Trip 38 / Entry 25 / The Partners

Saturday, June 1, 2014

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The afternoon was reserved for updates from our ministry partners. Four, (one from as far away as Norway, and another from Florida), provided ministry updates on how they partner with ACCI. In actual fact ACCI has as many as thirteen contracted ministry partner organizations in a variety of locations. Two of the most important are New Life Literature of Sri Lanka and Bethany International Missions of Minneapolis, Minnesota.

Trip 38 / Entry 24 / The ACCI Gathering

Thursday to Sunday, May 28-June 1, 2014

Group Crop

IMG_3035Sometime last year I suggested that we have a get together in Italy. Mostly, I thought this would consist of about a dozen Italian workers and some of our staff members. Well, before I got this out of my mouth, Ann had it on the griddle. Within three months Ann had assembled a team of Dawn Mann and Francesco Abortivi in Italy working with her on the idea. Soon, along with about seventy others, board members, missionaries, and ministry partners,  I had an invitation to three days at Spiaggi Romea on the Adriatic coast south of Venice and near Rimmini .  Not much later I was hearing of a large number of takers so in the end we had forty-eight adults and twenty-three children registered.

Sunday morning closing service

Sunday morning closing service

IMG_2962In all, over the weekend, we had representatives from eleven nations in attendance.  On Saturday we had another twenty ministry partners in attendance. Many of these people I had not yet met so it was fun to see how much the work had grown since beginning in 2000, some fourteen years earlier. Besides the Canadian contingent where this all began, we had attendees from Belgium, France, Germany, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Norway, Slovenia, The United Kingdom, and The United States. In several respects, this was beyond my expectation! First of all, I never expected that ACCI would grow to this size and international influence.  Secondly, I never suspected that people would be this committed to the mission and future of ACCI that they would go to such trouble and expense to come together in this way.

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It was obvious to all that there was a tremendous supernatural affection that each member had for the others. From the first minute of acquaintance all seem to feel an affinity and shared purpose to advance the cause of Christ together. There was an authentic collegiality from the first day that only grew as the days went by.

If I died right now… it would have been more than enough.

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Spiaggia Romea is a beautiful resort with everything one can imagine to do. Yet, the spectacular recreational options didn’t seem to attract people. Mostly, I found people in small groups huddled around tables, getting acquainted or visiting with those they already knew.

IMG_2974The meetings were filled with engaging personal and field reports followed by guided prayer where we were able to supportively gather around our fellow workers. There were amazing words of personal encouragement and lots of tears – the kind of tears that left all feeling refreshed and filled with joy. I am not allowed to share the details and anyway, it would all just take too long but the most important thing is that our hearts were knitted together in love.

Trip 38 / Entry 23 / Spiaggia Romea

Thursday to Sunday, May 28 to June 2, 2014

Southeast of Bologna on the Adriatica

Mariela came for us at 11:30 and we packed ourselves into the car with her and her daughter Rebecca for the two and half hour ride toward the Adriatic sea coast.

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IMG_2975We drove into the gateway of this spectacular resort, got registered and went to our rooms to settle in. Before registering we began to get the bad news, there has been a spotty train strike with one of the couples having to come by taxi from Bologna 250 Euro away ($325 USD).  That wasn’t the worst news, another couple while in the IMG_2977Bologna train station, had their bags taken with their passports and money. Surprisingly, both situations were soon rectified. In fifteen years here in Italy, I have never heard of the police returning anything that was stolen or lost. Yet, they got it all back in tact within an hour. No one knows exactly how but we were thrilled to say the least!!! This is a miracle akin to Moses crossing the Red Sea.

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IMG_2993Then as for the other couple forced to pay 250 Euro for a taxi ride? Imagine? There were special donations made to The Gathering and this allowed the leadership team to reimburse those who were out because of the train strike. All in all, it didn’t turn out as bad as might be expected.

