Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Jup. Holland. Jup.

Here's are group with Guus and Ellen. It was an evening of conversation and great friendship that I will never forget. To think that 8 weeks ago I never knew any of the guys that I went to Guus's house with, and less than a month ago I randomly met Guus and Ellen through happen stance at a restaurant in the Czech Republic. The 6 of us shared a lovely dinner and evening together in Holland on the evening that the Netherlands was playing for the World Cup final. Wow. God is good. Praise the Lord, and thank you all so much for your prayers for our night with Guus and Ellen. God was definitely present.

Here is the fish that Ellen brought out to us on the back patio as soon as we got to their house. It was raw Herring. It is a Dutch tradition for everyone at the table to stand up and swallow the whole fish. So what's the Golden rule? Love your neighbor as... wait.. no I mean, "When in Holland do as the Dutch do!" So we picked up the fish, with lake water still dripping off of it, and dropped it in our mouths. Three of the four of us did it no problem... I'm not going to mention the (city boy- Jake) who made up a 15 minute excuse that he just got off a 2 hour "hot" train ride (that was air conditioned), and his stomach wasn't feeling well so he could only nibble on the fish.

Believe it or not I actually really enjoyed it and ate 3 more! I've never had such fresh fish in my whole life!

Here's a picture of one of the streets as people were gathering to watch the game. In most towns there were huge screens set up outside in the city square that showed the world cup games. It was pretty amazing!

I had a huge test today that I actually spent more time studying for than I have for all of my tests combined in my college career. It was a pretty good size, six essay exam. Anyway Chris, Taylor, and I decided that we were going to bring our "A" game for this test so we came down at 8am for the test "dressed for success."

Tomorrow we're going to Brussels to visit the European Parliament. I'm pretty excited about this visit and I'm definitely going to ask them to give me there true opinions on the Greece Sovereign debt crisis.

I can't believe we only have a week left in Holland. We have another exam Friday, A presentation and ten page paper due on Tuesday. Then we'll be on our way to Paris on Wednesday. Again thank you all so much for your prayers and I want to leave you with a few lines from a song that has been playing in my head all day.

To the cross I look, to the cross I cling
Of it's suffering I do drink
Of it's work I do sing

For on it my Savior both bruised and crushed
Showed that God is love
And God is just

At the cross You beckon me
You draw me gently to my knees, and I am
Lost for words, so lost in love,
I’m sweetly broken, wholly surrendered

What a priceless gift, undeserved life
Have I been given
Through Christ crucified

You’ve called me out of death
You’ve called me into life
And I was under Your wrath
Now through the cross I’m reconciled



Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Waffle Me.

I don't know if I've ever experienced anything like it before. Rich chocolate being poured across my plate of strawberry's, vanilla ice cream, and most importantly giant waffle. This is what they call the world famous "Belgium Waffle". Oh that I may partake in consuming such a marvelous creation..
It didn't come without a price of course. Along the way many became faint of heart and turned back, but those who kept their eye on the reward, basked in it's grandeur. Indulged in it's effulgence, and consumed it's sumptuousness. Yes, we were the few, the proud, the Belgium Waffle Brigade 2010.
When we started we had two maps (only one that actually was relevant to where we are in Europe. I gave the other one to a few other guys so it would keep them occupied for awhile), a high chance of rain, and 27 people very excited to conquer the Belgium Waffle. Five minutes into our trip the floodgates of the heavens opened up. Immediately two of our compatriots turned around and headed back for shelter. The rest of us pressed on.

Once we came to the first town called Tillburg, we took the biggest hit to our numbers. We had a planned stop in Tillburg to get cash out and grab some water for those who needed to, and also so we could find a path to Belgium. We told everyone to meet back at the bikes in 10 minutes. We waited 20 minutes, had to cut our losses (5 people), and moved on. Over the course of the next hour there were two bike wrecks and a few emotional break downs that cut our number to 17. After almost 3 hours we finally made it to the land of milk and flowing waffles.

On another note Holland is in the World Cup FINALS!!! It's really funny that no matter where we go people are always trying to get us to buy Netherlands soccer jerseys. They think that since we are Americans we are all rich or something... HA! Anyway, the game is at 8:30pm Netherlands time on Sunday. It works out really well because the Dutch Business man some of us guys met one night in Czech Republic invited us to go to dinner and watch the game with him and his wife on Sunday. It's definitely going to be a night to remember.

On a side note... The Dutch business man is named Guus and from our 2 hour conversation in Czech, I didn't gather that he knew the Lord as his savior. He is 60 years old now, very wealthy and very knowledgeable. God has put it on my heart to share with Guus because who knows if he'll ever sit down with another group of Christians for dinner. The challenge is Guus is being very hospitable and generous in having us for dinner so I don't want to be a young rude Christian who shoves Jesus down his throat.. Well I want to... because I know we're talking about his soul for eternity here... but I don't think that will be the most effective and lasting impression on this type of man. My point is please pray that the Holy Spirit will direct the conversation between us on Sunday and that his heart is tender to the gospel. I am very nervous because my heart is burdened for Guus and I want to see this man saved.



Thursday, July 1, 2010

My Hog in Holland.

