In Bulgaria & Romania

Rila Monastery - the heartbeat of Orthodox Christianity in Bulgaria
Rila Monastery – the heartbeat of Orthodox Christianity in Bulgaria
Teanna and Zhana over coffee. Zhana leads the work in the Pravetz area, which includes Vidrare. Her ministry is significantly focused on Roma and anti-trafficking prevention
Jay and Andrei having fun at on Bulgaria's Black Sea coast. A new church plant in Varna is happening led by Jessica Morris and Dick and Cindy Phelps
Jay and Andrei having fun at on Bulgaria’s Black Sea coast. A new church plant in Varna is happening led by Jessica Morris and Dick and Cindy Phelps
From an ancient church tower in Viscri, Romania where we have a small and active house group.
From an ancient church tower in Viscri, Romania where we have a small and active house group.
On the doors of the Viscri church, we find the names of every congregant who died fighting in wars
On the doors of the Viscri church, we find the names of every congregant who died fighting in wars
The Orthodox church in Sigisoara, Romania. This is home of Dorothy Tarrant, Roberta Bustin,  Jonathan Phillips, the Cristurean family, Veritas, and many more
The Orthodox church in Sigisoara, Romania. This is home of Dorothy Tarrant, Roberta Bustin, Jonathan Phillips, the Cristurean family, Veritas, and many more
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dear john – no trespassing

 

Jewelry sold to support Bulgarian women who have been trafficked
 

Dear John.

I arrived at the rescue house last night and it was full of girls, like me. Some older. Some younger. But, all of them wear the ‘for sale’ sign in their eyes. We don’t shed our price tags easily. 

You never asked me how old I am. 15. Do you remember 15? 

I was just like every other girl that loves makeup and music and friends and dreaming of summer break without school. I suppose it was your dream to go to the Black Sea for sex tourism?

Did you know that I was a seasonal special? That as summer gets closer, they anticipate a great sea of tourists on the coast and begin to recruit girls to fill your black desires. 

My boyfriend became my pimp. I thought that we were in love. He told me that I was beautiful and that he was taking me away to a beautiful place where we could work and make money for our families and build a big house where we would live. He told me that he loved me. He didn’t tell me that I would forget how to hope.

I feel so stupid.

Now, I am a woman in a girl’s body with a grandmother’s soul. My heart aches, my body hurts, and my dreams no longer belong to a little girl. 

You cannot imagine the nightmares that I have lived in the dark night.

Today, the for sale sign has been replaced with another. It says, ‘no trespassing’.  This means you, John.

Beautiful Feet

Beautiful Feet
Beautiful Feet
Beautiful Feet

In the Balkans, you take your shoes off when you enter a home. Always. Even if the host insists that you leave your shoes on. Always.

We remember the verse that tells us that ‘beautiful are the feet that bring Good News’. It is true. But, not because we are beautiful. Not because our feet are better or cleaner, but because they carry a story – a story of the transformational love of our Saviour.

Today, we begin a new journey – twenty of us as we travel to Sighisoara, Romania.

Orthodox Context
Orthodox Context

2014-11-02 15.17.17-1

We have new things to learn in an Orthodox context, where Easter is still three more Sundays away.

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History
History

We have something to learn about a history where Vlad the Impaler became a legend and a world that we only know from our history books become a reality: Transylvania.

Together
Together

Make this journey with us. Follow us for new photos and new stories. Use your hashtag: #sighisoaraspringbreak for Facebook and Instagram.

Pray for miracles and transformation.

Words

Words

Some days I sit at this 5:30 AM screen and I stare at the blinking cursor. There is so much clamoring within me to get out, to speak. “You are not ready … yet,” I say. “Wait a while. Today is not your day.”

And sometimes I cannot make the words behave. I fear that they will offend and frustrate. They are unruly – passionate. “People do not like that,” I tell them “so ride the waves of grace. Find a gentler way.”

The problem is that they are activists, every one of them. They believe that they are called to be a voice, to call out truth and to plead for action. Like toddlers that think that they hold the whole world in their tiny, clumsy bodies, they plead to be set free. They would say whatever was on their tongues, thinking that the entire planet should bend an ear to their phrases.

And often, very often, I do not know how to order them into an eloquence and an honesty that will be beneficial for those who have a moment to stop and to chat a while in the space of their busy, busy lives.

