A Dutch Gift / The Canadian Tulip Festival, Ottawa

Tulips! Tulips! Tulips!

Queen Beatrix

During World War II Princess Juliana of Holland was sent to Canada for refuge and safety with her two daughters. Here she lived with two-year-old Beatrix, now Queen of The Netherlands, until its liberation by Canadian troops.

Since that time Canada and Holland have had a close bond. As a way of expressing its gratitude, Holland continues to send millions of brilliantly colored tulips to Canada each year.

They line the Parkway around Dow’s Lake, where our dear friends Bud and Deb Narraway took us for a walk after a lunch of enchiladas at The Lone Star Cafe. Though we came around at the very end of the tulip season, there remained many different varieties in every possible color and combination. Bud and Debbie became Christians around the same time as we did, and our lives have been intertwined ever since. We had lots to catch up on and much to rejoice in as we remembered God’s faithfulness to us, our children, and grandchildren.

Men’s Retreat at Parco Cento Laghi

On Friday afternoon we piled into cars and took the one hour or so drive from Parma up into the mountains to an area called One-Hundred Lakes. Actually, we were quite high (3,000 meters) with a five hour hike taking the almost twenty men up to the summit (I slept!!!) to Lago Santo in the rain. I am told that it is beautiful once you make it that far. I suppose I’ll never know if this is true or not. I was, however, very impressed with the size of the trees and the immensity of the forest all around me. I just don’t think of Italy in this way.

The lodge.

The lodge.

Anyway, we booked into the facility and got settled into our rooms in the lodge on the hillside. I was in room with four others, Mattieu, Ivo and Francesco.

Ivo

Ivo

 

 

 

 

There was only one problem person, Ivo who didn’t snore but wanted to stay up all night praying so he went in and out of the room and his bunk at various intervals, taking the night watches that no one signed up for. I prefer to stay with people who aren’t very spirtual : ). 

I had four ninty minute (with translation) presentations beginning on Friday evening and going until Sunday morning. Normally, preaching this much is not a problem. Preaching is just four distinct messages on whatever you feel led to talk on. Conferences are different. First of all, they have to be crafted to a specific theme (in the case, Ambassadors and Men) so finding something that scratches their itch isn’t all that easy.

The guys standing in front of the dining hall.

The guys standing in front of the dining hall.

We started later than planned (What’s different about this? It’s Italy for goodness sakes).

We had planned to have our first session at no later than 9PM (everything starts later in Italy and it is worse in Spain) but as it turned out we didn’t get organized until ten. By eleven most everybody was already drifting in and out of a half-witted coma. I went to bed feeling discouraged, not sure that my weeks of preparation were relevant. I slept fitfully, waking up with worry about where to go with this and uttering prayers of something like, “Oh, God…oh, God… oh, no God… What now?” Anyhow, in the morning after breakfast and sleep, and not changing a thing it seemed that things went seamlessly from Friday into the other sessions and we came away from the weekend impacted by the word and presence of God.

Gathered together for the seminars

Gathered together for the seminars

These are a great bunch of guys.

Pastor Francesco, my translator, friend and ACCI missionary

Pastor Francesco, my translator, friend and ACCI missionary

On Sunday morning another carload showed up for the morning service. They all opted to do it again in the spring and inviting others to come. The theme will be, “Strengthened by the Fire.”

Preaching Class on Wednesday Evening

Sorry, I don’t have pictures on this one.

My assignment was to speak to about ten in the Gruppo Latino Americano Cristiano, Leadership School on the subject of, “Preaching… (re:) The Preacher.” I spoke on a variety of character issues as well as pulpit demeanor and that sort of thing. My main thrust was cultivating something to say. How do we go about getting and maintaining the heart of God? What an incredible honor and trust this is and we must, when in the pulpit, “take off our shoes, for we are on Holy ground.” 

The preacher must have the courage (all of the great preachers had this quality) to preach the whole counsel of God and they must do this with humility as Ambassadors for Christ. We, as Ambassadors and representatives, must faithfully deliver the mind of God even when it is culturally unacceptable.

All authentic preachers come in the tradition of Noah, Elijah, Eziekiel, John the Baptist, Jesus, Bunyan, Tyndale, Wesley, Knox, Spurgeon, Bonhoeffer and countless others who have uncompromisingly stood against kings and tyrants.

Tuesday evening preaching to about fifty

On the same day, in the evening I was again on tap to preach to the midweek Latino service. Though raining cats and dogs outside, there was a large crowd in attendance.

latino-congregational-pics-001

Most were believers, however, there was one man who wept during the preaching so after the service I spent some time trying to find out what was going on in his heart. The first thing he wanted to know was how it was that I knew that he was particularly impacted. Perhaps it was the tears streaming down his face? Anyhow, I called Aldo over to translate and we spent a good half an hour talking to him about what the gospel is and is not. He seemed to get the message and has been back ever since.

