On Monday morning, Chris chauffeured me to Trieste by car some hour and a half away from Ljubljana. It was arranged that I would stay in the home of Caleb and Linda K. who have served in this city for around seven years. Both Caleb and Linda are MK’s so they grew up in cross cultural situations. Both lived in South America for most of their lives, Caleb in Bolivia and Linda in Venezuela. Though I had briefly spent time with Caleb this would be the first time to get acquainted with Linda and their four (very cute) children.
We arrived at the train station and were met not only by Caleb but by two of his friends. It turns out that Italian, Andreas lived in North Carolina for some time and there met his wife before deciding to return to Italy where they would engage themselves in ministry. Recently another couple (Clay and his wife) from Wilmington, N.C. have joined them to begin an outreach called,”The Space.” The idea is to create a non-traditional, missional and community based evangelical witness where the church meeting is not the center of weekly activity. In this model, Pastors are less visible and take the role of community facilitator.
After introductions, we stopped along the street and had pizza all around. Following this we made a visit to their meeting space where I took a few pictures and inquired about how things were going and what their hopes were. It is easier to discuss one’s hopes rather than one’s plans since planning is too dependent upon certain critical things like the availability of money. Give a missionary a twenty or hundred thousand dollars beyond what it costs to live and he or she will give you a plan on what they will do with it.
Later we made it to the apartment and as hot as it was did our best to move as slowly as possible and catch the breeze coming off of the sea and into the window on the fourth floor. Over the next day there was the customary gelato trip, the pasta dinner, morning coffee and brioche at a table in the shade and an out-of-door kabob lunch along the sea front. The point is this. When I do this sort of visit we both are encouraged to keep on. Often, few at home empathize or understand the challenges of complicated Christian work of this nature. Sometimes it takes an entire year of sowing to reach one person. Churches grow slowly if they grow at all. There are almost no success stories and there is little “ego pay” where one feels they are making any difference at all. There is no such thing as a “Mega Church.” Having someone who understands and shares these disappointments goes a long in keeping people on the field. If this was easy, exciting, well-paid work, more people would be doing it but the truth is, there is a glut of well-trained professional ministers in America for one good reason, reputation, remuneration and results generally remain high by comparison.