Wednesday, June 16, 2010

God's Protection

I was reminded recently that it has been a very long time since I have updated our blog. Things have been a little hectic to say the least. There are so many great things happening to share with you though and I hope to do so soon!

I thought I would just quickly share with you God’s protection over us the other evening to get things started. I came downstairs Monday morning to discover Monday morning that we had had some visitors during the evening. It seems that at about 3am someone broke open a window in our study and put a child in through one of the gaps in the burglar bars. They then proceeded to help themselves to my computer, Sybrand’s cell phone, our digital camera and lenses, some money and my winter coat. All in all about 6 to 7 thousand dollars worth of things.

While there is an incredible sense of violation and fear that comes from this (mostly from knowing they were in the house while we slept), we are so aware of God’s protection over us and care for us. For one while they stole money out of Sybrand’s wallet, they left the wallet and all the cards etc in it. They also dropped my external hard drive on their way out the window so I have only lost about 9 months of work and our pictures for this last year are on Sybrand’s computer and not mine. But more then that it is obvious that they were trying to break the bars and actually all get in but were unable to do so. One of our neighbors who woke up and saw one of the men running away saw that he was carrying ropes. We are sure that if they had gotten in and upstairs, things would have been much worse. We can’t allow ourselves to think of the what if’s though.

We are thankful too that God has provided in amazing ways for us to purchase our own home which has wonderful security. I say that very aware, however, that nothing happens to us outside of God’s sovereign plan for our lives and that is far better security then any man-made system!

Please pray we would continue to trust the Lord in the midst of this! And pray for our continued protection and safety. It is a reminder of the fact that South Africa isn’t safe.

Baby News

I thought I would also let you know how things are going with the baby. For those of you who don't know, we are having a little girl who is doing very well! We are naming her Carol Marie after our mothers. We are so thankful God has preserved this little one's life and has kept her safe in my womb. God has been so gracious to us! Lord willing, I will be having a c-section on August 19th.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Introducing Baby de Swardt


There are many things I had planned to write to update you on our lives but this seemed the most important one this evening. God has been gracious to us and we are expecting our first child August 24, 2010. It was a thrill to go to the doctor today and see that little heart beating. Please be praying that we would continue to trust the Lord in the midst of this. Some of you know we experienced two miscarriages last year. The doctor is very pleased so far with what he sees but we do trust that God knows what is best and will bring it to be.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Sad News


I received some very sad news today. Pictured above is one of the gogo's (grandmothers) I knew in Katlehong. She and another gogo lived together and were caring for 6 children. They were some of the hardest workers I knew. One day I showed up and saw corn growing around their shack. They were raising it to sell on the side of the street. Apparently, on Tuesday she and her granddaughter were crossing the railroad tracks and her foot got caught as a train came down the track. She was hit by the train and killed while her granddaughter watched. Please pray for this family! Pray that they would be comforted and pray for the children who are left behind. Pray for the granddaughter who saw it happened and is obviously traumatized. Pray that this will be an opportunity for the gospel to be shared!
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Thursday, October 29, 2009

More Women's Retreat Pictures




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More Women's Retreat


They treated us to some wonderful singing!



I love Ivy! She has grown so much in the last year and is a lot of fun to be with.
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LBC Women's Retreat


We had our LBC Women's Retreat this last weekend. It was a wonderful time away though I missed my husband terribly. (Its just not as fun to go away anymore.)

The women really enjoyed true fellowship and really encouraged each other. We had great teaching on the book of Phillipians from Megan Wooley and enjoyed a time of sharing and application in small groups after several of the talks.

The women love to spend time together and are true biblical friends!!!

One of the most encouraging things for me of the weekend was coming up to the porch during free time and finding Dinah and Johannah doing their Sunday School homework. These women love the Lord and are soooo teachable! Dinah says one thing she is most thankful for is her English classes because now she can read the Scriptures for herself.
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Personal Update





We continue to love married life! Many of you know that it has been a tough couple of months for us physically and we continue to covet your prayers. We have experienced two miscarriages in the last 6 months which has been a difficult trial to walk through. We have been sustained in the midst of this trial and continue to trust God’s perfect plan for our lives. Additionally, Sybrand has had nasal surgery and experienced some complications from the surgery that seem to now be sorted out. As a result of some of the testing they did, they discovered he has an immune deficiency which they are in the process of trying to discern the best way to treat. The result of this is that he gets sick easily. Please pray that they would be able to decide on a course of treatment that would be effective and helpful in building up his immune system.

