Trip 38 / Entry 24 / The ACCI Gathering

Thursday to Sunday, May 28-June 1, 2014

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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 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.

“Lord willing…” Ministry and Health PRAYER UPDATE

029HEALTH…

This coming Friday I will go see my surgeon, Dr. Ganem who, after meeting with me, will conspire with his Oncologist friend, Dr. Haake about what to do to me next. Last March 19th., I underwent bladder surgery and came out of that one pleased that there was no cut, blood or pain. I would doubt if he really did anything at all except for the fact that his promise held good, “I can stand next to a twenty year Marine who just downed three beers and put him to shame.” So after almost four months of recuperation they are ready to insert fifty to eighty little radiation seeds into my prostate. Once this is done I am told that for four months I should not allow pregnant women, animals  or small children to sit on my lap. This I am happy to do and will not turn out to be too much of a loss since I can’t remember ever having pregnant women sit on my lap. This is pretty much holds true of small animals and babies as well.

Here’s how you can pray.

1.   Pray that they will be able to perform this procedure. This is the most non-invasive method for someone of my age. Here’s the problem. Unlike most older men, my prostate is smaller and in order to do this trick, there is a certain size requirement. Pray that I’ll measure up.

2.   Next, it takes a while to fry the prostate, killing the cancer in the process. There is no immediate indication regarding the “lifestyle issues” that might follow. As you can imagine there could be a number of inconveniences for one who travels as much as I do. Pray that I’ll be “good to go” in mid-September.

MINISTRY…

EUROPE…

My current plan is to head to Germany on September 15. From there I will go to Slovenia, Italy and finally Norway returning home on or around October 25th.

ASIA…

While in Germany I will meet up with ACCI / NLL missionaries Daniel and Irene Kort who served for five years at the NLL (New Life Literature) publishing house in Sri Lanka.We will discuss our travel arrangements for a possible visit to Sri Lanka, Thailand and China.

CENTRAL AMERICA…

My friend Scott McClelland of FX Missions suggested that we team up for a visit to Mexico and while going that far we would go on to visit friends and ministry partners in Guatemala, Belise, Honduras and Nicaragua

After initiating ACCI and seeing it grow into an international mission – after thirty-seven trips to Europe, I feel it is time for my ministry to shift into the role of Ambassador. This would mean more and varied travel with shorter stays, connecting and building relationships for ACCI in new regions of the world.

Can you help?

RECRUITING THROUGH CHURCHES, CAMPS and COLLEGES…

Should funds be available for travel, I would like to do what I can to continue to enlist new workers for ACCI and other missionary agencies. I am aware that denominations have good mechanisms for recruiting, funding and placing missionaries all over the world. Nevertheless, I have learned that many in denominational congregations are never exposed to the possibility of service abroad, Then there are the huge numbers of  independent churches that need organizations like SIM, OMF, OM YWAM and ACCI as a means of providing mission ministry options. After fifteen years, I believe ACCI does this as well as any other organization and though we are not a good fit for everyone we do make it possible for scores of people to enter the field.

If you (home meetings are incredibly effective) or your church would like for me to visit and talk about the vast opportunities available, just get in touch. If I can do it  I’ll be there.

So then, I am neither dead or retired. Your continued financial encouragement is a great help and by having enough funding, I don’t have to worry about raising funds. This leaves me free to always say, “Yes!, I’ll be there!”

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Beth Bearden’s ESL Class

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IMG_2821On several occasions Kevin, Jeanne and I have been invited to come and share with a class made up of about ten Spanish, two Italian ladies a Persian and Indian, all trying to either learn or improve their English. Beth is our pastors wife and like ourselves has a heart for the nations. On the last visit to the class, about a week ago, I invited all to our house for a party. Most have never been a guest in an American home. Some have cleaned American homes but they have never sat at the table or been a guest so this was our objective. We simply wanted to show them some hospitality. At first they appeared a little nervous but soon, once they relaxed and saw that we were just normal folks,  their cultural personalities surfaced and the  decibels went up considerably.  They brought some really great food items and we all interchangeably shared. At the end of the morning, Jeanne and I had invitations to the Italian homes which as you may know, we don’t mind one bit!

