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On Monday I returned from my most recent trip to Europe, and despite not feeling well physically, I returned more excited and encouraged about the work in Europe than ever before! It was my 4th opportunity to spend time with our partners in The Netherlands and Belgium, but my 1st opportunity in the tiny nation of Slovakia.
Our work here is in collaboration with a local businessman, Volkert Muijs. He is quickly becoming one of the most highly-respected Christian leaders in that nation, and currently oversees two Bible-based, Kingdom-centered leadership training schools, with plans to start more in the near future. Among the Dutch people there, he is unquestionably an apostolic leader with incredible vision and a unique ability to raise up quality leaders to carry on the work. What a blessing it is each time to stay in his home and partner with his ministry efforts! He and his wife, Karoline, have three children, and reside in the town of Eemdijk, Netherlands.
On this trip, a great friend of mine and Executive Director of birdseyeVu (www.birdseyevu.com), Rich Smith, and I were able to minister in both of the leadership training schools in The Netherlands on the topics of “The Kingdom of God” and “Hearing the Voice of God,” as well as in a local church congregation in Maarssen, Netherlands. What became more clear than ever before on this trip was the advantage we have spiritually because of the language barrier. Even though most people in Europe understand a small portion of the English language, all of the teaching & ministry we do is conducted through verbal translators. There certainly are times when that becomes somewhat of a frustration, but when visiting a training school or a church when most everything is being spoken in a different language, we are essentially forced to watch with our spiritual eyes and listen with our spiritual ears without the “distraction” of the shared language. It is a beautifully humbling experience to be able to teach, preach, and pray with people and know that God is speaking through you, and oftentimes delivering a specific message and a “word in due season” to both individuals and groups of people. While we begin the gathering times using a topical course manual, each time there is open-ended opportunities to meet prayer needs and help connect people with the heart of the Father.
Our work here is alongside a man named Marek Krajci. He and his wife have three children, and he is a part-time pediatric cardiologist who also is the founder and director of an organization in the city of Bratislava called Christians in the City. It is a highly respected non-profit entity whose focus is on unifying Christian churches & Christian business people while also practically meeting the needs of the underprivileged in that particular city. One of the initiatives of Christians in the City is a Kingdom-centered training school in which approximately 100 men & women of all ages are currently enrolled, representing almost 30 different churches! One of the attendees on Saturday is currently one of the Slovakian representatives in the EU Parliament! He drove down just to spend the day in the school. This particular school may just be one of the most fruitful and powerful connections that I have experienced in my time with Prepare International. I was continually left speechless at the quality of what’s happening there. Slovakia is geographically in the very center of Europe and is small in size, but undoubtedly will become a leader in the spiritual growth and development of Christianity throughout Europe!
Our time on Friday and Saturday in the training school involved the topic of “The Personal Life of a Leader,” in which Rich and I shared the teaching and ministry, helping define true Biblical leadership, providing helpful insight into true Kingdom marriage and family foundations, as well as the explosive power of individual character. On our final day, we were able to minister in local church congregation, which has strategically focused its leadership philosophy on using a five-fold ministry gifts approach. This passionate congregation is truly on the cutting edge of Christianity in that city!
What is the Kingdom?
As I have mentioned before, the Kingdom of God is the central theme and foundation of all that Prepare International does both in the U.S. and Europe. Jesus spoke of the Kingdom over 100 times in the New Testament! John the Baptist gave his life declaring the coming of the Kingdom (Matt. 3:1; Matt. 11). It was the first thing Jesus spoke of in the Gospel of Mark when He began His public ministry (Mark 1:14), and it was also the primary thing he spoke of when He resurrected and was on the earth for 40 days (Acts 1:3). In the Old Testament, we see King David intentionally leading the Jewish people in a different and unique way, often referring to his “kingdom.” Scripture study proves to us that King David’s kingdom was a type and picture of the coming Kingdom of Jesus on the earth. In places such as Psalm 22 we see clear evidence that King David had a clear understanding and vision of the earthly ministry of Jesus, and he even writes about “the Kingdom of the Lord.” What’s even more amazing is that Jesus brought the Kingdom of Heaven to earth when He arrived, but He didn’t take it with Him when He ascended to Heaven! It is here! Acts 28:30-31 tells us that Paul spent “two whole years…preaching the Kingdom of God, and teaching those things which concern the Lord Jesus Christ with all confidence, no one forbidding him.”
In summary, the Kingdom of God was established when Jesus walked on the earth, and its benefits, promises, and culture are still available to ALL of us today. We are sons and daughters of the King, and Scripture tells us that He has placed the Spirit of His Son into our hearts if we have received the adoption. The Kingdom didn’t leave! Yes, it is fully established in Heaven now, but it is also available on earth now! It’s why Jesus taught His disciples to pray, “Your Kingdom come, Your will be done, on earth as it is in Heaven.”
