September 22-27, 2010
American Missionary Evangelism:
There is the danger of, “Not seeing the trees for the forest.”
To me, every tree in the forest should have a name and a story.
Let me switch the metaphor. It appears to me that American style evangelism and missionary work often fails to consider the importance of building personal relationships and prefers to fish with trawlers and nets rather than a hook and line. We would like to see souls saved but we prefer not to take the time to know anyone, especially the most difficult and vulnerable in the society and these are the very people that Jesus cares about. Here, in these stories meet Andrea, Deliah and Leon.
Andrea and Deliah
On the first evening we encountered Andrea. Somehow she knew an Iraqi fellow we had stopped to visit with. Deliah, the Iraqi, a thirty-three old lawyer waits on Slovenian paper work to clear which will qualify him for assistance and training. In the meantime, he has become a Christian through the influence of a Sri Lankan refugee friend and the church. However, for the time being he walks aimlessly through the streets.
Andrea entered the conversation and upon hearing English spoken wanted to know who I was, where I was from and why I am here. Sadly, there are many slightly deranged people on the streets. Somehow, the falleness and despair of the society has gotten to them and even though it was apparent that Andrea was once capable (a former ballet student living fourteen years in New York) she is now confused and shattered. Her religion is a mix of Catholicism, mysticism and teaching of Elizabeth Claire Prophet (The Ascended Masters). As I witnessed to her she said, “I once attended a Bible study and heard what you are talking about before, ”What you say is very interesting, how can I hear more of this?” Last night she arrived and, as best as she could, she listened as I spoke on the subject, “The Gospel Must Be Explained,” from Acts 8 (Philip and The Ethiopian Eunuch) coupled with Isaiah 53:1-7. Andrea stayed for an hour or more asking questions and finally taking a Bible and several other pamphlets. Everyone jumped to get her whatever she needed.
Searching for Leon
I first met Leon (I have only just learned his name) on the steps of Saint Mary’s Church ten years ago on one of my first trips made to Slovenia. Leon is a rather fascinating street person who wears old and dirty, but flamboyant and theatrical clothing. His outer garment might be thought of as a dress and I have never seen him in a pair of pants. He rides a bicycle and eats nothing but fruits and vegetables. You might say that Leon is a “Fixture.” I have drawn and/or painted Leon a number of times and through the course of asking him to pose and giving him a Euro here and there, we have become friends.
I wanted to locate him, buy him a tea and show him the most recent painting that I have done of him but on several recent trips I could not find him. In the morning after coffee with my friend (Simona Kemperle) that I had met and witnessed to on a plane from London about four years ago, I surfed the streets once more showing a photo of the painting, asking people if they had seen him. Everyone knew who he was (one person describing him as, “Oh, the Bum?”) but, sadly no one knew where I might find him.
Invited to have Crepes
Later in the day I went to Juliette’s for crepes only to find that they no longer make them but if I cross the street to their other shop Raphael’s does, I sat down with friends, Mateja, David and Katja Fartek and enjoyed crepes with nutella, crushed hazel nuts, wild cherries and whipped cream.
We talked and then walked together along the canal and while doing so I explained how much I would like to find, Leon and showed the picture I had on my business card. Within three minutes, David says, “There he is, over there on the ledge under the tree!” Excitedly, I approached him and at first he was afraid. Having not seen me in several years, he recoiled, “Who is this big man?,” he must have thought. But in a brief minute he had placed me and a warm smile crossed his weathered face.
Slovenian’s (especially men) are not accustomed to hugging but he, I could tell, was happy to see me. I sat down beside him as he held out a broken open pomegranate. I refused and then he motioned toward a bulb of garlic. Again I indicated a, “No thanks.” As I showed him my card he was so proud and couldn’t seem to believe that I had honored him in this way. He remembered the moment and though he speaks as someone who has had a stroke, I recognized that he was explaining where the photo had been taken. I love this poor man and he knows it. He is so much thinner now and I wanted to know if he was ill. He assured me that he was okay, but I just don’t think so. I set out to tell him why I was here that I had come to talk about Jesus and how much I wanted him to come and hear me. I gave him an invitation and continued to explain Jesus to him in English even though I know that he does not understand 70% of what I am saying. Desperate people attempt desperate things. He did not show up last night and I am concerned that he won’t. Leon is a hermit, a recluse and would be uncomfortable in a crowd. Yet, I would love to see him come through the door. This would be the highlight of my years walking the streets of Europe.
Painting and witnessing on the street. You’ll meet Tadaj, a twenty-two year soccer player from Bled who was ripe forthe Gospel… “I finally got it! It all makes sense. Why didn’t someone tell me this? Does my priest know what you have told me? Why hasn’t he ever told me this what you are telling me?”