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Thursday, July 24, 2014

Back to my roots

In 2011, Julie and I began saving money to celebrate our 15th wedding anniversary. Our hope was to leave the children with grandparents and go on a romantic, explorative trip of a lifetime. We made plans to see several European countries and visit the places from which our ancestors came. Under very different circumstances, I am on this trip now with Anahi.

Our trip of a lifetime started in Interlaken, Switzerland, two weeks ago. I had the privilege to participate at Breathe, a 10-day conference targeted at missionaries from around the world who are living in regions in conflict and going through major transition. Learning from missionaries working in the underground churches of closed countries encouraged my faith.

This week we stopped in Rotenberg, Germany. This was the home of my great-grandpa Wilhelm, who, at age 19 in 1891, left the small “dorf” (town) of Rotenberg to explore new lands to raise his family. Now we are moving northward to where my grandma’s roots were.


We have also visited the vineyards where some of my other relatives still make a living, as well as a World War II bunker in Rotenberg. Entering the cement structure, built under a rocky hill in 1943, when Allied forces where bombing Stuttgart, left me literally cold and emotionally startled. Older people vividly remember the horrific nights when they had to evacuate their homes and rush for shelter with their little ones.
I am now in Fritzlar, the place where my father, brother and sister went to school. A family in the church is helping me caring for Anahi. We go on walks in the evening and interact with locals who are always eager to share about their culture and lifestyle. 

Being away from my Paraguayan world for this season has been a blessing. Anahi and I have continued to bond. We have each other throughout this trip. I think another layer of healing is taking place as we explore new places and meet new people. 

Saturday, June 21, 2014

Rest, regroup, refresh


I checked some stats on pastoral burnout and found that:

 ·  25% of pastors' wives see their husband's work schedule as a source of conflict.
·  33% felt burned out within their first five years of ministry.
·  75% report severe stress causing anguish, worry, depression, fear, and alienation.
·  80% of pastors say they have insufficient time with their spouse.
·  90% work more than 50 hours a week.
·  94% feel under pressure to have a perfect family.


After my tragedy two years ago, I am more intentional in creating space and healthy habits as I journey into this new chapter of my life. I remember talking with Julie only two months before our accident and agreeing that we needed to put a hold on the increasing responsibilities of ministry. At that point we had been working very hard for 10 years, only to stop for very short periods to rest. 

 
There was much to do, people to see and places to go, meetings to attend, and projects to oversee. We agreed that our next trip back to the States was going to be one to reassess and regroup. We were going to establish stricter boundaries in various areas of our life. 

As I write this I am coming out of seven weeks of having stopped all major activity and having spent quality hours with my daughter and by myself, jogging, reading, and reflecting. I have asked God, "What is next? How do you want to use my life and my tragedy to bless others?" 

 
I am feeling more refreshed, and I believe some important changes are taking place in my life. One of those is realizing that I will be turning 43 this month, and I need to conserve energy and keep my health in check as well as continue growing as a person. Exercising regularly, eating healthy, and getting on a learning track, these are factors I am seriously including in my decisions. 

Leading on Empty, by Wayne Cordero, has particularly spoken to me in this season. Leading out of abundance is something that apparently can be done. I have been reading about what the Bible says on taking a day off and on seasons to refresh—body, soul, and mind. 



I am grateful for the time I have been given to temporarily step away to rest, regroup, and refresh.

Saturday, May 17, 2014

May 8th, my mother’s 70th birthday


My mother turned 70 years old last week. Born Tabitha Mary Meier, she grew up as a missionary kid in Brazil. She speaks four languages and plays the accordion, flute, piano, guitar, and clarinet. She attended college at Anderson University in Indiana and later earned her master's degree at Purdue University. She returned to Brazil to continue the missionary work that her parents started in 1935, and it was there, at a youth convention in 1968, that she met my dad, Martin Kurrle, a young man who had just returned from Germany and was initiating his ministry as a single pastor. They were meant for each other and were married a year later.

Today, after 45 years, four countries (the U.S., Argentina, Brazil, and Paraguay), five kids, and several grandkids, they continue loving each other and serving as missionaries in southern Paraguay. Together they have been involved, directly and indirectly, in starting 12 congregations, a school, and a radio station, which until recently was the only Christian station in southern Paraguay. They love the people of Paraguay and have given their lives to spread the good news of Christ in this nation.

As the years go by, mothers get frail, and we often forget their sleepless nights, the dirty diapers, the midnight feedings, the nursing hands, and the countless hours they poured into our childhood years. It’s easy to get busy and have little left for moms who, in spite of their age limitations, are still here to serve for God's purpose. During high school, college, and seminary I spent my time geographically far away from my family, but I thank God for the seasons during which I had the chance to live closer to my mother.

