"This is how grace works; it enters the soul, penetrates the heart, saturates the conscience, abides in the memory, affects the affections, gives understanding to the understanding, and imparts real life to the heart, which is the seat of life." Spurgeon

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

What 250 Aids Orphans Worshipping Sounds Like

Zurich Switzerland - Since 15BC

Founded by Romans in 15BC as "Turicum", Zurich is an historically significant and interesting city for many reasons. One is that it is where a number of awesome James Bond movie scenes have been shot. Its also where Ulrich Swingli helped lead the protestant revolution in Switzerland and Germany starting in 1519. Today, Zurich is one of the most prominent financial / banking centers of the world and often rated Europe's city with the "best quality of life", and also Europe's wealthiest city.

Still thinking about Dachau yesterday, we all did some reading today. Lex and Holly each read "The Boy with the Striped Pajamas" and highly recommend it. I read "Night" by Elie Wiesel. We did this along the Limnat River near Lake Zurich on a beautiful 74F day in old Zurich.

Pictured is Tommy "Mr. Chuggles" Gruver. If you look closely you can see Ulrich Zwingli's statue on the river Timmat just over TG's right bicep.

Die Weiss #1 Beer in Europe

It was announced today that, after much tasting and deliberations, the Gruver Men have rated Die Weiss Wheat 1901 the number 1 beer in Europe. Home brewed since the 16th century in Salzburg Austria, this brew was unbelievably flavorful and complimented our wiener schnitzel and strudel perfectly. "It was wheaty and delicious and tasted great with my spinach dumplings... YUM!" stated Tommy age 7.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Life is Beautiful

From the 1997 Academy Award Winning Movie:

Guido: You can lose all your points for any one of three things. One: If you cry. Two: If you ask to see your mother. Three: If you're hungry and ask for a snack! Forget it!

Today was a good day, but emotionally tough. We woke up in Munich Germany and discussed over croissants and hot chocolates the nearly 500 year-old story of Martin Luther and his 98 suggestions for Rome in Wittenburg. We read the english and german versions of Galatians 2:16 and other passages in Will's trilingual bible and discussed works versus faith, the selling of indulgences and how the catholic church used fear and power to raise funds for St. Peter's Basilica and the Sistine Chapel, which we toured 2 weeks ago. Great start to the day!

After breakfast, we drove 30 minutes to Konzentrationslager Dachau. What a powerful memorial to the 6 millions Jews and at least 5 million Christians, Serbs, Poles, Russians and multitudes of political dissidents that suffered and died at the hands of the evil Nazi regime during the 12 years of the  Third Reich. 

The second KZ to be liberated, Dachau was opened in 1933 as the first Nazi concentration camp. Dachau was used as a template and model for all future Nazi camps across Europe. Many notable scientists, politicians, royals and authors were murdered here. Over 105 Christians were also martyred at Dachau. 

We learned about what it was like for these heroes to suffer so needlessly. We were able to appreciate why war was really so necessary - the world had to do everything in it's power stop such evil in it's tracks. We talked about how our grandparents played a part in this and said a prayer of thankfulness that they returned home safely, giving us the life and freedom we enjoy and take for granted as though we deserve nothing less.

The bookstore at Dachau has a Nice collection of memoirs and historical works and we were able to find several that we have already begun to read including:

"The boy in the striped pajamas"
"The diary of Anne Frank"
"The Complete Report - Dachau"

One of the memorials at Dachau states "Never Again", as both a promise and a warning. 

Tommy and Saili had lunch with Holly in the Dachau cafeteria and walked around a bit as Holly had already been to Dachau (in college) and we didn't want the little ones to be traumatized. But we all came away with a greater appreciation for how truly thankful we are that God helped the Allies win WW2. 

"May the example of those who were exterminated here between 1933-1945 because they resisted Nazism help to unite the living for the defence of peace and freedom and in respect for their fellow men" – inscription on a memorial at Dachau

After our Tour of Dachau the Kids spontaneously decided to kiss their momma all at the same time... 

Monday, August 29, 2011

Short clip of Austria

Still friends...Tommy and Saili!

Water Water Rafting Photos

Gruvers with Lead Guide "Christoph"

Boy Wonder & Chuggles are Ready for Action!