My unruly mob of voices see life on this planet through a lens. They are privileged to have that lens. They are better for that lens.

Today, I told them that they could only speak about their world through the camera that accompanies them almost everywhere we go.

This is what they choose to say today about the Europe they call home.

Some say Jesus doesn't have this generation. Some are wrong.
Some say Jesus doesn’t have this generation. Some are wrong.
Life is an act of poetry in motion ...
Life is an act of poetry in motion …
In the face of genius, borders are impotent.
In the face of genius, borders are impotent. Prague
Romania. Hungary. Czech Republic. One delicious idea.
Romania. Hungary. Czech Republic. One delicious idea.
All kinds of wonderful. Hungary
All kinds of wonderful. Hungary
People are important.
People are important.
Spending time together. Krakow
Spending time together. Krakow
births friendship. Krakow
births friendship. Krakow
The world is full of churches with doors ...
The world is full of churches with doors …
throw them open. Wide open.
throw them open. Wide open.
...trust God for the rest.
…trust God for the rest.
Look up.
Look up.
People are all kinds of beautiful
People are all kinds of beautiful
If you are too busy to stop a hear the music ... you are too busy.
If you are too busy to stop and hear the music … you are too busy.

 

  

  

  

  

  

  

  

  

  

  

   

   

  

 

     

women who go and tell

DSC02502And so the story goes.

It was a cold and weepy dawn when Mary came. The ancient word does not tell us if the sun rose in golden splendor during that hour, but the tears that Mary wept were enough to shadow the sun. And, I imagine her with that jar of spices that weighed more than the world itself. I imagine the heaviness of every single step that drew her sobbing heart closer to the tomb. The thick eyes from tears, the tired soul from grief, the aching head from the stress.

Because you don’t loose Jesus without thinking the world is going to end or wishing that the world would end.

IMG_1057Those wise men brought myrrh when Mary heaved a baby into the world. And, Mary Magdalene brought myrrh to his death chamber.

Who can bear the weight of that kind of responsibility?

To bring life into this world.

To bring closure to a life.

Oh, Mary. Mary. How you weep for the pain of Love lying in a death chamber. When all that was good was dead and the sunshine of his smile had faded and Hope was cold, all that was left was to bring that stinking myrrh.

And it does not seem like enough. Does it?

IMG_1451IMG_1125I remember when you broke that alabaster jar of essence on his feet and wiped away the day’s heaviness. How the scent spread throughout the room. How his tears filled and flowed and washed away every stupid mistake and dirty deed that you had done. How his presence reached down deep into your soul, and you knew that He saw there the one that God created you to be.

Not the woman that you had chosen to be.

Not the woman that others had forced you to be.

IMGP1378So you came with that stinking myrrh in the dark dawn, because you don’t loose Jesus without wishing that your world would end.

We know how the story goes. The words that come next. The gardener who inquires. The answer that Mary gives. We know it so well that we miss its power.

10388631_10152463050387934_6744048749536271614_n - Version 2I wonder when the women with her and the disciples that she ran to caught the force of the command? Jesus told Mary to go and to tell. Go and tell. The first words spoken by the resurrected Christ are to a woman and they are, Go and tell.

You see, the world speaks to us in languages and voices and images that would define our ideas of worth and beauty. Mommy blogs and books and sometimes the voices from the pulpits and the pews can define the perimeters of our ministry.

‘We are women who CAN …,’ we say.

‘You are a woman and therefore CANNOT …,’ they say.

IMGP1376 - Version 2And the words are just people-words until Jesus speaks. Until the Word speaks. Go and tell.

A woman’s word meant nothing in that ancient culture, but Jesus stubbornly points us to a woman over and again.

Mary with her heaving to birth the incarnated Christ into the world. Mary Magdalene with her stinking myrrh to lavish upon a dead Jesus. Women. Women who had no idea how God intended to use them in His story, yet there they are pointing the way to Jesus from conception to resurrection.

We can debate the issue theologically. We can text proof and exegete Paul’s letters.

But ultimately, it comes down to the story in the garden.

God trusts a woman with the responsibility of carrying the Good News into the world both at his birth and at his resurrection.

Do not be afraid, Mary.