Today I love and admire my mother more than ever. She not only gave her all to us when we were kids but continues to do so by working so that others find hope in Christ. And I strongly sense that she is not done yet—retirement is simply not in her vocabulary. She is one of those people who has the gift of service, and is happy when she can help others accomplish their work. As she moves into her new decade, I believe she will keep on ticking and doing Kingdom work.


Thanks, Mom. Happy birthday, and happy Mother's Day.

Friday, April 18, 2014

On the second anniversary of Julie and Timothys parting

Looking back, these have been the longest two years of my life. On the day of the accident we got up early, like many other mornings before taking a long distance trip. We got in the car, said a short prayer and got on the road. It was a normal start to our day. An in that normal day, everything was about to change.



A little over one hour into our trip, on April 18th, 2012, the accident happened. Everything changed dramatically since. The first months were mere survival, struggling between getting up in the morning, asking hundreds of questions, working out all the legal aspects of the accident, and trying to do the job of two. Some days getting thru the next hour seemed overwhelming. Two years have passed since that dark morning. This week I have given myself some space and intentional time to process another layer of what happened. My hope is to bring more closure and healing.


I am writing goodbye letters addressing areas that I felt needed closure. I am writing out excerpts of conversations I feel I wanted to have had with Julie and Timothy. I am apologizing and expressing things I wish I could have said in person. From others peoples experience of loss, this is a good thing to do. The more I face the pain, the more healing takes place.

I remember how during the week of Easter we lost electric power for three days. This is common in Obligado where we live. Julie and I had long conversations. We stayed home. Julie was a very fun person to be with. She was a very hopeful and optimistic person. After that week she wrote , in one blog entry, "this was a quiet and dark easter".

Julie was not a complainer. She found daily strength in her devotional time. She would take a day every week to fast and pray for her family, future kids and the various ministries she was involved.  Often I woke up at 4 AM and Julie was reading her bible or on her knees praying. She seemed to be caring a burden for others at various seasons of her life.

Its unique that this anniversary falls during good Friday. This is a day that symbolizes pain, love, forgiveness to millions who believe in Jesus Christ as the incarnate son of God. Gods willingness to give up his only son and see the pain before and during the moments on the cross is beyond me. This act of God alone, transcends all reasoning and should be enough to draw us into His presence. His love goes beyond the best written theology or the most self sacrificing acts of any human being.



Fathers and mothers who have lost a beloved son/daughter, know very well the human pain involved. It does not seem fair, it goes against all logic. Timothy was the joy of our home. He welcomed Julie and me to the world of parenthood. All I wanted to do is spent time with Timothy. And we did spent a lot of time together. The night before the accident we still shot a home made cannon which we had built following a YouTube tutorial video. We had so much fun with that.

Timothy's lights was snuffed out too early for me, but perhaps in Gods ordained time. I feel that Timothy represent so much unfinished work for me. I had all the desire and will to raise him, help shape him and one day see him get married, and take off with his own wings. I loved this kid soo soo much.



I must end by saying, I recognize that Julie and Timothy will never be back on this earth. But I am not hopeless because God has given us the promise of eternity which is the  longing and quest of every human being. He promised us a new heaven a new earth. He promised us He would be preparing a home. He is the beginning and the end of all things. And He promises us He will be with us until the end of times.








So as the future unfolds and new memories, people and activities occupy Anahi and myself, we will trust and continue to zoom into the glimpses of eternity displayed in creation in the people around us and my relationship with HIM.

Sunday, April 13, 2014

As the second anniversary draws close

I woke up exactly at 5 am on Friday April 11th. I go to my office and write this. It was so unique, since I was not planning to be up this early. But I was so awake and ready to get up that I just got started with my day. Usually I sleep until 6 or 7 AM. I realized I woke up at exactly the time the accident happened, one week before the second anniversary. It’s almost like I sense Julie and Timothy saying to me, we are with you and want to walk by your side during this week in a special way


Over the past months I have felt the need to stop everything. I have intentionally taken time off to pray, think, grieve, cry, journal, reflect and pause. I have sensed an increasing need to pause this month. I have set aside, delegated and minimized all my responsibilities and duties. I believe this month will bring more healing to my soul and help me move forward.

After getting up and having a wonderful time with the Lord, I decided to get up at 5 am every morning until April 18th. I will take this time to be alone with God and to hear his voice. I look forward to this week as I believe it will mark an important before and after moment in my life.

I am aware of my loss, and I know things will never be the same. but I am also aware that I need to intentionally bring closure. As I do this more and more Anahi and I are, and will be picking up new routines and continue to create memories. 

We know God must have a purpose in all of this, and we need to continue regaining strength and the love for God and for living and enjoying the gift of life.


