27 Mar 2012

Days 12, 13, & 14: Paris & home!

Author: admin | Filed under: Europe Mission 2012

Sorry this update has been so delayed. I ended up catching that hacking cough… and the doc says its the flu! So I’ve been resting since I got home instead of typing. But I figured I could at least muster the energy to share a few quick bits about the last days of the trip…

Saturday (Day 12) we flew from Rome back to Paris, got checked into the same hotel we’d used at the beginning of our trip, and then walked up the hill to the Sacre Couer cathedral and an artists plaza, where we had dinner. What a great place to be on a Saturday night! I hope to go back with Stacey someday soon. The romantic feel of the place was a bit wasted on our group of guys!

Sunday (Day 13) we all went our separate ways in the morning, preaching in different churches. I was picked up at the hotel by Benoit (pronounced “Ben-Waw”), the pastor of the church in Versailles. He actually grew up in that church, and after going to college in the USA (where he met and married a college classmate of mine, we discovered!), he returned to France and soon began serving that church as pastor. He’s bivocational, like almost all of our pastors in Europe, working as a special education teacher most of the week. Their church of 20 or so people meets in a beautiful old Anglican church. It was a joy to be with them for worship and for lunch afterward. Their 5- and 2-yr-old daughters were delightful! (Hi, Eden! Hi, Margot!)

I really feel like I drew the lucky straw when it comes to the church I visited. I hope all the other guys feel the same way.

Sunday night we visited the Eiffel Tower right before dark (all the way to the top, of course), went on a one-hour river cruise, and then grabbed dinner on the way home around 11:30. Even though it was a really long day, it was a great way to end the trip.

Monday morning (Day 14) we flew home. Not much to say about that other than to thank Eric Wood for lending me his paperback of The Hunger Games. Great book. I read the whole thing on the plane ride home and still had time to watch most of a movie, eat two meals, and catch a few Z’s.

So… it was a great trip, but I’m thrilled to be home! Even if I am sick.

I look forward to sharing some photos and reflections at Living Hope this Sunday night at 5:00!

23 Mar 2012

Days 9, 10, & 11: Barcelona & Rome

Author: admin | Filed under: Europe Mission 2012

The past three days have been good ones… as have pretty much all of the days so far!

Day 9 (Wednesday) started with our visiting Ignacio and Litzy at their church building, hearing them describe their dreams, their challenges, and how we might partner together going forward. They are truly an enjoyable couple, and God is doing good things through them and the church they lead!

Wednesday was also our travel day, so much of the afternoon was consumed with flying to Rome, getting checked in at the hotel, and grabbing dinner.

Day 10 (Thursday) was all about seeing Rome. Our hotel is about 3 blocks from a major transportation hub (“Termini”), so hopping on the Metro is easy… though their current construction issues meant lots of twists and turns and stairs before we made it onto a train! We visited St. Peter’s Basilica (a cathedral) and the enormous plaza you’ve seen on TV where the Pope addresses the crowds from his balcony. Under the cathedral we saw the tomb of St. Peter… at least, that’s what the sign said. As we left the plaza we stopped into a free exhibit called “The Word of the Lord” that was all about the Bible down through the ages. We each took our turn at using a replica of Gutenberg’s printing press… though I don’t think any of our papers survived the rest of the day. Mine didn’t even survive lunch.

After lunch (pizza!) we visited the Vatican Museum for a couple hours. You could spend a day there and not see all the statues and works of art. Eventually we had to narrow our focus on getting to the Sistine Chapel… which was amazing. I was surprised by how high the ceiling was, and I can’t imagine the scaffolding that must have been in place for Michelangelo to paint that amazingly huge work of art. No photos were allowed, but we all tried to sneak a few with our phones anyway. You can tell me next week (when I get them posted) if mine are any good.

On the way back to the hotel we made two more stops: the Parthenon and Trevi fountain. Both were beautiful. I threw a coin into the fountain, which apparently means I’ll return to Rome someday, though I’m not clear how that’s connected to tossing a coin in a fountain. Maybe I’m supposed to try to fish it back out on my next trip?

Today is Day 11 (Friday), which is memorable for two reasons: our visit to the Colosseum and our visit with two local church leaders. You might remember the Colosseum from the many movies that have featured it, like Spartacus, Gladiator, and Jumper (that last one for my fellow scifi geeks). For an hour and a half, we wandered around the ruins, listening to our audio/video guides and snapping photos. It’s interesting how similar it was to our modern sports arenas. If you’ve ever gone to a game and had to look for which gate to enter and which section to sit in, you have something in common with the ancient Romans. Beyond that, we watch athletes kick or dribble or hit a ball around, while they watched people fight to the death, sometimes against wild animals. Other than that, though…

We spent a few hours this afternoon with Joel Mullen, an American missionary to Italy. He and his wife first came here 16 years ago as volunteers, then returned 11 years ago as missionaries. He currently serves as the district superintendent, encouraging the leaders of the six Churches of the Nazarene here in Italy and pastoring the church in Moncalleir, near Torino. Unlike the other districts we’ve visited, the churches in Italy are primarily Italian. One is an immigrant church (Peruvians), but the rest are Italians reaching Italians.

