Sunday, October 15, 2017

Frustrating Logistics

This trip has turned out to be very frustrating. Our time with the people has been great, both the Roma and the Turks have been wonderful and warm to us. But the organization and logistics have been awful. I got about half the time I needed in Vizuresti and in reality, only trained 4 or 5 men. Edie had only one evening with the ladies, about 6. We had a lot of problems with translation as well. We have to find new ways to organize our training, but I was not able to discuss this with the leader because he speaks no English. He obviously does not understand what we are trying to do. I hope to be able to communicate with him through his son by email once I am home. 

Here in Germany we have the same situation. The men are great and Edie has enjoyed the women. But I have only had 5 regular men to work with and two of them have been out of class for some of the time. A few others have come in part way, which makes it difficult since they do not know what we are doing. They are constantly checking their phones and going in and out. Hopefully we can get that communicated today. One blessing is that I have a great translator. It is hard work since most of the men speak Turkish but one or two speak Bulgarian. The problem has been worse with Edie as she had 7 women and the translation went from English to German to Turkish to Bulgarian and all of the transitions were sketchy. 

Right now, I think we are only dealing with two churches, which is way below what we want. For the whole trip, all three weeks of training, I have only reached 5 churches and less than 15 men. We have to figure out how to change that. All these men need what we are offering but we have to reach more churches more efficiently to make the trip cost and time effective. What is needed here is for someone from the Turkish church to get the vision for what we are doing and to become a strong coordinator. We will work and pray to that end.


Friday, October 13, 2017

On to Germany!

Thursday, October 12: By God’s grace, we have had no intestinal issues. We are feeling fine, but a bit tired after three weeks on the road. Things have not gone that well here in Visuresti. In reality, I have only had three students, the three others that have been here regularly do not seem to be catching much. I am going to have to discuss other options with Lulian today. We are praying that he will be open to training leaders in Bucharest, who in turn can take the training back to small churches like Visuresti. The translator I had on Tuesday was pleasant but limited in her English. At times, we came to a standstill, as I could not think of other ways to say what I wanted and she could not understand my meaning. We eventually worked through it all but it was quite frustrating. More men came on Wednesday but I am not sure how much they get coming only now and again. Thursday, we have church before training so another short session. This has to change if we are going to be successful.

We have been very pleased with how warm and welcoming the families have been to us all through our trip. That has made some of the frustrations seem less important. We came back to Bucharest last night and are having our laundry done today to set us up for the rest of the trip. We leave for Germany tomorrow around noon.


Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Ever-changing Plans

Friday, October 10: The weekend went well and indeed was interesting. I preached on Friday night, at the wedding on Saturday night, which actually was quite fun, and then on Sunday morning in a Roma church and Sunday night here in the Pentecostal church that has been hosting us. The pastor here is a sweet brother. I know that we do not see everything just the same theologically, but he has a deep love for Jesus and his people. I am content with that. They have treated us so lovingly, which has helped some of the uncertainty not seem so important. It was great to see so many men in the congregation at the Roma church.

Edie and I both got intestinal issues Early Sunday morning, which made preaching a bit delicate with a quick trip to a very rustic outhouse just before I preached. But we survived and the service went quite well. The church building was small but new, being an add-on to an older small cottage (I banged my head on the doorway between the buildings, as it was about 5’10” and just right to catch my head). It held about 60 people and was quite full by the time the service started, which was great since the church is only 4 years old. It has been rainy and cold here and the church had not set up the wood stove yet, so it was about 50 degrees in there when we arrived. It got up to about 60 degrees as the service heated up. You may want to think about this the next time you want the sanctuary temp to be adjusted a degree or two one way or another. Much of the world is just happy to be inside together.

Today is sunny and bright but warmer, probably climbing into the low 60’s, which will be nice. We train in a small town an hour away starting at 5 pm until ? They decided we should stay in this hotel and commute each day so we will have some late nights but also late mornings. We have two godly translators set up, although the man is a bit shaky with English, but we still have no idea who or how many men or women will attend. But we have seen the Lord lead in every step so far so --- stay tuned.

Later: In our ever-changing plans, God is testing us. We were to leave to train in Vizeresti on Monday night and return each night to our hotel in Bucharest, about an hour away. When we met with those who would take us, we found that we would be staying in Vizeresti for two nights instead of coming back. We had just paid for our hotel so we kept our room there, quickly grabbed a few clothes, and left by car with three others. 

Upon arrival, I found three older men at the church with more coming in time. We were already 45 minutes late. No women were coming. I wondered why we were there and the Lord gently reminded me that He had sent us there; He loves these people, so I needed just to be quiet, do my job, and love them as well. Eventually nine men came and the training went well, although two left early and do not appear to be returning. We will have a break each evening at 7:30pm for sandwiches followed by supper at 9pm. We are certainly eating well, too well. We forgot to bring our Cipro, which is our emergency medication for intestinal problems. This morning at breakfast, everything was washed in water before serving, a no-no in most places, but was not a situation we could change. We are praying for no more problems.

