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Posts Tagged ‘European missions’

20131124_155115Sherrylee and I have just finished spending most of the month of November in Europe, visiting mission sites and talking to some of the most committed Christian people in the world about how to accomplish more for His Kingdom and how to talk to more people about Jesus.

I was able to stop and write a couple of posts during this trip (“Writing An Alternate Religious History for Spain” and “Cathedrals or Storefronts—Does It Matter In Europe?”), but for the most part, we were moving too quickly and too often to generalize our thinking into blog writing.  I apologize for that, but sometimes it is more important to do the work than to write about it.  I know you will understand.

So you don’t know, for instance, that our 11-year-old granddaughter Anna joined us for the last nine days of our trip in Europe. She flew all the way from Los Angeles to Frankfurt, changing planes at DFW by herself! What a girl!

For almost a year now, she has known that it was her turn!  Sherrylee and I have made a commitment to take one of our grandkids with us each year as they become old enough to travel with us.  Three years ago, we took our oldest grandchild Cassidy (also 11 at the time) and then took her again the next year when she was 12.  Kellan would have been the next because he is three weeks older than Anna, but his parents were already taking him to Germany, so he will be invited next year.

But this is not a “let-us-show-you-Europe” trip, oh no!  This is a Mimi and Grandad’s mission trip and the grandkids are invited to join us in the work we are doing. We tell them from the very beginning that we are visiting with missionaries and attending mission conferences; we are not going to Disneyworld in Paris.

On Tuesday morning at 8:30 am, we met Anna at the Frankfurt airport. The airlines are excellent about handling unaccompanied minors, so she was really never unattended during her 24 hours of travel!  The kids just have to be brave enough and independent enough to handle the emotional distance from their parents, not the physical distance.  And Anna was great!

By noon, we were in the car driving to the Netherlands to visit our friends Hans and Ans van Erp, who were the family who invited LST first to Eindhoven in 1987 to help them plant a new church there.  This church is now one of the strongest churches of Christ in Europe.

Anna was especially eager to meet Hans and Ans (yes, we all love it that their names rhyme!). She reportedly told her sister before she left, “I’m going to meet Hans and Ans van Erp. They knew Mommy when she was my age and now they are going to get to know me too! 

Within the first four days that she was with us, we had visited with the van Erps, then the Reinhardts in Wunstorf, Germany, as well as the Roehrkasses, Bratchers, and Smelsors in Hildesheim, Germany.  All of these visits involved long conversations about their local works and how LST was working or could work together with them.  Anna was there for all the conversations—of course.

On Saturday after her arrival, we drove five hours to Rothenburg ob der Taube, Germany, for the Euro-American Retreat.  This was the 50th anniversary of this retreat, which this year brought 230 people from all over Europe together for worship, prayer, Bible study, and lots of fellowship.

We were there a little early because I was speaking at the opening service. There was a children’s program, but Mimi went and got Anna because she wanted her to hear Grandad “preach.”  Well, it’s just one more little memory that may be meaningful to her in her own Christian life, knowing that she is from a family of preachers and teachers! I was glad she was there.

Over the next three days, Anna participated in worship, was part of the children’s classes, hung out with a few of the younger teens who were so kind to include the almost-teens, and she helped the small children prepare for their program on Tuesday night in front of the whole assembly.

Does that sound like a European vacation to you?  Does that sound like your grandkids dream trip?  Well, it could be if they know how much being with other Christians and encouraging them means to you!!

Of course, we planned some tourist things for Anna.  Of course!  We took one day and went to Anne Frank’s house and museum in Amsterdam, then drove a few minutes over to Zaanse Schans and toured a chocolate factory and working windmills.  It was a cold, blustery northern European November day, but she loved it.

And to cap off her experience, we planned a London layover on the way home, which gave us half a day there.  We drove by Big Ben and Westminster Abbey, but got to tour the Tower of London.  The real treat for her was attending a performance of Phantom of the Opera because Anna herself is very musically gifted.

Take your grandkids with you when you plan your next mission trip!! Sure, you have to make a few adjustments, but you will plant seeds in them that may change them forever. If you haven’t read Cassidy’s recent post about her view of missions, you should stop and read that now!