ACCI, IYT, FX Missions and Guatemala

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Last week we had visitors from Guatemala. Actually they were guests of Ecclesia of Rock Hill (Church construction company) and IYT (Invest Your Talents) a business as missions mission led by John Haley, Director ACCI. Collaborations is something we all like to do. Annually John Haley along with the Ecclesia, President, Jeff Whittle and a team comprised of volunteers comprised of a variety of churches go to Guatemala to serve a local church in a variety of projects.

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IHOP Introductory Breakfast

This was my chance to finally meet two of the leaders, Claudio and Eric who were in the city for a few days. This was also an opportunity to introduce missionary Scott McClelland of FX Missions (Ft. Mill, SC) who regularly takes teams into Mexico, central and south America. It’s always fun to meet people of the same minds and hearts and have something to do with joining them hand in hand in ministry.

Apologetics Conference with Southern Evangelical Seminary

Ga Ut Senter, Oslo (Hurdal), Norway

SES presenters

SES presenters

More than a year ago, I suggested that friends from here in Charlotte make a trip to Oslo and join the staff of Ga Ut Senter in a much needed, apologetics conference. In all about six or seven professors and students showed up to spend a weekend teaching on subjects such as “Intelligent Design” and “The Exclusiveness of Christ, Pluralism.”

Smyrna heads home

Smyrna heads home

Early Saturday morning Brad and I grabbed our gear and met about six Smyrna students for the two and half hour ride to Hurdal.  We spent the day in various, well attended lectures. At the end of the day, they drove back and Brad and stayed the night and then took a quick tour of Oslo the next day before he headed back to London in the late afternoon.

Great food!

Great food!

I remained behind for several more days staying with Roar and Lillis. Most of the time I was quarantined to my room and bed with with the stomach flu. Finally, on Thursday morning I flew back to London, spent the night in Crawley, England and took to ten o’clock flight home on Friday morning.

In ten weeks, I traveled approximately nineteen thousand miles, slept in twenty-seven beds, visited five countries (some twice), preached and taught about fifty hours. It was more trip than I should have taken on and only eternity will tell if any of this is worth the time, effort and money.

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Teaching Evangelism at Smyrna Bible Institute

A few of my students

A few of my students

At least once every year for the past five years I have spent a week or two teaching at Smyrna (Kraftskolen) near Tonsberg in southeast Norway. I usually have about ten to fifteen students in the first year class. To learn more about this scroll back through my blogs and you will find a good number of stories and photographs relating to this school.

This time I spent a week from October 7 to the 14th before going to Oslo where I would meet up with Southern Evangelical Seminary staff and students at the Ga Ut Senter where they would be presenting a seminar series on “Why Apologetics?”

Brad speaking

Brad speaking

In the meantime Brad Frey, a Canadian, ACCI missionary living in England came up to join me. While I spent a number of nights teaching and preaching, Brad joined me with testimony and teaching.

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On one evening we had, what they called, “A Bad Taste Party.” Regrettably, Andreas, my friend and Dean of men thought it a good idea to dress-up like me as an example of “bad taste.” Frankly, I think for an older gentlemen, I have fairly good taste but considering the laughter in the room upon his arrival, I am forced to reconsider some of my apparel choices. Some people can think they are in the groove when they are really in a rut.

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While at Smyrna I met a young Pakistani couple. I really liked Joel, his wife and young daughter. It was my hope to find some church that might adopt them as they are a people without a country at the moment. I’m still open to trying to locate a congregation who might adopt them. If not, they will be forced to return to a very dangerous part of the world.

Stupid me!

Kevin

Kevin

Here’s some helpful advice. It was murder trying to find a low-cost flight from Ljubljana to Oslo or thereabouts on the day I needed it. I felt a little stuck. Either I would pay a huge sum of money for a rather direct flight or travel some distance to locate a cheaper plane. Pastor Chris thought it made the most sense to just bite the bullet and take Berlin Air or some such a carrier at about five hundred and forty euro. This seemed exorbitant to me so I had Chris drive me across Slovenia to Trieste, Italy where I caught a five-hour train to Bergamo, Italy, caught another bus, took a hotel, had my supper and then flew to Torp the next morning on Ryan Air. Yes, the Ryan Air flight was around a hundred euro but if I add up the inconvenience, time, transportation, meals and hotel, it just made, in retrospect, a lot more sense to just pay the big bucks and be done with it. In all, it took more than fifteen hours of travel to get from Murska Sobota, Slovenia to Torp, Norway.