In the midst of all of this, we found out that his mother’s cancer had progressed and she is in the process of receiving intensive chemotherapy. She is a believer and has been a wonderful testimony of trusting the Lord in the midst of this trial.

Needless to say, this has left us a little tired and worn out. Please pray that God would continue to refresh us and revive and that we would walk by faith and not by sight.

We are thankful that after two years of waiting my application for permanent residency was approved! It means that I can now apply for a South African ID number which is similar to having a Social Security number in the states. It is such an answer to prayer.

Tyndale Christian School


Over the last few months God has been expanding our ministry at Tyndale Christian School which was originally started by members of our church and meets on our church property (although it is not our church’s school). We were approached several months ago and asked to consider becoming part of the school board and helping to give direction to the school.

The school is struggling right now. It originally was spiritually strong and founded with a commitment to sound biblical theology. Over the years as the original founding members of the school have left, the school has lost its theological grounding and has begun to struggle. On the board there has been a spilt between the charismatics and those that are more reformed in their theology which has led to division. Shortly before we joined the board, the majority of the board members who were causing the division stepped down and now the school is in the process of rebuilding.

It has been exciting for us to become more involved. We are both committed to Christian Education and the importance of it. Additionally, the school is about 80% black and has many children coming to school from the townships. We would love to be a part of the school becoming more effective in its ministry to these children who so desperately need a solid biblical and academic foundation in life. My previous experience in the township has shown me how vital this is if we are going to reach our townships for Christ.

Let me introduce you to one of the students who is a picture of the kind of child we are trying to help. Pictured at the top is Sihle M. who has attended the school since the 1st grade. He is currently the Head Boy at the school. His mother died shortly after he was born and he has been raised by his aunt. He comes to the school from one of the local townships. His family is involved in a church where Christianity and ancestral worship are mixed. He knows that is wrong and can share why it is. Please pray that he will be strong in the midst of this. Next year he will be going to one of the local high schools which has an excellent academic reputation. In addition to receiving a solid academic foundation at Tyndale, he has also been given a solid biblical foundation and has been equipped to share Christ with others in the township as well as for future ministry.

Additionally Sybrand has had a wonderful opportunity to work with the teachers. He is presenting the Changing Hearts, Changing Lives material to them on a weekly basis. Our prayer is that this will help the teachers not just minister to the children on an academic level but to be able to help them shepherd the children’s hearts and impact them spiritually. Many teachers have commented on what a help these times have been to them on both a personal and a professional level

Update Continued



I am continuing to enjoy leading our women’s Bible Study. We are currently studying working through the book, ‘Reaching the Ear of God’. Last week we spoke on how God has met our needs so abundantly. As they responded to that, they began to speak of the many in our church who are struggling. We have many women in our church who are supporting whole families on about $400 a month. One woman shared with me recently her concerns over her family in Zimbabwe who are starving because of lack of food. In response, they began to develop a plan of how they could better minister to them in practical ways. It is so encouraging to see them begin to take action to reach out and tangibly minister mercy to the poor within our own congregation.

We are also in the midst of planning for our Women’s Retreat. Sybrand and I identified several women who could potentially be trained to help in the leading of our Women’s Ministry and asked them to help me plan for the retreat. It was so encouraging yesterday to meet with them and hear their ideas for the retreat and how we can accomplish our goals. I am praying that this group will be the start of a Women’s Committee that can help disciple and minister to the women at our church.

A highlight for me has been the Sunday School class I have begun for the domestic workers who come to church. The sincere, simple faith of these women has been a real encouragement. They ask good questions every week are beginning to open up and share their own personal struggles. Several of these women have commented that they truly understand the gospel for the first time. They also have said that they are beginning to understand the Bible for the first time and have asked to learn how to study it for themselves. In response, we have begun a series with them on ‘How to Study the Bible’.

One of our prayers in starting this group was that we would begin to see the women more fully integrated into the life of the church. We are beginning to see God answer that prayer. Some of them have started coming to Sunday evening church and to the Wednesday prayer meeting which is very unique in a South African church setting. They also keep less to themselves. Please pray that this would continue.

