Trip 39 / Entry 16 / DTS Friends

Saturday, September 27, 2014

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IMG_3663This is the part I most dislike. I hate the day when it is all over, I pack up again, say our goodbyes and go to the next city. It is hard to imagine the bonding that can take place in one week. It was a small group but such nice students and staff. Can I say it? Yes, these are my friends (brothers and sisters) now and though we may never see each other again on this side of glory, we have shared the divine privilege of meeting and this will make the reunion so much sweeter.

Trip 38 / Entry 15 / Kobarid, Slovenia

Saturday, May 3, 2014

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The Zelenaks and Kelleys

Later the same day we made a drive of about twenty minutes to the home of the Kelleys’, missionaries from Texas with the Southern Baptists International Missions Board. They come from Texas and have been in this area of Slovenia for eleven years, spending the first seven in Siberia. Now fully settled and mostly integrated into the community they are involved in a variety of mission activities. You can find Joe and Kim on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/TheGreatXchange/info   He describes his invitational sports ministry in the following way, “We facilitate spiritually and physically challenging and eternally rewarding volunteer mission experiences that result in a lifestyle of cross-cultural disciple making and international church planting.” 

A more specific explanation can be found at their website http://sloveniagreatexchange.com/  

IMG_2244Joe showed us his bicycle shed where he has ten or more first class mountain bikes hanging from the rafter. Then in other places you find evidences of mountain climbing, kyacking, rafting and so forth.

So how does it work?

Joe and Kim do their passion and I am always of the opinion that if we do what we are wired for, we are less likely to burn out. These Texans are avid outdoors people so they invite volunteers who share the same passion to join them in sharing the gospel through acts of service and the printed word as they encounter villagers, and others in camp grounds or along the road. More often teams of seven Christians, primarily from the United States, come to Slovenia to join Joe in a variety of sports activities which includes biking through the Alps, hiking, mountain climbing or shooting the rapids.

They are a lovely couple and because I grew up in their “neck of the woods” we had an immediate affinity. If you have an interest in this sort of experience or mission I suggest you contact them and give this a week of your time. I doubt if you will be disappointed. This is a very beautiful and inspiring corner of the world that desperately needs the gospel.

 

 

Trip 38 / Entry 14 / Kobarid, Slovenia

Saturday, May 3, 2014

Always treasure where and when you find it.

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Later we took a drive to visit a few of the friends of Andrej and Lydja’s ministry. At this point Andrej wisely doesn’t  intend to start a “church” and for good reason. This would be considered suspiciously and viewed as competitive with the Parish church. AFTER ALL, THE REFORMATION WAS STOPPED IN IT’S ADVANCE RIGHT HERE. Protestant and evangelical faith here is the doctrine of hell. He doesn’t need to contend with undue attention and criticism so he prefers to simply create a community of people who want to learn the Bible together and this approach has caused people to drive some distance to hear him teach on Friday nights.

In this group that met on Friday night were two interesting attenders I said that I would like to meet. The first of these were Maja and her father, Branko who was an atheist for most of his life. Though she didn’t give the details, it appeared that Maja was a bit of a party girl but finally came up empty and while tutoring a village lady in mathematics who inquired about her spiritual condition, she, in time, called upon the name of the Lord.

IMG_2214Maja doesn’t seem to be intimidated by much so she shared the gospel with many. Her family members were resistant but now some of them have also embraced Jesus alone for their eternity. It turned out that her dad who lived under the same roof was the most difficult but eventually surrendered to Jesus as well. Branko is now as soft as putty and whenever he mentioned his conversion or the name of Jesus, his eyes filled with tears and he has to look away. This strong, physical Yugoslav is no push over (most men in this region are real men) but now rushes to his bedside to retrieve his crumpled and well-worn prayer list of some thirty or more names.