Don’t ask me how this all happens I have no idea. All that I can tell you is that the last five or six that have been baptized in the Latino Church have not been south or central Americans at all, but Italian’s, something that was only a dream four or five years ago.

Nuncia,Francesca,Roberto and Lucca

Nuncia,Francesca,Roberto and Lucca

For instance, in May I was invited to go over to Reggio Emilia to have supper at Roberto and Nuncia’s house. They had just started coming to various events but really didn’t quite get it having been influenced by the works doctrines of Catolicism, Jehovah’s Witnesses and Seventh Day Adventicism. Well, We had a good evening wherein I presented the gospel from a variety of directions. Thursday evening, six months later, and all four have come to Christ. Francesca, age seventeen and Lucca 12 years are as intense about their faith as are their parents. Roberto will be baptized soon.

Alberto

Alberto

Then there is Alberto. He has been dating the sister of Kevin, a strong Christian. I remember when we had the pizza party last Spring (the one that costs 700 Euro). This was the first Christian event he had ever attended and he will be baptized in a few weeks! God is moving!

Aldo wrote today (Sunday) to say that two more have been baptized this morning.

To Parma, November 4-11

Finally on my way to mia casa in Europa!

Though I work with many congregations and missionary agencies, I have a home church in Europe and it is Gruppo Latino Americano Cristiano di Parma pastored by Aldo and Mariela Cerasino. Their ministry partners are also close friends, Osvaldo and Margarita, Luciano and Marilene. 

I am looking forward to seeing my church family there and also the other believers that I have come to know, like Pastor, Francesco, his wife Alessia, OM missionary Simona, missionaries Irena, Angel, Hebe and perhaps another thirty or so people in an Italian church, The Evangelical Church of Parma.

My first event was a presentation on Mormonism to the OM “Love Ishmael” Team on Tueday morning.

om-parma-fall-2008-0011

I met some wonderful believers, especially George from Miami, Matthew and Sam from Augusta, Georgia. 

Our little latino congregation has grown to an average Sunday attendance of around 120 people. They have a pile of terrific young people like, Kevin, Denny, Daniel, Fabio, Stephania, Jessica, Christian, Marieangel, Ruth, and others (too many to remember or mention by name). Their leaders, Victor (Argentinan) and Belquis (Dominican) are YWAM missionaries to the Sahara but are on leave in Parma while they have a baby (she’s here now). They have done a terrific job of discipleship.

Pastor Aldo

Pastor Aldo

Kevin

Kevin

Denny

Denny

Fabio

Fabio

Daniel

Daniel

Victor

Victor

 

         

                                                                          

 

 

Train-ing nine hours to my next gig, Ljubliana, Slovenia

I have been visiting Ljubliana

for more than a decade.       budapest-fall-2008-0961             

I first met Eugen in Costanta, Romania. He can do almost everything. He turned me on to Jango.com  Go see what I mean. This guy is incredibly informed. Speaks several languages too and completely fluent in idiomatic English. Oh, how I hate people like this. And, ehr… did I mention that he can play guitar and lead worship?

At about 11AM on Friday morning my YWAM friend, Eugen (this is the way he spells it) from Romania escorted me some five blocks to the closest train station to catch the train to Ljubliana, Slovenia. I enjoyed my time in Budapest and especially the YWAM folks. I hope to see them all again and soon.

Chris and Sabina at the Sunday morning service where I preached.

Chris and Sabina at the Sunday morning service where I preached.

Chris (at the podium) came to meet me at the train and from there we went to our regular restaurant just down the street from the church where I have a room. I finally parted company with Chris and went to bed at about midnight. Tomorrow morning, I am told, Chris intends to have coffee with me and then watch the rugby match between Australia and his home country, New Zealand. Chris was formerly a professional player and so only on this one occasion does his nationalism show up. To be honest, I am happy to have some privacy where I can read and study prepping up for the heavy schedule of teaching and preaching in Parma. I spent the morning reading.

Sabina, Chris’ wife was away in the north (Murska Sobota) visiting her mother and would be back in the evening. During the rest of the day, I saw old friends, Roc and Igor who hung around a bit and visited. I really like these guys and others like them who face the cultural headwinds head on.

On Sunday morning preached as I always do when I am in Ljubliana. Sabaina translated for me and I had great liberty to preach the gospel to about eighty people.

Sunday morning was pretty full.

Sunday morning was pretty full.

ljublijana-fall-2008-005

When I gave the invitation a young Slovenian woman indicated that she wanted to recieve Christ. After the service I spoke to her and learned that she could speak some English so I tried to see if she understood her commitment. Sometimes we just have to wait and see.

Hungarian Gouash… Wow!

How it looks from the top. It didn't look anywhere near as good twenty minutes following this photograph.

How it looks from the top.

Our hostess, Gabbi with her famous Gouash!
Our hostess, Gabbi with her famous Gouash!

