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January 2023 News udpate

Friends and beloved in Christ,

It’s been another six months since our last news letter and we have a lot of news. It has been a very busy six months, but we’ve been greatly blessed in all respects as a family.

Ministry

The first thing to mention is of course the Sunday evening Bible study.  When I mention to outsiders that we spend 2 hours plus delving into Scripture, they roll their eyes in skepticism, but to us who were given this opportune window into God’s redemptive workings, it is something we will never forget.  In the end we had a great 28-week spell before some moved to the US, others to Ecuador and we left for South Africa.

Yet, as you know, the Bible study was always in English. And though we had a great translator on standby, it was sparsely attended by our own congregation. Some were of course put off by the language, while others said it was too academic. Whatever the reasons, the Bible Study was not penetrating our own congregation sufficiently. It was mostly carried by people on the periphery of our core group. Not that that is necessarily a bad thing by any means. It is just a recognition of how things transpired.

Regarding the children’s catechism and the Communicants Class, it is a joy for me to report that the two girls in my group who expressed the desire to become communicant members in the end satisfactorily completed the class and were part of three who professed their faith before the congregation. Unfortunately, this all happened while were already in South Africa, so we missed sharing in the event.

The young couple I mentioned in my previous letter with whom we had spent so much time, in the end relocated to Ecuador where the husband enrolled into seminary. We are still in regular contact with them and they seem to be flourishing and enjoying every moment of intense study and being given to the ministry of God’s people.

The illegal immigrant from Moroccan in the end found his way to Italy. His interest with me seemed to digress into mere requests for money. Many would say at this point that they could see his strategy miles away. Yes, perhaps. But we don’t share the gospel and mercy with people only because we can see with surety that there will be gospel fruit. Imagine our Father who is in Heaven was like that! But thanks be to God, He isn’t (Mt 5:45-48).

Finally, this past Sunday, I have started a new series through the letter to the Hebrews. While Rev. Kona and his family are in the USA until April, I will be preaching with translation through the letter. I am very grateful for this opportunity, since as you know, my greatest desire is to preach and teach. Please pray that we as a congregation would submit our sluggish ears and hearts to all that the Lord wants to reveal and teach us through this letter to God’s people.

Change in ministry

But I want to move now to the most important news we have and that is that I have received a call as assistant pastor to a multi-ethnic English church-plant in Pretoria, South Africa. Most of you have been with us through this transition, so apologies to those to whom this comes as a surprise.

In short, we may say that the main thing that triggered the whole move (humanly speaking) is the language barrier. As you know, language has always been the issue for us that has kept ministry from going deep with people who are uncomfortable with English. I could write a thousand pages on this and would gladly relay the whole history of how we’ve come to this point, but I will try to be concise.

First of all, the session of our church has agreed to release us with their blessing from ministry here in Durrës in order to pursue this call in South Africa. This we will do, God-willing from the first of April.

This was us the morning before I preached at GRC in November

The congregation is called Grace Reformed Church of North Pretoria (GRC[1]), and as I said, it is a multi-ethnic English church plant in the Gereformeerde Kerk in Suid Afrika (GKSA[2]). Furthermore, GRC itself also has close ties with the Heritage Reformed Congregations (HRC) in America through its senior pastor Rev Brian DeVries[3].This was u before I preached at GRC in Pretoria in November

In addition to serving the congregation, I will also be able to pursue parttime lecturing at Mukhanyo Theological College from July onwards.

With respect to my ordination in the PCA, my desire is that I will be allowed by my presbytery to preach and teach out of bounds as assistant pastor at GRC. As presbytery meets at the end of this month to consider my request, please pray for this.

All-in-all, we believe and are very excited that our urgency to communicate the Gospel and the full counsel of God effectively is being met by God’s grace in this endeavor. We always said that we want to be in a place where we can disciple the Lord’s church and where I can help raise up the next generation of pastors. This urgency has never changed and we will continue to pursue it as long as the Lord allows.

But it is of course also a bitter-sweet time. As we arrived in Durrës last week, I was hit by how much Durrës has become my town in only two years. People live and breath close to one another. This is Europe where we’ve lived for 16 years after all. And we will come to miss it quickly. We will more so miss all the relationships that have grown out of our time here.