As a side note, it has been so fun to get to know these women. The woman to my right in the picture name is Johanna. I was recently talking to her and found out that when she got married about 25 years ago, her husband had to pay 4 cows for her and what would have amounted to about $1200. Two of the cows were used to feed the guest at the wedding and the other two were used to help sustain the family. Johanna’s husband died after 12 years of marriage leaving her with three children to raise and care for. She shared with me that they are slow mentally and have been unable to find work even though they are looking for it. Yet in the midst of it, she expresses a deep love for and trust in the Lord.

Please don't die of shock....


I was on a friend's blog that lists when the last time a blog was updated and saw that it had been ten months since I had written on ours. So, for the one person who still checks it, I decided to update. Needless to say, life has been a little crazy since December! We continue to be thankful for the opportunity to minister at Lynnwood Baptist Church. We have really enjoyed opening our home to people in the church and getting to know them better.

Sybrand recently began preaching a series on 1Timothy on Sunday mornings. This has been a great opportunity to re-establish in people’s minds what God intends the church to look like. He also has been teaching an Adult Sunday School class based on material from CCEF called ‘Changing Hearts, Changing Lives’. The focus of this class has been to help people better understand how behavior reflects our heart and that it isn’t enough to merely change our external behavior without dealing with our hearts. Many have commented on how helpful this material has been in their personal walk with God and how they have been able to help others who are struggling. As with any teaching that confronts our hearts, there has been resistance to it. So often we are content with external behavioral change and knowing the right things and don’t want to confront the issues of our heart idolatry.

One woman we met with recently shared how she was so convicted that she stopped coming to church for awhile. We are thankful though that God has begun to till up the soil of her heart and she is starting to deal with some issues in her heart and seeking help and is back in church again.

We are grateful for the 5 new families God has brought to the church over the last few months. They have been a wonderful addition and have brought a breath of fresh air to the church. Sybrand has begun to meet with these men in a Discipleship Group. They have proven themselves to be faithful, teachable men. The hope is that as they are equipped they will go out and find men that they can each disciple and pour their lives into.




Sybrand's Small Group


Additionally, we have many Africans who wander into the church looking for help. Every Sunday it seems that’s someone will wander in off of the streets. I think in part it is because of Lynnwood’s long standing ministry to the poor in our area. Just the other day a man from Zimbabwe who is struggling with some issues in his life and wanting help, stopped by the church. Sybrand had a wonderful opportunity to share the gospel with him. We are praying that he will come to church and we will have continued to ministry to him.


A picture from church camp last April.

Friday, December 26, 2008

Christmas 2008


Thought you might enjoy seeing a picture of the group that celebrated Christmas with us. I think we had 27 people in all. Some of the guys from the Congo that were with us mentioned that it was the first Christmas that they had ever received a present at.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Prayer Requests

  1. Please pray for Sybrand and me as we begin our married life together. Pray that we will be a couple that honors God. Additionally, pray for us as we settle into ministry at a new church and with new people.
  1. Pray for wisdom for Sybrand as he preaches to a wide spectrum of people and desires to make God’s Word practical to all that come.
  1. Please pray that God will give us wisdom as to what to do about my house. We had thought we had sold it but some complications came up this week that have made us need to rethink this decision. We are evaluating whether we should rent it for awhile and sell it later when the real estate market has recovered some. Pray that if Lambano does purchase it, the sale will go through quickly and smoothly.
  1. Please pray that God would give Sybrand and me wisdom as we decide what my ministry should entail.
  1. Continue to pray for Martha as she takes over my responsibilities. Pray that God will use her greatly as she ministers among the people of Katlehong.

More Changes

Change in Mission’s Agency: One additional change that came about very recently was due to the news that GMI will not allow me as a married woman to stay on as a missionary. While this came as a surprise to me, I know it was not one to God and have seen His work through all of this. Shortly after I heard this news, I came into contact with Biblical Ministries Worldwide which is a mission’s agency operating out of Atlanta, Georgia. As I interacted with the field director here, I was encouraged by the passion they have to plant churches in the townships. The more we talked the more I saw that our philosophy of ministry was very similar. For many reasons, coming under their leadership seemed a natural fit and as of January all of my support will be channeled through them. This has been a sudden change and I have seen God work to bring together many pieces of the puzzle and continue to care for Sybrand and I. If you have more questions about this, please contact me. I am so grateful to God for those of you who have supported me through out the years.

