August Macedonia Report
Last Friday night, Dana and I returned to Lubbock after a 10-day trip to Europe along with 15 other people connected with Betenbough Homes. As part of a unique Kingdom business approach, Betenbough Homes strategically selects multiple international and domestic mission trips each year from which their employees can choose to participate. This group that Dana and I were privileged to lead had prayerfully selected this particular Europe trip as their company mission trip of choice for this year! Needless to say, we were humbled and blessed to travel and minister alongside them.
Upon landing in Skopje, Macedonia, on July 30, we all piled into multiple passenger vans and drove almost 4 hours up into the mountains of eastern Macedonia to a beautiful hotel resort where, the following day, we welcomed 10 Macedonian married couples who had been specifically invited by our friends Sasha & Marija Vuletic (church planters and leaders of a discipleship training school). Over the course of the next two days, we spent many hours together, sharing meals and worshipping, as well as experiencing some powerful time of testimony and impartation. Dana and I, along with other couples from Betenbough took turns sharing about our marriage – the struggles, victories, and miracles. We were humbled by how encouraged the Macedonian couples were (most of whom were older than our team), and shocked when they revealed how surprised they were to learn that American marriages are NOT perfect! For many of our American team, it was the first time they had even shared about their marriages publicly. For the rest, it was definitely the first time to do so in a foreign context.
Two of the most powerful testimonies came on the last morning of the retreat. One of the Betenbough team members was actually a single woman who shared her story of waiting on God to bring her the soul mate she desires. Having experienced the divorce of her parents during her teenage years, she reminded us all of how powerful the love of the Lord is, and how faithful He is to give us all a new and fresh start in the midst of pain and difficulty. Her testimony led into powerful time of ministry as we laid hands on and prayed over the Macedonian couples.
One of our other team members, a married woman whose husband was unable to travel with us on the trip, shared about some of her struggles and victories of being married to man who does not seek the Lord as she does. This emotional story led into a time of each couple praying together, recommitting their marriage to the Lord. For some of the Macedonians, it was the first time they had ever prayed together!
At one point during the weekend, one of our team members, a photography business owner in Midland, took photos of each couple. We ended the retreat by surprising the couples and presenting them with a framed photo of themselves. We had NO IDEA how big of a blessing this would be! One of the couples (married for over 50 years) doesn’t even have a photograph of themselves together! For another couple, the only photograph they have of themselves together is a picture of their entire wedding party! I will never forget the looks on their faces and the joy that erupted when we began handing out the framed photos! What a great reminder for us to never overlook the small things.
Fence-building in the Gypsy community
Following our time in the eastern mountains, we returned to the blistering heat of Skopje and spend parts of two days helping complete the fence project that had begun months earlier when I led a Trinity School team there. As you may recall from earlier reports that I have posted, Sasha and Marija have been cultivating relationships in the highly populated Gypsy community of Skopje for many years. By beginning a basic feeding and education program for young Gypsy children, they have been able to use the Bible as the key educational tool and share the love of Jesus with the kids. For many of these children, it is the only consistent source of nutrition and love they receive. The buildings used for feeding and education are separated by an open field and had been in need of a protective fence. The TCS team (back in March) helped make and pour the concrete footing for the fence, and then this Betenbough team helped complete the project by aiding local welders and erecting the tall metal fence. This particular fence project did not take near as long as anticipated, so we creatively found some additional work we could do that just so happened to involve burning a field of weeds! (Yes, intentionally. Yes, highly dangerous. And yes, quite fun!) In addition to the fence project, we also had the privilege of being a part of the church service in Skopje for the church planted last year by Sasha and Marija.
During our time in Skopje when we were not working at the Gypsy school, our team had time to explore the food, culture, and shopping of Macedonia, and we spent some time praying together high atop a mountain overlooking the city. I don’t know what it is about Macedonia in particular, but for many of our team, it definitely got its “hooks” in their hearts. I have talked to at least a couple of them since our return, and they have said that although they can’t fully explain it, something is happening in their hearts for the Kingdom! One team member said to me, “God is moving in my heart for the church around the world!” To see people’s hearts awakened to the Kingdom impact they can make around the world music to MY ears! I sincerely wish every Believer could have the opportunity to travel and experience the Kingdom of God that is alive and active in other cultures of the world. His Kingdom is alive and its King is greater and more powerful than any of us have ever imagined!
Greece and Germany
We ended our time in Macedonia by having a day of fun at an “Aqua Park” prior to traveling a long 5 ½ hours by vans across much of northern Greece in order to catch our flight out of Thessaloniki. We had the fun opportunity to spend a short night in Munich, Germany, before beginning the rest of our journey home.
The fall months will take me back to Europe two more times. In mid-September, Chris Berry (of Betenbough Homes) and I will be traveling to Macedonia to lead a weekend on the topic of “Principles of Leadership” in the discipleship school there. We will then travel to Holland for a night of teaching/ministry, and then on to Belgium, where we will teach and minister on the topic of “Living by Faith.”
In mid-November, Rick Betenbough and I will be leading a weekend conference in Slovenia on the topic of Kingdom Business before traveling on to the Czech Republic to teach and minister and another one of the discipleship schools.
As always, Dana and I are incredibly blessed by your partnership and are privileged to represent you in the work of the Kingdom!