Thanks for reading and for allowing me to share this journey with you.

Time with family 02

I spent last week with my Aunt Gisela in Buenos Aires, Argentina. She is one of my favorite aunts.  She has the gift of hospitality. Staying at Gisela's house is like being on a retreat, and it’s very easy to be spoiled by Gisela. She serves you tea in the morning and takes lunch orders at 9 a.m. She makes everything from scratch. She serves you by not only opening her home and making things for you, but also by giving you the gift of her time, which is a lost trait in many homes.


She sits down and asks questions and is honestly interested in you as a person. I believe that good hosting includes an ingredient of personal involvement. I have become aware again of how often I overlooked this aspect as Julie and I hosted people in our home over the years. I think that the gift of personal time exceeds all possessions and services.

I asked Gisela about her years of caring for my grandmother, Emily. Emily lived with Gisela from age 84 to 101. We agreed that my grandma's great health and positive outlook had a lot to do with Gisela's incredible acts of love and service.

In a nutshell, this is what Gisela said was their daily routine: Tea time (yerba mate tea) in the morning and scripture reading together. After breakfast, Grandma Emily would do her own dishes and plan lunch with Gisela. Then she would walk in the backyard, do laundry, or do some cleaning. At noon, they had lunch, and then Grandma took a long nap. In the afternoon, Emily would care for her garden, write some notes, or help Gisela with chores. At about 4:30 p.m. it was time for coffeecake, often homemade bread with homemade jam, cheese, and cream.

I remember during one of my visits in the past, the evening routine was sacred. At 7 p.m. sharp, Emily would sit by her shortwave radio and listen to one hour of German programming from HCJB radio. Interestingly, my grandmother never learned Spanish even though she lived 80 years in Argentina. Gisela would then give Emily a hug and pray with her before she went off to bed.

This was Gisela and Emily's daily routine for Emily during the last 15 years of my grandma's life. On a side note, Emily was never admitted to a hospital for more than a few hours to get a general checkup. Only in her last two weeks of life was she taken to the hospital to die in peace.

Gisela raised five children. They are all grown and are taking off in life. Gisela poured her life into her family and has the same love for God as Grandma Emily had. I thank God for godly grandparents and relatives who have lived wonderful lives, and who have become beacons and references for living out my faith today.





Thursday, April 3, 2014

Time with family 01

This morning I had a conversation with my cousin whom I have not seeing in years. He lives in the beautiful city of Buenos Aires, the cradle of tango. He took time from his busy schedule to talk. It was so neat to hear about his church plant in the city of Buenos Aires Argentina, and how after a crisis of faith around age forty, God brought out some of the most fruitful years of full time ministry.

I find myself in some kind of a benchmark moment, believing there is something else (mission, ministry) out there for me in the years to come. I believe that God has so much to teach me. I am just scratching the surface. One thing I have been asking God, is to renew my joy to serve HIM.

After reading Leading on Empty, by Wayne Cordero a few weeks ago, I realized too the importance of making some important schedule changes in the years to come, and continue for forge sound habits, that keep God, family and ministry-work in the right order.


Wednesday, April 2, 2014

In Transition - Time of expectation

I find myself in transition, closing chapters, and looking for direction for the future. I have felt the need to disconnect for two months from all ministries for a season of reflection as to what is next.

Over the past year I have been gradually stepping down from various ministries I have been involved.  I realized that some ministries I will not be able to continue, while others I need to zoom in and focus more.

Anahi is also a big player in these decisions, as well as the possibility of God restoring my family when the time and person are right.


I have handed off
·        My leadership as interim pastor at the Obligado Church
·        My involvement in the monthly prayer breakfast. A local pastor is now in charge
·        My involvement in the Bible Training School ICCI, now Posadas

  

· Directing the small farm production of peanuts and other goods
·        My involvement in the leadership of Radio Alternativa
·        A national leadership position in the Church of God in Paraguay


I have simplified my living
·        I found a home for Chiquitin our cat
·        I found a home for Mike our dog
·        I recently found a home for Sandy our family dog (Timothy’s dog)
·        I cut off cable TV. I don’t have enough time to even watch.
·        I am giving my two bee production boxes to a friend to care for
·        I have automatized most my monthly bill payments
·        One trip to the grocery store once or twice a month


Some other changes
·        Painted the blue walls of Timothy’s room in white and pink for Anahi.
·        Anahi has started preschool school a month ago.
·        I have given clothes away. There is only so much you can wear
·        I don’t stress as before if I don’t get my to do list done
·        I am taking two to three months off for a time to stop everything
·        I am in the process of writing two goodbye letters to Julie an Timothy
·        I eat more ice-creams and play more with Anahi
·     I have crossed the river into Argentina twice in the past months to visit family


These are some of the things I have been involved in and feel peace about leaving. I am not questioning my call, I believe my place is in some ministry capacity in Gods kingdom. I am hopeful that after this season of reflection and soul search I will again get back into full time work.


