Tuesday, April 10, 2018

God Has a Purpose

We are now in Germany with a Turkish couple who have an amazing internet ministry with Turks in Germany and Turkey. They have seen hundreds of Muslims come to Christ over the years. They are a sweet couple and we are enjoying being with them. Memduh has tried to gather some pastors to investigate our training but most feel they do not need anything, that they already know everything they need to be a pastor. It is sad since none of them have any real training. So, it has become clear that this is not the time for us to work here. 

Our time in Portugal was a bit more positive, but there are still questions about whether we will return to do anything there. The evangelical church in Portugal is in real trouble as it has almost shrunk in half over the last 15 years or so, losing nearly 700 churches that have closed. The church is not reaching out or planting new churches and 60% of the pastors are over 65 with small aging congregations. There are some exceptions of course, but as a whole, there are great needs for revival there. We had good discussions with one exceptional pastor and with a ReachGlobal missionary living there. We will see if anything develops from those discussions.

While we were in Portugal, Franklin Graham was conducting an evangelistic crusade and 15,000 people attended and 600 came forward. I am sure that was a great encouragement to many of the churches. Because of that, some of those we wanted to meet with were busy helping with the crusade. So Edie and I spent a couple of days alone, but because it was by the ocean, we enjoyed our time.

Much of this trip has been unknown from the beginning and still remains a mystery in many ways. We are not sure what God is doing in most of the places we visited. We are thankful for the good progress made in Romania and can see a future for ministry there. Otherwise, we are simply trying to pour ourselves into those we are with for a short time assuming that God has a purpose. Again today, we are not sure what is happening as no pastors wanted to meet with us and even the small group I was to speak at was cancelled as few were going to attend this week. Tomorrow we take the train to Amsterdam and then home on Thursday. We will be glad to be in our own bed for a change.


Friday, April 6, 2018

From Craiova to Lisbon

Wednesday, April 4:  Our time in Craiova went well, especially the last day as we met with the Baptist pastors. They seemed quite interested in supporting our training in the area. Staying with the Drolls was a blessing. They are amazing in their perseverance and faithfulness in discipling others.

We are now in Lisbon, Portugal. Once again, it is not clear what we will do here. This turns out to be a difficult time for us to be here as this weekend there is a Billy Graham crusade in the city and many are busy preparing for that. We will travel north to Porto to visit a key pastor there to see about training there. 

Yesterday afternoon we toured some of the area and it is beautiful here. Although it was very windy, we had a great time seeing some of the history of the area. A few blocks from the school where we are staying there are the remains of a Roman aqueduct. The sea and landscape are also beautiful.  

Pray for us that we will trust the Lord to make the right connections for us to do His will.


Friday, March 30, 2018

Your Prayers Bring Transformation

After having a reasonably restful and reflective time in Sicily, we made our way to Romania on Friday. Not quite out the door leaving for the airport, Al got a message from Bogdan, our coordinator in Bucharest, that his vehicle was stuck in snow and we needed to get a hotel near the airport with a shuttle. He gave us the name. Al quickly arranged that and off we went. It took us a better part of the day before we arrived in Bucharest. Bogdan was working Saturday so we were on our own for the day. Sunday came with Steve our teammate arriving during the night and Bogdan picking us up after he got off work at 7am. It took an hour to get to the church.
As we walked into the 12’x20’ foot room, we were enthusiastically welcomed by the believers there. We had been there only one time before so we were really somewhat taken aback. We settled down on the wooden bench as people piled in. To my best count, there were around 30 adults and about 6 children there. The worship began with Gypsy style music. One of the church leaders spoke and we prayed. A woman began to cry. We would worship in song and another would speak. By now, the lady is weeping and I am wondering why she is so upset. We prayed for her and her husband and he spoke to the church. Most of the time we have no idea what is being said just sensing the spirit of the place so full of love and joy. They then tell us this couple is leaving for 2 months to visit children in Germany and they are sad to say goodbye. WOW! What a testimony of the power of God’s love in this place. 

Steve gave a great devotional message and then as I looked at my watch, Al got up to give the morning sermon. He spoke on Col. 3 and in his unique way opened up the word clearly and with insight. Of course, I was thinking what a powerful sermon, I really got that! In total, we were there 2 and 1/2 hours and I was not bored.

Bogdan told us that he had to work but if we wanted to go to the evening service, his wife could pick us up. Al jumped on that because we have been hanging out in too many hotel rooms lately. Oh my, if it wasn’t enough to be so encouraged in the morning just being with God’s lovely people, stepping foot again in this cozy room seemed to lift us up. Then what transpired absolutely took hold of us in such a way as never before. They sang a few songs but then leader after leader would get up and share a passage from the word, say something and then everyone stood to pray about this in our lives. This happened repeatedly. You sometimes wonder what to pray and I found no loss for words to say. Everyone prays audibly at the same time. In the end, Al had them ask him questions from the Bible. Still the effect of this humble group lifting their voices to God in response to his word affected us in such a way we knew we were changed somehow.