The Kingdom of Heaven has a flow – a way of life – that is opposite of the world’s flow of life. It is God’s total answer to man’s total need. It is the way things should be. It actually is the way things actually are for those who have eyes to see. Because the Kingdom was the focus of King David, Jesus, and Paul (among others), we believe that it should be the focus of our lives as well. Living in the Kingdom is possible, and hidden inside of that culture is freedom and power that simply isn’t available outside of it. I firmly believe the revelation of the Kingdom is the ingredient to the gospel that many people feel is missing in modern Christianity. It is the Gospel. It doesn’t fit inside of any church box or program. The church is simply one expression of the Kingdom. In his book The Unshakable Kingdom and the Unchanging Person, Dr. E. Stanly Jones writes that we must possess the Kingdom and the Kingdom must possess us. I am not writing this to claim that I have it figured out or that I am altogether living at a different level. That certainly is not the case. I am writing mostly as a testimony as to what I have experienced and seen. The Kingdom is here, and I want to be completely possessed by it and fully possess it!
Dana and I again express our gratitude for your faithful support and partnership with us. We welcome the opportunity to share more with you in person any time about the travels into Europe and our efforts right here in Lubbock. We are honored to have you alongside us! May His Kingdom come!
Recently, I had the opportunity to re-connect with a young man from years gone by who is preparing to get married soon. He has realized, however, that there are a few “obstacles” in his path that must be addressed between now and his wedding day. As many of us are so easily tempted to do, he is discovering that the same flesh that created these obstacles cannot be the force by which those obstacles will be removed. It MUST be a Holy Spirit-led, flesh-less battle fought in the trenches of humility, repentance, and submission. To most, this concept simply does not make sense.
In the book of Matthew, we read the strange exchange between Jesus and an imprisoned John the Baptist. This very man had spent the majority of his life embracing his call to prepare the way of the Lord, and now that He has arrived and begun His public ministry, he finds himself on lock down in a prison cell. Some reward, huh?! This certainly does not make sense.
Jewish scholars help us understand that this exchange between Jesus and John was a public confirmation that John’s earthly ministry was completed, and that his last days would indeed be spent in prison. It’s hard to fully understand, but Jesus was essentially saying, “Job well done, John! You have completed your assignment.” He had spent his days preparing the way for the Lord with his life, and now he would complete one last task – to prepare the way for Jesus’ death by his own death. Make sense? Hardly.
Chapter 11 of Matthew’s gospel then reveals to us that Jesus immediately began to address the unbelief that was so rampant in the very cities in which He had taught and performed so many miracles. It certainly does not make sense to me how one can be in the very presence of Jesus, witness mighty miracles, and then not believe. It is this concept that Jesus addressed when He said in prayer to the Father, I thank thee, O Father, Lord of Heaven and earth, because You have hidden these things from the wise and prudent, and have revealed them unto babes. (Matt. 11:25)
The wisdom the Father holds flows to us through His Son, whose very spirit we possess if we have received our position as adopted sons and daughters (see Galatians 4:4-7). This flow is the very thing that our flesh so easily corrupts and interrupts. It is why Jesus concluded this public conversation in Matthew by saying, Come unto Me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest (Matt. 11:28). According to human wisdom, it does not make sense to purposely enter the trenches of humility, repentance, and submission, but true rest and freedom only come as we enter this place.
Like my friend is experiencing right now, the obstacles our human flesh creates cannot be removed by simply trying harder. Freedom comes as a result of doing what doesn’t make sense. I am praying today that my friend (and you) will choose to enter the “senseless trenches” and experience the joy of uninterrupted flow, battles won, and obstacles removed! True rest and victory await!
As I arrived into Europe on Friday morning, I was feeling really good about the opportunities ahead. I had prepared well (so I thought) and was confident in what the Lord was going to do in our training school sessions. After teaching for over two hours Friday night and thanking the Lord for His presence and power that were evident, I found myself praying a much different prayer on Saturday. Again, I felt good about my preparation, but simply wasn’t “feeling it” that morning. I was asking myself questions such as, “Why am I here? What do I have to offer?” I did not feel ready for the task at hand.
Typically, when we don’t “feel it,” we just remove ourselves from that situation, but I didn’t have that option! It’s what I came here to do! At that point, I did all I knew to do. I cried out to the Lord for help, and prayed my oft-visited prayer on submission (I’ll share it at the end). Immediately, I experienced it – the revelation of the Miracle of His Presence. How He can take His Word delivered through a human being and cause people to know Him is truly a miracle!