Do not be afraid. Go and tell my brothers …

From Luke 1. From Matthew 28. From conception to resurrection. We are called to point the way to a world that has lost Jesus. We are sent and we have no need to fear.

That, my dear sister, is how the story goes.

Now, go and tell.

______________________________________________

IMGP1698Ten days from now, I will be kneeling at an altar to be ordained as a minister in the Church of the Nazarene. Those words in the garden to a weeping woman with a stinking jar of grave spices reach down through the centuries. I am called. Jesus is calling me. Go and tell.

I dedicate this post to the 82 women who gathered in Sighisoara, Romania last week. We came from the farthest parts of our European and Asian globe and we settled into the heart of Transylvania. We came with the weight of the world on our shoulders. We carried it in and we carried it around, but somehow Jesus took that weight from us.

We laughed and we learned and we worshipped the One who has called us and equipped us.

We are not enough for this task. A world that has lost Jesus requires more help than we can possibly provide. We teach, we preach, we bandage bodies and souls and care for kids that nobody else wants unless sex is an option. And our efforts alone are not enough. They can never be enough.

We know the impossible situations, the heart break, the broken and dysfunctional cycles, the sin that works in our cultures. It seems like such a hopeless story. Yet, God has called each and every one of us.

Remember what Mary said to the angel, Gabriel. ‘But how can this be?’

Only the incarnated Christ in you is enough. Only the incarnated Christ flowing through you is enough.

Let him write His story through you.

Go and tell.

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a room with strangers

It is past midnight and I am tucked into a bed in a Krakow hostel called ‘One World’. There are 9 beds and our family fills 6 of them. There are 3 strangers sleeping in the remaining beds. This is a stretch, even for me and I am pretty stretchy.

Diversity. God is amazing.

And this is a day in the life of a missionary : 13 hours across 4 countries to spend the night with 3 strangers in One World. If I weren’t so tired, I am sure these would be the ingredients for an interesting post!

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a little boy eats chicken salad sandwiches

a little boy eats chicken salad sandwiches

It is 1:30 AM and our bus stops at a petrol station somewhere between Romania and Moldova. The bus is sticky, smothering hot, the bathroom does not work and the seats are cramped. Really cramped. The ‘I can’t sleep but I’m desperate to,’ kind of cramped. The roads swirly zig zag like a scene from your favorite fairytales. Only this does not feel like a fairytale.

When we pull into the station, 13 TNU students, 2 professors, a passel of Sunbergs, and some Central Europeans tumble into the fresh air.

We almost missed the little boy trying to board the bus. While everybody else is seeking fresh air, he was working his way into the stale innards. Hoping for what? And, I watched Curtis and Jay stand guard at the door, good-naturedly but firmly blocking his entrance. I heard that they gave him the last of our chicken salad sandwiches and chips. Maybe tonight he will sleep with a full belly.

My mother’s heart wonders how a 13 year old finds himself counting stars in a midnight sky. Where is his mom? How long since he ate? Where does he sleep?

Quite frankly, he is one of the forgotten. The chances are slim that Compassionate Ministry donations will ever reach his reality. And for a missionary who believes that the kingdom is breaking in today, who believes that we carry the very image of God to a desperate world to fill their needs today, I am stuck. I am at a loss for words and answers. Because, if the kingdom is more than chicken salad sandwiches, and I believe that it is, I fail to connect the kingdom dots tonight.

But, I do believe. I believe in the power of an ancient prayer that goes something like this :

Our Father who is in heaven.
Glory to your name.
Let your kingdom come.
Let your will be done both on earth and in heaven.
And fill our needs today.
Forgive us and help us to forgive those that harm us.
Don’t let us be tempted beyond our endurance but deliver us from every evil.
For it is your kingdom, your power and your glory.
Let it be so.

Somehow, when my heart recites that precious creed, not only with my world in mind, but also with that of a little boy at a bus stop, there is new meaning – new depths.

I don’t have very many answers here in the black night of Eastern Romania. I don’t have a theology that explains how chicken salad brings a kingdom. But, I have a faith that says the kingdom came tonight in the life of a little man whose hope was tied up in a midnight snack.

As our big bus pulled away, I glanced back at the boy and I think I caught a glimpse of Lazarus.

He was dancing.