He took us to visit the church here in Rome, and we were able to spend some time with its pastor, Angela Cereda. She is bivocational, just like most pastors on this field, earning her living as a counselor while also leading this fairly young church. It meets in a building that is owned by the district, with the church on the first floor. The two upper floors are living space, with 4 bedrooms sharing a common bath, kitchen, and balcony, bed-and-breakfast-style. I think it was the home of the district superintendent in years past, but now it is available for visiting pastors, missionaries, students, etc. (If you want to visit Rome and support the church at the same time, they suggest a 25 Euro donation per person.) She has an amazing story, and I’m glad we have this strong sister serving the Lord here in Rome.

All that’s left tonight is dinner and then maybe a little shopping before bed. I still haven’t figured out what I’m bringing home for Stacey… and I don’t have much time left! Tomorrow we fly back to Paris and visit the Eiffel tower. Sunday I’ll be preaching in a church in Versailles, and then Monday we fly home! It’s been a great trip, but I’m very ready to be back home. Please pray that we have safe travels for the rest of the trip. And please pray for our health. Kyle seems to be over most of his cold (or whatever it is), but Mike is still fighting it hard. Lots of coughing. I haven’t caught anything yet… and I’d like to keep it that way!

21 Mar 2012

Days 7 & 8: Barcelona

Author: admin | Filed under: Europe Mission 2012

Barcelona is a beautiful city… but then, all of the cities we’ve seen so far have been. One difference here is that we were able to spend a lot of time with Ignacio (“Nacho”) and Litzy, a young married couple who pastor the Barcelona Church of the Nazarene. Both are ordained pastors, and they share the responsibilities. They speak English well, and they are able to give their full-time efforts to pastoring the church — no second or third jobs needed! As I mentioned previously, this is a rarity here on the Western Mediterranean field. Under their leadership, the church is thriving!

We met them Monday night for dinner and spent almost all of yesterday with them walking around Barcelona. We visited the Olympic stadium and museum from the 1992 Olympics. We visited the Sagrada Familia cathedral designed by Gaudi. (Look that one up on the internet. It’s unusual!) And we walked down the Rambla to the Mediterranean. (I touched it.) Then, after a quick dinner, five of us went to a futbol/soccer match between FC Barcelona and Grenada! Barcelona won, 5-2, and Messi, their star player, broke the scoring record, scoring his 232nd, 233rd, and 234th goals. And he’s only 24 years old. Wow.

Now it’s Wednesday morning, we’ve just finished breakfast, and we’re about to go meet Nacho and Litzy again to visit their church building. Then it’s a quick lunch, and we’re on our way to Rome!

19 Mar 2012

Days 5 & 6: Lisbon

Author: admin | Filed under: Europe Mission 2012

Saturday and Sunday were spent in the Lisbon area, home of Kyle & Jayme Himmelwright, the field coordinators for the Western Mediterranean Field. We’ve done a little sightseeing, but mostly we’ve relaxed with Kyle, Jayme, and their three adopted girls (Ana is 8; Nadia and Bruna are 6). And, most importantly, we were able to meet with Juan, the district superintendent of Portugal and pastor of the Lisbon church.

Side note: Juan, along with almost all the pastors and leaders on the Western Mediterranean Field, is bivocational. That means he works a “regular” job for 40-60 hours each week to pay the bills and then does the work of a pastor on top of that. It’s exhausting, and it’s amazing how much progress is being made under these circumstances! Please pray for these pastors!

Ok, back to Juan: He showed us the site of a coffeeshop they are hoping to open in Lisbon within the next year. It was a church building, but now it is just an empty building… and it looks like the perfect place for a coffeeshop! Fortunately, they will have some funds available for the renovation work, thanks to the pending sale of a district-owned apartment/office, but there may still be some future partnership opportunities here in the future. We’ll see.

That was Saturday. On Sunday, we worshiped with the Lisbon church. It was a great service, even though we couldn’t understand most of it. (I was able to catch bits and pieces thanks to Portuguese and Spanish sharing some similarities.) The music was fun, with talented musicians on guitars, bass, drums, keys, and saxophone. And our own Greg Arthur brought the message, with Juan’s wife translating.

After church, we walked down the street to eat lunch at a Brazilian steakhouse (lots of Brazilian influence in Portugal) with Pastor Juan and his family. We had hoped to meet with 2-3 other pastors in the afternoon, but apparently schedule and travel issues prevented it. So instead we relaxed and talked at Kyle & Jayme’s house. It’s been good to have a bit more downtime… because today our travels resume!