I’m learning more and more these days that the words with which Paul encouraged Timothy, “Be ready in season and out of season…” has something to do with my level of preparation, but way more to do with my level of trust in His Spirit alive IN me. Do I really trust Him, or do I trust my own preparation more? Oh, how far we could carry that thought!
If we have given our lives to Jesus Christ and been born again, Scripture is very clear that there are MANY promises that follow. One of those that has been a central focus in many of the teachings I’ve been doing so far in Belgium and Holland is the promise of His Spirit. Galatians 4 tell us that we have been redeemed and adopted, and because of that, we are now sons of God! “And because you are sons, God has sent forth the spirit of His Son into your hearts, crying out, ‘Abba, Father!'” You see, we ARE sons and we DO have His Spirit alive in us! That truly is good news!
In addition to being sons (and daughters, of course), we have been given the awesome gift of an intimate relationship with Jesus Christ. In so many parts of the world such as Europe, this is such a transformational truth. Plainly stated, Christianity is not a religion. It is a Relationship. Of all the religions the world has to offer, none of them offer a true relationship. What they do offer is some type of make-believe reward for following a set of humanistic rules. For those of us adopted into the Kingdom Family, our reward is Jesus Himself and that begins now! That is even better news! He truly is our ever-present help. He has given us a new heart, and we now have the mind of Christ. These things we cannot ever earn. Instead, they are gifts as part of the Kingdom. What a great God! Inside of a relationship with Him, we can have a living encounter with THE death-risen Lord Jesus! I am blown away today more than ever by how very real this is. He is completely trustworthy. I choose to submit to Him…
Today, O Lord, I thank You that You are alive and ever-present. I choose to submit myself fully to Your leadership and lordship in my life.
I choose to submit my spirit to You, and ask that You fill me completely today with the fullness of the Holy Spirit – to overflowing! – that I will have more than enough and have something to give others. I choose to follow Your Spirit.
I choose to submit my soul to You – all of my mind & thinking, will & decisions, and emotions & reactions. I choose today not be led by any part of my soul, but will follow after the Spirit in all things.
I also choose to submit my body to You – this temple of the Holy Spirit. You paid a great price for me, and I choose today not to be led by my body. I will not let hunger, bodily pain, or ANY other physical desire be my decision-maker today. I choose to follow after the Spirit and not fulfill the lusts of the flesh.
He is the good news, and the miracle of His presence is a life-changing revelation!
Living life on mission…
As I’ve spent several days now in this country, there are some revelations that have been burning in my spirit. I’m not sure if they all are directly connected or not, but I feel a great responsibility to share what happens here – mostly because so many of the readers of this blog are partners and co-laborers with us, but also because I am quickly developing a “soap box” inside of me about testimony. I simply believe that we as Christians too often forfeit great moves of His spirit because we don’t adequately honor Him by sharing testimonies of His great faithfulness, love, and provision toward us. What if we all were diligent every day to not only SEARCH for all the ways He reveals Himself around and in us, but also SHARE what we discover? Spoken testimony prepares the environment for the miraculous! Jesus said in Luke 21:12-13, “But before all these things, they will lay their hands upon you and persecute you, delivering you up to the synagogues and prisons. You will be brought before kings and rulers for My name’s sake. But it will turn out for you as an occasion for testimony.” Did you catch that? Whether we find ourselves in a prison for our faith or not, we WILL have occasions for testimony! I just feel so compelled to do my part, so here goes:
- There is absolutely no doubt that most of the time I am in a foreign country, I find myself not only out of my comfort zone, but not even in view of it! I mean I am WAY out of my comfort zone. It is a great challenge for me, but it drives me to dependence upon Him in ways I wouldn’t experience otherwise. The thing about comfort zones is that they can easily become pockets of resistance for the Holy Spirit. Jesus made a point before His death to clearly establish the coming of His Holy Spirit, saying, “And I will pray the Father, and He shall give you another Comforter, that He may abide with you forever… I will not leave you comfortless… But when the Comforter has come, whom I will send unto you from the Father…” (John 14:16,18; 15:26) Jesus knew His departure was going to force the disciples out of the comfort zone they had experienced of His physical presence near them. They needed a Comforter to ease the lack of comfort. If there is “comfort” already present in our lives in the form of earthly things, it’s as if we are telling God that we don’t need His Comforter. Thank You, Father God, that You rejoice in our lack of comfort because it is only in those times that we can experience all that the Comforter, the Holy Spirit, can bring!
