Europe Ministry Trip Thirty-One

October 5th to November 9th

Incredible connections and kingdom advancement!

When I first set out to serve in Europe more than thirteen years ago, I was as scared as a rabbit. Especially since I didn’t know any Italian, stuck in a low rent pensione rooming with Balkan refugees and Romanian hookers.

We’ve come a long way from only knowing one name in one city to where now I move freely in much of western Europe with hundreds of friends in at least ten countries. I make the joke that I have seen more of Italy than people who have been born there. I have been from Cuneo to Venice and Trento in the north to Pescara and Napoli in the south as well as Sicily.

At one time I served in Croatia, Portugal, Spain, France, Germany, Romania, Hungary and Holland but more recently I concentrate on establishing relationships in four regions, Italy on the south, Norway on the north, the UK on the west and Slovenia on the east. In the last four years this is where I have mostly hung my hat and have found working relationally with the same people and ministries has allowed me to be more effective.

NORWAY

On October 5th I will fly out of Charlotte with my friend Peter Boghdadi. I met Peter in a parking lot as he was going from person to person trying to sell perfume and cologne.  What got my attention was the big (I mean BIG), “JESUS” in the back window of his car. As we engaged in conversation, Peter took out his phone and forced me to listen to his recorded testimony of how he was born with cerebral palsy all the way to conversion to Christ. His parents were told by doctors not to expect too much. Peter does drag himself a bit as he is paralyzed on the right side, but he uses his disability as a bridge to sharing his faith. Peter went on to get his Masters degree in Mental Health and works as a counsellor. Born to first generation Egyptian immigrants, Peter grew up in the Coptic faith but now has a confident salvation through a relationship with Jesus Christ. This will be his first mission trip.

We will fly together to London, switch planes, and go on to Oslo, spend a jet lag/tourist day there, and then on Friday we’ll go on down to near Tonsberg where I will teach at Smyrna Bible Institute (Kraftskolen) until the following Saturday, the fifteenth. While there I will also be preaching at several churches and doing several  nightly evangelism meetings at the end of the week.

More NEWS from Norway  

I am so excited about this possibility and anxious to share it with you. About two years ago I became acquainted with NORMISION’S Ga Ut Center (Lutheran). My friend Gerson Celeti, a friend of Bethany and teacher there, introduced me to Johannes Redse, the Headmaster of the center. In our discussions I was able to suggest an alliance with Southern Evangelical Seminary in Charlotte. After a couple of emails I had Simon Brace, a South African working at SES, connected to Johannes of Ga Ut in Oslo. By God’s grace, someone donated some extra funding this year and so I am using some of it to bring Johannes over to Charlotte when SES hosts its annual apologetic conference. Though I will still be in Europe at the time, I believe this is a huge step of advancing evangelism and mission in Europe. I’d love to be a fly on the wall.

SLOVENIA

As soon as I put Peter on a plane headed back to the US, I will race down to Rygge in Norway and meet up with about eight Senior class students who will travel with me by plane to Venice, then by train to Trieste, Italy and finally on to Ljubljana, Slovenia where we will bunk in with Pastor Chris and Sabina Scobie and the good friends  at BINKOSTNA CERKEV CENTER (Pentecostal), the largest evangelical church in Slovenia with just one hundred members. In all of Slovenia, a nation of 2,000,000 persons, there are only one thousand Christians. We will be there for Sunday morning to share with them and encourage the believers and then for the next few days make ourselves available in whatever way we can. We will leave for Parma, Italy on Wednesday, the 19th.

ITALY

I will be leading these Norwegians on into Italy and travel about nine hours by rail through Venice and Bologna to Parma, my hometown! There we will meet with the young people on Thursday night and then on Friday night and Saturday all day we will take part in an apologetics conference with guest professors from Southern Evangelical Seminary. All of this will be hosted by Progetto Archippo, our ministry training school in Italy.

Early Sunday morning I will hustle the Norwegians over to Milan on the 5:28 train. They will then catch a flight back to Norway.

Part of my main ministry is linking ministries in personal and corporate friendships, so hopefully I will see reciprocal arrangements whereby teams from  Italy and Slovenia make their way up to Norway.

