Opatija, Croatia / Panorama

May 6, 2014

Want to take a holiday that glitters?

IMG_2256 CropChris got the idea that we should all go down to the Adriatic coast for the morning. I had been there before but never unhappy to go again. The scenery, tranquility and above all, the ice cream are spectacular. It’s about an hour and half drive so we left at about seven returning by 1:30. One of the Kiwi’s(Don) made the trip while Tony, who has never quite recovered from jet lag, stayed in his bed for the day.  I really got to know Don on this short venture and it just amazes me how much two people can have so much in common when they have almost nothing in common. He is the flip side version of me and my journey and I his. This shouldn’t be surprising since he is down-under.

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Trip 38 / Entry 12 / Kobarid, Slovenia

Friday, May 2, 2014

The Outreach

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IMG_5039I was quite happy to see the room fill in some and by the advertised time of 7:30. the crowd was somewhat respectable considering most people consider any church other than Catholic a “sect” which actually means a cult and something to be avoided. Events of this nature are most often viewed suspiciously and shunned by the general society at large. Even though Andrej is a hometown boy and known by IMG_4964almost everyone, no one knows quite what to make of him. So, before we ever begin the cards are stacked against us. Almost no one knows of or has ever heard the gospel so it is quite foreign to the ears of almost everyone and sounds to all like a strange doctrine.

IMG_5105Nevertheless, Andrej and Lydja keep smiling and inviting folks to their Bible studies and events. Tonight we have mustered about twenty locals, some driving from as far away as one hour. Altogether, counting our team we have an audience of perhaps thirty.

The music starts with Andrej on guitar, Mateja on piano and Polona helping with vocals. The crowd does their best to sing and after four or five choruses I am introduced as the special speaker. With translation I spoke almost an hour on “Who Is the Real Jesus?” At first the congregation seemed impossible to connect with but soon with text opened up and lots of story telling, I had them listening and interacting. At the conclusion I offered Jesus with one person responding. To some of my readers, this may seem like nothing but you have no idea what a decision like this will cost a person. It is a huge undertaking and people must count the cost. Several others talked with me following the concluding prayer and wanted counsel and prayer.

IMG_5249 CROPDuring my message one little girl of about eight years listened to every word and I could tell that she understood in English. Following the meeting I enjoyed meeting her mom, dad and sister. We had a great deal in common since the Kelley’s come as Southern Baptist missionaries from Texas, a denomination and state I know well.

 

 

Trip 38 / Entry 11 / Kobarid, Slovenia

Friday, May 2,2014

Sergeja, Mateja, Polona, Me, Deanna, Miteja, Rok and Brane

Sergeja, Mateja, Polona, Me, Deanna, Miteja, Rok and Brane

IMG_2081One of our ACCI missionary couples live north and west of Ljubljana right on the Italian border and at the base of the Alps. This is a long contested region and have historically taken a huge pounding during the two world wars. There is a lot of history.

Andrej grew up here in this area and at one time his mother was the only Bible Christian. He and his brothers all became believers and one (Brane) works with IVF (InterVarsity Fellowship) at Ljubljana University.

IMG_2080Once you get into the Soce’ River valley the drive gets beautiful. We stopped to look at this famous river which is a bright cerulean blue and turquoise green. It was breathtaking and no photoshop is necessary.

Andrej and is wife, Lydja have started a meeting on Friday nights in the town hall where I was scheduled to preach and though they had advertised they advised me not to expect standing room only attendance. Yet, when the time came, the crowd was respectable enough.

We left Ljubljana in the church van with a team of seven besides myself. The trip takes about two hours and the road winds around the mountains which makes it seem much farther than it really is.

IMG_2107 CropWe arrived exactly at 4:45 as planned and I was shown to my room and got unpacked while everyone else was hugging and catching up on the latest. Little Elija, the Zelenak baby (Elija), gets lots of attention and passed from hand to hand. He is a cute little guy and deserves it.

 

 

IMG_2136We sat down to a nice dinner of beef stew on polenta  and then most went off to prepare the hall and music while I studied for my talk. Here is a photo of what polenta should look like.

 

 

Trip 38 / Entry 10 / Osijek, Croatia

Tuesday to Thursday, April 29 – May 1, 2014

The Osijek Evangelical Theological Seminary

The Osijek Evangelical Theological Seminary

IMG_2044We arrived at The Evangelical Theological Seminary in Osijek, Croatia where Chris once interned at about five in the afternoon, registered for our rooms and took a short ride into the heart of the city. I would be preaching here on Wednesday evening at the one hundred year old Pentecostal Church that now meets in a former Jewish synagogue.