Norberto and Anahi




Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Leading on Empty

Leading on Empty

I am almost finished reading Leading on Empty, by Wayne Cordero. In it, Cordero talks about a difficult season in his life when he hit the wall. The message in this book, in addition to wise counsel from friends, has encouraged me to make an intentional effort to stop.

One of the recurring themes in my life over the past few years has been the idea of respecting the Sabbath. But I must admit that often, for extended seasons, our ministry over the past 12 years was done at an intense pace and with few or no breaks at all. Even with the best intentions, fully devoting our lives as missionaries can cause us to miss the point of God's plan for our lives.

Over the past 23 months, I have thought a lot about the tasks and ministries that Julie performed as wife, mother, preacher, teacher, radio administrator, and pioneer of Children of Promise, a child sponsorship program, in Paraguay. I can attest that Julie was a very hard-working woman and someone who gave a lot of herself to her family, other people, and the ministries she was involved in. I could go on and on about her devotion and her work ethic. Apparently, God said, "Well done, my faithful servant. It's time to rest."

The question that has been recurring in my life recently is, "How does God want me to live my calling from now on for the mission the HE still has for me?" I don’t mind hard work and being busy, but I've realized that work (even Christian work) can replace the more important things, such as a clear sense of purpose, and give us a faulty perception of worthiness. With my Type A personality, I value the importance of showing results, but I am coming to understand that not being visibly productive does not mean that you are lazy or that you have nothing to show for yourself. Through the process of grieving and recognizing how much my life was shaken and how much was taken from me, I have come to the following realization: Even though we often feel that we need to be doing all of these things and that others depend on us, God has ways to somehow manage for things to go on without us.

As the second anniversary of Julie and Timothy's passing approaches, I have decided to take a few months to pause and refocus. I am not questioning my call to continue in ministry, but I've realized that, even before the accident, there was so much work to do in our ministry that we were often leading on empty. Since the accident, surviving and learning to live with the loss has been the constant. However, I now find myself enough detached from the pain—and yet not so heavily involved in the ministry as before—so as to take a good look at how to approach this next chapter in life. And I plan to close some earlier chapters, too, by writing reports, thank-you notes, goodbye letters . . . and sorting through the ministries, the things, and the life I shared for almost 15 years with Julie and almost 7 years with Timothy.  


Norberto 

Monday, January 20, 2014

January 2014 - Looking back and looking forward

January 2014 - News from Norberto & Anahi

Happy New Year, and thank you for standing by us throughout 2013. It was a growing year for me as a person, as well as a time of transition as I emerged from the deep grieving of 2012 into a more steady emotional state. I thank God for you and your prayers.

Last January, I was still crying a lot and wondering how I would live another day without my Julie and Timothy. If I could, I would still change things and have my wife and son back with me. But over the past year I realized that God is in control—of our time, family, resources, talents—and we are but his managers. He has given me the strength to go on and to enjoy seeing Anahi grow into a beautiful little girl. Learning to manage the role of father-mother has been difficult, and I have gained a huge respect for single-parent families. I realize more how dependent we really are on God and our need to daily connect with his Word.

Over this past year I have also been involved in the life of the Obligado Church of God. I have been assisting the leadership as their interim pastor, and we have developed a wonderful bond with the church. The people there have become like family.

I met with more wonderful friends in July, when I had the chance to speak at the Christian Motorcyclists Association's western regional rally in ChamaNew Mexico. Thanks to MVI for the opportunity.

In September we celebrated Anahi's third birthday. Grandma Grace and Grandpa Richard were here from the States. Friends and other family members came over, too. Celebrating Anahi's life was even more special this time. It was a moment to realize that not all is lost, and the hope of new life is present.

As many of you know, my sister Nila has been living with me since the accident. She has been incredible, helping me raise Anahi and keeping the house managed. She has been teaching at two local universities and plans to leave for Brazil in March to pursue an internship as a social worker in Sao Paulo. I thank God for giving me Nila for almost two years.

As for Anahi, she is a delight. She loves people, life, and little animals. She is very caring. Anahi is also fully potty trained; showers by herself, and loves pouring her milk in her own cereal. She has given me reasons to live and laugh almost every day in the last months.




I look into 2014 with new hope. I am still wrapping up loose ends from 2012 and 2013. I am asking God what areas of ministry he wants me to continue and what are some new ministry chapters I need to pursue. I am praying for direction as I look into the future and the life God wants me to live out as a full-time missionary and minister. 

May 2014 bring great blessings into your life.
Much love,

Norberto and Anahi