- It is so easy to look at things in a nation like this and realize how similar America is beginning to look and think, at times, that true revival is impossible. In the U.S., at least we have hundreds of thousands upon thousands of churches that MIGHT be tools of revival. Here in a nation like Macedonia, there isn’t even a thousand churches in the whole country! In his book entitled Heaven on Earth, Alan Vincent quotes his wife as saying, “You cannot prove God to be the God of the impossible until you find yourself in an impossible situation.” Lord Jesus, I believe in Your Word and the power of Your risen life. I ask You to take the impossible situations we see with our earthly eyes and transform them into a living miracle of Your presence, alive and living for You, the true and great King!”
- Because so many of the pastors and leaders that we work with here are first-generation Believers with no family history of Christianity, they all seem to live each day with a sense of urgency and focus that are far beyond the normal attitude I carry each day. The conversations among the Christian brothers and sisters here are so clearly Spirit-led and focused on the true Kingdom work at hand. Furthermore, the commitment to their prayer lives is remarkable. They exemplify the poor in spirit Jesus referred to in His very first public message, the Sermon on the Mount. “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs in the Kingdom of Heaven.” (Matt. 5) This, of course, was not primarily focused on poor from a monetary standpoint. This was meant to describe the attitude of the person who has come to the end of himself and found that he has nothing of himself. This leads to utter dependence and utter reliance upon the Lord. The poor in spirit realize they cannot buy or bargain with human currency or standards. They reveal that one of God’s primary activities is to bring us to the end of ourselves and our own strength. At THAT point, the rules of our faith change! The promise of this kind of “poor” is the living Kingdom of Heaven on earth – not just His Kingdom someday when we pass from this earth. It’s available NOW! Oh God, give me the courage to keep praying that You would wipe out my human strength so that I am “poor in spirit,” completely dependent upon Your strength. This is the place of the great miracles that we long to see and experience! I long to live in the active flow of your Kingdom!
I pray that you are encouraged to search for the testimony of God in you and around you, and that you would be filled with Kingdom courage to share what you find! May He be glorified and you be strengthened with His true strength!
Greetings from Skopje, Macedonia! Drew & I arrived here on Friday morning and were immediately off to a running start! It didn’t take long for us to experience confirmation of what we already knew about our friends, Sasha & Maria Vuletic and their family. Dana & I had the chance to spend a week with them at our family camp this past summer in Austria. Randy & Drew have known them for several years now. They are truly a family rich with God and His great love for others. Everywhere we have been we witness the magic that happens when Sasha enters a room! People are simply drawn to him. His genuine, loving approach causes others to respond positively to him. God has strategically positioned him in this capital city for great influence.
Friday evening we had our first session with the ministry training school that Sasha leads. Drew spent about 2 hours teaching on some introductory principles of the topic of “What is the Kingdom of God.” Saturday morning, we returned to teach and I had the opportunity to lead a 2-hour session in the Kingdom of God material, specifically on the topics of “When is the Kingdom, Revelations of the Kingdom in the Old Testament, and Culture of the Kingdom.” There were about 15 students of all ages in attendance, one of which was a gentleman by the name of Ramadan who lives with his family inside of the gypsy community of Skopje (more about that later.) These students have committed themselves to meeting every other weekend, eight hours at a time, over a two-year period to be trained and discipled in order to be equipped for reaching their nation and region for Christ. In the U.S., most would think this type of extensive training is unnecessary, but Sasha made a statement that really captured my attention: “It is a mistake to not know what you believe.” Because of the heavy Muslim influence here, it is absolutely necessary for Christians to know what they believe and why they believe it. I’m just about convinced that America needs to adopt this as well…
The commitment to this two-year program is a heavy one for Sasha and his family as well. They actually have two different groups going through the training (each at different points in the process). One of the two groups meets one weekend, the other on the following weekend and so forth… In order to prepare for the teachings, Sasha spends a considerable amount of his time translating materials and preparing for the presentations. Additionally, he has planted several churches, raised up the next generation of leaders, and handed them off. The church he currently pastors is only 2-3 months old and is growing!
Saturday afternoon, Drew and I traveled by bus 2 1/2 hours southeast to another Macedonian city called Kocina. This city is towards the Bulgaria border. The landscape there was fascinating to me as I was recalling all of the places in Scripture that the nation of Macedonia was mentioned. Some of the same soil in this area was walked upon by the apostles as they carried the Gospel in the years following Pentecost. I tried hard to imagine what those days were like! Seeing the sheepherders, farmers, and rows of crops was like stepping back in time. Kocina is home to another friend of P.I., whose name is Venco, a pastor of a local church there. We arrived on Saturday evening, expecting to go straight to his home. Instead, a man who didn’t speak any English picked us up and drove us to the church, where Venco was awaiting our arrival. He told us, “We have a youth meeting tonight. I will postpone my teaching so you can teach us tonight.” I looked at Drew and said, “Good luck!” At the time I was glad I could pass it off to him, but I was quickly reminded by the Holy Spirit that if I were alone on this trip, I would be the one getting ready to speak in that moment. The Bible does say to be ready in season and out! I received my on-the-spot invitation the next morning, however, when Venco asked me to stand up and give my testimony in front of the crowd just before Drew stood up to preach! Following the Saturday church service, we had a wonderful traditional Macedonian meal cooked by Venco’s wife and then we were shown to our upstairs bedroom where the temperature was a cool 40-something degrees! It was a COLD night’s rest. We had another great lunch meal before Venco drove us back to Skopje, in time for Sasha’s Sunday evening church service where Drew preached, and I again was asked on-the-spot to share something. I was ready for that invitation though!