During a week of teaching every morning, it’s always nice to get out into a home for supper. Guyla and Gabbi, Hungarian’s who returned from Australia to work among the gypsies invited me along with Vane (Macedonia) and Edith (Poland) and another YWAM guest Emily Saylor (who like me has a heart for Italy) to have a home cooked, Hungarian meal. We sat aound eating delicious food and sharing stories. Vane told his spell binding conversion story while Guyla and Gabbi shared how they were called from comfortable lives in Australia (Guyla left communism as a young man and struggled to get a fresh start on the other side of the world only to be called back) to serve a very difficult people group.

Here are a few fellowship and food  pics of the evening.

Crowded around,Vane, Guyla,Edith,Gabbi and Emily

Crowded around,Vane, Guyla,Edith,Gabbi and Emily

Mid-week outreach service in the YWAM coffee house

About Twenty-five or so came…

When they are finished, it will be a large, first class meeting place right on the street level with big windows and a lovely, classic interior. For now they have completed the basement and turned it into a cavernous wine cellar coffee shop.

The Wednesday "Community Night" gathering.

 

To be honest, I can’t say that it went all that well. I had a translator but somehow a few people began to laugh when It appeared to them that I was saying that Jesus was not sexy, when I was actually trying to explain that he was not a “sexist”, a word that the translator might not have heard before.

Then, when I tried to straighten it all out it seemed as though I was saying that he wasn’t particularly preferring one sex over another which brought about another misfortunate case of mis-communication. What a fix I was in and finally went on with what I could.

I was blessed when on the way home one of the missionaries, a lady from Asheville, North Carolina came upon a group of homeless men sleeping on the floor of the underground Metro station. She stopped and it was clear that her stopping was not for our benefit. They were excited to see her and knew her by name with fresh introductions all around. I loved the fact that this was something that she had already cultivated previously and was her natural inclination to treat these men with dignity. I love this kind of evangelism. It is simply what all Christian’s should be doing as they go about living.

Calvary Chapel in Budapest

Not everthing is hopeless and depressing…

budapest-fall-2008-083On Sunday I was taken to the center of Budapest where one of the most successful churches in Europe gather. The Calvary Chapel church meets in an old theatre with more than a thousand people attending each Sunday. I took in the main service and was one of five hundred in attendance. There are four weekend services in all and most of those attending were under the age of 35 years.

Sunday morning service at the 1,500 person Budapest Calvary Chapel

Sunday morning service at the 1,500 person Budapest Calvary Chapel

Anita Lazi
Anita Lazi

Ever heard the expression, “It’s a small world.” ? Well, it is. While I was trying to get a couple of these photographs a girl seemed overly excited about me. This never happens in real life so I paid immediate attention and there she was, one of my former Bethany students, Hungarian, Anita Lazi. I’m sure people wondered why I was being hugged by this woman. It was fun to see her again and learn that she goes on with Jesus and ministry.

 Later, following the service, I spoke to Pastor Phil Metzger.

Calvary Chapel Pastor, Phil Metzger
Calvary Chapel Pastor, Phil Metzger

I had email visited with him on previous occasions and surprise to me he remembered our conversations so he (perhaps he felt obligated) asked if I would consider teaching at their Hungarian Bible college. I hope to do it but as it stands now, my schedule is pretty filled up. Lord willing, we’ll make room!

Two guys that make a difference

Let me introduce you to Sam and Teli

(Teli…That’s the way a guy from Nottingham pronounces Terry)

I first met Sam and Terry coming across a Budapest park in the late dusk of Saturday evening. Terry was laughin’ as they walked briskly through the leaves. Teli (Terry) had on a fish shaped, multi-colored “Jesus” logo ballcap and under his open jacket a slogan bearing t-shirt, “Body Piercing Saved My Life.”

Sam from Alabama on the left and Teli (Terry) on the right.

Sam from Alabama on the left and Teli (Terry) on the right.

I stopped them, “Are you Christian’s,” I asked. Terry answered right away, “Yep, we sure are, are ye?” I’m sure glad that I could answer in the affirmative or he would have been immediately launched into, “The Four Spirtual Laws.”

We need more Teli’s and Sam’s, there just aren’t enough of them. Matter of fact, when was it that any stranger ever attempted to share the gospel with you (or you with them)? In my experience of sixty plus years and much of it lived in the Bible belt, I have had less than three occasions (outside of the church walls) when anyone attempted to reach me with the Gospel.

This was my first encounter with 67 year old Terry and his friend Sam (I figure him for a fifty something) from Alabama, a blues guitar player that has spent most of his adult life traveling and doing evangelism in a host of different countries. As both he and I, came from the same cultural and theological roots I understood him from head to toe. I think that we were brothers separated at birth.  

Tatooed up and down his arms Terry was a British military man and prize fighter. With a tough Popeye exterior, he has a heart as soft as putty. I immediately loved them both and learned so much from them about loving Jesus and others in His name. You’d do yourself a favor just to meet them. I’m not the same. 

You should hear Sam express the love of God.