Okay, everybody… Here’s a terrific video of the North Street Band’s European Tour (England, Italy Slovenia). Thanks to all of you who encouraged, prayed and gave. You didn’t waste a nickle.
Ga Ut Senter, Oslo (Hurdal), Norway
More than a year ago, I suggested that friends from here in Charlotte make a trip to Oslo and join the staff of Ga Ut Senter in a much needed, apologetics conference. In all about six or seven professors and students showed up to spend a weekend teaching on subjects such as “Intelligent Design” and “The Exclusiveness of Christ, Pluralism.”
Early Saturday morning Brad and I grabbed our gear and met about six Smyrna students for the two and half hour ride to Hurdal. We spent the day in various, well attended lectures. At the end of the day, they drove back and Brad and stayed the night and then took a quick tour of Oslo the next day before he headed back to London in the late afternoon.
I remained behind for several more days staying with Roar and Lillis. Most of the time I was quarantined to my room and bed with with the stomach flu. Finally, on Thursday morning I flew back to London, spent the night in Crawley, England and took to ten o’clock flight home on Friday morning.
In ten weeks, I traveled approximately nineteen thousand miles, slept in twenty-seven beds, visited five countries (some twice), preached and taught about fifty hours. It was more trip than I should have taken on and only eternity will tell if any of this is worth the time, effort and money.
At least once every year for the past five years I have spent a week or two teaching at Smyrna (Kraftskolen) near Tonsberg in southeast Norway. I usually have about ten to fifteen students in the first year class. To learn more about this scroll back through my blogs and you will find a good number of stories and photographs relating to this school.
This time I spent a week from October 7 to the 14th before going to Oslo where I would meet up with Southern Evangelical Seminary staff and students at the Ga Ut Senter where they would be presenting a seminar series on “Why Apologetics?”
In the meantime Brad Frey, a Canadian, ACCI missionary living in England came up to join me. While I spent a number of nights teaching and preaching, Brad joined me with testimony and teaching.
On one evening we had, what they called, “A Bad Taste Party.” Regrettably, Andreas, my friend and Dean of men thought it a good idea to dress-up like me as an example of “bad taste.” Frankly, I think for an older gentlemen, I have fairly good taste but considering the laughter in the room upon his arrival, I am forced to reconsider some of my apparel choices. Some people can think they are in the groove when they are really in a rut.
While at Smyrna I met a young Pakistani couple. I really liked Joel, his wife and young daughter. It was my hope to find some church that might adopt them as they are a people without a country at the moment. I’m still open to trying to locate a congregation who might adopt them. If not, they will be forced to return to a very dangerous part of the world.
Here’s some helpful advice. It was murder trying to find a low-cost flight from Ljubljana to Oslo or thereabouts on the day I needed it. I felt a little stuck. Either I would pay a huge sum of money for a rather direct flight or travel some distance to locate a cheaper plane. Pastor Chris thought it made the most sense to just bite the bullet and take Berlin Air or some such a carrier at about five hundred and forty euro. This seemed exorbitant to me so I had Chris drive me across Slovenia to Trieste, Italy where I caught a five-hour train to Bergamo, Italy, caught another bus, took a hotel, had my supper and then flew to Torp the next morning on Ryan Air. Yes, the Ryan Air flight was around a hundred euro but if I add up the inconvenience, time, transportation, meals and hotel, it just made, in retrospect, a lot more sense to just pay the big bucks and be done with it. In all, it took more than fifteen hours of travel to get from Murska Sobota, Slovenia to Torp, Norway.
My friend Kevin came along with me and parted company with him going on to Parma from Mestre while I went on another train to north of Milano.
I boarded the flight and before settling into my seat I noticed the young man next to me reading Sam Harris’, “The Death of Faith.” I am well aware of Sam Harris, a very aggressive and vitriolic anti-Theist. It surprised me to see a young man of this age intensely reading such a book for his entertainment. I quickly leaned over and asked him, “Are you an Atheist?” Proudly, he replied in the affirmative. He asked if I was to which I told him no and that I was his polar opposite. I then wanted to know if he was an “intellectual” or a “moral” Atheist. He didn’t get what I was driving at so this gave me opportunity to engage him in a two-hour conversation. We ended as friends. Let me just say here, this fellow knows more about the Bible and what he believes than any combined ten young Christians I know of.
Overhearing the gospel…
At the end of the flight, when I returned to my seat an older Norwegian couple seated next to me wanted to know who I was and was complimentary regarding some of the questions posed and answers given the young man.
It occurs to me that in forty-five years of adult life rarely, if ever, has anyone ever shared the gospel with me. It is my guess that almost no one tells anyone about Jesus and that’s a fact. It’s a wonder to me that anyone ever gets saved at all.
I decided to take Kevin Ferriera, a Brazilian-Italian and up and coming young musician. Kevin had bonded with the band so I brought him along from Parma and Gruppo Cristiano Latino Americano. I thought it might be good for him to explore both music and missions so this set me back a few euros it struck me as the right thing to do though it squeezed us into Chris’ church van just a little tighter it turns out to be worth the extra baggage. Kevin is impossible to inconvenience and went along as one of the gang.