The Kids with our Superstar and Implausibly Fun Guides Christoph and Max.

River Rafting down The Saltzer River!

We just finished White water rafting with our awesome guides, Christoph and Max! We paddled for two hours in 10 degree celsius waters. We saw the entrance to the largest ice caves in the world above us in the mountain side. We passed the 1000 year old castle that was the passageway from Germany to Italy. The crusaders marched through this passage as well as the renaissance era traders.

The boys favorite part of the ride was when Christoph suggested we play a game. With all paddles up, the boys were told to stand and walk the edge of the raft going in opposite directions trying to balance while holding onto our paddles as they passed. Before a minute passed both boys were in the water laughing their heads off! Will fell in and threw poor Claire in!! It was great fun even though Holly and Saili never were in the river, they both were splashed enough to get a good chill from an "enemy raft" of boys who passed us.

Next stop....Munchen (Munich, Germany)

The Hills are Alive!!

Salzburg, Austria---"City of Salt"
Birth place of Mozart! Home of our favorite movie, The Sound of Music, magically couched in the Austrian Alps,
Easily the most beautiful place we've seen!
We spent our time in Austria touring the sites where The Sound of Music was filmed riding on the Hills are Alive tour bus. We stopped to visit the town of St. Gilgen and Wolfgang Lake--beautiful!!!! We took a toboggan ride down a mountain (similar to the alpine slides.) We saw a spectacular dinner theater production with Austrian Opera singers performing popular songs from Sound of Music as well as Austrian folk songs. We've loved the taste of Weiner schnitzel, spinach dumplings, bratwurst and apple strudel! Shopping in Old Salzburg while visiting Mozarts birthplace was great fun. What a breathtaking creation Of God ....Austria!

Friday, August 26, 2011

Gondola Ride In Venice

Built by fleeing Italians on over 120 small islands when barbarians from the north passed through to invade and sack Rome in 421AD, Venice is home currently to 60,000 people.

Many famous explorers, scientists and musicians were born and lived their incredibly productive lives here. On our gondola ride we passed within feet of the birthplaces and childhood homes of Marco Polo, Galileo and Vivaldi, to name a few.

We passed next to the bell tower in San Marcos Square where Galileo, while studying the night skies, first realized that the world is round.

So beautiful and huge and labyrinth that words and pictures fail to describe even 1/100th it's majesty, we have enjoyed our stay here and appreciate anew how our surroundings directly effect our potential. It's no wonder that so many men [and women such as Diane Shaw] of greatness were born and raised in Italy.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Florence Has The Best Yufkas We've Ever Tasted

Heavenly food: Check.

Expensive Detour!

Between a Rock and a Hard Place

It was a gloriously humbling day. We awoke and finished shopping, packing, loading and then left. We climbed up impossibly narrow two-way roads out of Positano en route to Florence (250km north of Rome).
The roads wound back and forth with sharp and steep switchbacks every 100 meters.
The kids were all so car sick that we stopped at a convenience store to sit outside and look at the sea for 30 minutes - twice. The second time we had some drinks and snacks and Holly called her mom with an update on what was one of the most beautiful places we have ever seen, Positano Italy.
I got directions from the barista and double checked my GPS. It appeared to be taking us on a short cut away from the oceans edge and the swervey-curvies. I drove past the narrow entrance to this passage three times until I stopped and decided, in Will Gruver fashion, to go for it...
We proceeded straight up an ancient, hair trigger, cobble-stone road. At one point early on I remember Holly telling her mom that she needed to "go right now" due to the freaky road we were on. Mom said, "Oh dear, are you going to be OK?"
Well, the road got freakier. In retrospect, the fact that we took this short cut at all, let alone traveled so far along it, was all complete madness. There were no turnarounds and the trunk of our van was packed with bags. So going back or driving in reverse down a mountainside was not going to happen. We were all praying.
Our 2011 Peugeot 9-passenger van's first few minor dings and dents occurred when the bumpers and side mirrors slapped the 20' stone walls of the alley as we twisted and turned upwards. I was praying to just get off the mountain and back to the swervey-curvies in one piece.
Finally, when we were 2 kilometers from the main road on the north side of the mountain, we began descending and came to a passage that looked too narrow to pass through. I got out and thought through our options. I walked ahead a 1/2 km and the road opened up.
Not seeing any humans or other motorists along this road had been disconcerting. But just beyond this narrow passageway there were actually 9 small cars parked! Yipee!
So, I got back in the van, released the parking break and we inched forward slowly.... Until we got stuck. The only option at this stage was to hit it, which is when we all started screaming.
Things we are thankful for:
1. Getting off the mountain in south Italy alive.
2. That, while almost totaled from a cosmetic perspective, our van is still drivable.
3. Hertz Gold Club Rental Insurance.
4. A memory of God giving peace in the middle of an incredibly stressful moment and answering prayer.
5. An adventure we will never forget... Our first family car accident ever.

