One of the things that’s been firing my rockets here in Kona is the atmosphere of hope. Youth With a Mission has always attracted dreamers, and after spending these weeks among so many YWAM friends I’ve realized that my ability to dream has been severely effected by living in a post-Communist nation. Obviously that’s a problem, and I’ve already repented. But the reality is – the hopeless spirit of Communism never stops assaulting the human spirit, even when the person happens to be a Christian missionary.
To carry the Kingdom in one’s heart is to dream with God. The difference here in Kona is that people actually talk about their dreams. They tell stories of how their God-dreams are being fulfilled. Whether its providing drinkable water to African communities or beginning pre-schools in Albania, rescuing the young from sexual traffickers, or preaching the gospel to multitudes, God’s dreams are being fulfilled all around.
It turns out my nervousness about teaching long-term missionaries about the Kingdom was really unfounded. These people are just as hungry to experience the story of God as every other person I’ve met. We’ve had lively class discussions and lots of encouragement to keep on.
Praying for God’s dream: “Thy Kingdom come,
thy will be done in Earth as it is in heaven.”
Just a note to say I’ve been in Kona (Hawaii), at the University of the Nations for a full week now, and experiencing a seismic shift in the foundations of my heart. I promise to do a more thorough update later, but for the moment I choose to spend this stunning Saturday morning experiencing God in the beauty of the Island rather than sitting over my computer writing about Him.
Over the next two weeks I’ll be teaching four two-day seminars on Biblical Worldview and the Kingdom. Already, after spending this past week as a student, I’ve had to go back and rethink, (in a very good, and positive way), some of the foundational ideas in my presentations. When it comes to the Character of God and the expansiveness of the Kingdom, there seems to be no end in sight.
Our little outreach team from YWAM Constanza arrived this past Monday to serve the city, pray, share their faith, and preach the Kingdom. They’re a sweet bunch, (two Bulgarians, a Brit, and an American), and my biggest regret is that I won’t be able to spend much time with them. I leave tomorrow for Portland for a five days of counseling, followed by three weeks in Kona (Hawaii) as both a student and teacher. I’ll be attending a seminar of the Character of God, and then teaching two weeks on Biblical Worldview and the Kingdom. Naturally I’m excited about the opportunity in Kona, but sad to be leaving my Sarajevo friends again so soon. Prayers for the time would be greatly appreciated.
The Constanza team, Veska (white shirt), Lorraine (baby blue shirt), Mario (light yellow shirt with the big smile), and Leah (black shirt), with Bosnian friends Alen (stripes), Aldin (“stop” shirt), and Ahmed (beige sweater).
Last night my friend Ahmed came by for a guitar lesson. He’s one of the guys I met through the Boy’s Home, a tall, lanky twenty year old who speaks fluent English. “So”, he says, “You told me that God touched your life, and last night I was watching something on Bosnian TV about how God touches people’s lives.” It’s doubtful I used the term God “touched” me with my Muslim friend, but I wasn’t about to protest. It was too much of a welcome opening for talking about spiritual things.
As it turns out, the program featured a woman who saw the face of Jesus in a cheese sandwich, and was subsequently “changed.” At least that was Ahmed’s take on it. (And now she owns a prosperous cheese sandwich franchise. I’m not making this up.) I tried so hard not to laugh, but just couldn’t control it. Why, O God, do we Christians insist on flakiness and shooting ourselves in the foot every chance we get? The tragedy here is that apart from the few Bosnians who happen to know a missionary, almost the entire repertoire of what these people know of Protestant Christianity has been gleaned from TBN and their happy-clappy troop of televangelists. (Yes… Bosnia does have both TBN and MTV!)
In the end we had a wonderful conversation about the reality of Jesus, and the difference between Christianity’s God of love and relationship, and Allah, who’s great concern is that everyone will submit to his “religion.” I’m glad Ahmed brought the whole thing up. But my concern is for all those Bosnians who went to bed Saturday night thinking we Christians take this cheese-sandwich stuff seriously. It makes my job just a little more difficult than it already is.
On another more cheerful note, one of my dear Muslim friends blessed me the other day when I invited him to pray for our lunch. I’ve been sharing Christ with this young man for about eight years while patiently watching for signs that something may be getting through. But his prayer on Saturday went something like this: “Thank you Jesus for this food…. and for Don and for our friendship and all of your blessings. Please use this food to strengthen us in Your name, Amen.” Those words, for a Muslim, are huge. And my heart is encouraged.
I arrived home in Sarajevo late Saturday evening after an exhausting eighteen hour trip from Romania. But I’m very glad to be home.
Yesterday afternoon the Evangelical churches of Sarajevo sponsored a joint service together. (We do that several times per year. ) The congregation was smaller again, with probably about two hundred in attendance. But I came away hopeful for the first time in several years. A good chunk of our time was spent in prayer, beginning with partners, then in small groups, and finally with the whole church praying about such things as unity, leadership, evangelism, and strategy for reaching the nation.
One very sad note was added to the meeting when we prayed for the victims of the early morning fire in a downtown Sarajevo orphanage. I doubt it’ll get much coverage in the western media, but our last is that thirteen babies and infants have died with another ten or so hospitalized.
I wish I could understand why God would allow a tragedy like this to snuff out the lives of Sarajevo’s only innocent people. But along with the Virginia Tech massacre, and nearly two hundred civilians perishing in suicide bombings in one day in Iraq, I just can’t. So much of the world grieves me these days. I wish the tares were not growing alongside the kingdom that is here, and “not-yet.” But the promise remains strong in my heart that one day the Father of Jesus will remove from the good wheat all that offends.
Last night I had the extreme delight of sharing with a group fifteen teen-agers, peer-leaders in a local youth group. WOW! It was one of those experiences where I walked away shaking my head about how cool God is to let me be a part of all this. Of course I spoke about the Kingdom, and just as predictably it was a new subject for them. So they were soaking it all up like Handiwipes and asking afterwards about getting notes and attending the DTS classes for more. (How thirsty the hearts of young people for the Kingdom). Today’s class ended up with five “extra” Romanians, and we had a blast.
I’m having a blast here is Kratovo, Macedonia. We’ve got a class that includes (among others) four ex-addicts who “love much because they’ve been forgiven much.” Listening to the stories of how Jesus apprehended them for the Kingdom has been a delight to my heart. But I find their passion to grow in grace and to become history-makers is just as thrilling.
I’d had a few days last week of wrestling with the worth of all this traveling around and teaching about the Kingdom. But here in this little Macedonian village the Holy Spirit has given me a full-strength dose of encouragement. One local pastor pulled me aside yesterday to tell me how last year’s Kingdom teaching has been impacted his ministry in the local church. And to add the icing to an already sweet time, yesterday four of the students from last month’s school in Constanza Romania showed up here in Kratovo to sit in on class.
(Above is a few of the students and friends). Thanks to all of you who are praying. God is faithful. I’ll do my best to keep the simple updates coming.