On the weekend of October 23, one or more couples from London should be arriving in Italy. I am anticipating seeing Tano and Angela Bellone, but should they not make it, I will see Brad and Julia Frey (ACCI missionaries from Port Alberni, B.C.). Brad and Julie are called to Italy and serving in London for two years until they can qualify for EU status. Once they have this, they will be able to live and work  in Italy. Working will give them status, legitimacy and cultural access in the country.

It is their plan to spend the following week meeting with myself and other ACCI leaders, surveying various possibilities for a church initiative.                                             

WALES

On Monday morning, October 31st, I expect to travel to Manchester and then catch a train to Wales where I will stay a couple of days with former students and BCOM graduates, Nate and Ali and their three children. While they live in the UK, they work in the Balkans (Croatia, Bosnia, Macedonia) with strong ministry relationships in Norway, so we will explore possible ways we can cooperate.

ENGLAND

After a few days I will train down to London where I will meet with the leadership of Eltham Green Community Church and guide them through a few days in leadership development meetings. No doubt, as I always do, I will be preaching both Sunday services.

Before returning to Charlotte on Tuesday morning, I will explore what it might take to establish an ACCI board and presence in the UK. If we are able to do this, it should mean that we could more easily facilitate the placing of American and Canadian missionaries on the continent, which is becoming increasingly more difficult.

 The USA

While I am doing all of this, Jeanne will be traveling to Minnesota to spend time with children and grandchildren as well as call on our friends and ministry supporters there. She will be there for nine days in October.

Thanks for your continued prayer, encouragement, and financial support.     Tony (and Jeanne)

Jeanne is forced to go “cold turkey”

She satisfies her addiction once more before leaving Canada.

Jeanne gets her last hit

As we drew nearer to the Canadian border I could tell that Jeanne’s clenched fists were growing tighter and whiter. There were beads of sweat breaking out onto her forehead. It became almost a mantra as I heard her ask over and over again, “Do you think chip wagons will be open before eleven o’clock in the morning?” The answer, of course, was “likely not” but she was not going to let this go and I knew it so on the outskirts of Brockville we spotted one. There was a little chip truck and it looked like, yes, it looked like there was someone in it. At the very last minute I swerved off of Highway 29 and into the parking lot. There they were just getting the oil changed. I explained my panick –  I was leaving the country and might not be back for a year. I pointed to Jeanne in the front seat of the car, bent over now and shivering. “How soon will you be able to make a batch of fries?” I asked. ‘Well, if you can wait about ten minutes the oil should be ready,” he replied. His hopeful words seemed to satisfy her and fifteen minutes later and wiping back the tears, she had a large bag of the golden brown fries in her hand.

As we rolled back onto the road, she rolled down her window and loudly cried out…

Goodbye for this year, Canada!

Goodbye, happy colored trucks! 

Good bye golden, delicious, fattening chips!

Sunday Morning at Cornerstone in Almonte

Almonte Cornerstone

Twenty years ago, Chapel Ridge Free Methodist, the church I began, had managed to gather up about twenty or so people from the community of Almonte, some twenty-five miles northwest of us. Almonte is famous for being the birthplace of James Naismith, the inventor of the game of basketball.

With all of the commuting, in time it only made sense that we start a more convenient,  mid-week Bible study in the area to accommodate these folks. It was then that we had the idea to take it a step further and hive off a completely new congregation in Almonte. After a few meetings, that’s what we decided to do. We asked Mark and Kathy Priddle if we could temporarily use their home and see how it might go. Jamie Robertson, who then lived in the Carleton Place area, drove up on Sundays and served as their pastor and preacher. At first they rented various facilities until they were able to build a building on about four acres out on the edge of town.

Although I had little to do with the formation of the church except for the idea and giving people to the dream, they still refer to me as the founding pastor and invite me to speak whenever I’m available. That’s where I was on Sunday morning and preached a warm cozy sermon entitled, “Put in the Sickle, The Harvest of the Earth is Ripe.” It was good to see the founding families still in attendance.

The Vincents, Neighbors and friends

For about five or six years we lived on Flewellyn Road on the east of the church we pastored. It turned out that one of our neighbors was a recently widowed English lady by the name of Sylvia Vincent. She lived there with two of her daughters, Jacqueline and Heidi. That was twenty years ago, so at that time the eldest was only then slightly more than twenty years of age. (Jacqueline served as the photographer at our daughter Amy’s wedding in 1993.)