Your giving has made my work here possible and your continued giving will help to make my continued ministry possible. If you would like to continue to support us, you can do so by mailing your checks to:

Biblical Ministries Worldwide
1595 Herrington Road
Lawrenceville, GA 30043-5616

Checks should be made out to Biblical Ministries Worldwide with a note attached that they are for the support of Sybrand and Beth de Swardt. Additionally, you can find information about automated giving at http://www.biblicalministries.org/support/automated.htm.

Looking Ahead

When I look ahead one word comes to mind: Change!

  1. Change in status: In a little less then a month, I will be a married woman and on top of that be a pastor’s wife. While it at times in a little scary, I am thrilled with where God has brought me.

  1. Change in Location and Ministry: A little over a year ago, I spoke at a women’s retreat. I came home and told my mom that it was a church I would love to be part of. Little did I know that a year later God would call my future husband to be their pastor. We are excited to become part of Lynwood Baptist Church in Pretoria for many reasons. It is a small church of about 100 people that has been without a pastor for almost three years. The unique thing about this church is that it is a mix of color and race which is very unusual for a church in South Africa. We are thankful for the opportunity that God has given us to minister at this church.

In many ways, God has uniquely prepared this church to reach out with the message of salvation specifically and to reach the black community where the gospel is desperately needed. This is especially true given the mixture of traditional (ancestral) worship, the prevalence of witchcraft, the HIV crisis, and tremendous poverty in these communities. The church is eager to get involved where very few are willing to go. Several factors have helped to lay the foundation for this kind of ministry in the church.

· The church has been involved in a church plant in the township in the past and is open to being involved again in this with the added component of training and equipping pastors in that specific context.

· The previous pastor was a Zambian who helped to lay a wonderful foundation of interracial relationships within the church. (Please note that while this is not unusual in an American church context, it is in a South African church context.) The church is well integrated both in the congregation and on the leadership and this gives added credibility as we reach out .

· The church is already involved in a ministry to domestic workers and hosts a weekly service for them.

· The leadership is desiring to develop in its outreach ministry. We have had several conversations with the leadership within the church recently where they have indicated that they believe the church really needs to grow and develop in reaching out effectively to the black community.

Sybrand and I have spent a great deal of time thinking through and praying about my potential ministry in the church. There have been many opportunities presented to us. I will just share a few of them with you.

· God has already brought people from the township to our church that are great vehicles to take the gospel to this context and so have a tremendous impact for Christ in the townships. Many of you have often heard me talk about how the gospel is really the only solution to the crisis facing South Africa’s townships. Because of the make-up of the church, I have a unique opportunity to combine my desire to be involved in women’s ministry and my passion to reach our townships for Christ. We would love to see these women more fully integrated into the life of the church which must be done through building relationships with these women and, Lord willing, to disciple some of them equipping them for the task because of the potential to have a tremendous impact for Christ in the townships. We have discussed beginning with a Women’s Bible Study specifically for them. We are thinking of starting with an evangelistic study that they could bring their friends to which would serve as a way to help them begin to reach out to those around them.

Our prayer is that God would equip these women and help us, as a church, to develop avenues into the townships they live in where we could begin to develop mercy ministries. They can serve as a bridge into these spiritually dark communities. We really desire to see our church more actively involved in meeting the needs (spiritual and physical) of our townships. These women could help us lay the foundation for this. Please pray that God gives us wisdom as to the best way to do this.

· We have also been encouraged by the contact we have had with a missionary couple relocating to South Africa from where they have been serving in Germany. They are part of a work called Thandanani (http://www.thandanani.org/default.aspx). Thandanani, from a Zulu word meaning "love one another," is a ministry begun by Biblical Ministries Worldwide-South Africa to foster a church-planting movement in the rural villages of South Africa, villages shattered by the AIDS epidemic and struggling to cope with the orphans that the scourge is leaving behind. The ministry they are involved in could be a wonderful one to partner with as we begin to reach out to the townships in practical ways.