If we left no other legacy than to have given our children——a vision of what they can do with their lives for God in gratitude for what He has done for them, that would be so much more of an inheritance than anything else we could leave behind.

Take your grandchildren with you when you do His work!  Don’t make it all about them; make it about Him!  Let them see what your greatest love is!

That’s the motivational part of this post.  Next, I’ll come back and share some tips with you on how to take your grandkids on a mission trip with you successfully.

It’s good to talk again!

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churchbuildingAs you know, Sherrylee and I are traveling through Europe, visiting with mission points about hosting Let’s Start Talking  short-term mission projects. We’ve done this kind of trip for over thirty years now, so there is very little that surprises us, BUT that doesn’t mean that we don’t continue to have new experiences that cause us to ponder about how God’s work is done in Europe.—or anywhere for that matter.

I’ve been thinking this morning about church buildings and/or meeting places and how important—or not important—they are.  Sherrylee brought this up yesterday as we were driving—she is the first mover if not the primary source of much of my thinking.

One of the churches we visited has a beautiful three-storey brick building, marble floors, multiple classrooms, a very large terrace where they have their baptisms as well as church socials. In addition, they have an auditorium with a stage, stage lighting, sound system—the whole works—for approximately 150 people with theater seating.  I have never visited a mission church of their size in Europe that had such a nice building.

At another city, we met with a missionary that has planted three different churches in his region.  They all meet in garages that are revamped to serve as meeting space.  They are roomy, multi-functional, and are friendly—but they are a garage. From the outside they look like a garage, and from the inside they look like a nice garage.  Each of these garages will hold a group of 30-50 people sitting down.  One garage they have outgrown and are looking for new space—don’t know if they are looking for a garage or not. I think they usually start in garages because the garage belongs to someone who is either a member or a friend of their church and they can use it at no great cost.

Another church we visited met on the fourth floor—walk up—of an older office building. It was just an opened space—nice, clean, some minimal decoration to let people know it was a church.  It was also the space they used for office space, for their kitchen (in the back corner) and for any other indoor activities they might have as a church.  Many starting churches in Europe choose space like this and never grow out of it. This work has existed for about ten years and they have a community of about twenty people.

Our most recent visit has been with a young missionary family who has only been on the field for ten months.  They have come and are working with a local established religious organization whose main outreach has been summer camps for children through teens. The camp is in a much smaller town about an hour from where this couple lives, and a church of about 150 has grown up in the smaller town around the camp work.

This couple is here to try to plant a new work in the larger city now.  The organization has already rented a small but well located storefront just off of the main street of the city.  Currently they are not meeting here as a church, but they use these rooms for community activities, for Bible studies, and for any other activities that are organized in this city by their sponsors.  They describe it as either a clubhouse or a community center.  It is furnished with couches, nice sitting areas, some tables and chairs, and a catchy pop art mural on the main wall.  Nice space—very post-modern—not churchy at all.

If I were choosing the “best” strategy for Europe with regard to church buildings, I would likely say to start with the community center idea until there was a core group of disciples. Then I might jump to the real church building to demonstrate a real presence, a commitment, and significance. 

But I don’t know any European group that can afford to build its own building like that, and I don’t know any American churches that would invest in a building in Europe like that! 

Interestingly, Willow Creek built a building in Spain for 500 people about 10-15 years ago—and the work there has been unusually successful for Europe.  I don’t know all the details, but the results are unusual enough that I can wonder if a substantial investment in a substantial building didn’t pay off for their work there?

Which begs the opposite question:  how great is the impact on the work in Europe of a complete unwillingness of our churches to invest there, not only in buildings but in the high cost of supporting workers in Europe?

God has blessed the work in the garage, on the fourth floor, in the clubhouse, and in the marble-floored church building.  He doesn’t dwell in temples made with hands!  But I keep thinking that He did not stay in a tent in Israel forever either

I know all about the empty cathedrals.  But I still wonder what our buildings—and non-buildings—say about our God in Europe today??

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