There she is! Such a pretty little thing. Yup, I'm a lucky man... She's mine, all mine for 3 weeks! This is my mode of transportation to get around Holland. Well, there's a train but who wants to pay for that? I won't even pay to swim at the pool, (I jumped two barbed wire fences) why would I pay for a train ticket? Haha instead I've decided to spend hours on my "hog" cruising from town to town. It's actually been really enjoyable riding through little towns and across the countryside.
And... As far as I can tell, almost everyone in Holland feels the same way. Below is just one of the bicycle parking lots in a town I was at yesterday. They actually have entire underground parking garages for bicycles! Wild!
We've been taking trips in groups just in case someone has a problem with their bike and they are an hour from Oisterwijk, our home location for the next few weeks.
As you can guess, even in a community of so many bicyclist, we stick out like a sore thumb. I don't know if it is because we ring our bells on our bikes to wave at people and say "Hello", and instead in Holland it means "Watch out" or "move, I'm coming through". Or if it's the fact that we don't wear our shirts half the time because we want to get a tan when everyone else is fully clothed and on their way to work or the store... either way, when we are riding through town in our big bicycle brigade, i feel as if we're being looked at as creatures that has never been seen before. Quite humorous to say the least.
Home Sweet Home! They grow a fair bit of corn outside of the town we're staying in... it's kind of funny but it does make me feel more at home.

We started International Trade & Finance this week which has been very interesting. I love to see how we are interacting with the world through trade and how we, as the U.S., have such a huge impact on the rest of the world. I've been reading several essay's and articles about globalization and international trade and what a Christian Perspective looks like in these areas. It's been very encouraging to me to see that Christianity and God can and should play a huge role in this process. I just read an article today that was Written by an atheist titled "As an atheist, I truly believe Africa needs God." He was not being facetious, but was honestly stating the need for Christian morality to drive globalization in Africa. This has also been the thought of many other respected economists not only for globalization in Africa, but globalization in general, no matter what country we're talking about.

Personally, this makes me very happy. Being a supporter of Free Market economy myself I see the need for some sort of moral guiding principles and a small governing role to set guidelines in market exchange. I am a Christian by thought and practice, so I would make an argument that the moral guiding principles for market exchange can be found in the Bible. Many have the view that Free Market exchange and capitalism are the tools to make the rich, richer, and the poor, poorer. I believe that this undoubtedly has been the case since the top 1% of the world population is richer than the bottom 56% of the world population combined. To even think that these two groups mentioned above live on the same planet is astounding. 5/6 of the World lives on $2 or less a day... I can't argue that some of this is at the expense of capitalism. By capitalism, I mean private companies using and abusing some 3rd world countries.

On the other hand a "restrained" free market exchange can be an indispensable tool to give the poor a hand up if used in the proper way. In Brian Griffiths essay "The Challenge of Global Capitalism, A Christian Perspective", he explains that the basis of the early Jewish economy was land, and when the promised land was settled, each family was allocated a plot of land. The laws took great care to protect property rights, but these rights were never absolute the ultimate ownership of the land belonged to God and property rights carried obligations. Freed slaves were not to be released empty handed but given resources to look after themselves. Those with wealth were to give generously to those in need. Those who borrowed were not to be treated as debtors. When fields were harvested the edges of the field were to be left unharvested for the poor and the stranger.

The right to property gave each family the freedom to buy and sell, to save and invest, to take risks and innovate. But it was not a laissez-faire system (An economic theory that argues that an economy works best when it is governed solely by market forces). Restrictions were imposed on the labor, capital, and property markets to ensure that each individual and family was treated on the basis of justice. The sabbatical year was an occasion when the land was to lie fallow, slaves were to be freed, and debts forgiven, and land returned to its original owner. One of the consequences of this redistribution was that each family retained permanent stake in the economic life, which was land, in the community. It was a way of preventing the development of a permanent underclass. Restrictions were also imposed on the capital markets to prevent the exploitation of people in need.

This is some of God's standard for economic life, and because of that, it contained principles which have relevance for us even today. It respected the dignity of the individual, their right to own private property and their freedom to do business. It was organized by way of a simple market economy set up with an agriculture background but still has relevance today. It was a market economy that was guided by some regulations to ensure justice.

There is hope! The UN has stated they are trying to make what they believe a tangible goal of achieving universal primary education by 2020. That means that every kid that is born in 2020 and after will be able to obtain a 6th grade education. In today's world education is the same as owning land back in the time of the Jewish economy I was talking about above. Technology is blamed for 80% of the continuing separation between the rich and the poor. So when you give a person some sort of education you are giving them a chance in today's economic system.

The other problem I see on the horizon is that globalization can cause materialism and selfishness. Do we really want to spread the same thing that we fight as Christians in America. Is there a way to use globalization to spread the gospel and improve living conditions without spreading materialism? I think it's possible. One thing to watch is that with increased income there is a direct correlation with spending on unnecessary materialistic things. The Bible warns us about this... When a man acquires more worldly possessions he starts to hang on to his life and falls in love with the world. Our goal as Christians is to not hang onto our life and separate ourselves from the world in that way.

I guess that's something to think about. Namaste.