Matthew 7:13-14
"Enter by the narrow gate. For the gate is wide and the way is easy that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many.
14 For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few."

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Resting By The Sea

Enjoying our time resting in south Italian Almalfi Coast. Spending a couple of days learning more italian, cooling off in the Mediterranean, exploring the rich history of Positano and eating lots of sea food.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

The Catacombs Adventure- Rome

Today we visited St. Calisto's Catacombs. With 25 Km of tunnels on 4 levels and over 500,000 burials, this site is the largest of the 8 catacombs that exist in Rome. The early persecuted church in the second through the fifth centuries hid, worshipped, mourned, and some were even martyred here. Calisto's Catacombs were named after the early second century "Pope St. Calisto", who was beheaded by Pagan persecutors in the Catacomb's while worshipping. Fifteen other Pope's of the earliest church were buried here, three of which were martyred.

The most notable Saint that was buried here was Cecelia, a 14 year old Christian who escaped twice from the pagans and was finally captured and beheaded in the Catacombs. She would not renounce her faith in Jesus Christ! The most amazing part of this story is (caution to reader) that Cecelia's beheading was not complete and for three days her Christian friends and family listened while she sang praises to God in her suffering in the below catacombs. Cecelia's body was miraculously found preserved in 1865 when the tombs were rediscovered by Johanni Baptiste. Her clothes, hair and skin remained as though she had just died. When they found her on one hand she was holding out three fingers symbolizing her belief in the Father, Son and Holy Ghost. On the other hand she held one finger symbolizing her belief in One God, which was very offensive to the pagans at this time.

Originally decorated with beautiful gold, bronze and marble materials, fresco's, lanterns, Sculptures and murals, this was almost completely destroyed by invading barbarians from northern Europe in around 800AD. At this time the church closed the catacombs and with time their very existence was forgotten.

2 Corinthians 1:27-31
But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong; God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are, so that no human being might boast in the presence of God. And because of him you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, righteousness and sanctification and redemption, so that, as it is written, “Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord.”

Archeological Eating

Having lunch at L' Archeolgia next to The Catacombs. The chefs have dedicated their lives to the study and execution of designing and serving the finest foods from antiquity using all local ingredients but prepared using ancient tools and processes.

Exploring 5000 Years of History, Religion and Archeology


The Vatican is the world's smallest independent country. It is also home the the site where St. Peter was martyred upside down on a cross and St. Peter's basilica, the largest and most beautiful church in the world, contains St. Peter's tomb.

The second largest museum in the world, we walked over 5km's through the Vatican's collection of incredible 2000, 4000 and 6000 year old artifacts. Chariots from before Christ, nails used to crucify, bible fragments from the time of Christ (consistent with what our bibles have in them today), maps from antiquity and sculptures by Michelangelo, Raphael and all the greats.

It was exciting to compare the renaissance artwork at the Vatican to that of the London Museum.

To get to walk the very steps of the first Christ-followers has been exhilarating. We have also been working on our Italian while in the taxi - free lessons!

Gloria di Christo

Entering The Vatican! Amazing!

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

The Angel in My Bed

White topped mountains and azure sky
Homemade African mixed berry pie.
Eyes are green oceans light dancing on trees
Kind as the breeze of South Italy seas.
Humility and deference, yet rich with quick wit
After 25 years now I only know her a bit
Brazen commitment, she does what is right
Gracious and fun we laugh with great might.
In dreams she's the one I wish I had wed
The plot is we both married others instead.
Then awake I reach out to her blueberry lips
Close to mine they are soft under fingertips
Men often forget and chase after glory
Rather than standing to fight for the Ones in our Story.
For our lifetime this woman I have loved and have led
She represents Light, this angel in my bed.