My friend Kevin came along with me and parted company with him going on to Parma from Mestre while I went on another train to north of Milano.

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I boarded the flight and before settling into my seat I noticed the young man next to me reading Sam Harris’, “The Death of Faith.” I am well aware of Sam Harris, a very aggressive and vitriolic anti-Theist. It surprised me to see a young man of this age intensely reading such a book for his entertainment. I quickly leaned over and asked him, “Are you an Atheist?” Proudly, he replied in the affirmative. He asked if I was to which I told him no and that I was his polar opposite. I then wanted to know if he was an “intellectual” or a “moral” Atheist. He didn’t get what I was driving at so this gave me opportunity to engage him in a two-hour conversation. We ended as friends. Let me just say here, this fellow knows more about the Bible and what he believes than any combined ten young Christians I know of.

Overhearing the gospel…

At the end of the flight, when I returned to my seat an older Norwegian couple seated next to me wanted to know who I was and was complimentary regarding some of the questions posed and answers given the young man.

It occurs to me that in forty-five years of adult life rarely, if ever, has anyone ever shared the gospel with me. It is my guess that almost no one tells anyone about Jesus and that’s a fact. It’s a wonder to me that anyone ever gets saved at all.

To the Austrian border and Gypsy villages…

Kevin at the Yamaha

I decided to take Kevin Ferriera, a Brazilian-Italian and up and coming young musician. Kevin had bonded with the band so I brought him along from Parma and Gruppo Cristiano Latino Americano. I thought it might be good for him to explore both music and missions so this set me back a few euros it struck me as the right thing to do though it squeezed us into Chris’ church van just a little tighter it turns out to be worth the extra baggage. Kevin is impossible to inconvenience and went along as one of the gang.

This morning we took our time getting around as most of the band was dragging after a long night of performing. By 11 we were loaded with a car stuffed with instruments and the van with people. In three hours we were in Murska Subota and sorting out our beds on the top floor of the church. At four we were expected to make our way about forty kilometers to Gypsy villages in the country.

A smattering of us and them.

Tjonska has worked with these villages for ten years and has established wonderful relationships with the families and children. In the last while, some of the Roma people have come to Christ. They, of course, welcomed us with open arms. Upon arriving I noticed a tent pitched in the middle of a small lot with young people milling around and children inside. There Tjonska was leading them in children’s songs – tunes that I recognized. This reminded me so much of my childhood when my parents would take me along as they ministered to native people in Kansas. In fact, it seemed to me that there wasn’t all much difference between the lifestyles of the two groups. Nomadic peoples are often similar.

I didn’t give this a try.

While the band set up I walked around to see several cooking pig skins on an open fire. Others were roasting chestnuts, a fall delicacy. I have eating french-fried pig skins before but this was different. These were still quite rubbery. I make it a point to eat anything that is offered to me but I felt like an Albanian on an Italian train. They attempt to ride the trains for free so they are always moving about attempting to avoid the conductor. I did the same with grilled pig flesh. When I saw a new plate arriving I made myself scarce. Honestly, this was not even enjoyable to observe people as they gnawed away and seemed to get nowhere. I have no idea how this item carries with it any appeal.

Nevertheless, this all being said, the event went well and once the band began to plan the young people, though standing a fair distance, listened carefully. The older men rarely if ever take part and delegate this religion business to the women and children but in time, they too warmed up with some entering the tent, clapping along and at the end taking New Testaments home.

One of the guys remarked that this was better than many places we play because it seemed that the Gypsies indicated they were being treated to something special. In many big cities, the band was just another band and taken for granted but rarely, if ever, does a band of this caliber venture into a Gypsy settlement as a gift from one group to another. They seemed to appreciate and we stayed longer than expected taking photographs and playing tag with the kids.

Here’s a funny note in passing. Here we were in the middle of nowhere. We can almost never get internet in our hotels but we were told, “Just turn on your Wi-Fi.” Sure enough, the world at our finger tips and with five bars. The guys also mentioned that they would like to have the sound system but would not resort to stealing these, first class JBL speakers.