shabbat begins at dusk when you see 3 stars in the sky. First they go to worship at synagogue, they they come home for a really nice meal.

A note about grapes: always try a grape before buying the bunch. The first day we shopped for food, we bought grapes. Everyone said how good the grapes were here so we chose a container of red grapes. Fruits and veggies must be washed with soap and water before eating them and I didn’t know if it was ok to sample, so I didn’t bother to try one in the store. Quickly we realized I should have. Not only were they seeded grapes but they tasted fermented almost like wine. Hmmm…is this what they meant by good grapes? Determined to find seedless grapes, we stopped in a new grocery store today when we were on Emek Refraim. I ventured over to a man who looked like he might work there and asked if he spoke English. He did, sort of. After trying to explain seedless grapes with gestures he finally got he ahah look and brought me a green grape. Sure enough, it was seedless and just in case you’re wondering it’s ok to sample the grapes in Israel. P.S. The grapes are really good here.

FYI:Our internet won’t be set up at home until next week and the internet café is a bit of a walk from our house. We also already used most of our cell phone minutes so we’ll be a bit limited in our communication for the next few days. Next week our minutes will have started over and we’ll be wired so the posts will come more regularly. For now this post will be a bit longer since you have several days to read it.

We’re in Jerusalem! We still can hardly believe it. As we look out our living room window we see the southern view of the Old City (Mt. Zion, Mt. of Olives, Temple Mount, Dome of the Rock, etc.). In one sense it’s like looking at the skyline of any big city. On the other hand it’s crazy to see such significant places right in front of us.


Flights: Our first flight was easy. Joanna had her own seat and slept for ½ hour. We had a couple hour layover in Chicago which worked out great because we had to change terminals at O’Hare and get Joanna her lunch. Our 2nd flight was 8 hours and Joanna didn’t have her own seat. That was rough. Brandon was starting to get sick and Joanna didn’t sleep until the last hour of the flight. It was tiring trying to keep her occupied. Then we had a 5 hour layover in Frankfurt, Germany (something we wouldn’t recommend). It was 5am-10am there which was 9pm-2am central time). Again, Joanna didn’t sleep. The 3rd flight was about 4 hours and thankfully Joanna slept the entire time. Brandon slept also, but was feeling really weak by that time. I didn’t get much sleep since I had to hold Joanna again, and I got sick on the way down (thankfully that only happened once and on the last flight.) But in the end we made it safe and sound with all our luggage (even the suitcase with 270 diapers.)

The first 24 hours in Jerusalem: Many of you have heard us comment on how helpful our “property manager” (aka landlord) has been. In our eyes she is God’s provision for us. Darla and her husband Oz actually live across the hall and met us at the apartment after they had their taxi driver pick us up from the airport. They took us in their car to get a pack n play for Joanna and to get groceries as soon as we got here. They are a HUGE blessing. And the timing was great because we were all able to stay up until bedtime. Joanna slept 13 hours that night. We slept OK but woke up several times. We spent our day unpacking, getting organized and cleaning. The man who usually lives in this apartment is a bachelor and lived as such. I’ve been busy putting my “Dutch Clean” genes to the test. Tonight Darla and Oz showed us how to work the stove and TV and just got us more acquainted with our new home. Did I say they are great? Oh and all of this they are doing just because they are nice. It’s something most landlords wouldn’t do here.

Interesting tidbit: The owner of our apartment is a Christian. The books he’s left around indicate so and he left us the Michael W Smith CD box set, Steve Green cassette tape and many more gems. Oh and he’s a photo journalist and watched Fox News. Gotta love it. We’ll probably meet him in October.

Day 2:Last night was a bit more tireless. I think the exhaustion has worn off and jet-lag is hitting us full force. Thankfully Joanna was only up for an hour in the middle of the night and still slept until 8 am. This afternoon we made the short trek to Jerusalem University College (JUC). Did I say we can see it from our apartment window? It’s only a 10 minute walk (down one small mountain and up another). We also ventured to the grocery store on our own. We roasted in the heat but were so thankful to be able to find our way around and discover that there is so much nearby. God has truly provided us with the perfect apartment.

Agenda for the near future: Tomorrow we have more cleaning to do. Tomorrow morning Darla and Oz are going to take us to Emek Refraim, the closest street with lots of great shops. It’s within walking distance but is a bit confusing to get to. They’ll show us the way so we can get there on our own later. Sunday we’re hoping to find a church nearby. Brandon has orientation August 29.

Here’s a short list of praises thus far: safe travel, good rest, a crib for Joanna, Darla & Oz.

A few more prayer requests: focused minds for finding our way around the city, patience in learning to cook and shop for groceries, continued rest.

Thanks again for all your prayers. God is good!