Have You Seen Tommy, Saili and Lex?

While Will collected our Rented Peugeot 9-passenger manual transmission diesel powered Eurovan that we will drive gradually from south of Italy through Austria, Germany, Switzerland and France, the kids made a fort near baggage claim in Rome out of airline blankets and suitcases, and for about 10 minutes we couldn't find them anywhere.

A Blessed Morning

17 August 2011

4am: wake up and get kids organized and ready for trip to Italy
5am: Get bags to Aftab our London Driver
5:20am: Leave with Aftab for Heathrow
7:10am: Wheels up
8:00am breakfast over the French Alps with my family... Including these three beauties.

The boys and I LOVE our girls.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Physically in London - But Hearts Still In Africa

Pray for these Orphans

Listed L-R
CHARITY, SHARON, Claire, ERIC, DOREEN (hiding), LISTER, Lex, AGNESS (in front of Lex), DANNY, PETER, MEMORY, MARY, TEMBEKA, ESTHER, Holly and Edna (translator) in the Back.

The One Who Works

There are times in life when the remembrance of a loved one deceased or a sickness ailing them or the suffering of our children etc.... drive us to a place of sadness and possibly despair. There is a weighty burden on our hearts that remains. For me, this past week brought me to this place.

As I interacted with and observed many little Zambians who where hungry, sick and without hope, I was driven to me knees. I saw the difference 1 day of food and care made as my little ones went from listlessness to smiling alertness.

I struggled at the beginning of the week with the questions to God. .Why is this happening? How can I possibly make a difference? What good is this week going to accomplish when these children go right back to their sad environments? How can I solve this? 

After wrestling a lot I came to see there are a lot of I's in my questions. The Lord reminded me of this verse I have loved again and it gave me perspective.

"Whom have I in heaven but you, and there is nothing I desire besides you, my flesh and my heart may fail....BUT YOU are the strength of my heart, AND my portion forever." -Psalm 73

He is the ONE who is working through us, in us, in them and around us. I am His hands and feet and HE has called me to share the HOPE I have in Christ. He is better than food, water, wellness, sleep, loving parents, any parents, life and breath. I Thank God that, though all but 2 of my kids at camp had never heard of Christ and his saving work for them by His death and resurrection, they All received salvation by Friday. Praise God! Through each individual conversation and prayer time I had with them, I took comfort in knowing that God was caring for them and He will never leave or forsake them, as scripture says. Through the notes I took on each child, through the EOH staff, the head-men of each village and my amazing translator-Edna, the children will be checked on and followed up with. Please pray with me that they God will find a place for those who have the biggest need to be placed in an EOH home!

As I gave each child a hug good-bye I told the Lord I trust him to watch over them and give them peace no matter what their circumstances bring. Each of their faces are imprinted on my mind and heart permanently and I Will do what little Peter asked with Gods help..."Holly- will you pray for me every morning and every night?" To God be the glory for giving these children a new hope that lasts and is powerful enough to sustain and keep them to the end.

"Come to me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light." Matthew 11

These children's lives continue to weigh on my heart and I am sad for them, but thank you Lord that they are in your hands and that I can trust you with YOUR work you are doing and your burden feels lighter.

How Great a God do we serve? This is the good news for each of us:

"I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you." John 14:18

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Lex Gruver: Boy Wonder

My son, if your heart is wise, my heart too will be glad. My inmost being will exult when your lips speak what is right.
Proverbs 23:15-16

Anyone that knows Lex at all understands that Lex loves to read and to work hard. Since we have had no time for reading, Lex threw himself into serving others this past two weeks.

The very first day he introduced himself to the kitchen staff and helped set the tables and get dinner out. That night Lex woke up to roosters at 3am and heard a sound from the kitchen. Thinking he was missing out, Lex got up, quietly unlocked our door and proceeded to wash dishes until Will found him helping prepare breakfast at 6am.

