Posts Tagged ‘Europe’

immigration mapMost Christian churches/missions organizations have followed the church growth axiom of searching for areas of receptivity to which to send and spend their resources. During the last half century, this strategy has led to a lot of people and resources going to places like East Africa (English-speaking and less Muslim) as opposed to North Africa, or places like all the former Soviet countries—at least for about a decade—until post-soviet materialism took root and the eastern peoples became less interested.

South America, especially Brazil, was a hotspot for American missions for a couple of decades, but that has settled down now as indigenous leaders emerged and no longer need the baggage that comes with American money and Christianity.

Today, China is certainly in the missions’ spotlight, though political restrictions keep people from reporting the statistics that are essential to establishing patterns of receptivity.

India continues to remain high on the list of receptive countries. The poverty and class struggle also keep it on the list for young emergent churches as well.

One of the most passionate discussions in missions centers on the vast populations of non-Christians in the 10/40 window, that is, the countries lying between 10 and 40 degrees north of the equator, including  Saharan and Northern Africa, as well as almost all of Asia (West Asia, Central Asia, South Asia, East Asia and much of Southeast Asia). Roughly two-thirds of the world population lives in the 10/40 Window.

Most of the people in these countries claim the Muslim, Hindu, Buddhist,  Animist, Jewish, or atheist faith, and few of their governments allow any kind of legal Christian activity on their soil.

Christian radio breaks through these barriers, but very few missionaries are called or sent to these sites, and very few churches/missions organizations target them either.

And if receptivity is our sole criteria for resource allocation, then why would we? Any work done in the tough areas of the 10/40 window would likely take decades if not lifetimes to show first fruits—and might cost lives.

What if I could show you both the potential and the freedom to meet, to befriend, to minister to, and, yes, to share your faith with 5 million Arabs?  With over a million Pakistanis, or hundreds of thousands of Iranians?  Would you be interested in using missions resources to reach out to Iraqis, Somalis, Algerians—if you could do it where it was not illegal and under favorable conditions for the reception of the Word?

Europe, known to missions people as . . . well, really not known to missions people because Europe has had its chance and has never been on anyone’s receptivity list.

But I want to say that the new Europe is a place where we MUST be—because that’s where we can speak with much of the world that is otherwise extremely difficult to penetrate.

In 1985, the European Union passed the Schengen Agreement, which allowed for free movement across borders for all citizens of member countries. At the time only ten fairly homogeneous countries composed the EU, but now, with the Agreement extended and expanded, 27 countries enjoy relatively unrestricted movement throughout the EU.

Nine million Turkish people live outside of Turkey in the EU.  Eight hundred thousand Romanians live in Spain. Twelve million immigrants live in France and 40% of those immigrants live in or near Paris.

What does this mean?  This means we ought to send missionaries to Paris, to Spain, to Germany, to the UK, and to Sweden, a country so friendly to immigrants, by the way, that they do not even count them.

The opportunities for the Message in Europe can no longer be ignored for reasons of receptivity.  Think about these reasons for why today is the day to be in Europe with the Gospel:

  • Although some immigrants naturally cluster together and are resistant to integration into their new countries, many more long for new relationships, which makes them more open to a Christian’s friendship than they would be in their homelands.
  • European laws do not restrict Christian work.
  • Going to the west, for many immigrants, is the opportunity to explore new ideas. Christianity is seen as a western idea, so it is natural for some to want to learn about it.
  • Restrictive cultural laws and traditions are usually mitigated, if not abandoned, in their new land.  For instance, most women from restrictive Muslim countries are allowed much more freedom when living in Europe than they would have at home.
  • While social media and other public media are often highly controlled and restricted in their home countries, these immigrants have access to every media avenue (for better or worse) in Europe—which brings opportunity for all kinds of Christian information into their homes.
  • Americans think of immigrants as being primarily impoverished people, but that is not necessarily true of people movement in Europe. I was just reading about a newly licensed medical doctor in Romania who could get no job there, so she immigrated to Germany, which is in desperate need of her services.
  • These immigrants will undoubtedly meet others of their own nationality/religion who have become Christians.  They must deal with this new cloud of witnesses.