This morning we took our time getting around as most of the band was dragging after a long night of performing. By 11 we were loaded with a car stuffed with instruments and the van with people. In three hours we were in Murska Subota and sorting out our beds on the top floor of the church. At four we were expected to make our way about forty kilometers to Gypsy villages in the country.
Tjonska has worked with these villages for ten years and has established wonderful relationships with the families and children. In the last while, some of the Roma people have come to Christ. They, of course, welcomed us with open arms. Upon arriving I noticed a tent pitched in the middle of a small lot with young people milling around and children inside. There Tjonska was leading them in children’s songs – tunes that I recognized. This reminded me so much of my childhood when my parents would take me along as they ministered to native people in Kansas. In fact, it seemed to me that there wasn’t all much difference between the lifestyles of the two groups. Nomadic peoples are often similar.
While the band set up I walked around to see several cooking pig skins on an open fire. Others were roasting chestnuts, a fall delicacy. I have eating french-fried pig skins before but this was different. These were still quite rubbery. I make it a point to eat anything that is offered to me but I felt like an Albanian on an Italian train. They attempt to ride the trains for free so they are always moving about attempting to avoid the conductor. I did the same with grilled pig flesh. When I saw a new plate arriving I made myself scarce. Honestly, this was not even enjoyable to observe people as they gnawed away and seemed to get nowhere. I have no idea how this item carries with it any appeal.
Nevertheless, this all being said, the event went well and once the band began to plan the young people, though standing a fair distance, listened carefully. The older men rarely if ever take part and delegate this religion business to the women and children but in time, they too warmed up with some entering the tent, clapping along and at the end taking New Testaments home.
One of the guys remarked that this was better than many places we play because it seemed that the Gypsies indicated they were being treated to something special. In many big cities, the band was just another band and taken for granted but rarely, if ever, does a band of this caliber venture into a Gypsy settlement as a gift from one group to another. They seemed to appreciate and we stayed longer than expected taking photographs and playing tag with the kids.
Here’s a funny note in passing. Here we were in the middle of nowhere. We can almost never get internet in our hotels but we were told, “Just turn on your Wi-Fi.” Sure enough, the world at our finger tips and with five bars. The guys also mentioned that they would like to have the sound system but would not resort to stealing these, first class JBL speakers.
Imagine: a nation of two million people with about 1,000 Bible believing Christians?
We have just arrived here last evening after a rather long ride from Parma, stopping off for the Canadian’s to visit Venice if only for a couple of hours. We pulled into the church parking lot at six and then set about to getting our sleeping arranged.
All churches should somehow include rooms for visitors. When I come here, I never have to pay for accommodation and this is a big help to missionaries and traveling teams like the one I have with me now. This upstairs of the church has a large library filled with books (mostly English) where I made my bed with a mattress on the floor. Fred and Rose are in the “prophet’s chamber” (the room where I usually stay). It is a big room with a queen size bed, couch and small table and its own bathroom with private shower. Three of the guys are in a large room that could handle five under dorm like accommodation. We have stuck one of the fellows (the one with insomnia) in a small office space where he can read in the middle of the night if he wants to. In all, the facility has four bathrooms and two showers a kitchen, dining room and an area that seats about ninety people for a sanctuary on Sunday. This is not, by American standards, a big building – it just happens to be a well-designed building. In spite of this use of space there is still room for Chris and one other to share an office.
Chris has a dream to build a massive church – ministry center on this same location and has already set out to raise the 1.5 millions euros it will take to make the evangelical church visible. The pastor and his wife have a lot planned for North Street Band so I suspect it will be a good idea if they get a good sleep tonight because Thursday they will begin five days of non-stop ministry. After playing in the main cafe in the center of the city, we will drive to Murska Subota on the Austrian-Hungarian border, play for a Gypsy village, do concerts in the city center, go and hour south to Slovenia’s second largest city, Maribor have two concerts then back to Ljubljana, play on the street and on Sunday do a concert in the parking lot of the church. Then one more time they will play in the center of the city.
All of this is pretty exciting for a ministry team of five from Perth, Ontario.
The idea was simple enough. We would rent a well recognized venue, advertise by inviting friends and those we meet while playing short sets of three songs in different areas while on the street.
Teatro Toscanini has about three-hundred seats and for an unknown band and music in English we knew they might be hard to fill. Further complicating the situation was the fact that Friday night at 8 is no easy sell for people who work until 7:30. When it came time for the first song the theater was only half full but knowing Latino’s as well as we do, we expected the room to eventually fill up as it did giving us a respectable audience. Better still, many people, perhaps twenty are more were people who do not attend the church at all. The aim of the concert was to acquaint people with the church and the gospel. It was our hope that members of the church would make new friends.
The concert lasted two hours during which more people came but no one left even though Fred and Joel pulled no punches as they transitioned with the gospel by explaining how and why the songs were written. Francesco had gone to the trouble to translate and print into an attractive brochure the words to about five songs which people were encouraged to read as the band played and sang.
Pastor Aldo Cerasino “texted” me last night with the following comment (I give it exactly as written without grammatical changes).”Good evening, relaxing evangelism, 120 people with about 15 new and other 10 not believe or just born again. Few came from your invitation by street. The aim was to sing to unbeliever, you with have done, winner night. Thanks we learn a lot, we have seen a new system to do. blessing aldo”