One very amazing part about this particular trip is that our dear friends, Rick & Holly Betenbough, who had traveled this past summer with P.I. to our Austrian family camp and connected with Sasha & Maria, were here for 3 days. They were part of a business conference and spoke in several church services in Poland (where Drew & I will be heading on Thursday), and when they found out we were coming to Macedonia, they agreed to stay in Europe a few extra days and meet us here! They were with us at Sasha’s school and church in Skopje and they spent a lot of time with their family while Drew and I traveled to Kocina. The four of us shared a tiny apartment together for the weekend! For more reasons than I can even begin to type here, their friendship and partnership on this journey are a miraculous example of God’s redemption and great love. He is bigger and better than I ever imagined. He is truly amazing! God is about to radically expand their influence all over the world. They are two of the greatest Kingdom carriers I’ve ever met.
One of the most exciting things that Sasha & Maria are involved in is the local Gypsy community, in which approximately 70,000 people live (10% of the city population). Maria helped start a preschool in the gypsy community about 10 years ago. It was birthed out of one of the previous churches Sasha started, and is now an independent NGO. Every other day, the school also hosts a feeding outreach program for the children living in the community. In addition to food, they provide clothing to the children – as long as their parents agree not to sell the clothing given to their children. In this community, many parents force their children to beg on street corners to try and earn a few dollars. Despite the opportunity their children have to receive free, healthy meals several times a week, many parents would rather risk starvation for a few dollars. It truly is heartbreaking. One of the men in this community is Ramadan (the man I mentioned above). He is currently enrolled in the ministry training school that Sasha leads. His father was an Imam – a teacher and leader of Islam. In effort to try and buy influence with one of his neighbors, he bought a Christian Bible to give to them, but before he could present it to them, Ramadan picked it up and began reading it. Instantly, it began to awaken something inside of him! His father was highly critical of this and very upset, but it was too late. Shortly after, he gave his life to Jesus and began serving Him. Eventually, his father kicked him out of his home. Right up through his final days, Ramadan shared Christ with his father, and just before he passed away, his father confessed Jesus as the “real God.” He admitted that the Qur’an just had too many “holes” in it. The Word is alive!
For all of you who have made it this far in the blog, I would like to ask that you prayerfully consider joining us at some point here in Macedonia on a short-term trip. We have begun discussions with the Vuletics about helping them fulfill a great desire of theirs – to have a weekend marriage conference with both Believers and non-Believers alike! They are hungry to have couples come and help them facilitate and share throughout the weekend. In addition to that, we would have plenty of opportunity to minister in other areas and see some beautiful parts of this great country! Stay tuned for more details.
One interesting note… On the flight to Europe, I sat beside the film director of the soon-to-be-released independent film entitled “The Unbelievers.” Unfortunately, we didn’t strike up any conversation until the last 10 minutes of the flight. I told him I would watch his film, though… Google it. It definitely is an interesting project.
Thanks for your prayers! God is good!
24 – Flight hours
11 – Cities visited
6 – Airports
4 – Beds slept in
2 – Countries visited
Trains ridden – too many to count!
I am filled with gratitude and excitement as I reflect upon my “maiden voyage” with Prepare International. The Lord provided for every need and gave the perfect peace that I so desperately needed all along the way. I don’t mind traveling alone, but doing so in places I’ve never been, with people I’ve never met, and languages I don’t speak is an entirely different story! Through it all, I am fully confident that subsequent “voyages” will be characterized be a few less blind adventures. I quickly became confident in reading train schedules and following directions in multiple languages!
Once I began the second half of my trip into Belgium, the opposition to the Gospel message was quite obvious. I quickly learned that until the 1960’s, the Bible was read in well-attended Catholic churches, but was done so in Latin – which virtually no one understood. What was passed down to the following generations was anything but a desire to read the Word of God. Instead, what prevails is an “I don’t understand it, so why bother” mentality. Additionally, much like in the U.S., the scandals involving Catholic priests has become well known and any sort of Christian association is assumed to be closely connected to the lifestyles of those responsible for the scandals.