· Additionally, Sybrand and myself have been approached about the opportunity to become involved in the Christian school that uses our church property. They are in the process of re-evaluating the purpose of the school and are thinking of using the school as an outreach into the community by providing children with a solid Christ-centered education. These children would then be equipped to go back into their communities and reach them with the gospel of Christ. We are working on building some bridges with the school by teaching some Bible classes once a week. The school is a mixture of black and white students and we hope in these classes to help deal with some of the issues that they are facing in a daily basis including issues like racial tension, AIDs, sexual purity and how to stand for Christ in a pagan world. Potentially, especially given my background in education, there are many opportunities for ministry at the school.

· I have been asked to help some with the administrative work of Grace School of Ministry (The counseling training program my father has started.) which is modeled after the counseling program I administrated for many years at The Master’s College. This year, they have 60 students involved from all over Africa (whites and blacks) and even parts of Europe. It is a great way for me to use some of my previous experiences to help in the training of nationals- many of whom will minister in the poorest areas. Given it is a distance learning program, there has been a need for someone to help in the area of student contact. I will be involved in helping to encourage the students in their studies and providing help in keeping them on track with their studies and helping to answer questions that arise in the course of their studies. Additionally, I will be helping with some of the grading.

· If you are aware of anything that is happening in Southern Africa, you know that things are a mess. Just look at Zimbabwe for example. Many are fleeing to South Africa and we have a unique opportunity as we minister to them to potentially not only influence South Africa but all of Africa. Our church has many refugees from various parts of Africa. Many of these refugees desire to go back to their home countries. As they are equipped, they have the potential to go back and influence their countries for Christ. It is a tremendous opportunity for our church.

Please pray that God would give Sybrand and me much wisdom as we decide what is the best investment of our time for the sake of the kingdom. Our first priority is settling into church life at Lynwood and focusing on our ministry there. Please pray for us as we get to know the people and especially for Sybrand as he begins to shepherd them.

There are many possibilities and we do not want to neglect what we believe to be our first priority right now – the church. Figuring all of this out will take some time to figure out especially has we settle into ministry at a new church.

Highlights of the last few months....

  1. Teams: One of the biggest highlights was the two teams that came to minister here. The first was a team from The Masters College. They came primarily to minister at the two primary schools that I have been involved in. They were here for six weeks and had an incredible impact with the students and teachers at the schools. I can’t tell you how many comments I had about their attitudes and servant spirits. I was also told by a teacher that for the first time they saw what a Christian should look like. They were an amazing testimony to those they came in contact with.

The other team was the combined team from Grace Community and Calvary. They were a blessing and had many opportunities to share Christ and the gospel with many of the various schools in Katlehong. Keisha Reed who has been here ministering for a year along with our Malawian interns at the church have followed up with a Bible Study in one of the schools.

  1. Martha: A real joy for me these past months has been to spend time training Martha to replace me in Katlehong. She and I have spent a great deal of time together and she is a real encouragement to me and a great asset to the ministry at Lambano. A particular joy for me has been the fact that Martha has started taking the Biblical counseling courses my father is teaching here in Pretoria. Seeing her grasp these truths has been thrilling and it is especially exciting to be leaving someone biblically trained to continue the ministry.

  1. Evangelistic Bible Study: We started and have completed the evangelistic Bible Study in Katlehong. I taught the first week and it became clear that I was more of a hindrance then a help because of the language issues. Martha stepped in and has taught the class while I handed out food parcels so our worker could come. One woman made a profession of faith and about 10 others heard the gospel. Pray as Martha continues with this study in the New Year.

  1. Katlehong Church: Many of you know that I have been praying for a church to be planted in Katlehong. Well, I recently found out that God answered my prayer 4 years ago and I didn’t know it. Through some new contacts, I heard of an American who has been ministering in Katlehong. I meet with him and his wife a few weeks ago and was encouraged by their love for the Lord and their selfless ministry to the people of Katlehong. It is even in the same area that the people we help live in. Martha visited the church and it seems solid. How exciting to finally have a church to send people to! Martha plans to go one Sunday shortly after Christmas with some of the children we sponsor in Katlehong. The pastor has offered to pick up the children for Sunday school in the weeks following.

