Trip 38 / Entry 36 / The Last Day of Mnistry

Sunday, June 8, 2014

1,300 nights on the road

Perhaps some of you wonder why I go to this trouble of writing 36 blogs over a period of seven weeks? There are a variety of reasons but probably the most important might be this, it is a way of document my missionary journey. I doubt if anyone will care once I am dead and gone but for me it is quite interesting to have this history now documented over eight years or more in some 470 small vignettes likely been missing from my bed for at least 1,300 nights over the last thirteen years so this all stretches into quite a story for a boy from small town Oklahoma and Kansas.

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Gruppo Cristiano Latino Americano

I wound up the seven weeks on the road in my home church in Europe where I have such old and good friends. This morning we had an attendance of around one hundred twenty or so in the sanctuary, so altogether, there were probably 150 in attendance when the children are added.

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This church has pretty much what it needs from parking to sanctuary and classroom space. It also has the advantage of good music and leadership. I mostly just sit back and enjoy it all until it comes my turn.

IMG_3239Today, I preached a message I have been carrying with me (something I think folks need to hear), “Disappointment with God.” What’s the meaning of disappointment? What does God have in mind by putting his people through it?

It all went well and I gave no real altar call but it almost always turns out people came for prayer for various needs and this morning two couples who happened to attend for the first time came with the intention of serving God in this church. There were several others. I love the openness of Latin people. It is so difficult to move a comfortable American by any appeal. 

 

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.

North Street Band arrives in England

Arriving at Gatwick

Arriving at Gatwick

If you’ve kept up with my blogs you will have, by now, heard of North Street Band from Perth, Ontario and my plans to bring them over for concerts in England, Italy and Slovenia. Planning and fund-raising for this took the better part of a year, so we were excited to see how things might unfold after all of the dreaming and preparation.

Pastor John and Daniel showed up at Gatwick to meet us while we waited together for the five to show up. We carefully watched people come and go until after an hour, out of the doors they came. For the young guys, this was their first international trip so they were “eyes wide open.”

After greeting and loading the mini-bus, off we went to Eltham where we would be serving Eltham Green Community Church for the next week.

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They took a day or so to bounce back from jet lag and then it was concert time. They performed three times. First, they performed in the open air on High Street with many of us handing out invitations to the concert on Friday night and Worship Party at the church on Sunday morning.

UK 09-06 to )9-25 460Eltham is tough ground. The community is riddled with social dysfunction. Many children come from broken, abusive homes. Some leave home early so there are many teenage mothers and girls living on social assistance. Public drunkenness is rampant.  Drop out rates are high and large numbers of young people are involved in delinquent activities. It is within the context of this chaos that Eltham Community Church tries to make a difference.

UK 09-06 to )9-25 541North Street went ahead as best they could and though attendance at the events were not as high as we had hoped, the band was well received everywhere they played.

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A performance hall was rented for Friday night . It was cold and raining when the band finally took the stage. This turned out to be a good event seeing that so many in the church had no idea of who the band was or the music they played.

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UK 09-06 to )9-25 673The church on Sunday morning was packed where the band played a worship concert and I preached the gospel.

Shades of “Tell It Like It Is!”

Many of our older friends will remember our early days in evangelism when we bought a Winnebago, procured a small circus tent that seated about two-hundred fifty people and traveled on the weekends from Maniwaki, Quebec to Orillia Ontario preaching the gospel from town to town and farmers field to farmers field. Those were fun but complicated days. I am older now and my life has slowed down a little – at least until last weekend.
The best we can under the prevailing circumstances.

The best we can under the prevailing circumstances.

One of the problems with teaching is that your students finally grow up, take on ministries of their own and unfortunately remember the stories that you told in the classroom. Such was the case when I got an email from Stephen Bounds on the other side of Charlotte.

Young people from Child Evangelism present the gospel.

Young people from Child Evangelism present the gospel.

Stephen and his wife Julie were in my evangelism and bible classes at Bethany some six or more years ago. They now have three children, another on the way and have lived in 17 different places since they were married. Stephen wound up overseeing the Plaza Baptist Church in the north Charlotte area dubbed with the regional distinction NO-DA (North Davidson).  NO-DA has an interesting reputation. On one side of the street you have the emmerging arts community. These folks have moved in, buying the older and at one time fashionable art-deco homes, remodeling them while on the other side of the street there remains WW II tract housing where as many as twelve or more African-Americans live with their extended families in two (rather small) bedroom homes. In effect, there are two communites in economic and cultural tension.

Here an unidentified man comes forward to get literature.

Here an unidentified man comes forward to get literature.

Stephen felt that he must do something to reach out to the surrounding neighborhoods so he invited me, Jeanne, eight  area churches and ministries like Child Evangelism Fellowship to join Plaza Baptist in a festival on their parking lot. Stephen went right ahead facing down the ominous weather forcast of rain, rain and more rain. Stephen is English so this may account for his lack of concern.  The weatherman was right. Nevertheless, the churches stood their ground and in the pouring rain continued all afternoon to preach the gospel in a variety of ways from clowning and worship groups to food and clothing give-aways to Hickory Baptist Church and their 2500 grilled wieners. In the picture below, it appears that I have had my fair share of wieners.

Preaching in the rain. Not a good day for drawing.

Preaching in the rain. Not a good day for drawing.

I did what I always have done when opportunity presents itself. I did drawings of both “Zaccheus” and then later “The Rich Young Ruler” and preached the gospel. I was once asked by a seminary professor of how I preached my last sermon. He inquired, “Was it expositional or topical?” In those days I didn’t know what those words meant so I just replied with the truth, “Loudly.” I preached “loudly” and in spite of the rain I got of attention and “Amen” agreement with what I had to say. The Baptists can be faulted for many things but one thing they are clear about, they know the old-fashioned, Bible gospel when they hear it.

Jeanne trying to stay dry.

Jeanne trying to stay dry.

I am home now, at least until Jeanne is on the mend. It was great to have her with me. Just like the old days when (it is not her calling) she went with me everywhere, supporting and encouraging. I will never take her for granted again. She has been the Lord’s “help meet” and my help mate.