The reality of how widespread sexual molestation is spans far beyond just the Catholic Church. For so many who have suffered as victims of this awful abuse, trust has been completely broken and it has spread across generations, leaders, and families. The permeating mistrust causes difficult roadblocks for so many Christian believers seeking to spread the Good News of Jesus. Because of the heavy oppression and brokenness, many Christian leaders must establish friendship and trust with a non-Believer in order to have any success in sharing any sort of Christian message. As a result, any church growth at all is painfully slow. Most churches are stagnant at best and the vast majority of Catholic churches are emptying at a rapid pace. Those former “church goers” have altogether forfeited their affiliation with churches.
There is yet another issue complicating the basic trust issue already mentioned. Because of its storied past, the few young Christians simply don’t trust church or its leadership. The reverse is also true. Church leadership generally feel threatened by any sort of young Christian and go into defense mode to protect themselves from a “takeover” by the younger Believers – the very people in desperate need of leadership and discipleship.
Another interesting ingredient to the difficult environment in Belgium is that its history as a nation has been marked by outside rule. Other nations and governments such as Spain, Germany, and Holland have presided over its citizens for many, many years. This outside leadership structure has trickled down into the churches as well. Belgians will naturally let another lead, resulting in very few Belgians leading anything of significance. One of our P.I. partners is a pastor in Sint-Truiden, Belgium, yet he too is an outsider. He resides from South Africa but is passionate about his calling to pastor the Belgian people and raise up leadership from within. As a part of his first church here, he endured a strange situation in which a local leader in his church essentially implemented a “take over” while our friend was away for a couple of weeks. Upon his return, the church members said, “Don’t let him lead us now. He can’t lead. He’s Belgian.” Two American friends I was able to visit in Gent, Belgium, confirmed this by telling me they could only think of ONE known Belgian leading a growing church. One! All others are Americans, South Africans, or British.
Complicating the spiritual atmosphere are the educational institutions and national government. They frequently teach their students that to believe in anything spiritual shows they are weak and in need of help. In order to be strong, you believe in yourself… or so they say. This results in the growing movement known as humanism, a dangerous and difficult opposition to Christianity.
The government here is generous with its financial handouts to those in need. On one hand it’s difficult to readily identify poverty, but on the other hand, as my friend Robin said, “It’s hard to learn to trust the Lord because my government adequately provides.” Wow… let that sink in.
All in all, the work of P.I. in Europe is both well established and in need of growth. I met and taught alongside some leaders in our Belgian schools who have been a part of P.I.’s work there for over 6 years. There has been tremendous growth during that time in them, but the overall soil of their nation is still in desperate need of God’s fertility. One of the sessions I taught while at the combined retreat for both of our Belgium schools was on the topic of intercession. One of the primary goals of that particular session is to awaken the students to the truth that intercession is a gift from God available to EVERY believer. Furthermore, it is our responsibility as Christians to intercede on behalf of those around us, including our respective nations. We ended our session on this topic by spending some time crying out to God together for the nation of Belgium. The presence of the Lord was so strong and it was clear that the ground was being supernaturally tilled, watered, and fertilized. The spiritual climate of Belgium is dark and gloomy, however that day it was if things were literally changing! The students caught a glimpse of how powerful their intercession was – even though very few of them would consider themselves “intercessors” before that day. Our hope is that they embrace the gift of intercession and continue joining together to see the work of God spread throughout their nation!
The students in our European schools go through a 2-3 year training program, and many of them stay closely connected to their respective school upon graduation. I met many of these graduates and their countenance demonstrated their passion and convictions. There are virtually no opportunities for Christian believers there to receive any long-term discipleship or training. Our work is critical and we desperately need the Lord to miraculously open up new relationships, cities, and schools in order to multiply the training. The hope for Belgium is the Lord using Belgians to reach their nation! The work is underway and we need it to continue! Let’s keep up the good work together – in partnership. God is at work, and we are blessed to be a part of it!
As I’m now traveling by train from Holland to Belgium, I can reflect back on my 4 days in Holland and quickly get excited about what’s happening there! The school that Volkert is leading in Bunschoten-Spakenburg is just beginning with a new group of students that will soon realize even more how a full view of God’s Kingdom will radically affect their lives and those around them. Although I’ve only been a part of P.I. for a short time, I am starting to see more clearly how supernatural our work is and how great it is to be a part of it.