Trip 38 / Entry 23 / The Hinrich’s Team

Wednesday, May 27, 2014

Parma, Italy

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With unpredictable jet lag, we were reluctant to schedule a meet up with Ann, Luke and Wendy but by noon we were feeling up to the challenge of taking a pizza lunch with them at La Duchessa in Piazza Garibaldi.

Of course, we have done this before so it was a bit of a reunion. We chatted over pizza and prochiutto and melone  (an in season must) and then went our separate ways.

The rest of the day was spent finding me a pair of sandals and re-arranging our gear for the travel to Spiaggi Romeo some three hours away. Later in the evening I took Jeanne to Pollo Oro (Gold Chicken). This name makes almost no sense at all since there is almost nothing chicken on the menu. Their most memorable items are tomato and olive based stew with coniglio (rabbit) and torta fritta (prochuitto, ham and salami’s stuck between pieces of light deep – fat fried bread). The weather was ideal – a perfect evening and with almost no room for gelato we, nevertheless choked down a single scoop of Nocchiola each on our way back to our room and bed.

Trip 38 / Entry 22 / Collecting Jeanne

Tuesday to Thursday, May 26 – 28, 2014                            

Milan and Parma

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On Monday morning I flew from Alesund to Copanhagen and then to Milano then went to The *Best Hotel (*in name only). It is a suitable 2-Star if you only want a bed and a shower. If I had thought of it, it would have made more sense to stay at an airport hotel rather than shuttle all of the way into the city then back out again in the morning laden with baggage. It cost me twelve Euro but I left my bags in the train station while I went back out to pick up Jeanne who had traveled all night from Charlotte with the Haley family.

We made the connection and then took the shuttle back down to the central train station in Milano, and then went directly to Parma and or Bed and Breakfast at Ducale where I always stay. Giovanni was thrilled to see us and gave us a nice room on the breezy side of the hotel.

Hostaria da Beppe

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

IMG_2910 cropAfter a short rest, Jeanne felt awake enough in the evening to go for amazing risotto at da Beppe just behind our hotel. I have written about Beppe before when last October I ate there for the first time (scroll back). I told her that she just had to do this once before she died. Beppe does everything (EVERYTHING) himself. Parmeseani turn their noses up because Beppe is from Napoli but foreigners have discovered him.  Seated across from us were three tourists from England and within an hour there were at least sixteen others. In one group alone there were ten people to feed all at once.

I think there is an unspoken rule you should know about. If you eat at Beppe’s Hostaria, you must just relax. He washes every dish, sets every table up, then delivers the “liste” and takes your order. Then he goes behind the door which is posted with a clear sign “ENTRATA VIETATO” (Entrance Forbidden). There a mystery takes place. Somehow from his menu of thirty or more risotti and other items, he turns out plate after plate and delivers them to the table with lightning speed. Oh yes, and somehow he serves up the right wine with flair.

Jeanne admitted to being impressed. After devouring his specialty (ham hock – for the specialty “ossobuco di vitello da Beppe”) and a small, but perfectly grilled steak we stumbled back to our hotel three blocks  away. For more information on what people have to say, see Trip Adviser.

Trip 38 / Entry 21 / Carl and Linnea

Tuesday, May 20, 2014 Alesund, Norway

Carl and LinneaNo doubt I have complained too much about the spiritual condition of Norway (and all of Europe for that matter). But to me, (it may just be cultural personality influenced by Jente’s Law, I don’t know) but often Christians appear to hold a passive, internalized and unimposing faith. There are many exceptions, of course, like my friend Gunnar and others I have met.

One favorable and surprising thing happened in Alesund. After I settled into my hotel. I decided to take a quick orientation walk at about eleven in the morning. I followed the map but soon discovered that I had gone the wrong way so I cut through an alley that should have been a short-cut to the water front. Out of the door of an apartment building came a robust looking young man with a big beard and one of those ”outdoorsy”  looks. He was with a little, “light as a feather” blonde and this made an odd match. They started to walk in the same direction as I but both me and they came to a construction site which made it clear we could go no farther so we turned together in the same direction leaving this blind alley behind.