Just a couple of years ago, an LST team of mature Christians from Texas spent two or three weeks working with a church in Cologne, Germany.  One of the members of that team was telling us about a Reader of hers from either Iraq or Iran, who actually belonged to a militant cell, but who would sneak away from his group to come and read the Bible with her 2-3 times each week.  He feared for his own safety, but in Cologne, Germany, he had the space to go far beyond what he could have done in his home.

I don’t know what has become of this young man, but I know another story that started just as his has. Almost 20 years ago now, an Iranian man also responded to a simple ad for practicing his English and started reading with a Christian.  Today, he is one of the elders in his church in Cologne, Germany.

Europe is a great mission field!  If you don’t think so, you’ve got your old glasses on! That’s where the world is! The whole world!!

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Sherrylee and I are planning LST travel to Europe soon, so I am buried in airline, train, hotel, and rental car websites!  I’ve done this a lot—especially in Europe, so I thought I might share some tips with you.

Know what your priorities are for your trip! I usually am juggling two or three different elements:  number of travel days, places that we need to visit, and costs are the big ones. In the last few years, Sherrylee has made me also include rest—probably pretty smart on longer trips.

Here are some questions to help you rank your priorities.

  • Are your travel dates fixed or are you flexible? If fixed, rank this high; if flexible, you can move it down your list.
  • Where do you have to be? For us, this means surveying potentially new LST work sites or maintaining relationships with established LST sites.  For this next trip, our dates are fixed, so we are limited to how many places we can go to. For that reason, I have already had to make hard choices between established sites and new sites.
  • How much money do you have to spend? If you have more money than time, your answer will be different from those people on smaller budgets or shorter agendas. For LST trips, the answer is always small budget and long agenda—which is why it takes lots of time and research to make it work.  Yesterday I was looking at the cost of trains versus flights between Zagreb and Budapest—which is also a question of how much time we have as well.
  • What are the non-negotiables? We must be in Frankfurt on Wednesday the 17th because we must pickup someone at the airport who is joining us there!  We must be in Rothenburg on the 21st for the start of the American-European Retreat!  Almost everything else is subject to change.
  • What pace can you sustain? We have actually begun allowing ourselves at least a day of rest after the transatlantic flight if at all possible. In addition, rather than trying to be in another place every day—which is how we used to plan these trips—we now allow an extra day in some places, mostly just to pace ourselves.  People who don’t pace themselves often either exhaust themselves to the point they can’t complete their agenda, or they arrive home so exhausted that they lose a week or two recovering from their trip. Your trip will be more enjoyable, if you will pace yourself.

I then work in concentric circles, from the BIG details to the smaller details. For me, this means buying tickets to Europe and back first!  That sets the boundaries with exact dates of travel.  The only tickets I have bought to date are the flights over the Atlantic.

Next, I try to book the non-negotiables. For instance, I have made hotel reservations only in Rothenburg so far.  Today, I intend to nail down whether we will spend the night in Frankfurt on the 16th before our guest arrives early the next morning. We probably will, so we will need a hotel not too far from the airport!

Then, I try to plan an affordable route. Usually it is least expensive to travel in the same direction as opposed to crisscrossing . If you are scheduling meetings with people in lots of different places, this can be challenging, so you have to work on it early, before you start purchasing any of your other travel. I like to fly to the furthest point, then work my way back to the place we will return from.  For this trip, that means flying from DFW to Frankfurt, but going to Turkey first, working our way back through eastern Europe and finishing in western Europe.

After all of the transportation is set and purchased, then I go back and book hotels and rental cars, where necessary. These seem to be easier to cancel than flights, if something changes—and  something always changes!!

Next, I’ll talk about useful websites and travel information that might help you, as well as strategies for using them.

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