Ministry, Newsletters, Travels

Balkan 2013 – trip report

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The Balkan trip last month has been good. Busy, about 8-9 hours of travelling and walking around per day, without counting meetings. But: good!
Instead of giving a (boring) day by day report I’d just like to highlight a number of things that stood out to me throughout the trip.
‘its a joining of movements’
This was a phrase the Lord spoke beforehand. Years ago I prayed often for 24-7prayer and IHOP-KC movements to be joined, and that happened in the Netherlands. This time I got to meet with people from/influenced by both streams, and in the Balkan region they are also truly starting to join together in prayer as well!
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Also, movements of justice and prayer. There is much brokenness in the region, ethnic strive (often just a little under the surface of ‘peace’) but there is also an increase (in action or longing) to see justice and prayer go hand in hand.

I felt one little thing that my travelling did was again the cross-pollination principle: because I buzzed around like a little bee, different people got more connected, reconnected, or heard about each other for the first time. Again, joining together.

Exactly the day I was in Thessaloniki a couple of people came from Athens (525 km away) to find inspiration for a house of prayer. Again: joining together.

Do not grow weary in doing good
IMG_9205Most churches in the Balkan region are very small and under pressure in various ways: finances, spiritual pressure etc. Either Islam or the Orthodox church are very strong in these countries in a cultural way, making it a huge stronghold to break through. For most people it is about their cultural identity, something that’s not easy to break with. Even in Albania, where most people do not actively follow a religion, they still technically belong to islam or orthodox christianity and may not easily become active believers of ‘another faith’.
Being there, watching the people frantically kissing icons and paying their gods and then running off to do other things on their grocery list deeply moved me. There is not much sacred about it, it looks just like Hindu’s worshiping their many gods out of duty and fear.
IMG_8789So this is not an easy environment for Christians. And even though their churches are small, still we from the West have managed to start them according to our own denominational divisions, so you may even find several 5-10 member churches in one town, all struggling to survive.
Wherever I got to join prayer meetings etc. I felt the Lord wanted me to preach or share about Hebrews 12 – look to Jesus so you won’t quit and do not grow weary of doing good. It often got straight to their hearts. Teary eyes, happy smiles, big hugs. Praise the Lord!
In one place I got to lead worship – what a blessing.
By the way, many of these churches are working together – or trying to. But unity, like anywhere else in the world, seems to be hard for us…
‘Receive’
IMG_9387IMG_9516Somewhere on the way my host who drove me from Macedonia via Kosovo to Albania had arranged to meet a Norwegian missionary who had lived there for almost two decades, through the war. Dag is an interesting man, not concerned with typical cultural ideas about good manners, but just speaking his (Gods?) mind. Grunting while praying in a quiet restaurant next to a group of business man, telling a lady at the counter that the coming time she will start feeling strange and its Jesus ambushing her, etc. It was great. I heard several people in Albania testify of how much this father-warrior means for the nations in his prayers and deep love for youth and adults alike.
Anyway, when he saw me he said ‘receive’ – God wants you to learn to receive.
Very appropriate, I am still struggling with receiving an (expensive!) trip like this one, or that someone spends three days and much money to drive me around etc.
The next thing he said: ‘You are like Philip, send on a road for a mission to the Ethiopian minister, and then suddenly when its done he is moved elsewhere for another job’. Dag didn’t know much about me – a great encouragement!
Transformation takes time, which requires vision and perseverance
IMG_8833Being in these former war zones and meeting so many people with their own stories of the wounds of ethnic division, power games, spiritual battles, father/motherlessness etc has added to the experiences of the past years. One day we were standing on a mountain overlooking Kosovo and praying and sharing. The Lord gave me some impressions about the youth that will rise up. This and other encounters have given me more insight in how it often takes decades for a people or nation to be changed. The wounded fathers and mothers may not be able to change anymore, even when they receive more healing. But their children can, and the children’s children even more. Deep hatred and prejudice takes time to be uprooted. I feel the Lord wanted to give me a picture of what signs of hope can be in a nation only 13 years after a devastating war and decades of conflict and oppression. I believe this will be very important if I am to live in eg central Africa, fifteen years back in that process. Without vision we will lose hope. It takes much to keep investing in people that seemingly don’t change their ways, knowing that their children and children’s children will be affected exponentially by every little change/improvement.
And, especially in Albania, where encouraging things are happening, I have seen once again how much love and prayer can change.
Love speaks louder…
IMG_9144One occasion that really moved me was my stay with a family in Albania. We had good conversations, but not even so much. They mostly just let me live family life with them, their three kids + three Albanian kids that basically have grown up with them these past 7 years + many other people in this poor neighborhood. As i was around them I felt deeply moved by their genuine, sacrificial love that was lived in such a normal way. I got such a longing to know Jesus more, just being with them! No wonder the Lord is moving in their midst, healing people in this Nazarene church and inspiring youth and adults to come and worship him in increasing numbers!
Well, that’s it. I felt just to share these bits from my heart. Thanks so much for praying!

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