September 22-25, 2010
It can be done!
I arrived and finally deplaned at Gatwick, London around 7:40 on Wednesday morning and still had to go through UK Customs before catching the shuttle to the North Terminal. I have often stood in line there for a half an hour waiting to get stamped in so, naturally I was concerned that I might not make my 9AM Adria Airways boarding to Ljubljana. I thought ahead of time that this could be a problem so I carried everything on in two small bags. As they say, “No one who has been to Europe once ever says, ‘I’m going to take more stuff the next time I go.’” I have travel down to a finely honed science. So, it went smoothly with time to spare.
Arriving in Ljubljana
Three hours later and over France, Switzerland and the Alps we landed in Ljubljana where I was met by my young friend and translator, Mateja who had become a blonde I last saw her. After greeting we quickly went to the curb to await her father Drago, an Elder of the Ljubljana Church. This one of the largest evangelical churches in Slovenia with about 100 active members. Slovenia is a country of two million people with only 1,000 known evangelical Christians.
What an amazing transformation!
I first started coming to Slovenia in 1996 after Matthew my son returned from his internship here in Ljubljana. Since he knew Europe, we went together on my first trip. The former communist city was in those days, gloomy and shabby but now, only fourteen years later, has become a groomed tourism hotspot as beautiful as Lyon, France. This has been the Mayor’s vision and so far he is succeeding with stylish gourmet restaurants, cool wine and coffee shop and cute shops popping up all over the downtown core and especially along the river that runs through the heart of the city. Wait until you see pictures. If you’re looking for an affordable European holiday put Ljubljana on your list of cities to visit. There’s lot of history and spectacular entertainment just walking through the crowds of people going from one event, historical locale or coffee shop to the next. Though it is raining like crazy today, I had three spectacular days of crisp mornings and warm days with temperatures in the mid 20’s Celsius.
A great lunch!
I don’t what this might mean but they were pretty certain that I would want to eat and though jet lagged and dead tired they took me to a roof-top restaurant called “Angel’s” where I chose Spaghetti Carbonara and got in precisely the Italian style. Many American’s have never had this dish. It sounds rather plain until you taste it. They make spaghetti the normal way (water, olive oil and sea salt) while on the side they are frying prosciutto or pancetta (ham or bacon). When the spaghetti is almost done they pour off most of the water, put in the bacon, drop in an egg and perhaps a small amount of cream and scramble the egg in the heat of the spaghetti, finishing it off with Parmigiano cheese. Sometimes they will include onion, mushrooms and/or chili’s. It makes for a terrific lunch.
My room at the church.
In many of the countries I visit, evangelical congregations have no buildings of their own. First reason is they simply don’t have the money to buy land and build. Secondly, because they are not part of the State churches (always Roman Catholic and sometimes Lutheran) they are ignored completely and considered to be cults. The Roman Catholic politic and culture does what it can on behalf of the Roman Catholic Church to protect its religious dominance. However, here at Binkostna Cervek Center there is a rather nice building on a main city thoroughfare. It has become too small on Sunday with more than a hundred in attendance but aside from the sanctuary, there is a kitchenette, small dining room, children’s’ classroom with a nursery, a larger fellowship room and bathrooms all on the first floor. On the second floor they have offices for the Pastors, three bedrooms with shower facilities and a large library with several hundred books. My room, though rather Spartan is very comfortable with a couch and small table for study.
My first night
I was happy to arrive, unpack, go over my email and take a five-hour nap until taken to a Serbian supper (heavy on the meat) in the city center at eight in the evening. After this meal of twelve minced meat sausages under an enormous piece of bread, salad, paprika and cream cheese, my two hosts, friends Mitja and Rok took me through the streets meeting people and inviting people to our services. More about some of this later in my next blog.