"Hallo" from Amsterdam! We arrived just this morning after a nearly 4 hour train ride. Amanda booked our tickets and it was only 5 Euros more to travel first class; that's probably the first time I've ever traveled first class on anything! It was nice. We had a little breakfast served to us and plenty of tea and coffee (or the and cafe as they say here in The Netherlands). Once we arrived at Amsterdam Centraal (yes, 2 A's...the Dutch are big fans of double A's in their words) train station, we were supposed to find Gail, Amanda's former roommate from Biola and one of her best friends. The instructions we were given by Gail were to meet her outside the huge, main exit of the train station building and to go to the steps. Well- have YOU ever been to Amsterdam Centraal station? Let me tell you (in case you have not)- there are about 300,000 sets of steps/stairs that all lead down to docks of the canals! Oh dear. Amanda and I tried paging Gail over the P.A. system and I sat and waited for her in the area we called her to meet us and Amanda walked ALL over the train station (that probably had 1,000,000 people- no joke) trying to find Gail!! It really was a one-in-a-million Where's Waldo search. Folks, after searching for her for 2 hours, we gave up. We found an internet cafe and checked Amanda's email (our only means of contact are through the internet- clearly- ...no cell phones...its harder than you think). Anyways, there was a mix up and Gail thought our train came in at 11:45am when it actually came in at 10:45am. Gail, herself, arrived by train (from the same station) at 12noon and after searching for us for about 20 minutes went to our hostel and checked in. This was smart because she then used the computers to email Amanda and tell us how to get to the hostel. In the mean time, we had searched for her for about 2.5 hours and we finally found her after about a 15 minute walk at our hostel- safe and sound!
(You have no idea how many types of stories we have of this nature! ha, really! It is SO hard to find one person in one particular place when you have never been there before!)
Amsterdam! Its like the World's place for refugees and illegal practices. Surprisingly, the prostitution you hear about IS legal. Believe it or not, our hostel is in the middle of the red light district (dont freak out Mom and Dad...we're perfectly safe!) and is a Christian ministry center in the midst of a city full of sin. We found this particular hostel because one of Gail's friends volunteers/works for free here. He is an awesome guy and is a true world traveler! (He met Gail at a bar in Thailand...yeah, that's a whole different story!) The hostel is amazing and is truely a "light" in the midst of many other red lights vying for people's attention. Taylor (Gail's friend who works at the hostel) told us that YWAM has a ministry called The Lighthouse that outreaches to the prostitutes. Wow! You may think its discusting, but I think its heart breaking; evenm0reso when you walk past the windows and see the girls right there...super, super heart wrenching. When I was in Kenya it felt like God was right there, all the time, touching the Earth with his presence. The feeling I have about Amsterdam is the direct opposite of that I had in Kenya. You can feel the Lord's heart BREAKING for all that is happening in this city. Taylor told us that many people he has met at the hostel who have fled from the Middle East or Africa cannot get their visas cleared and are deported back home and most of the time the people do not live after returning to their home countries. It is like Amsterdam really is their last choice. That being the case, there are TONS of internationals here and even more tourists. Weed is also heavily promoted/accepted in Amsterdam so many people come for the drugs (and the prostitution). I feel like the ministry of the hostel (called The Shelter- could not be more appropriate if they tried) is THRIVING; they have 180 beds here and it is full every single night (...its very cheap and in a rough area, so it attracts all sorts of folks- many of whom are not Christians). I would love to have an opportunity to volunteer here with their program (you can come for an month to one year and work here with no pay but free room and board and food! Pretty sweet deal).
Wow the Dutch are SO different from the French! Its like night and day. The French have brown hair and are very posh and fine looking. Their fashion tends to be made out of a lot of sheer and silk materials (and linen too). Here in Amsterdam, the people wear a lot of jeans and Hawaiian shirts (no joke! Its quite hilarious!) Even though it is a city, it is very small (only about 150,000 residents of Amsterdam- but hundreds of thousands of tourists). If you havent heard, chances are you will get run over by a bicycle if you spend any length of time here at all! It is true that this city has more bikes than residents (and hardly any cars...its super weird!...but so cool!) Their bikes are fancy too! They have seats on the front and the back so you can have a mom and her two kids riding one normal bike. Wow!
The Dutch have BLONDE, curly hair (for the most part it is curly, but almost all of them are blonde). They do not have the elligance of the French, but are still VERY beautiful!
Time to go explore more of the canals and pubs! Wish us well! Please pray for the Shelter and for The Lighthouse and for the prostitutes. It is a hard hitting reality when you see it for yourself; since you probably cannot right now, I will tell you, it is very sad.
We are in good health (very tired...so busy!) but are SO happy to be with Gail (and Taylor, too) and to be meeting TONS of people at the hostel. Just this afternoon we've talked with people from Idaho, Texas, Iraq, England, Uganda, Scotland, and The Netherlands.