Jacqueline, Heidi and Slyvia with Jeanne

Since then, Sylvia and Heidi have written and published several children’s books. Both of the girls now have university degrees and Jacqueline has her own business (a business I do not understand), so a lot has transpired since we moved away some sixteen years ago.

During those years of neighborly interaction we developed a great fondness for one another, so we weren’t surprised to have Sylvia and Heidi call and come for a visit when they were in Minneapolis (where we were living at the time) for a children’s book conference. Unless we are rushed for time, we almost always drop in on them when we are in the Kanata-Stittsville area as well. That’s what Jeanne did while I was at Tim Horton’s visiting with Jamie Robertson on Wednesday the 17th. It was then that we made plans to get together for dessert at the Lindenhoff Restaurant down in “Little Italy.”

So then, on Friday evening we all got together for apple streusel and coffee. I think Sylvia insisted on some other delicacy that featured chocolate as a principal ingredient. More  important than the food, however, was the fellowship we enjoyed as former neighbors and sisters in Christ. Their visit was a tremendously encouraging and fun time for Jeanne and me. We treasure the gifts given to us by Heidi and Jackie and hope to stay in touch with these delightful ladies.

Celebrating the Lone Star Connection

Our hosts Leslie and Larry with Michelle and Ashley

Jeanne and I were happy to receive a call from Larry Brune inviting us to have lunch with him and Leslie (his wife) at the “original” Lone Star Restaurant on Saturday afternoon. For us, the Lone Star carries with it a mountain of memories. We were among the first to show up when they opened their doors some twenty-five years ago. Jeanne and I came from the southwest U.S. and looked forward to some real Texas eats, so when we heard that the menu would feature such items as fajitas and other authentic “Tex-Mex” fare we had to be there.

I think it was our first visit when Larry Brune came around to our table. He was dressed like someone who knew how to wear western wear right. (Most drugstore cowboys don’t and will always tip their hat back rather pulling it down over their eyes. They’ll wear any old blue jeans and have no idea that real cowboys wear Wranglers when they go out and Levi’s 503, button up the front, when they don’t.) Stuff like this is a sure give away to a real cowboy. Larry had his duds right so when he came up to us, I expected a smooth southwestern accent and I got one. I confess, until that moment I had never heard the name Larry Brune though most people in Ottawa had. I had never heard of his partner Val Belcher either, and yet both were members of the CFL Ottawa Roughriders football team.

with Nick, Janet and Michelle

with Kari and Marquita

Having come from Louisiana and Texas, the two boys apparently got a hankerin’ for food that couldn’t get in Canada, so they came up with the idea of opening their own restaurant. Putting their wives to work on menu and recipes the guys put their minds on business operations and corporate culture. In a short time the restaurant was packed from eleven in the morning until one the next. The Lone Star became an entrepreneur’s dream come true as it expanded and then added stores across the country.

with Tracy and Leslie

During those days Jeanne, Larry, and I became close friends as he would show up at our house on holidays, eat some southern home cooking, and lie on our living room floor. It was also during those days that Larry, who once had made a profession of faith when a teenager, recommitted his life to Christ and became active in our church.

with Debbie and Ken

Because Larry was going through a divorce and was well-connected he would drag his other guy friends over. Eventually, we met Joe, Ken, and David. There were others too, both men and women. Women like Mary Ann and Rita. We were introduced to Mark Peterkins, who introduced us to his then-girlfriend (now wife) Tracy, then Randy and on and on it went. Larry had two little girls, Michelle and Ashley, who often hung out at our house too.   This is why lunch at the Lone Star turned out to be such a surprise.

We went in thinking that we might see Larry, Leslie, and one other couple, but when we were ushered in, we were thrilled to see all of these folks and more already seated at the table.  Altogether there were at least twenty or more old friends from the Lone Star that went back at least twenty-five or more years.

Larry's "Thank You"

It was close to my birthday, so they combined that with a “Thank You” lunch which celebrated the investment Jeanne and I had made in these lives over the years. Well, it is better now (a thank you) than the day after my last breath. Anyhow, squeezed between Debbie and Ken on one side and Leslie and Ashley on the other we shared great food and old memories.

Our special love and thanks goes out Larry and Leslie Brune for being so thoughtful by arranging and hosting this wonderful afternoon.

Not something I ever wanted to do.

