I’ve written about hospitality before, and how it’s the doorway into the Kingdom. The first thing you notice about Jesus is way he honored people and welcomed them into his presence.
Last week in DaMour, Lebanon I experienced a level of hospitality deeper than anything I’ve ever seen. In a classroom of Syrian, Lebanese, Armenian, Brazilian, and American Believers, I was made to feel like a visiting dignitary. They didn’t even want me to fill my own water glass from the tap. The honor and respect these students extended to each other, along with their shiny smiles, was a compelling reflection of the Kingdom. It was my first time teaching in the Middle East, and I sure hope it won’t be the last.
Now I’m in Budapest with a happy group of American and Canadian students. I had the worst travel experience of my life on the flight from Beirut when we got diverted and then stranded in Izmir, Turkey, for ten excruciating hours. But that story will have to wait until another time. It was a maddening example of a worldview that values control over relationship, almost the exact opposite of my experience in Lebanon. And to make matters worse, the airline lost my luggage. So here I am with only the clothes on my back.
Thanks to all of you who have been praying for my Mom. She’s at home “taking it easy.”
Lets be praying for victims of the tsunami in Samoa, the earthquake in Indonesia, and now the typhoon in the Philippines. If you’re like me, it’s easy to become passive to the growing litany of tragedies in the news and to just skip over to the next article of the day. But these are priceless human beings with dreams and families and who bear the image of God. Remember, too, that organizations like World Vision, Food for the Hungry and others are already on site and asking for help.
Thanks to all my friends who took the time to leave their thoughts regarding teachers and heroes. Your insights nourished to my spirit and underscored again my need for good companions along the trails of the Kingdom.
In many ways this month in Sarajevo has been a real slugfest for me, having substantial encounters with hopelessness, depression, loneliness, and a host of other beasts. It’s never been easy to live in this city, and without the structure of a team and the focus of specific projects I obviously walked into a vulnerable situation. So you can imagine the sweetness of having this bit of interaction while Father teaches me to find deeper grace for such circumstances.
On a more positive note I’ve also had some wonderfully creative times with the Holy Spirit developing new materials on Grace and The Kingdom of God Through History. Abba seems to have used the struggles to deepen my understanding of both. On Saturday I’ll leave for two weeks in Romania where I’ll have the opportunity to put it all to use.
I’ve just returned from the most amazing four days in the fog-shrouded mountains of Bosnia with ten home-schooled missionary kids. I wasn’t sure how fourteen to seventeen year-olds would connect with worldview and the kingdom, but these guys blew me out of the water with their hunger and insight. What to say about high-school kids who ask for “more, if you’ve got it” rather than taking time for a break?
It’s as if the younger generation is perfectly attuned to their “kingdom DNA” and just waiting for something to connect the dots. God “… has set eternity in their hearts” and they’re ready to live it in ways my generation never dared to imagine.
With headlines like today’s, I’m needing a good dose of hope.
Let’s pray for Iran. The events unfolding among the brave people of that nation have the potential to be as history-shaping as the dismantling of the Berlin Wall in 1989. My Persian friends have been telling me for years how the common people of Iran detest the death-hold of the Mullahs. This could be the time of their liberation, and we don’t want to miss the opportunity to stand with them in our prayers.
The kingdom of God means setting at liberty those who are oppressed, (Luke 4:18), and each time we pray “thy kingdom come” we would do well to remember our friends who are suffering under the yoke of religious bondage.
Today I’m told the Romanian church celebrates Pentecost, and after a week in a classroom of young students ranging from orphans and illiterates to journalists and university students here in Targu Mures, (almost sounds like the original disciples!), I’ve been handed the opportunity to “preach” in a nearby Pentecostal church. Preaching isn’t something I’m especially good at, but I’m excited to see what Abba has in store. Some of the young people in this church have been students in the past, so this could be a good chance to encourage them and underscore the role of the Holy Spirit in building His Kingdom .
Tomorrow we’ll start with fresh group of students in Medias, a small town in the center of the country. My friend Zak James, from my home church in Florence, South Carolina, is with me for three weeks, and he’s been a handy helper and encouragement along the way. Thanks for whatever prayers you can spare.
Edo is a delightful older man who works the streets of Sarajevo smiling, shaking people’s hands and selling pens. He greets me like an old friend each time I see him, and invariably I buy one of his inexpensive pens whether I need it or not. (In my book he gets credit for being an entrapreneur, rather than simply begging).
Last week I bumped into him while I was out walking with Sunam and Rebekka. He was smiling, but moving a bit slower than normal. “How are you, Edo?” I asked. “Not good. I have diabetes” he answered. So we prayed for him there on the street, the kind of casual prayer where you talk to Abba as if He were standing next to you, and since we were on the street we kept it short: “God… we know you love Edo. Will you please bless him, strengthen his body, and even heal him?” And then we squeezed his hand and moved on.