We will miss shopping at the new Durrës market
We will miss shopping at the new Durrës market

The next three months will be strange as we have before us a move south that will sever us until we meet again in the presence of the Lord. But it is our sincere prayer that the Lord will use this time to galvanize among us a lasting love for one another in Him to help edify our faith and confidence in what He is doing with His bride.

Finances

The last time I wrote to you, I conveyed that our financial situation had become stable and healthy. Well, that will no doubt be changing in the next few weeks. But I want to assure you that the Lord takes care of us all, in plenty and in need. And thus, we will be content with what He provides.

That said, please know that several of our financial supporters have indicated their desire to continue staying with our ministry, whether in Albania or in South Africa. In addition, Grace Reformed will also be providing us with a small remuneration, according to their ability (see the attached service agreement).

I am not able to provide you with any chart at this point since we don’t quite know what things will look like when the dust settles.

Prayer

Ok, this letter is becoming far too long. So, please see below our prayer requests for the next 3 months.

  1. Family: As always, please pray to our Father that He protect each one of us from the evil one: Please pray that God would protect our health, our thought-life, our devotional life, our family worship, our Gospel and Kingdom focus, our bond with one another. Pray that Euodia and I would rejoice in each other and our children and that they too would likewise enjoy us and each other. We so need that God would bless us and keep us!
  2. Church: Please pray for this sermon series through the letter to the Hebrews to make a powerful impact on us all. If Christ is not high and lifted up in the eyes of our hearts, then our ears quickly become dull towards His Word. Pray that Christ would become foremost in everything as is proper for the Son of God Who is to be supremely valued above all.

Pray for sincere love in our church. It is too easy to put on a mask that looks nice on the outside, but does nothing to change bitterness that so easily take hold of the soul. Continue to pray for honesty among believers. It is too easy in this culture to employ ‘white lies’ instead of just being truthful and trustworthy.

  • Medicines: We do not know what the situation will be like in South Africa with regard to growth hormone for Euodia. Here in Albania, we were able to buy it at the manufacturer’s price. Please pray that the Lord make a solution available for us as He had done over the past two years.

May we all continue to be astounded in Christ our Lord in the coming year,

            Mauritz, Euodia, Nadya, and Yehoshua.


[1] GRC subscribes to the three forms of unity along with the Westminster standards, while the GKSK subscribes to the three forms of unity.

[2] The GKSA is in ecumenical unity with the PCA.

[3] Dr. DeVries is a colleague of Dr. Joel Beeke at Grand Rapids whom you may have heard of already.

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News update August 2020

Dear friend and beloved in Christ,

Last week was a surreal, even sad (very silly yes) experience for us as we drove to seminary to pick up Mauritz’s degree certificate. What we were thinking twelve years ago when he started with seminary is foggy in our minds, but we do recall that we did so, because we wanted to preserve our faith in the midst of a spiritually hostile world.

Those were simple choices for God’s Kingdom to be formed in our hearts, but as we now begin to take stock, at least

So, what now? Well, like you, we simply continue to seek for God’s Kingdom to be formed within us. This we pray and long for, both for ourselves and for you – whether we profess faith in Christ somewhere on a mission field, or at home preparing dinner for our families.

With that firmly in mind, let us update you on all the developments since we last sent you a letter. Our plan to move to Albania is moving forward very well. Working with Mission to the World (MTW), Martin Bucer Seminary (MBS) and Durres Reformed Church has now materialized into a three-way agreement with respect to Mauritz’s call. On paper, the plan is that Mauritz will apply his efforts in a 3:2 ratio between MBS and the church.

Of course, in the first year we will be spending a lot of time learning language and to love the country’s people and culture. While Mauritz is eager to begin spending time with students –  understanding their worlds, their walk with the Lord and their theology, Euodia and the children will immerse themselves in the lives of women and children from the church alongside Jenny, Albert’s wife. In fact, Euodia is already part of their homeschooling group, meeting via zoom on a regular basis.