Vukovar 

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Abandoned

Abandoned

Wednesday morning Chris wanted to drive me some thirty minutes away to Vukovar where 2,000 local defenders held off 36,000 over a period of 87 days. In the end two thousand were killed, 800 went missing and 22,000 were exiled many never to return. Vukovar took the brunt of the fighting and the evidence of automatic rifle fire and shelling  is still everywhere. Many houses remain abandoned.

Osijek

Me, Pastor Damir and Pastor Chris Scobie

Me, Pastor Damir and Pastor Chris Scobie

Osijek Centro

Osijek Centro

We returned to Osijek in the early after noon, met Pastor Damir, had supper and I prepared to preach. There were about forty to fifty who were very receptive and thought they seemed “Slavickly” stern and unmoved at first but were soon laughing and enjoying the message. The message on “Disappointment with God,” is not a theologically light one, I put a few bits of humor which they livened up to and I happily discovered that they are a very hospitable audience.

Chris, Pastor Damir and I went out for dessert where I was given an open invitation to come anytime I like.

The Evangelical Theological Seminary

IMG_2062IMG_2064I was absolutely stunned by the amazing facility that house the students and faculty and remarked that, “Even in America, we rarely see a campus facility as first rate as this one.” Built with over 4.5 million American dollars there are three floors of administration and classrooms unrivaled by most other seminaries in all of southern Europe. The library is one of the best in the Balkan region. Nevertheless, this being said, it suffers for a lack of enrolled students. They are desperate for new, young, trained workers for church planting and leadership.

Trip 38 / Entry 9 / Bosnia

Tuesday, April 28, 2014

Branko pouring over his new books

Branko pouring over his new books

 

 

What passes as a church

What passes as a church

Monday was a preparation day. Chris picked me up at my hotel at 7:30 and we headed off through Croatia for the city of  Banja Luka, (in the Republika Srpska which is the Serbian part of Bosnia) where we would meet Pastor Branko in the Serbian region. This is a trip of about five hours. Bane (Branko) is a humble and sweet believer who has two small congregations some one hour apart. He supports himself through translation work but the going is hard as he explained that in all of Bosnia he suspect among 3.5 million people there are only an estimated four hundred Bible Christians. In his two churches he may have only forty in all. Nevertheless, he maintains that he is not called to count. He is called to remain faithful. It was our joy to give him a couple of theological books in his own language (a rarity).

Cevapcici

Cevapcici

We enjoyed several hours with him, shared a lunch of grilled meat called, Cevapcici, prayed and then got on our way for the three hour drive to Osijek, Croatia.

Trip 38 / Entry 8 / Ljubljana, Slovenia

Sunday, April 27, 2014

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As is my custom I preached at Binkoštna cerkev Center, a church of about 130 people. Though there are couple of similar size, this is the largest evangelical congregation in the capital city of Ljubljana with a population of 300,000 people. In all Ljubljana only has about five hundred practicing Christians. Soon they will be dwarfed by a completely paid for mosque of some twelve million Euros. Though most claim to be Roman Catholic, Slovenia is only nominally Christian and is highly secularized.

Tony 2 LJBThis is the reason why Islam sees European Christianity bankrupt and immoral. It is easy for the taking and predict that the Muslim “call to prayer” will spiritually characterize most major cities of Europe within the next fifty years. 

It is a small gain but this church was only about thirty people ten years ago with one small service but now the room is filled with two Sunday morning services.

Trip 38 / Entry 8 / Ljubljana, Slovenia

Saturday, April 26, 2014

LJUBLJANA WAKE-UP CALL…

 

A Johnny Depp looking guy.

A Johnny Depp looking guy.

This morning I made a slight error of judgment here in Ljubljana. I went out for a few minutes and sat down to have coffee when three drunken young people sat at the next table. I chatted a bit, they invited me to join them and then I offered to buy a round thinking coffee but they opted for Jack Daniels. The conversation ensued, talking about a fuzzy sort of “spirituality” and they seemed to take a liking to me until I mentioned “Jesus.”