As most of you know, I am not an advocate of a hard, fatalistic, Reform sovereignty but when one finds any believer here, it is always “a brand plucked from the fire.” The stories are always so amazing that one must admit to the sovereign reach of God. It is so very dark. The box is sealed so tightly, there is so little light but one word can punch a hole in the box and the truth is, the box is no longer pitch dark at all. The light may be dim for years until another hole comes and more light floods in but finally the entire, once dark  box, is flooded with light. Even after a person is “converted” there is much work to be done. Andrej knows that the key is the word of God and that “the entrance of His word gives light.”

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 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

These shoes have taken me thousands of miles. Today the soles fell off and I had to let them go. They proved to be reliable friends along the way.

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Slovenia, the Balkans, Norway and Italy

April 22 to June 10, 2014

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Isaiah 52:7

How beautiful upon the mountains Are the feet of him who brings good news, Who proclaims peace, Who brings glad tidings of good things, Who proclaims salvation, Who says to Zion, “Your God reigns!”

York and the Cathedral

York Cathedral

We had a great sleep and another English “Full” Breakfast. By 10:30 we were on our way to York and into the heart of the city. It was Sunday morning, but still impossible to find a spot on the street so we found a convenient parking lot near Marygate then hiked through the York Museum Gardens toward the cathedral. By now the fog had lifted and the morning was beginning to clear and sparkle in the crisp early autumn morning. The leaves were beginning to turn and fall, giving us rather memorable moments as we passed through light to shadow under the enormous trees that bordered the Ouse River along the Dame Judy Dench Walk. It was what one might  hope for the morning you make a visit to historical York.

As we pressed through the crowds already filling the sidewalks we kept our eyes fixed on the massive tower and steeple of the York Cathedral, world famous for its Gothic design. Then there it was! Suddenly at the intersection of three streets there it stood glistening in the sunlight. We walked around it trying to get a good photograph (as everyone does) and then noticed well-dressed, college-aged young adults, both men and women, at the doors handing out what appeared to be bulletins. We walked up to see if there might be a church service or perhaps we might go inside to take a look. We were told that this was, “The Battle for Britain Sunday.” It was then that we noticed well-decorated military personnel milling about in small groups  in front of the church. It was apparent that something important was taking place and that we were just a little “tacky” for the occasion. We could come back at one o’clock if we’d like to see it.

St. Michael le Belfrey

The Family in York

Soon Jeanne was discouraged enough with the reception that she went on her own toward another small building standing in the shadows of The York Cathedral. I was distracted taking photographs when she, frantically hailing me in her direction,  caught my eye. When I reached her at the steps of St. Michael le Belfrey I could hear what she was hearing, choruses that we were familiar with and robust singing coming from inside. We were graciously invited to come in and entered a pew two-thirds of the way back amid a group of about one hundred other worshipers. We enjoyed about forty-five minutes of singing and preaching before they broke for fellowship time.

“Elevenzies” at Betty’s Tea

Leaving the church we walked the crowded and narrow streets of York and eventually came across Betty’s Tea, a rather notable experience with tea and crumpets served up in grand style by girls dressed in crisp dresses and aprons. The light streaming in through the tall windows made the room dazzle and the occasion splendid. While having our tea a well-appointed, older gentleman at the next table heard our accents and introduced himself as a guide for the York Cathedral and in but a minute was bad talking the Puritans for knocking the stained glass windows out of the church in the mid-1550s. Although we wish they had never done such a thing, the fact remains one never knows who they are talking to, now does one? After visiting York Cathedral on Sunday morning, it occurs to me that most of the people who are attending church in this impressive edifice are really worshiping culture and art rather than the God of culture and art.

The shops were magnificent, especially along the street that was once essentially an outdoor slaughter house. The streets had names like “Swinegate” and “The Shambles.” These are “must see” visits. There are lots of characters so I asked one if I might snap his picture and he heartily agreed, striking for me his best pose.

So much for saying we had been to York. Now on to Chatsworth House, where the movie Pride and Prejudice was filmed.