The fellow, in a bold “English” accent asked if I was on holiday. I told him in rather vague terms that I worked here in Europe then asked where he was from and what he did. He was South African and a surfing instructor (in a wet suit, of course). The conversation turned back to me about what I did and as I explained I saw immediate recognition sweep over his face. He went on to say that they were only up for the day but living about an hour and a half away in Volda. This is the very same small village where I am staying and doing ministry.

I decided to ask if he was a “follower of Jesus” and he was more than a little enthusiastic to make his claim to the faith.

It was a positive moment, a lily blooming in the desert! We both felt the meeting to be a divine appointment. This seemed almost an utter impossibility that on a street in Alesund, I would meet a South African believer who just happens to live in the same village where I hang my hat. I hope that my story about the Saturday night university outreaches and the conversion of Charlene spark a fire in him to come and help.

While in my room above the church on Friday morning I received a phone call from Carl asking if I’d like to get together and arrangements were immediately made to meet at the student center, Rokken in the early afternoon. There over coffee we shared testimonies and our journeys. He had quite a tale of conversion. They offered to come hear me preach on Sunday evening. I suspect we will likely stay in touch.

Trip 38 / Entry 20 / Tore’ and Siv

Tore and Siv

Tore and Siv

Tuesday to Thursday, May 20-22, 2014 / Alesund, Norway

When my friend Peter Barnes of London read on Facebook that I was going to Alesund he began connecting me to his close friends who live there.  I am always a little leery of this sort of match-making as occasionally it didn’t work out so well. The old adage, “One man’s jewelry is another man’s junk,” has proven true more than once. I have had blind date ministry connections of this nature that just didn’t click. Yet, I trusted Peter to know, after all, he has a prophetic gift so he should have some discernment about this. Soon, I was texting back and forth to Siv the arrangements to meet. Tore would come and pick me up and take me out to

IMG_2768their house for supper on Tuesday evening. We knew a lot of people in common so this broke the ice as we discussed a number of common relationships. Siv was stirring chicken Alfredo with lasagna. Eivind, a very outgoing guest completely fluent in America idiom, carried the conversation while we waited on supper. He had just returned from YWAM in Orlando. Another arrived in the doorway, a tall reddish haired fellow that looked like an athlete but assured me, he

Their place

Their place

was not. He was the older son, Ole engaged to be married to a California girl next week. Hans, at about ten was engrossed in Lego land videos so he really didn’t quite lift his head up from the IPAD but was a cute guy. It was a real family atmosphere so I can see why their house fills up on Thursday nights for worship and prayer. Many of these who come are young people who have no church background. Some suffer from fractured homes and lives so Siv has become “Mom.”

I really enjoyed all of them. The next day they continued to extend love and hospitality. They drove in to Alesund from the other side of the island and took me for a photo shoot at a wonderful  Norwegian heritage community followed by supper and conversation at their house again. This time we had grilled chicken, slathered in pesto and wrapped in bacon.

Ole, Eivind and Siv

Ole, Eivind and Siv

Tore is a success in his occupation. This meant that we talked business and mission, he having gone to Mongolia and China, places I have never been so I was interested about his experience.  This brought us to a conversation about ways in which to help missionaries through business enterprises.

I also met Siv’s sister, Tove Kristin, with I became acquainted as she drove me back later that evening.

In all, I spent  about ten hours with the Havold family and have I an invitation to return if ever in the area. This was the highlight of my two days in Alesund and to be honest the trip would have been a complete waste without meeting the South African and the Havold’s. “Take no cloak or script… “ it pretty much works though I do have cloak and script if I need it.

Trip 38 / Entry 19 / Volda, Norway

Sunday, May 18, 2014

 An amazing and hopeful story… 

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Volda Baptism 2

 

 

 

 

I flew Norwegian from Oslo-Gardemoen to Alesund and then bused to Volda about three hours away. This meant that my day would be a long one. On the way I completely re-arranged a power point which took all of that time. I arrived and was met by my friend Gunnar. After talking through the content of the evening, I saw that the power point would not likely connect so I decided to preach and this proved to be the right decision. On the same evening there would be a baptism.

