Slovenia: The 14th least evangelized nation in the world.

Imagine: a nation of two million people with about 1,000 Bible believing Christians?

You can’t see Rosie but she’s there.

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.

The main piazza at night

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.

I meet some very nice people!

One of the pleasures I have is meeting interesting people of many cultures.

Unfortunately, I often spend entire days going from one “BAR” (not what you think) to another just waiting until a particular ministry appointment time or person is available to meet. Part of my work is to get to know people so I frequent coffee shops (“Bars”) in Italy and other countries. Sometimes I make a new contact but often I don’t and it’s just a way to “hang out” without having to stare at four walls all day. I get a kick out of people who imagine that I go to the beach. My work is often extremely boring and except for the language and cultural barriers,  I could just as easily be in Oklahoma as Italy.

Three hundred meters from Ducale Bed and Breakfast on Via Costinuente in Parma is the coffee shop and eatery, Caffeteria Pulciella (named after the bird not the clown). The owner and hostess Halla Margret is an opera singer who comes originally from Iceland. Her husband and co-owner, Paolo was equally as pleasant to both myself and The North Street Band.

At Pulcinella

Most often they feature classical music but after we were acquainted they invited North Street to play on Friday night and then begged them for more.

I met Halla and Paolo when I came through in late August, drew her picture and then proposed the idea of having the band perform to which she gave me an immediate “thumbs-up”.

Me with Lydia, my new “hottie.”

The main thing is this. While I sat there in their coffee shop, drinking tea and typing blogs, I observed something I had never seen before. Paolo seemed to know every old lady in the neighborhood and would, when seeing one of them hobble by, go over to the window and tap on it. Once he gained their attention, he would wave them in for coffee. Every so often he would actually leave his place behind the bar and race out to get them. One doesn’t see this sort of thing often (especially in Italy) and it caught my attention so I wanted to tell you about it.

North Street Band become “buskers” in Parma, Italy…

Francesco had this idea that we should go out on the street, where the people were, do some music and then hand-out invitations to the Friday night concert. To be honest, we weren’t too sure about this. I had my doubts because when I have tried to hand out invites or tracts, I have been thoroughly turned aside. I think this partly has to do with my being a foreigner and people thinking that, something I might give them would be in English and therefore irrelevant. Nevertheless, since we are guests and committed to supporting the ground team, we decided to try it. At two in the afternoon on Thursday we met on Via Farini, an area where many small cafes reach off of the curb and into the streets under large canopies of umbrellas. Usually at lunch (12:30 to 3:30) hundreds of young Italians sit and stand having their glass of wine, beer along with a Panini or slice of pizza. Regrettably, on this day it was unusually quiet with less than thirty percent of what might normally be expected. In spite of this discouragement, Fred, Joel and Asher struck up the Johnny Cash tune, “Grey Stone Chapel” which arrested people in mid- bite or mid-sip. No one expected to hear what they were getting. While the band went from song to song we (Dave Tysoe, the drummer and I) as well as others handed out invitations to Friday nights’ concert at Teatro Toscanini.

Usually, almost all street ministry is unproductive and often counter-productive accomplishing the opposite of what you hope for. In this instance, this was not the case with people eagerly taking our invitational cards. On several occasions I had conversations with English speakers who expressed their appreciation for the sound and skill. When I told them what we were up to, several said they’d come and many of those promises were fulfilled. About fifteen people at the concert were people we met on Farini and Cavour Streets in the center of Parma. Poor Asher had to drag a double-  base from place to place but it proved to be well worth the effort.

Here, I would like to re-iterate what I have said in other places. In all of my years of street ministry in Italy, this was undoubtedly the best reception I have ever had.

Let me give a little final advice at this point. This would not have been nearly as successful with about ninety percent apparently expressing approval if the band had been less than terrific. This is one of the problems with American style street evangelism (mimes and music) in Italy and Europe. Americans do not yet understand that Europeans are culturally sophisticated and will not tolerate mimes that feature tee-shirts turned inside out as costumes and card board boxes with hearts painted on the side as props.

As important as the audience and message might be, we must buy credibility by doing our best at what we do. Any audience must have some reason to listen to us share our story. Europeans are suspicious of the Church, “Christianity” and religion. They come into the conversation already having a bad taste in their mouths. Creating confidence is the big challenge and few will care about the message unless the messenger is credible.

Dinner at VIKALINKA

UK 09-06 to )9-25 678One of our missionaries, Julia Frey, is an amazing cook! You can read her food blog at www.vikalinka.com.  She likes to serve me new dishes when I come for a visit but this night she indulged me by serving something I’d had before… and loved.  Jeanne and I showed up for dinner and enjoyed her unforgettable French chicken dish.

UK 09-06 to )9-25 681Brad and Julia have cute kids, Mitchell and Vika (Brad is Canadian and Julia is Russian). I do, however, think they are slightly spoiled to good cooking; they paid little attention to her creations until dessert was served. Her fruit tarts were pretty amazing, though.

During the evening we enjoyed catching up on their lives and praying together for their ministry future.

Our ministry week at Camp IAWAH

This is a classic Canadians at the lake image

Jeanne and I have a long and happy history with Camp IAWAH (In All Ways Acknowledge Him) near Westport. About twenty or more years ago, they provided a Monday retreat for Jeanne and I. On their days off, many pastors would wind up getting away from the office and the phone by going to the local mall and sitting there watching shoppers. It was their idea of a break and place to “hide-out” so to speak.

In those days, our close friends Ken and Linda were pastoring in Kingston and Camp IAWAH fell “smack-dab” between us and them. For this reason we would sometimes meet and walk around the two-hundred acre campsite talking about our issues and praying through them. If I remember, IAWAH never charged us anything. This left us with fond memories of the place and great appreciation.