The training will be from 6-9pm each evening, about an hour less per day than expected, but I think it will work. They will have church on Thursday night, praying for an hour and then breaking into two groups, the women going with Edie and the rest with me. I am not sure how this will work with our training, as the men will be doing 5-minute presentations that night. We will see…We will return to Bucharest on Wednesday night and Thursday night and then fly on to Germany on Friday around noon. Actually, we are much closer to the airport here in Vizeresti than at our hotel, but oh well, this is the plan.

We are staying in a home next door to a family in the church. We have wood heat and in the night, the fire went out so it was a bit cold especially in the bathroom. It got down to the middle 30’s last night. The Gypsy families here are so warm and welcoming. We had a great breakfast and wonderful time learning about the family from the one young mom who speaks English. I am not sure how it will go with the men in trying to get them to pass on the training, but I think this is a good start for us among the Roma. We have lots to learn and many relationships to build. In that way, I think things are going well.


Saturday, October 7, 2017

Interesting Uncertainty

Friday, October 6:  I am sorry I have not been able to write for a little bit since our internet was down almost the whole time we were at the hotel in Zimnichea. It has been an interesting week to say the least, really much as we expected. Working with the Roma people is difficult, not because they are unfriendly or difficult people, but because they do little or no planning until the time of the event. Our friend, Bogdan, who is not Roma but is organizing our training, is much like them in this way. He says, “Just have faith” about anything that is not planned yet, to which I responded, “I would like to see less faith and more planning.” Let me describe what I mean. We arrived in the town at 5:30 pm on Sunday night and he then, for the first time, informed us we would be going to a “meeting” at the church. At the church, I learned I would be preaching. A little pre-warning would have been helpful. 

The next day, at the training, Bogdan got a call to return to work and said he would not be back. He was our only translator. By God’s grace, our friend Doug, an IM missionary in Romania, came with two interns, one of which is Romanian. Aubi ended up translating for us all week, much to his surprise since he came to learn. There was no other option planned for if Bogdan had to leave. We had even worse problems with a translator for Edie, as she mentioned in her blog entry. But, God did supply in every case exactly what we needed. 

One humorous incident happened on the first day. As the men began gathering, about ½ hour before the start time, someone asked if I wanted a coffee. Of course, all this is by gestures, etc., since none of them speak English and I speak no Romanian. I said I did. The machine at the little store next door suddenly broke so no coffee was available for me. A man gestured for me to come with him in his car. So, I figured he wanted me to come get coffee with him. We went to his house, where he showed me around, his chickens and turkeys, etc., and got some money. Then we went downtown, and stopped in a coffee shop. We drank our coffee, once again, all arranged by hand signals and words I didn’t understand, and off we went to the meat store. We stood in line for a half hour, all the time the man asking me what meats I thought we should get, again with hand gestures and a lot of words I did not understand. I had no idea but he kept asking. We finally got our meat, cheese and olives and off we went again, this time to the grocery store for water, bread and other necessities. I looked at my phone, (my watch battery died as we left home for the airport), and saw it was 45 minutes after the training was to start. I struggled with that reminding myself that relationships were much more important right then than timelines. From the grocery store, we went to the vegetable market, finally arriving at the church an hour after the start. Everyone was waiting on the instructor, me, but seemed like they thought this was very normal, which evidently it is.

The training went well, with the men making good progress on learning about observation and context and learning about the meaning of Jonah. But it is hard to tell what impact this will make long term. We will have to see how they do in trying to train others and in preparation for the next workshop. We were a bit disappointed that only 3 or 4 churches were represented. Others were invited but did not come. They feel more will come as they tell them what happened. At any rate, this is our start with Roma training. The need is great with very poor teaching from the pulpit in most churches.

One bright spot was that the area leader for the denomination was present and really is supportive of what we are doing. He seems to be a great guy. The president of the denomination and some of his aides came for a bit on the first day and I am not so sure about him. He said he was supportive but his talk included some subtle warnings to the men not to listen to anything that was not according to their doctrine. One of the men with him was Lulian, a wonderful older pastor we met a year ago and who has a real heart for Roma ministry. We found out then that we would be travelling to Bucharest on Friday to spend some time with him. But once again, we were not given any details about who would take us, what we would do, etc. It turns out that the pastor of the church where we were training brought us last night, Thursday, to Bucharest and we spent the night in a hotel here. (Lulian greeted us with a cold pizza when we arrived, a nice gesture but we went to the store for something else for supper). Today we go to his church, a five-minute walk away, for “meetings.” We do not know what that means, what we will be asked to do, preach, teach or what but it should be interesting. By the way, our internet here works great, outside our room in the hallway.

Today I found out I am preaching 4 times this weekend. One of those was tonight, and I thought it went well. I was sitting there wondering who would translate when a young woman came in and sat down. The pastor went up to her and asked her to translate. Nothing like planning ahead. She was a wonderful young woman (she said she was 40 but didn’t look it), and did a marvelous job at her first time translating. What a blessing and provision. I was followed by another preacher who basically shouted for 20 minutes. I could not hear the translation but Edie said he seemed to counter some of what I said. Then we learned I will be preaching at his church on Sunday. It should be interesting.
I will preach tomorrow at a wedding. Yes, I am the wedding speaker, in a Romanian wedding no less, which I know nothing about. Then I preach Sunday morning at the other preacher’s church and then once again in the evening at the church we were at today. The pastor there is such a sweet man, who loves to stop and pray about nearly everything. We have lots to learn from him.