This is an all too rare event but in this part of Norway where most give no thought at all to spiritual matters or eternal things here comes Charlene. Out of the blue, she calls Gunnar and says, “I was reading the Bible I see that I need to be baptized. Will you baptize me.” Gunnar asked her how this came about since he did not know her. She told her story. A CLASSIC and THE WAY IT OUGHT TO BE… “I am from South Africa. I have no particular religious background but became sick of my life, ordered a Bible from the internet, heard somewhere that I should read John, read it and the other gospels and came to believe that Jesus died for me. I gave my life to him and then decided I needed to find someone to baptize me.” I had the privilege of doing this.

On Monday morning I made my way around to some of my significant contacts from last October. I was able to see them all and received a warm welcome.

Trip 38 / Entry 18 / Oslo, Norway

Friday and Saturday, May 16-18, 2014

Friday Evening International Supper

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IMG_2487My friend Roar of Oslo came to fetch me at Smyrna Bible Institute on Friday afternoon then took with him to Oslo. On the way there he informed me that there was going to be an international dinner at 7PM and I would be speaking. If you want spontaneity, Norway is the place. I am often surprised by meetings I am slightly unprepared for. He suggested twenty minutes with translation and my mind began to frantically race trying to sort what I might be able to effectively do in so short a time. I settled on giving my abbreviated testimony.

We arrived at his house a little after five. I laid down for a few minutes and then got dressed. Off we went to enjoy a meal provided by people of thirteen nationalities. I came to discover that the MC was a Mexican “Christian” but I very quickly noticed that he was abrupt and cold to me. He failed to make eye contact at all and when it was finally time for me to speak, I saw him pacing, looking at his watch and scowling. Roar translated me and at times got so tickled that he couldn’t go on. This has happened before  on other occasions so we should probably never be put together in this capacity. He laughs at my descriptions until he cries.

I ended soon enough with what I thought was an impacting message that all, regardless of religious conviction, could grasp and enjoy without offence.  After all, it was just my story.

I thought it went well and Roar was delighted.  The next morning while waiting outside to go to the city, the Mexican fellow who occupies a small apartment on the bottom floor, came out to do the same. I wanted to build a bridge so I asked where he was from. From the minute I asked the question, I knew I had made a mistake. He complained about my message and baited me for a fight. His wife eventually came out the door apologizing for him while they went off down the street with her returning to apologize as he yelled, “We don’t like American’s or whatever you are. Go back to where you come from!”

Well, he made Muslims and Jehovah’s Witnesses seem a lot more civil. I have never been this badly treated anywhere or at anytime. It almost came to fisticuffs.  I was so shocked I said, “I don’t think you know the Lord Jesus,” and I don’t believe he possibly could unless he is dominated by the works of the flesh (carnality). More honestly, I think he is a dangerous man. I expect to be accosted by a Muslim or drunk here and there by not by one professing to being a follower of Jesus. Either this man is demonic or insane. Personally, I think he was mad with jealousy that I was invited to speak without his knowledge or approval. It’s a territorial thing.

 

Trip 38 / Entry 17 / Near Tonsberg, Norway

Saturday to Friday, May 10-16, 2014

Students at SBI 2014

Students at SBI 2014

 

Smyrna Bible Institute

I caught an Air France flight from Ljubljana to Paris and then KLM to Amsterdam and the to Sandefjord (Torp), Norway, finally arriving at 11 PM Saturday. I almost missed the flight from Amsterdam and was the last person to board after running the full length of Schiphol Airport. I was picked up by my friend, Morten Ostevik, the head administrator of Smyrna Bible Institute where I will teach 1st Corinthians to about twenty second year students for the week. I have come here every year and some times twice for the last four years and developed a good relationship with the leadership. I will preach on Sunday night in Oasen, the campus church.