I was surprised then when Jeff, the Director got hold of me with an invitation to be their Family (Splash) Camp speaker. At first it all seemed to be a long shot because it was in Canada from July 27 to August 4 and I was on my way to Europe on August 12 so it all appeared to be rather logistically tight. As I played with the details we became more inclined toward saying, “Yes.”

We arrived from Ottawa on a hot (as it turned out every day was hot) Sunday afternoon and after meeting forty or more adult campers and their families we settled into a week of morning meetings. I appreciate how they do things at IAWAH. They don’t wear people out with meetings. I have been to “FAMILY” camps where he was a hard run to make it to all of the meetings. In many camps every day there are three meetings – mornings, afternoons and evenings. People have little “family” time and leave more exhausted than when they arrived. They have a great time for the kids provided by the many volunteer young people who work there in the summers. This takes a further load off of the parents so they can relax and enjoy themselves. Many of those who attend do so every year so strong relationships have been established.

It was fun to run into Tim P. who the last time I saw him was only sixteen. Now he is in his forties, a businessman and one of the camp directors. I am pretty certain that he is no kind of fisherman but he did tell me that he landed a nine foot sturgeon in the Frazer River. This is an enviable accomplishment even for people who know how to fish let alone those who know nothing of the sport. When I bragged to him about my comparatively “puny” conquests he decided to take me out to see what I could do. In forty minutes of water time I landed the largest sunfish, the largest Rock Bass and a rather impressive small mouth bass hooked at about thirty yards away and enough distance to see him break water three times. There’s nothing like a small mouth fight. Pound for pound they turn out to be one of the most formidable opponents of the fresh water category.

Fishing with Jerry N. and Mark P. …

On one of the mornings I drove out to White Lake with Jerry N.. There in Packenham we met Mark P. for breakfast and then out to the cottage where we launched for a morning of bass fishing. Frankly, we’re never sure how this might turn out but the truth is, White Lake

All Large Mouth

has rarely disappointed me. Such was the case today as the three of us landed about ten keepers before 1 in the afternoon. When cleaning fish the trick is to act incompetent. This will mean that Jerry and Mark will take over which they did. In the end I took back to Jeanne and the skillet about three pounds of dressed largemouth bass.

Just several days before a violent storm blew across the lake knocking down huge pines and demolishing a number of cottages on the north shore.

Here’s a photo of some of the damage it caused.

Ministry in Hyde Park, Richmond

When I was last here in May a few of us met to think about a series of outreach events in Richmond, Ontario. I was invited to be the speaker at one of first meetings in the series and so I did.

 

It was incredibly hot on this Sunday afternoon and almost nowhere to hide in the shade. The event was planned around a group of about fifty school aged children and their mothers. All of the kids were African immigrant-refugees marshaled together by a local pastor. Since this community is designed for retired and independent living we had another forty in attendance so it all made for a good congregation. The children sang about ten songs and then I offered my twenty minute message to what seemed to be a good reception.

The Garden Party

Wood-fired pizza making

About a month ago (See an earlier blog) we were hosted by Elvira and Gustavo, Italian-Canadian friends in Ottawa. At that time they invited other guests, Charles and Diana. We weren’t told ahead of time but Charles turned out to be, amchievements, a Cordon Bleu trained chef with an entire area in the basement of his home devoted to what else, cooking and baking. That’s not all they have donated to cooking and baking. We arrived to a first class evening as they had manicured and decorated the entire backyard set-up to entertain about eighty people for dinner. In a sense, we were the “party crashers” as we knew none of the others except Elvira, Gustavo and the hosting couple.

Nevertheless, we were treated royally and met some very nice people through the course of the evening or should I say “courses of the evening.” Charles began all of us around his pizza oven handing each a ball of dough with instructions on how to make our own authentic, wood-fired, thin-crusted pizza. You can imagine that we enjoyed this event and then went on to just things as salmon, beef, home-made breads, salads, and a scrumptious whipped potato item. The weather was ideal and the setting splendid. Everyone should do something like this in their lifetime.

Chris from Ljubljana visits in the US and Canada

Chris and The North Street Band in Perth, Ontario

Perth on the Tay

Chris called from Atlanta and said that he was in the country and on the way to Virginia and wondered if we had a bed. It’s always great to have missionaries stay with us when passing through. I am always his guest when in Ljubljana so it’s nice to return the favor now and then.

He only managed to stay a day before he was in the car, roaring off across America for a month. He had just come from New Zealand and Australia. Since he was also headed to Canada we made arrangements to meet up in Ottawa for a few days.

On July sixteenth he called to say he had arrived so we spent a few days showing him Ottawa and the area. This meant that on Saturday we attended North Streets concert at the Perth Folk Music Festival.

I’ll be showing up on his doorstep on August 13 so we’ll see each other some this year.

Here are a few pictures of North Street Band who come to Europe in September and October.

Alysha, our grand daughter in Ottawa

With Alysha at Chapel Ridge

A lovely and unexpected connection. Our granddaughter, Alysha is now more than eighteen years of age, finished with high school and on her way to college. We don’t always have the privilege of seeing the Hedrick family of Thunder Bay. This means that Alysha has done some serious growing up since the last time we visited Thunder Bay several years ago.

Every year she makes her way to Ottawa where she stays a couple of weeks with her other grandparents, Pete and Pauline. It turned out that this time we were in town at the same time so we managed to have a couple of visits. Here we are at Chapel Ridge Free Methodist Church. See what I mean? Alysha has grown up.