this thing before we sleep

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I am tucked away in the kitchen of the Budapest Blessings Church while the rain falls on this parched land and the family sleeps on mattresses in the church turned hostel..

After driving 8 hours on Saturday, we slipped into Sighisoara sheets well after midnight. We made the challenging but traditional Sunberg family hike up the Citadel stairs before bed where the sign above the climb says that the these steps date back to the 7th century. Sometimes, you just have to do a thing before you sleep.

Yesterday, after worship, we ditched our van and hopped a train to Bucharest..

And, this morning, the rain is falling for the neighbor’s grape vine that is soaking in the life-giving water. That is how I feel about the Balkans, like a grape vine gulping the beauty of a culture.

Simi and Betty meet us at the train station with the van parked on the sidewalk, because you haven’t really lived until you drive on a sidewalk in Eastern Europe. And I watched Josh Skinner, who is an honorary Sunberg for the next couple of weeks, and our 4 girls break out into wide grins of delight – coming home always brings a smile. Driving on sidewalks, swerving and jostling traffic, quiet trains, and little personal space – it’s an Eastern Europe thing. It’s a beautiful thing.

Every culture has something of value to offer our God-shaped void. A piece of Jesus that we just cannot catch from our ethno-centric perspective. We need each other to broaden, deepen, sharpen our image of a Deity who bleeds real blood for his creation.

Let the rain fall on this parched land so that Lazarus can dance.

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Way back, about four centuries before somebody started building those Sighisoara stairs, Saint Athanasius said that God became like us, so that we can become like Him.

With time removing us from the winds of history, that statement means almost nothing to us, but it should. Its truth informs how we live in this world where the rain falls on us all. God has a missionary heart. The God who created us, created a way to us – the carpenter built a stairway.

And, here we are in the middle of Eastern Europe, trying to climb a stairway in the middle of the night.

So, as you prepare to take this journey with Trevecca Nazarene University over the next 12 days in Eastern Europe, it is important that you know:

Life is raw here. The breathtakingly beautiful is mixed right in with the achingly awful. Turkish toilets (yes, squatty potties) are just as much of a reality as the heartwarming Sighisoara hospitality of Maria and her husband, who waited up for our late arrival, housed us, smothered us in kisses though we were strangers, and fed us huge homemade breakfasts with fresh eggs from their clucking hens.

The boys playing futball (soccer) in the street outside the church last night mimic their World Cup heroes but their eyes have already seen more than ours could endure in a lifetime of sleeps. I can hear one of them screaming in this early hour.

Here from our mainstream perspective, it’s almost impossible to understand why a trafficked girl goes back to the life. But, sometimes they do. When you believe that you are worthless, and somebody offers you money to do a thing, skin just becomes skin – the grave clothes, they are just skin.

Little did we know that grave clothes don’t come off so easily. This becoming like Jesus is harder, much harder than we ever imagined. Finding the kingdom is complicated.

So, the Saviour sends us out to be his Image: to be the breathing, living, loving, icon (fleshly representation) of Christ to our generation.

And Lazarus dances. He dances because the kingdom comes today. He dances because Deity bleeds for a Church without walls made of people that look a lot like screaming kids, and prostitutes, and haggardy drunks, and lonely souls … In grave clothes.

The rain has stopped, the kids on their mattresses are stirring, the coffee is cold, a city ambulance has its siren going : Our world is awake and waiting for Lazarus to tear off his grave clothes and speak of a kingdom coming.

Sometimes, you have to do a thing before you sleep.

What about you? Will you dance with Lazarus in this parched land?

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