A day or so later we met again on the street, grabbing a quick handshake as we passed in opposite directions. Then he turned and called after me. The doctor, it seems, gave him a good report on his insulin levels, and he was all smiles and thumbs-up wanting me to know the good news. I can’t say if whether or not Edo is healed. Diabetes isn’t the kind of thing you know right away, nor the type of thing you mess with. But he saw God take notice of him and answer a prayer for his health. It reminded me that the Kingdom comes with power, and unless we gather our courage and step out in faith we’ll never see His healing hand at work in the crowd.
Just a short note to let my friends know I’m back in Sarajevo again until May 7th. I’ve joined our outreach team from the Kona DTS, and am doing my best to balance reunions with old friends while participating in team activities.
This amazing city is always a painful reminder of what bad religion does to us, drawing circles and pitting insiders against outsiders. And then it bathes itself in rules and rituals that nurture superiority, in the end killing not only the heart, but sometimes even innocent neighbors along the way.
My mission is to point people to the true Jesus who erased the circles and welcomed the masses of sinners, tax collectors, adulterers, prostitutes, drunkards, and Samaritans. A few are receiving the news with gladness. Others continue to defend their own particular circle with a pride that says “Thank God I’m not like those people over there. I fast twice a week, pray every day, and give tithes of all I have.”
Beautiful Sarajevo reminds me of how much I detest the lies and deception that bind us with stocks and chains: lies about God, about others, about ourselves, and even lies to defend lies. Lies always kill. That’s just the way it works: they have not within themselves the nourishment to sustain life.
The truth is, I am exactly like the people I passed today on the street, hopelessly confused and living out of a trembling heart of fear – until I embrace the Truth who invaded human darkness and fought His way through to the other side.
I’m not one to talk about finances. In the fifteen years I’ve been with YWAM God has miraculously provided my needs year after year without having to write monthly support letters and doing the regular fundraising that many of my collegues are accustomed to. I wish all my missionary friends were blessed with the same kind of grace and amazing supportive friends who just seem to hear God at the proper time and contribute to my support.
But we had a financial miracle occur on campus this past week week that merits telling. The University of the Nations has not escaped the convulsions of the economy. Student enrollment is down. Giving is down, and expenses are up. April is a crucial month for us with a $600,000.00 payment due on the campus debt. So our campus leaders went to God for instructions, and His word to them was: (1) take up an offering at the regular Thursday night meeting, (a gathering of YWAMers and local friends that normally draws about five hundred people and brings in a typical offering of around $2,000.00), and (2) challenge our own people to give sacrificially before we invite anyone else to help with the need.
When Loren Cunningham, (our founder), explained the need and invited people to give towards the eight figure total, an offering of over $602,400.00 was collected! We were stunned by God’s provision.
Not long ago God spoke to an outreach team in Europe and told them to go to China with only enough money for part of their living expenses. He told them, “I will provide the remainder of it there.” So with great excitement they arrived in China and used what money they had for ministry, food and accommodations. And when and they got down to their last meal, they prayed and asked God what they should do. One of the young students began chuckling and declared, “God is telling me we’re going to ‘eat’ money.” So after a good laugh, and renewed confidence in God they went to the local bakery to buy a loaf of bread with their last remaining coins.
When they sat down around the table and cut into the bread, they found baked inside a roll of bills that was just the amount they needed for the remaining weeks of their outreach.
The point for me in these two stories is that these unsteady times will require God’s children to be actively listening for his instructions, and living generous, sacrificial lives.
A few of our students watching the breakers.
In the middle of staffing the DTS in Kona, Hawaii, I’ve taken a week off to teach in the Discipleship Training School in Colorado Springs. So this afternoon I’m looking out the window at snow flurries and enjoying a few days of brisk winter weather before I return to Kona in the morning.
The past few weeks have been full of delightful moments of watching young people learn to hear God’s voice, breaking free from fears and addictions, discovering grace, and embracing the adventure of the Kingdom. This week was summed up for me after class yesterday when eighteen year old Alex prayed “Father…. I’m so excited about your kingdom, I can’t even stand still!”
It was a special treat this week to discover that the students I had last fall had returned from their outreach just as I was arriving at the base. So I got to hear some great stories from their times in Cambodia, Thailand, India, Nepal and Morocco: of people who embraced Jesus, children who were clothed and cared for, and prostitutes who left the trade. This is the payoff I live for: seeing radical young disciples mobilized to change the world.
I’ve been negligent with this blog lately, but I’m going to try to do better – even if it’s only a short few lines. Thanks for dropping by.