After a small tribute by Larry I was forced to put on an oversized sponge cowboy hat that thousands have worn before me, stand upon a chair, and have “Happy Birthday” sung to me. Jeanne and I are blessed to have such friends who have never forgotten us introducing them to Jesus, taking them in, encouraging them, and discipling them in the faith.

with Mary Ann, Joe and Bud

with Mark, Megan, Ben and Tracy

with Larry and Randy

Somewhere between Leon Redbone and James Taylor

Fred and Rose at Fratelli’s

No conversation with Fred ever ended before mid-night. He is getting older so this was a first.

P.S. You may recognize from the tone of this one that it was written by Jeanne but let me take a minute to clarify the title I have given this article. Though Rosie must be credited with leading the way for the family to faith,  Fred has brought a great deal of gifting to the kingdom. Most of you have never heard of Fred Williams. Probably most don’t know the name Leon Redbone either. It was Fred that introduced me to Redbone and somewhere between Redbone and Taylor (whom everyone has heard of)  you’ll find Fred Williams’ musical mastery. In addition to being a very gifted guitar player and vocalist he is also a consummate lyricist with many outstanding and unique gospel stylings to his credit. He and his son Joel are talking of bringing their talents together in a CD of Christian music. Those that know them should spur them on, “especially as they see the day approaching.”

We’ve been trying to set up a time to see Fred and Rose Williams since we arrived in Ottawa. With Rose working two part-time jobs and Fred busy with prison ministry and work, it’s not easy to find a window of time. But on Thursday evening we finally pulled it off. Since they were driving in from the Perth area (after Rosie got off of work at 7), we planned on coffee and dessert around 8:00. Tony picked Fratelli’s, an Italian restaurant in Kanata, since they have authentic Italian food and some wonderful desserts. With some time to kill before meeting them, Tony and I decided to go to a late afternoon matinee at the movie theatre nearby. After reading the book, I wanted to see the movie version of “The Help.”

In typical Tony fashion, he spotted two Mormon boys sitting on a bench outside of the movie theatre and immediately launched into a discussion about DNA and Mormon claims about the origin of Native Americans. As he said later, he didn’t engage them to try to win them on the spot as much as to create some questions in their minds and in the minds of the other two young men sitting with them, who did not appear to be Mormon. You might think that I was worried about being late to the movie, since we only had a few minutes to buy our tickets and get in. But no, I knew how adept he is now at keeping track of time (unlike when he was a new Christian). He broke off the conversation in time to join me with minutes to spare. We were really enjoying the movie but were concerned about how long it was running. We finally had to walk out on what I think were the final five minutes (we’ll have to rent the DVD now to make sure) in order to get to Fratelli’s in time to meet Fred and Rose.

Fred and Rose are long-time friends in the Gospel. Way back in the mid-70s, they were living in the Merrickville area, as we were, when the revival hit. Fred was a talented musician, carpenter, and debater for his current religious leanings – Buddhism. He also sported a thick braid that hung way down his back. From the Hippie era ourselves, we weren’t put off by his style, but we did find him harder to win to Christ than others we met. We hired Fred’s wife, Rose, to work for us in our advertising company and in a short time she gave her heart to the Lord. Needless to say, this bothered Fred a lot. Every time we saw him, it seemed he wanted to push us back by engaging in vehement arguments. Although our whole Christian community was praying for him, some of us started to think maybe he’d never come around. We were faithful to continue to witness to him but we had little faith that he would respond. His wife, however, believed that God would save him. And He did.

It was a glorious turn of events and we got to see the transformation in Fred day by day. Soon he became our favorite song leader in the morning services since he not only played and sang beautifully but also wrote some amazingly insightful and touching Christian songs. Their family grew as they grew in their faith. Today, their three children, Miriam, Joel, and Emma, are serving Jesus too. Tony and I had the pleasure of sharing a meal with their son Joel at the Hoggs and hearing his musical talents as well. (See the blog entitled “Up’da Line: Carleton Place and Maberly”, August 21, 2011.) There is talk of Joel and his dad doing an album of music together and we are fervently hoping that happens!

It’s hard to catch up with so many years of busy lives in one evening, but we did the best we could. Fratelli’s staff patiently waited as all other customers except us cleared out and we were still laughing and sharing stories on their patio. Tony and I are hoping to arrange for Fred, Rose, and Joel to accompany us on a trip to Europe. We’d love to share their unique gifts and love for the Lord with the Christians we work with in Italy, England, Slovenia, and Norway. How I thank God for how He can weave lives together in such a strong bond that it survives every challenge and endures over many generations!