Still no word on what is going on in the next location. Translators? Who will attend? Will Edie have women to train? Then we head to Germany, where we face at least as much uncertainty. God knows and goes before us.

It will be cold and rainy the next two days. Will we have heat? Will we have umbrellas to get to the church? Yes, you know, it should be interesting. I am reminded of something John Newton once said, “When I hear a knock at the study door, I do not know what I will find. It may be an opportunity for ministry, or, it may be an opportunity for repentance. But either way, it will be interesting.” Amen. I can’t imagine a better life than to be dependent on the Lord who only asks us to go forward, trusting Him to do what He gives us to do. 


Thursday, October 5, 2017

Prayers and Provision

As some of you know, we had a bit of a crisis last night. The internet had been down all day (due to a power outage); Alan’s phone was not working even though mine did and no translator for either of us for the next day of training. Our leader here had to go back home because he was called by the military where he works. An American IM missionary here, along with some interns that we know, personally joined with Alan to make calls, strategize and pray. By this morning, Al had a solution for the no internet from one of the interns (a “stick”); he had a translator but nothing for me. We didn’t even know if women would be coming. The guys agreed over breakfast that I should show up any way just in case. 

While dressing for a teaching day I remembered something I had read years ago in a Margaret Jensen book. It was Christmas Eve, her husband was gone (an itinerant Pastor in Canada). They prayed for Christmas dinner, they had no food. She had her children dress for Christmas and set the table. The daughter asked why since they had no food and her mother said, “When we pray for rain we get out the umbrellas, we pray for Christmas dinner we set the table.” Later a knock came and another church had gathered food for a dinner for them. They had a feast! So I dressed and prepared to teach. 

My translator showed up. She is 15 years old, from another city, missing classes. Amazingly gifted. I had my first Roma class of women. It was a time of breaking the ice and introducing Pathways. No doubt awkward for them and for me. But I really feel strongholds were beginning to breakdown. It has been a challenge to convince the men of the reality that I am here to train women or even the value of training women. It just seems to have gone over their head but a district leader came and he has seen the need and he took up the task of praying and working hard to find a translator for me today and tomorrow, (The young girl can’t). The Lord Provides! I am confident the Lord will go before me and provide again according to His will.
Your prayers for us are heard by the Father and are giving us strength, grace and provision. We see it and want you to know how much we feel your presence with us through the spirit.

Servants of Jesus together,

Sunday, October 1, 2017

Courage and the Unknown

Saturday, September 30: Our time in Lebanon went very well. The students were wonderful, intelligent, passionate and eager to learn. We had a wonderful time together. These believers are courageous. One told about God leading him to go and preach to the Hezbollah. He was hesitant to do so but did and found them “hungry for God.” Another traveled extensively in Syria, in areas where ISIS still operates, to visit churches and encourage them. Most of the pastors in the area had fled to safer regions and the churches had no leadership. Our hosts, Ben and Burgi, are also wonderful and are courageous people themselves, giving themselves wholly to the work of the Lord and to their students in a difficult part of the world. 

I found the week to be of great benefit to me. It has been awhile since I have had the privilege to teach systematically through a section of Scripture. Spending 4 days working through Romans 1-8 was wonderfully refreshing to me. I realized I need to find more opportunities for that in the local church. Our church in Colorado, which was a church plant, closed last month. When we return we will have to begin to look for a new one. Teaching and ministry opportunities for Edie and myself will be high on our list to evaluate.

We went from our hotel to the airport at 12:30 am, flying out at 4:30 am. We arrived in Bucharest at 10am, obviously quite tired. Then we had a 2-hour drive to our host’s home. Thankfully, we had a one-hour nap before lunch as we kept dozing off in the car. Then we traveled to a nearby Roma village to “do ministry” but we did not know what that meant. A group gathered at the house of a Christian where they hope to plant a church, and gathered a crowd from the neighborhood. They had Gypsy singers come and asked myself, another pastor who was there from Canada, and the lead singer to “say a few things” (which meant preach the gospel). We did and a number of people responded, although we are not really sure what was happening since it was all in languages we do not understand. It was a bit “Pentecostal” for Edie and I, but the Lord knows exactly what went on and will do His will. We were exhausted when we finally reached bed after supper around 9:30pm. We both got 9 hours sleep, a new modern record for me, and felt much better this morning.

We had Gypsy barbecue at a church member’s home today and it was wonderful. We had good conversations in a relaxed atmosphere. Tomorrow after church, we will travel to the first training location. This afternoon, we do not know what we will be doing. That has become the norm for this trip, but God enables us as things develop. I do not know what is coming but I am sure it will be interesting.