Throughout the past 10+ days various managers and staff at Abundant Life such as Able, Patricia, Kelvin, Allen and other friends approached us to tell us how much they love Lex. Lots of people would have told a 10 year old to go to bed or not wanted him around. But these wonderful people patiently and graciously allowed Lex to help and it blessed all of us!

If you look closely at this picture you will see the affection these 4 men have four each other. Thank you Abundant Life for a wonderful time in Zambia.

Walking with Elephants & Giraffes

"I meant what I said, and I said what I meant. An elephant's word is one hundred percent." Horton Hears a Who

Today was a debriefing and safari day. We saw so many beautiful animals and got to fish on an island. The best part: I am pretty sure we made life long friends from Zambia, Canada and the US. Sometimes you meet people and can't help but think "we are going to know these people for the rest of our lives, and beyond." The kids feel the same way. 

"Friendship is one of the sweetest joys of life. Many might have failed beneath the bitterness of their trial had they not found a friend." 

Prayer Request: Will's Orphans

"The Spirit of the Lord GOD is upon me, because the LORD has anointed me to bring good news to the poor; he has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to those who are bound, ... to comfort all who mourn, ... to give them a beautiful headdress instead of ashes, the oil of gladness instead of mourning, the garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair; that they may be called oaks of righteousness, the planting of the LORD, that he may be glorified." Isaiah 61

I already miss these little guys so much. What an amazing trip. We are already planning our next visit. Before this trip my eyes were closed. Living in the US I had no idea what suffering could look like. And I travel regularly to war torn and impoverished places like Sierra Leone for business. The suffering and deprivation we witnessed taking place in every day Zambian orphan life was horrific.

Do these fighters a favor and please take a minute right now to pray for them with us? You can make a huge difference by asking God to protect and provide for (L-R):
Back row: Evas, Elijah, Lukas, Mwendabai, Agness,
Front row: Elvis, Alfred, Tanasho, Eustace

We thank God that he fulfilled the promise of Isaiah 61 the past 3 weeks in the lives of nearly a thousand 4 -18 year old Zambian orphans.

Nighttime is hardest for these guys. please pray.

Monkeying Around

Big Game Safari - Zambia

Safari Time!

Saili and Doreen Worship

Saturday, August 13, 2011

What a Week!

Somebody tired?

The Cradle of the AIDS Orphan Crises

Zambia is often called the cradle of the Aids/HIV orphan crisis. There are almost no resources in country to address the problem. This is where Gary Schneider comes in.

In March of 1999, Gary was flying from DC to the West Coast and working in Corporate America. He had praying over Romans 12:1-2 and asking god to show him what a "living sacrifice" is.

On the plane he began reading an article in USA today about the orphan crisis in Zambia and he immediately felt a direct and unrelenting call to do whatever he could to step out and make a difference.

This past year Every Orphan's Hope found out about a little boy and girl name Michael and Doreen (pictured here with Gary today on Will's iPhone), ages 5 and 3. Their father had died of aids and their mother was too sick to get out of bed. On a tip EOH checked in to find that the two small children had been single-handedly caring for their dying mom by bringing her water, food they could scrounge and otherwise fending for themselves entirely. When these kids first came to Village of Hope in February, neither would talk due to all the trauma. Now both Children Are speaking, smiling, gaining weight and even singing.

Michael rode on Will's shoulders the entire time we were flying kites and became fast friends. Please pray for their continued healing.

Inside a My Fathers House Home

The Gruver Boys had a blast playing inside the my fathers house #1 today.

Loaves and Fishes

One of the most exciting recent developments at Every Orphan's Hope is the successful implementation of microeconomic development in Village of Hope Chongwe. We have raised and sold the first batch of 3500 chickens and our second one will ship in 3 weeks! We are also about commission chicken run #2 of 4 next month. These chicken runs are so exciting because the four completed runs will net the camp $204k per year in profit and possibly more as we also begin to sell the fertilizer (byproduct). This pays a lot of bills for the village an keeps the monthly sponsorships reasonable. It also provides good paying jobs!

This concept is Turing out to be so successful that the board has decided to include 4 chicken runs in the designs for each new village (of 10 houses) that we build. Pictured is our poultry general manager "Lucky" weighing our birds.