I’m here and joyful about it.

I don’t even know where to begin. I’m now in my seventh week living here in Germany and it’s been an interesting ride thus far. We’ve done all kinds of crazy things, learned a lot through teaching, but also learned a lot about ourselves through time in the mountains. I’m one of four students now, we added one more girl, Jessi, a few weeks ago just for the lecture phase. It’s a small school, but it’s a really good one. While we’ve had our issues, we’ve shared a lot of beautiful experiences that I will never forget.

For the first three weeks we were all over the mountains in Switzerland and Germany, doing all kinds of mountain things, with some lectures mixed in. Four days into the school we were sent out on what was called a “survival tour”. It was the two guys, Mason and Simon, me, and a girl named Lisa that’s a friend of the base. We headed out with heavy backpacks, no cell phones, no watches or way to tell time, and no clue where we were headed or how long we’d be gone. We simply had notes with coordinates and a GPS. It was exuberayting and terrifying at the very same time. The first day of it, we put our coordinates in the GPS and it said 7 kilometers. We were so excited and ready. So anyway, we started at like 5pm, we were following a zig zag path, and the distance kept changing. We finally made it to the destination around midnight and the GPS said we’d gone 29 kilometers. When we got to the final destination a few days later and told our trip leader, Michael, about this specific day, he said “well you weren’t supposed to stay on the path, sometimes you have to get off the path and find your own way.” This simple statement has stuck with me.

I cannot just stay on the path, expecting that I will get to the desired end destination. Sometimes I will have to be different and find my own course so that I find the finish line. It may not be as easy as following a cleared path, but I have to choose what I want to do : take the easy way or take the right way

At the end of survival tour, we were such a bonded little team it surprised our leaders, I think. We had become one, not just in a sense of YWAM team, but one in that we had to keep encouraging each other when things got really tough. There were some times on that tour that all of us wanted to give up just a little, but we didn’t because God put us together, what was one of our weaknesses was another’s strong suit. It was definitely a long, but good four days. We learned a lot about ourselves, but also each other.

Since then we’ve had a week in a cabin learning about hearing God’s voice, we’ve had a “solo night”, we’ve had a week of a “trekking tour around Switzerland with a speaker, we’ve climbed to the top of summits, but most of all we’ve bonded and we’ve seen God like never before. He’s been so faithful in this school already and we’re only a little over a sixth of the way finished with it. We made it to base three and a half weeks ago and it’s starting to feel like home with a giant family. I love it, most of the time. Sometimes it’s really really good and sometimes it’s really really hard, but I guess that’s how everything in life is.

Funny story! I mentioned that we had a solo night. What this was is a night that we three students were sent out with all of the stuff we needed for about 18 hours on our own. We were supposed to be listening to God’s voice to know where He wants us to go on outreach. Anyway, I found my place to sleep, set up my bivy (a covering made of tarps that you sleep under), and settled down to be with God for the night. I knew where the guys were, although we had to be on our own, because they take care of me and didn’t want me in the woods alone – they’re basically older brothers. After about an hour of being in my bivy, it started raining and then hailing marble sized hail, really really hard. It was terrifying, but God just kept saying to me “be still and know that I am God.” I had this overwhelming peace, even in the chaos. After about 45 minutes, the hail stopped and it was just raining. I quickly realized in all of this that I chose to sleep in a little valley and it was trapping all of the rain water inside my bivy and I was basically laying in a lake. I ran to Simon’s bivy, because he was still dry, and laid down. Mason was already there because he was sleeping in a hammock and you can just imagine how fun that was in the hail. Oops. So there we laid, three people smooshed together in a place that should sleep one. It was really cozy, you could say. Definitely another major bonding time. We woke up the next morning and had some alone time with God before getting picked up. The faces on our leaders when we told them what happened, so funny.

While we’ve had a lot of times of goodness, we’ve also had a lot of times of hardship. At least I have. For the first 5 weeks I missed my family so much it was crippling at times, I wanted to be home, I wanted people I knew, I wanted time to myself. But God showed me what it meant to have home in Him and rest in the peace that He gives. While this didn’t fix all my problems and every bit of homesickness I had, it definitely minimized it. I’ve learned to see God as greater, as my Father that I wish I could be with. My dad was here this weekend and it was really really good for the first couple of days, and then I started realizing that I wasn’t going back with him. He had to leave me at the end of the five days and then it’d be five months before I’d see him and hug him again. It hurt, it was so hard. As I told him goodbye, he spoke words of encouragement into me. My dad that doesn’t really show emotion started crying, that’s when it all became real.

A couple of minutes later, I watched as my dad drove away from base and I just cried and cried. I felt the Holy Spirit whisper to me, come back to your first Father now. I went downstairs, found a donut and my Bible and just poured out my thoughts and feelings to this Father. The comfort He gave me was impeccable, He reminded me that I’m so loved and that my dad had to leave for me to keep growing and finish this school. I will make it through this trial too. I have a family around me here that He put in my life and wants to love on me. He reminded me that I am enough because I am His and nothing and no one can take me out of His hands. He is all I need, even when it hurts because I feel alone, He’s still there. He’s always there.

God’s shown me so much about His character in the past month and a half. One weekend we went to the mountains and did via ferrata which taught me a lot about my fears, but we also went canyoning the next day. Michael did a devotion with us that morning and talked about the whole idea of jumping and then fearing later and honestly, I had a hard time with the idea of it. I completely thought about it figuratively. He explained what it means to know God’s calling you to do something and instead of waiting until you feel okay about it, just doing it immediately. I just couldn’t relate that to the jumping then fearing thing. At the end of this devotional, he said for us to learn this, we have to physically do it, so we were going canyoning. I freaked out a little at first, I’d never done anything like it and the thought of jumping and not knowing how deep the water was, terrified me. Anyway, so we get to the place and get our wetsuits, lifejackets, helmets, the whole getup, we headed to the start. We were in a group of like 20 people, it wasn’t just our team. When we got to the first thing, it was a repel. I started heading down the side of this rock, the only thing holding me was a harness. In this moment, I realized what it meant to fully trust God. In the same way I had to trust that this harness would hold me, I have to trust that God will also do this, He wants me to trust Him. When we got to the first jump, I didn’t even think about it, I got up to where the guide told me to go and then I jumped, no thinking about it. As I came up out of the water at the bottom, God said to me “that, my darling, was jumping before fearing. I took your fear so you could learn what it means to fully trust that it’ll all be okay. Remember this feeling”. I have not gotten that moment out of my head since, God so clearly spoke to me and made that devotional make so much sense.

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I guess I’ll wrap this thing up. God’s been doing some absolutely insanely beautiful things in and through us in the past months. I’m beyond grateful for the opportunity to be here and have this time, fully set aside for God. He’s been so faithful and good to me even in days of homesickness. Over and over again He’s shown me His heart for this time. If you feel led to support me in this, that I can continue this journey, there’s a way to do that. I still need about $3500 to finish the school all the way through the outreach phase. I have a PayPal that you can send money to and it will get to me here. I’m so grateful for every penny that was given to me that I could even be here now. The link will be below if you feel like God’s leading you to give anything. Thank you for loving me, encouraging me, and investing in me. Thankful for each and every one of you.

PayPal.me/natalietzook

All my love,

Nat.

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