We leave this morning (Monday) for downtown Lisbon, where we’ll have lunch before boarding a 2:45 plane to Barcelona, Spain. Sadly, two of our team will be leaving us at that point, having to fly on to Paris and back to Chicago due to the failing health of a family member. Please pray for Bob & Shawn as they travel over the next couple days. And pray for the rest of us as we meet with leaders in Barcelona and then travel on to Rome and back to Paris before coming home one week from today.

God is doing good things through our brothers and sisters on the Western Mediterranean Field, and I look forward to the ways we will be partnering with them in the future!

16 Mar 2012

Days 3 & 4: Madrid, Segovia, and Lisbon

Author: admin | Filed under: Europe Mission 2012

I think Thursday was my favorite day of the trip so far. Not because of the sights we saw in Segovia, Spain, but because of the people we met back in Madrid that night.

But first: Segovia. We rode a high-speed train there and back — not quite a “bullet train,” but we did get up to around 150 mph. A trip that takes over an hour by car took about 25 minutes. There are three main things to see in Segovia: the Roman aqueduct, the last gothic cathedral built in Europe, and the castle. I’ll share photos of all three when I get back. All three were amazing. Ancient and beautiful.

But like I said, my favorite part of the day was back in Madrid, when we had dinner at Josh and Shannon Herndon’s apartment with several local pastors and leaders. (Shannon’s smoked chicken was out of this world, by the way.) Here’s what we learned:

- Joel pastors a church in Sevilla that has just given birth to another church… and he has two other groups praying and preparing to start new churches as well.

- Efrain pastors the church that meets in the same five-story building as the Herndon’s apartment. (The main floor is the sanctuary, the next floor is classrooms and offices, the next two floors are the apartment, and the top floor is another apartment.) The neighborhood is home to a growing mix of immigrants, and the church Efrain pastors reflects that.

- Yanet is from Peru and, along with her husband, pastors a church in a suburb of Madrid that is struggling but growing.

- Junior and Pepo are two young leaders who are working to open a coffee shop in Madrid that will serve as a hub for ministry to young adults as well as providing some much needed employment. (Unemployment among young people in Spain is approaching 50%.) Since most people live in apartments, they don’t spend much time socializing at home. Instead, they meet their friends at restaurants and coffee shops. So these young Christian leaders see an excellent opportunity to create a space where relationships can be built with people who don’t know Jesus Christ.

- Our hosts, Josh and Shannon, are preparing to move to a suburb of Madrid called Illesca (sounds like “ee-yes-kuh”) to start a new outreach ministry with lots of promise.

This is why we came on this trip. Not to see the sights (which again, are breathtaking), but to meet with pastors, missionaries, and leaders who are taking risks and trying new things to reach people with the good news of God’s love. It was a joy to have dinner with them, hear their stories, and pray for them. We’re already dreaming of ways we might be able to partner with these brothers and sisters of ours in the future.

So that was yesterday, “Day 3.” Today we got to sleep in, grab brunch at 10:30, check out of the hotel, and ride the Metro to the airport, where we caught our early-afternoon flight to Lisbon, Portugal. I’m typing this in the home of Kyle and Jayme Himmelwright, who live about an hour outside of Lisbon. We had just enough time before dinner for a quick trip to Playa Azul (Blue Beach), where we took some pictures and put our toes in the Atlantic Ocean. And now, I need to head upstairs for dinner.

Tomorrow and Sunday, we’re here in Lisbon. And then on Monday, on to Barcelona, Spain!

14 Mar 2012

Day 1: Paris. Day 2: Madrid.

Author: admin | Filed under: Europe Mission 2012

Sorry to be so slow in writing, but these first two days have been pretty long on walking and short on internet access.

I’m calling Tuesday “Day 1″ because it was our first day here… and also because Monday and Tuesday kind of blurred together thanks to the overnight flight that jumped us across 6 hours of time zones. None of us got as much sleep as we wanted! When we arrived, it was already morning in Paris, and we wasted little time before heading out on our walking tour of the city. Yes, I’ll be posting pictures… eventually. We saw several impressive sights, and we’ll see more when we come back to Paris at the end of our trip.

But the most important part of our day was the time spent with Kyle (the Western Mediterranean field coordinator and our tour guide) and with a young man named Ben. Ben’s father pastors the Haitian congregation that meets in Paris, and Ben has recently applied for (and received) his district minister’s license. He has grown up in this church of Haitian immigrants, but he himself was born here in France, and he dreams of helping reach young people with the good news of Jesus Christ. Please pray for Ben!

Day 2 started with a quick breakfast and a flight to Madrid… for most of us. Unfortunately, Mike lost (or had stolen) his passport and wallet somewhere between the hotel and the airport, which meant he couldn’t get on the plane. So while the rest of us flew to Madrid, