We arrived in Amsterdam on Thursday afternoon, with only the instructions to "dress warm." Laina Graf picked Jasheen, Gabrielle and I up at Schiphol Airport and drove for about 15 minutes before handing me an envelope, dropping me off at a cross-walk across the street from Amsterdam ArenA and saying, "Phil is in there. Go find him." They had a surprise for me. The most coveted ticket in the country was inside that envelope: AFC Ajax v. Feyenoord (Rotterdam) in the first of two matches for a place in the second round of the playoffs.
As I moved closer to the ArenA, it dawned on me that I was in a foreign city without an address or a phone number to where I was staying, and nothing but a ticket to a European football match between me and homelessness. Better not get mugged. I found Phil at our seats and thoroughly enjoyed an electric atmosphere and a fantastic match where we watched Ajax dismantle the higher-seeded Feyenoord 3-0. Yes, I did see the infamous hooligans of Euro-football, but no, no fights.
Being in Glasgow for the last two years and not attending any high-energy sporting event in the entirety of that time, it seriously gave me my sporting fix. I hadn't realized how badly I needed to high-five, chest bump, and jump up shouting. Aaahh... now if they Angels can only give me something to shout about this summer.
Phil and Laina Graf are amongst our favorite people in the world. They're missionaries on staff with Christian Associates International serving as church-planters in Amsterdam. Jasheen and I were married at their farm in Oxnard, CA almost two years ago and we decided to take advantage of some of the cheapest tickets possible (only 13 Euros a piece each way) to go visit them in their new city.
We had such an amazing time catching up with them, sharing our minsitry experiences and checking out what they're up to in the NL (no, not the National League, the Netherlands).
It was as if we were visiting family. The Grafs have an amazing gift of hospitality... making one feel instantly at home in their home. The trip was both refreshing and inspirational as we visited with their family.
One of the highlights of the trip for us was how their family of seven swarmed to Gabrielle, jostling for position over who would hold her, babysit her, push her pram, etc.
Jasheen was an instant hit in their home, leading impromptu worship at their keyboard for their family and other guests, and also cutting/styling each of the kids hair (Branson, the youngest, with dreadlocks).
We spent most of the time with the family, but on Sunday morning (the Grafs go to a church that starts at 4pm) Jasheen and I were able to go into the city and have a look around Amsterdam. It was a great time for us to scout around alone and spend some time together, but we had another highlight moment on our tram ride back. As we were riding and talking, Jasheen blurted out, "Patrick! Patrick! There's Patrick!!!" Atop one of the buildings was a two-story sized billboard of a Wrangler ad featuring my brother Patrick, front and center. There wasn't one, but two. A second one beside it had him in it too. It was unexpected and I wasn't able to get to my camera before we'd passed, so I'm disappointed that I don't have a shot to share. In a strange way, it was kind of like getting to see my brother... I mean it was getting to see him, but I felt that I'd gotten a chance to connect with him.
On a side note, there was something comfortably familiar about being at their house. Only Phil could make 'yard work' sound so inviting... and only Phil would have that be a part of our bonding time. We did some work on Saturday, and then on Monday (before we went to the airport) Phil and I made two runs to the city dump to unload all the branches, stumps and vines that we ripped out of their backyard. I think when they come to visit I'll have Phil help me wash the outside of my windows - on our third story flat!!! It'll be bonding, I'll wash the inside windows while he washes the outside ones. We'll be able to talk and catch up. Ha!!! Actually, I'd love to take him to a Rangers/Celtic match to return the favor.
All in all, it was a fantastic trip and we really look forward to the next time we get to visit their family... wherever they may be.
Another fun shot of Jasheen and Laina downtown (check out that sign)... they couldn't just pose nicely, could they?
To see pictures from our trip and more of Gabrielle and our life here in Glasgow, check out our Photo Album link!