The Narraway Reunion

Celebrating Laura Smith’s Birthday.

When Bud speaks this dog really listens

We hated to part with the Roths so soon, but we had another engagement east of the city in Orleans at four p.m. So after being dropped off to pick up our car, we drove on out to join the Narraway clan. Honestly, they are a bit clannish. I don’t attribute this to the fact that collectively they may have watched too much Red Green but all the brothers seem to have been born with a roll of duct tape clinched in their right hands and a screwdriver in the left. I doubt if I would have wanted to raise the four of these boys all at once. They are one tough brood. They fish, fight fires (start a few of them as well), build, break and fix stuff (almost anything) and work in the out of doors without mitts at thirty below zero. I always admired this as I am a complete all thumbed wimp, so when I had really hard or big projects to do – things I didn’t really want to do – I would call Brother Bud. the oldest of the four boys and the one I knew best.

A more flattering picture

I can pretty much say that our two families grew up together. As I pointed out in an earlier blog, Bud was about the third person that ever came to faith through my testimony. His wife Debbie was maybe the fourth. At any rate, for all intents and purposes Leslie, Jed and Mel were cousins to our kids. Leslie, the oldest of their three children, is now married to my friend Larry Brune and the reunion was being hosted in their home though they were otherwise preoccupied and couldn’t make it.

Jed presenting Laura her cake. See how domesticated he has become.

The second Narraway kid, Jed, grew up to be quite cultured in spite all of his father and uncles’ attempts to turn him into a “tough as nails” rough-neck. This being said, there was a time when Jed was a “tough as nails” rough-neck. I know, because as my children have gotten older they have spread some of the stories. Jed will deny it but he may be the one who taught my children how to swim through the perilous spillway at Merrickville’s Rideau River locks. But now Jed has grown up, bears very few scars, a handsome Christian fellow, a high school history teacher, married to Donna with three extremely beautiful and tender kids. Fortunately, for him and Donna, they are all girls and carry none of the Narraway trait to swing stray cats over their heads by their tails. Okay, I am exaggerating; they wouldn’t harm a cat but they would tip a cow.

John, Mel and the kids

Lastly, we have Melanie. Mel is an absolute sweetie pie and everyone will tell you the same thing. She and her husband, John, met at Bethany Wesleyan Bible College in Sussex, New Brunswick. They now have two children and somehow they both turned out to be gentle as well. Go figure. Now, one thing for sure, these are five sweet grandchildren for Bud and Debbie. I didn’t even know these children before we arrived at the reunion, but they would just crawl up in my lap or give me a hug and I doubt if anyone thought to coach them to do so. These are naturally loveable kids.

All joking aside, Bud and I stood in the front yard as cars pulled away from the curb and imagined together where our families might have wound up if we had not encountered the Gospel some thirty-five years ago. We have been blessed coming and going out! We agree that bad patterns have been broken in our lives and future generations, even yet unborn are unknowingly the benefactors of our faith in Jesus Christ.

Perhaps I have spent too much time on this introduction but this is the real story.

Several got up to go get more cake

When we arrived, all of these were there on the patio with about ten others. Thirty-five years ago Bud was in partnership with a fellow by the name of Don Smith. Don was married to Carolyn and Carolyn had a sister named Donna. She and Don also had two children, the first dubbed “Little” Don (we still refer to him in this way today) and a younger sister Laura who now works for a member of the Canadian Parliament. These folks and others showed up from the west and east coast to be there for Laura’s birthday party and our arrival. Of course after all of these years – twenty or more – there were hugs and many hand-shakes all around.

Bud and Debbie delirious

For almost two years we met for church in the Smith living room in Merrickville. It was there in that house that many people found the Lord and grew in their faith. It was a reunion of both ancestry and faith. It is said that children need both roots and wings. Many contemporary parents are making dead certain that their children go to good schools, do their home work, make it to soccer, ballet and karate. They expend every effort so that their children have all of the advantages of this world. I have news for you: this world is passing away. Our bodies, trends and fads are changing “faster than greased lightning”  but the Word of God lasts forever. While temporal skills are useful for the enjoyment of life, they are an expense. The spiritual formation of our children and grandchildren, however, is an investment. On this day we saw the evidence of a bountiful return.