All were raised Roman Catholics but now adamantly claimed to be atheists (but still pray to Mary) became unraveled with anger – cursing and immediate dismissal. One (I complimented him by saying he looked like Johnny Depp) rose up in disgust and left the table. It may have been the alcohol but I was saddened that they had no clear idea of who the real Jesus of the New Testament is. They were unwilling to hear even a word about the subject. They had no idea that he would be a good friend of their tattoos and dreadlocks. They only have the impossible to please, distant Jesus of the halo and stained glass window. Their preconceptions gave me not even a sliver of opportunity to unpack the authentic Jesus. This is tough ground. People have been so vaccinated with religion and superstition that they cannot contract the real thing. Roman Catholicism will undoubtedly have to answer for this catastrophe. These people have been taught the most ridiculous things concerning God and hardly a single one of them has any working knowledge of the New Testament. It is uphill every inch of the way.

 

Trip 38 / Entry 7 / Ljubljana, Slovenia

Saturday, April 26, 2014

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Art Deco door in the Beardsley fashion.

Art Deco door in the Beardsley fashion.

Arriving in the city at about 7 PM with a head cold, Chris took me to my hotel and got me settled in where I went right to bed. I slept at least eleven or more hours and woke up on Saturday morning at around six. I got showered and dressed went down to the restaurant at IMG_19797, took in an amazing breakfast then headed out for an early morning walk with my camera in hand. Ljubljana is an amazingly charming, old IMG_1980world capital with wonderful architecture. Not only is the architecture beautiful but interiors can be very creative and attractive. Except for the Yugo automobile, I find the Slovenian and former Yugoslavian peoples to be very creative, good at both art and design.

 

 

 

 

Trip 38 / Entry 5 / Milano to Ljubljana

Friday, April 25, 2014

JEHOVAH’S WITNESSES…

Note: Jehovah’s Witnesses in Italy are much larger than protestant evangelicals. Perhaps only Islam and Occultism is larger.

I am now in Ljubljana and it took most of the day by train and car from Milan. As I arrived at the Milan train station early I had about forty minutes to engage the three Jehovah’s Witnesses at their Watchtower stand. I can only say it was not a good day for the JW’s. In fact, and this has never happened before, I countered everything so well that when I looked at what appeared to a “Newby” who had been intensely listening and told her to “get out now – it is a mind control cult”, she handed her magazines to the spokesperson and walked away. Perhaps she was late for work but by the way she listened, I don’t think so.

JEWISH COUPLE…


It didn’t end there. By divine providence a fair haired young man and his wife (I think his wife but who can tell anymore) spoke to me in Italian and took the reserved seats next to me. They turned out to be Israeli’s living in Milan. Now how do you think this ride went??? They got off at Padua and I went on to Mestre but I had a good time teaching Judaism to my Jewish friends. Pray for Nir and Inbal.

Trip 38 / Entry 4 / Lake Como and Emily

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Emily being Italian and taking a call

Emily being Italian and taking a call

I have a young friend in Milan serving with Youth With A Mission (YWAM). I first met Emily in Budapest when I taught at a week-long YWAM DTS. At first I thought of Emily as just one more of the sixteen or so young people in the building. Then on the first Monday it was Emily’s turn to prepare lunch and after the morning sessions we all made our way upstairs to the kitchen where Emily was making fresh tomato sauce, listening to Andre Bocelli and stirring a huge pot of spaghetti with a wooden spoon. I thought, this girl is in Budapest but she has an undeniable Italian heart and as we got better acquainted this became clear. Since that time, more than five years ago, I have stayed up with her.

I do listen, see.

I do listen, see.

It turned out that I eventually connected Emily with other missionary friends in Italy the Dilles where she stayed for a while. Now we have other friends in common so it was quite unsurprising for her to get a text message from me asking, “What are you doing tomorrow? Do you want to go up to Lake Como for lunch?” This is the kind of invitation that a young, poor missionary could hardly resist and so the answer came back quickly and arrangements were made to meet at the train the next morning at 8.

ThougIMG_1952h Como is a must destination, in all the many times I had been in Italy I had never gone. We spent a couple of hours walking then stopped and had lunch overlooking the lake on an unimaginably perfect day.

IMG_1949The conversation mostly centered around outreach methodology and the nasty subject of raising support.

 

IMG_1963It was a terrific time and later that evening after she did her English outreach class we went to Restorante Da Oscar where we enjoyed an amazing meal.

IMG_1964Whenever I have opportunity, I try my best to do evangelism and since Oscars is one of those places where you are squeezed up to those at the next table we became acquainted with the English speaker who was curious about us. While we worked our way through my incredible Frutti d’Mare and Emily’s Tagliatelle con Salmone in creamy pesto sauce we shared worldview with Nicola.

Treating those who could not normally afford this sort of thing to a special dinner out is one of my ministry privileges. Let me suggest that when you go on holiday abroad you find out who might be serving in that area and invite them out. Both of you will be encouraged and blessed.