  1. Other opportunities: Other the past few months I have had many opportunities to minister to various women’s groups at several churches. Included in this was an opportunity to speak to a group of pastor’s wives on my favorite topic: discipleship. Additionally, I was able to be involved teaching a women’s class at Grace School of ministry (my father’s counseling course.) It was a real joy to be able to work with women from various parts of Africa.

Apologies....

I have been a very bad blogger and to the two of you who still read my blog, I am about to update. I'm not going to post pictures right now but will soon.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

God's Faithfulness!


I'm engaged to Sybrand de Swardt!!!!!!

Many of you already know but in case you haven't heard, God has brought a wonderful godly man into my life and we are getting married on January 17th in Cape Town, South Africa.


The ring-



This is the view from where we got engaged in Kruger National Park last week. It was Olifants (Elphant) Camp in the park. It was an amazing site we looked down on.



A picture of the two of us from earlier in the day.



The first picture of us as an engaged couple. Sorry for the shadows.

The Story:

My dad teaches counseling courses in Grace School of Ministry in Pretoria four times a year. The classes started October 2006 with pastors and others coming to attend the classes for a week at a time. At the end of the March class, my dad realized that one of the men in the class was a single pastor. He mentioned it in passing at the end of the week to my mom and me. I found it kind of funny. I mean the guy lived in a small town outside of Cape Town. How was I going to meet him?

Well, while my dad was completely innocent in the next part of the story, my mom did a little scheming. She decided that it would be a good idea to invite the whole class over for dinner the next time the class met in October. She figured that way we would have a chance to meet. Once again, I found it all funny. I mean what was going to come of it. He wasn't going to meet me and want to date me.

So, that October about 50 to 60 people came over for dinner. We were introduced but it ended there that evening. I had come to the place in life where I really thought God had meant for me to be single. I even said that to my mother at the end of the evening. I wasn't upset about it but rather really wondered if I wasn't more effective in my ministry single then I would be married. I was content with where God had me. I loved my life and ministry. (Interestingly enough, Sybrand was at the same point in his life and thinking as well.)

(As an aside, the other part of the story I only found out later was that the summer before my mom had prayed faithfully every day while she did some physical therapy on her neck that involved being on her knees for an half hour a day that God would send me a godly husband. Amazing isn't it?)

Well, she gave it one more try and at the end of the November class had everyone over for dinner as well. It was at the end of the evening when Sybrand came into the room I was in. He was looking for the person he had come with to tell them it was time leave. He sat on the opposite side of the table from me and began talking to a couple sitting beside him. My mom and sister-in-law came in about that time and sat beside him and began talking to him. I knew I better join in the conversation or else I would be in trouble :). So, I joined in.

We began to talk and as we did the others around us began to disappear. It wasn't a long conversation but it was nice. During it, he invited me down to Cape Town about three times. I didn't think much of it. Most South Africans want to show visitors their part of the country. My mom asked me what I thought after and I told her it I thought he was really nice but what was going to come of it? What I only found out later was that Sybrand went home and couldn't sleep after we met. I'll let him tell that part sometime.

That next week he wrote my dad and asked him for my contact information. I was sooo impressed with that. I knew there were other ways he could have gotten it but to go through my dad scored big points in my book! The next day (which was Friday) I heard from him for the first time. I kept thinking this is so different. There was no doubt that he was the one doing the pursuing and it was so wonderful to have it that way. We began writing and in the middle of December I went down for a long weekend.

It was a wonderful weekend. I think we talked almost every minute we were together. Its been an interesting, sanctifying journey since then. I certainly have realized I am a lot more sinful then I ever thought! But God has been so good to us and while we grow in holiness he has also knit our hearts together in a way that only He can. I know I am far better with Sybrand then I am without him in every way.
This last week we spent a few days in the Kruger National Park visiting a pastor friend and seeing animals. Wednesday we left the house at about 5am to get in the park early. We drove way up that day to a part called Olifants (Elephants). We walked all over the site. I couldn't figure out why. We finally came to this very quiet section with a wonderful view. We sat down and looked for a while. Then we prayed together. Earlier as we had walked around, Sybrand had shared the significance this site had had in his life while a child. He mentioned he thought it was an appropriate place for a new beginning. As we sat there, he gave me a small box with an amazing ring in it and we soon became an engaged couple.

Please pray for us as we enter this new stage in life. Pray that God would help us to glorify Him as we prepare for marriage.


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