My final evening in Holland was spent traveling to Lisse with Volkert to have two final informational meetings with people interested in attending the school that will begin there this coming Saturday. There is a great church there whose lead pastor and some key leadership members came to our meeting. One of the leaders, a local attorney, and his wife carry a full spirit of Kingdom life with them! It was obvious the moment we met – despite the language barrier. Another couple, Hinne and Sondra, came from Amsterdam and we instantly connected. They were born in South America and both spoke very good English. Hinne may have been the best English-speaking person I was with the whole 4 days! He actually volunteered to sit by me in the meeting and interpret everything so that Volkert could be free to lead the entire meeting in Dutch. As we wrapped up the two meetings, the attorney, his wife, Volkert, me, Hinne and his wife all agreed, very enthusiastically, that something incredible was about to happen in this school. There was obviously a lot of “pastoring” that will need to be done with the students there, but God has assembled a remarkable team of spirit-filled Believers who are ready to spread the Kingdom message and raise up a large group of equipped men and women to radically impact the nation of Holland! The six of us circled and prayed (thankfully in English) together and I wasn’t sure if I would be able to remain standing… the presence of the Lord was incredibly strong. I was overwhelmed with gratitude to be halfway around the world participating in that moment! I believe the Lisse school can become a “launching pad” for the Kingdom of God in Holland!
As a recap of my time… I arrived very sleepy on Friday morning and was picked up by Rinus, a longtime P.I. friend. He took me to his home in Utrecht where we had some coffee and cookies together by the river behind his home. It was a peaceful place where I could have spent a LOT of time! I showered and then Rinus drove me to Bunschoten-Spakenburg where we at lunch together before arriving at Volkert and Karoline’s home in Eemdijk. That afternoon we spent together at their home and I enjoyed a great home-cooked Dutch meal.
Saturday we went into the village and I taught 3 sessions of our Kingdom of God course at the local city arts center. It didn’t take me long to re-discover the challenge of teaching through an interpreter! I had done it before, but it had been quite a while since my last experience with that. I also quickly realized how much more I must rely on the Holy Spirit to lead me in those moments. It is so easy to get frustrated with what feels like the constant start-and-stop routine. I was blessed to be with them and see the excitement they have to begin the school together. Volkert hosts the school one Saturday a month and then follows up on Tuesday evenings with them. Following the school sessions, we spent some time enjoying the village together and taking in the sights and sounds of the annual traditional day. There was singing, cooking, traditional outfits, and of course, lots of beer around us! A true Dutch experience. Volkert and I then spent the evening enjoying a nice meal together at the same local restaurant (owned by Karoline’s cousin) where Rinus and I ate together the day before.
Sunday morning we attended the local small church where Volkert and his family go each week. It was a very laid back friendly group of people who truly do love the Lord and desire to see the hand of God work mightily in their village. We enjoyed lunch together as a family on the beautiful back porch of Volkert & Karoline’s home before Volkert & I, along with Volkert Jr. and their caretaker, Christiana, went for a long bike ride throughout their village and the surrounding area. Honestly it was more like the Tour de Holland! Seriously, I’m out of shape but wasn’t about to let them know that I was absolutely worn out! The terrain in Holland is mostly flat like Lubbock, but is set apart by the huge sea all around their village. Strangely enough, their village of Eemdijk is a few feet below sea level. They have very fertile land and a lot of Holstein cattle and dairy farms! Ahh… Sulphur Springs all over again. Anyway, despite the flat ground, I was not at all in bicycling shape. We then traveled to another nearby city to attend a church whose pastor knows one of Prepare’s top leaders in Poland. Their connection has led to Volkert meeting this pastor in hopes that a school can be launched in their city as well. It was a combined service that evening for 3 separate locations of the same church. Everything about it felt like Church on the Rock, so I was pretty excited. They even sang two songs in English!
Monday, Volkert and I traveled by train into Amsterdam. Whoa… how quickly the surroundings and people change in a short distance! From cattle and open fields to tall buildings filling the skies and the smell of marijuana filling the air. Amsterdam is well known for its party life and in the middle of this day, it felt like it. A melting pot of cultures, food, and sights. Because Volkert & Karoline often travel to Turkey, he wanted me to experience Turkish food so we ate at a place called Halal Food, meaning Holy Food (beef and chicken, no pork!). I likely would have never chosen this place on my own, but hey… when in Rome! Well, actually… when in Amsterdam! We also spent about an hour on a water tour through parts of the city. May of their buildings were erected in the 1500 and 1600’s so it was quite an education for me. It was definitely a great way to see a different side of Holland.
As I’m writing this, I have managed to successfully find my way through multiple train stations en route to Belgium. Undoubtedly, this part was what stressed me the most prior to my arrival, but it has been pretty stress-free! I know now that I can tackle a train schedule in a foreign language!
My time here is almost ½ over already. It has been great! Looking forward to my time in Belgium.
