Sept. 2015 Europe Report
Last week I returned from a 12-day ministry trip into the European nations of Macedonia, Belgium, and The Netherlands. If you’ve been a regular follower of these posts, you may be noticing by now that those three particular countries seem to be the most frequented places that I visit. While that was not necessarily the plan in the beginning, the complex scheduling structure of P.I. has inevitably created two sort of “go to” regions for me that include Macedonia in southern Europe, and Belgium & Holland in the northern/western part of Europe. I believe I have visited each of those regions at least a ½ dozen times in the last 2+ years!
What made this last trip unique from many of the previous trips, however, was that I had the privilege of taking a great friend with me! Chris Berry has been a friend for about 10 years, and he and his wife, Tiffany, both work at Betenbough Homes here in Lubbock. In addition to his friendship, their family is an ongoing partner with Prepare International in many ways. Their family was one of several from Betenbough Homes that traveled to Austria with P.I. in 2013 for the special Family Camp event that we hosted that summer. It was then that both Chris and I met many of the international leaders with whom P.I. ministers among the 10-12 European nations. This most recent trip provided an opportunity for Chris to reconnect with some of these leaders, as well as minister alongside me as we taught and ministered in several locations.
Our time began in Macedonia’s capital city of Skopje, a city of approximately 700,000 people, including almost 100,000 in the world’s largest concentrated center of Roma Gypsy people. In connection with church planters Sasha and Marija Vuletic, we taught on Friday night and Saturday morning in their discipleship school on the topic of “Principles of Leadership.” Immediately following the conclusion of our Saturday sessions, we hopped on a bus for a 3-4 hour ride to the southwestern edge of Macedonia near the borders of Albania and Greece to the beautiful city of Ohrid. It is here that P.I. has a longtime friend and pastor named Pali who is planning to start a ministry training and discipleship school in 2016. Chris and I went there so that I could meet him and be available to serve his ministry there for a couple of days. We attended a church that he is currently leading, and also attended an African church that he helps oversee. One of the highlights of the entire 12-day trip took place that Sunday morning, as we were able to witness the baptism of young girl named Ivana who had recently committed her life to Christ – against the wishes of her Orthodox family. Her family was not present at the baptism, but we were a part of the cloud of witnesses as she joyfully entered the waters of Lake Ohrid and publicly professed her faith!
We returned to Skopje for a day spent with Sasha, Marija, and their family before departing for The Netherlands.
We arrived mid-week into Holland to be with our friends Volkert & Karoline and their family. Volkert owns a successful fish-selling business, and his wife works in corporate risk management. They share a love of God’s Kingdom and are active in numerous ministry circles throughout Holland. While there, Chris and I attended a significant gathering of several different area ministries. Following weeks of prayer and relationship building among the different group’s leaders, this particular night was the first formal gathering of all the groups together. I cannot stress enough how significant this night was! Chris and I were in awe as 30 people came together across denominational lines to passionately worship and pray together! Volkert was overjoyed with gratitude for what the Lord is doing in his region of The Netherlands! I was asked to share something with the group, and as the Lord often “encourages” me to do, I knew when I arrived that what I had prepared was NOT the message He wanted me to deliver. It was one of what now has become many opportunities for me to stand up and trust the Holy Spirit to lead me moment by moment in the moment. The presence of the Lord was obvious, and the Lord will undoubtedly continue to use this gathering of Believers in mighty ways!
Chris and I spent the next day with Volkert and were able to see his business in full swing, and we even ate our fair share of good fish! Additionally, Volkert took us to a large vacant building on an abandoned property in his hometown. He and some of the other Christian leaders in the area have already begun negotiations to purchase this property and convert the space into a Dream Center for The Netherlands! The three of us walked around the property and prayed for the favor of the Lord to shine mightily on their group. We boldly asked the Lord to remove any obstacles in the way of this group coming together and obtaining the property! This project could become one of the most significant Kingdom works throughout their country!
At the conclusion of our short time in Holland, we traveled to Gent, Belgium, and spent a couple of days with our friends, Robin and Kathlien and their family. Robin and his team of leaders are prayerfully working toward building a new discipleship training school in their city. Chris and I spent Saturday morning with this team, sharing on the topic of “Living By Faith.” I shared briefly that morning, but one of the true highlights of the entire 12-day trip was listening to Chris share the story of faith and testimony of their long journey of international adoption. After three years of paperwork, multiple trips, and lots of money, he and Tiffany were able to bring home their daughter, Kira, from Russia five years ago this month! Their journey is filled with many miracles and a testimony of faith that is powerful beyond words! While Prepare International has a “Living By Faith” course manual, nothing conveys the message of faith like personal testimony of miracles and supernatural personal provision. What an inspiration Chris and Tiffany are!
The following day, I was given the opportunity to preach at a church in Gent. Yet again, the message I had prepared before the trip was not the message the Lord wanted me to preach! The night before, it became clear to me that the Lord had other plans. I obediently shared a message with this church on the topic of our role in the Kingdom, and the six lessons we must learn and embrace about the part we are called to play. I was so blessed by the many people who shared with me following the service. It became clear that this particular message was a “word in due season” for so many! Thank You, Lord!
Our last night in Europe was spent with our friends, Peter and Laura, in Brussels. We were able to meet their newest child, Judah, and spend some time praying together. It was a great night together!
As usual, the return home was sweet, and my heart is full of gratitude for the part each of you plays in our family’s journey. Thank you for your prayer support and your financial partnership. We could not do this without you!
In mid-November, I will travel to Slovenia and the Czech Republic. I will be joined on this trip by my good friend, Rick Betenbough. I am already getting excited as I anticipate the testimony of what the Lord is going to do!