Just thinking about all this is exhilarating. And humbling! Please pray for God’s blessing in this so that the power of the Gospel (Rom 1:16-17) would permeate all these relationships – that our redemption through Jesus Christ be foremost in our minds and hearts.

Our target move date from Florida to Albania is still set for November/December this year. Several reasons go into this:

  1. Mauritz has started the process to be licensed within the Presbyterian church in America (PCA), which if all goes well, will occur in November.
  2. We must raise sufficient monthly support for us to go. As of today, our financial support stands at about 25% of the $4000 per month we need. For this we are deeply grateful yet also very aware of the responsibility we have with your investment and trust. It is not a small thing for us every time someone informs us of their desire to stand with us in this call from God.
  3. Our financial ability to stay in the US is also limiting the time we can stay around. December seems the latest possible date at this stage.

The good news is that we finally have our USA (and soon also Swiss) channels set up for financial support. More importantly, if you would like to support us on a monthly basis, we would like to know about that. It will not only help us plan adequately, it puts you firmly in our minds and hearts when we pray also for you.

Kindly e-mail us at contact@landofoursojourn.org, or go to Financial Support and leave us a message at the bottom of the page. Of course face-to-face is always the best, if possible.

US Support

Our MTW account is also now live for US support. You can redirect to the online payment page here.

Alternatively please go to the MTW website (https://mtw.org) and search for Bezuidenhoudt, or the account number p-0366.

Switzerland

In Switzerland and the EU, you may soon support us via payments to the BIA verein account being created.

Geoffrey Holder, Marco Ferraro and Jing Qian (from left to right)

Earlier this week a verein called Bezuidenhoudts in Albania (BIA) came to life, complete with board members and all (see picture above). We are grateful for these three and their families who have been championing the mission to Albania for some time now.

Boasting in the Cross

How do we rid ourselves of our inherent drive towards that self-referential sin of boastfulness?

In Paul’s letter to the Romans, he speaks of this cancer quite a bit, perhaps because it is so integral to all that is antithetical to Divine grace. In the letter, as he works to destroy all our false reliance apart from Jesus Christ, he mentions boasting several times.

First, he lambasts his countrymen for their perverse way of boasting in God (2:17-22), and then of course he goes after their self-confidence with God’s moral requirement (2:23-24). And so, as he comes to the conclusion of ‘Christ alone’ in Rom 3:21-26, he returns to the issue of boasting in verse 27 asking

Then what becomes of our boasting? It is excluded. By what kind of law? By a law of works? No, but by the law of faith.

What does that mean? It means that the way we a rid of boasting is by looking to Christ with faith. Paul had just finished his defense of the good news in the verse before saying that justification is by “faith in Jesus”. Now he comes to the sin of boasting, not wanting us to be tricked into thinking that we can use the law itself to be rid of this sin. Boasting is done away with through faith in Jesus.

So how does this work? How do you remain humble (Ps 34:2) in your reliance on God instead of becoming prideful? The law of faith, as Richard Longenecker says1, refers here of course to trust and reliance on Christ, but it is also the Gospel and thus never far from Christ’s faith and faithfulness itself.

We rid ourselves of boasting by following after, or rather in the faith of Jesus – by having His humble reliance on the Father vividly before our eyes – His fear of God, which everyone else seem to drop somewhere along the way (Rom 3:18).

There is a boasting that frightfully perverts confidence in God, but our Lord showed us a boasting that is humble and meek. His boasting looked to God saving Him from the cross and that should also be our source of boasting (compare Rom 5:2-3). Paul says it so clearly in Gal 6:14,

But far be it from me to boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world.

Christ offers, no insists on a cross for us very much like His own if we are to follow him (Matt 10:38, 16:24). Yes, this cross leads to perplexity, affliction and what not (2 Cor 4:8-9), but with that comes a sobriety that keeps us from slipping into that horrid boasting we so easily pick up in this world.

1Richard N. Longenecker, The Epistle to the Romans: A Commentary on the Greek Text, ed. I. Howard Marshall and Donald A Hagner, New International Greek Testament Commentary (William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 2016), 444.

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