Today marks the two-year anniversary of an encounter that forever changed our family. I write this post not to try and draw attention of any kind to me or my family, but to give glory to the Lord for how amazing He is and how incredible His ways are. When we follow His lead, the results are miraculous!
On August 26, 2011, Dana & I were hosting a welcome home event for a friend who had spent several months in Africa on the mission field, and I was excited to simply sit back and watch the presentation. To that point in my life, I was totally content with the career path I was on. I was using my business degree and contributing to the success of a large employee-owned organization. It was where I assumed I would stay comfortably nestled for the long haul. What happened that August night changed everything. Although I had been a Christian for many years, I had never had an experience like what took place that night.
Despite the contentment with my career, I had long wrestled with a tug at my heart caused by my experiences while participating in short-term international mission trips. My eyes had been opened by the vast needs I had seen first-hand throughout the world. Those experiences left a mark in my spirit that couldn’t be erased. As great of an impression as those experiences left in me, I seemed to always take the Road of Avoidance so that I wouldn’t have to answer all of the questions I faced… one of which was “How can I – being so insignificant – make any difference considering how big the needs are?” That night, as I felt the presence of the Lord in a tangible way, I vowed to stop avoiding all the questions and do something about them. I made a commitment right then that I refuse to do nothing when I knew He was calling me to do something and finally start making a difference in the lives of people who desperately need it. Perhaps Josh Wilson, in his music video “I Refuse,” says it best (watch it here). I had heard this song a time or two prior to that particular night, but in the days and months that followed, it became my personal anthem.
Much has happened in our lives in the last two years. Apparently God took my “I Refuse” declaration seriously! Our family has experienced all kinds of changes, emotions, and unexpected twists along our path, but we can confidently say that every step has been worth it. We have been re-made and re-positioned to give our lives to a brand new career path involving world missions efforts. All things truly do “work together for good for those who love God and are the called according to His purpose” (Romans 8:28).
On this special anniversary, I’d like to pose a few questions that have helped guide our family’s present and future path. I present them in hopes that you are encouraged and inspired to answer these and whatever other questions there are that linger in your heart. If by me asking a few questions, you are connected in a deeper way to the work He’s doing in and around you, then mission accomplished! I’d love to hear your thoughts and responses to these questions that have greatly impacted my life:
- What is it that has truly marked your soul and can’t be erased?
- What is it that both breaks your heart and makes you angry at the same time?
- What if you could truly make a difference today, and God took you seriously when you cried out in response?
- What’s the cost if you don’t respond to the tugging inside your heart? (My friend, Trevor, in New Zealand says, “Little ideas that tickle and nag and never go away… do not ignore them! For in them lie the seeds of your destiny.”)
- What if today was the day you stopped waiting for someone else to do what you were made to do?
I hope you, at least in part, have addressed these questions in one way or another in your own life. If not, it is my desire that you FULLY know that you are created to make a significant impact for the Kingdom of God! May you say NO to doing nothing and YES to doing something! May the path you take today and tomorrow be filled with purpose!
Happy Anniversary (to us),
It has been good to be here and finally meet so many of the wonderful people that Prepare International works with on an ongoing basis. Our family has enjoyed spending great time with people such as Robin & Kathleen from Belgium, Willie & Esther from Belgium, and Carlo from Croatia. Each of the families here represent key pastors and leaders in their respective countries that God is using to truly be a voice and a tool for the Kingdom of God. It has been hard for me to comprehend the fact that so many of these pastors lead either the only one or one of just a couple of Christian churches in their entire region! I am both saddened and challenged to know that in my town there are 400+ churches and yet our city is still FULL of the lost and broken. Some of the stories I’ve heard this week tell of European cities the same size as Lubbock, yet many may only have ONE church… and that one may have 40-50 people attending. Seriously?!?! Now that I’m meeting these great people first-hand, it is evident that the need to provide training, mentorship, and encouragement is greater than I ever imagined. We have been given so much and can provide so much for others if we’re just willing to say YES!
It is for that very reason that I’m more excited than ever to be a part of the training team at Prepare International. I eagerly look forward to not only continuing to spend the next few days with these great brothers and sisters in Christ, but also to the opportunities this fall to travel and teach in the training schools in Holland, Belgium, Macedonia, and Poland. I am honored to serve the cause of Christ in this way!
To all who are a part of our support team, I cannot say thank you enough! Your partnership means even more now than I can express. Thank you!! You are making it possible for the nations such as Belgium, Croatia, Hungary, Poland, and Slovenia (among others) to be won for Christ and discipled into true sons and daughters of the Kingdom!
Please take a few minutes and read the blog that we have been updating here each morning. See the faces and know that families are being encouraged, marriages are being strengthened, and the presence of the Lord is working supernaturally!
Keep praying! God is mightily at work!