As we have had time to reflect on that day, we KNOW it was the power of prayer from so many of you in the US that brought this transformation in us. The sermon was received so well by the believers there and seemed to break the barriers between us and the work God wants to do here with the Roma. We praise His gracious and Holy name, as Al will share of the amazing breakthrough he had with Pastors and leaders at the training. Thank you so much for your faithful, spirit-led prayers that gave us this opportunity. We feel so blessed and privileged to serve him in this way.

Together serving with you,

A Miraculous Time with the Roma

I am sorry for taking so long to blog, but we have been staying with a Roma family and have had no internet for a week. I have much to catch you up on, as it has been a remarkable week. 

Our first stop in Guirgui at the little Roma church was significant. Upon entering the little room where the church meets, about the size of a good-sized bedroom for us, after I bumped my head on the low door, we were engulfed in warmth and love from the 20+ Roma believers gathered there. We were treated like old friends, which surprised us since we had only been there once before. I had wrestled with what to preach and finally decided on Colossians 3:1-17. It was a simple sermon, just walking through the text. I focused on “murdering our sin,” 3:5, as people who are now raised from the dead. I do not think they had ever heard anyone preach through one passage like that and the effect was powerful. They couldn’t stop talking about it. Even more importantly, through this sermon the leaders finally realized what we were trying to teach in our Pathways program. 

The next day when we reached Zimnicea for the training, Bogdan, the “pastor”, began telling all the other men about the sermon and how much it affected him and how that is how he wanted to learn how to preach. Of course, all this was in Romanian and I do not know exactly what he said but he said he was ashamed that he had been preaching his thoughts and not the Word of God. He thought you had to jump around to a lot of passages to make a point. He was amazed that I could just explain what one passage said and that his people could understand and be impacted by it. As time went on, it seemed that all the men gathered caught that same understanding.

As we had stated, we came uncertain to say the least at how this training would go. Actually, we assumed it would not go well, like last fall, and that it would be our last training here. The change this year was so great that it actually qualifies as a genuine miracle. Twice as many men showed up and they were so enthusiastic and caught on to what we were teaching so well that we were stunned. It became one of the better II Timothy workshops that Steve or I had ever conducted. I have no idea what happened. Our communication for months had been terrible. As of two weeks ago, I did not even think anyone had been invited to the meeting. But here they were, excited and prepared and most who had been in the training last fall had passed the training on to others. I frankly am embarrassed at how little faith I had that God was doing anything with us in training the Roma. Now it is full steam ahead.

Nelu, our Roma Network leader who introduced us to the Roma in Romania came to the training. He had not been to the last one and really didn’t know what we were doing. The workshop really impacted him as well and he wants to go home and train his leaders in this new method and then try to set up trainings for us in Central Romania. Having him become enthusiastic about Pathways could be a significant breakthrough. We have a training planned in November and in March next year and he plans to be at both.

We stayed with the pastor Paul and his family (in the Pentecostal Church in Romania, it is very difficult for anyone to be called a pastor, especially if you are Roma. Paul does not call himself a pastor, pointing to the ground he says, “I am just a deacon.” He is one of the sweetest, most sincere and hardworking pastors I know). They were so gracious and loving to us, as we have found all the Roma believers to be. Steve told them their home was a “House of Encouragement” and he was right. They would sing Romanian hymns to us in their little kitchen after dinner each night. 

Edie’s experience was somewhat less spectacular. The women were welcoming but the translation did not always go so well and some of the women could not read. She is so faithful to keep on loving them even when she really can’t talk with any of them because of the language problem.
We are now in Craiova staying with our friends the Drolls, who have arranged for us to meet with various groups of pastors over the next several days. We are sleeping in their living room which could make it interesting with an already full house with 5 kids. We do not know what awaits us here or in Portugal or Germany, but we are trying hard to trust the Lord that He knows what He is doing even if we don’t. Thanks so much for all the prayers from so many of you on our behalf. Your work on our behalf sustains and gives us strength.


Tuesday, March 27, 2018

God is at Work! Praise to Him!

Monday, March 26:  We have had a couple of amazing days. Sunday we had wonderful fellowship at the Roma church. The sermon the Lord had me preach seemed to really impact the people more than I have seen in a long time. Praise to Him! Today, the contrast between the training last Fall and now is miraculous. Twice the number of men came, and they were much more engaged. Thanks for your prayers. I will write more later when we have internet.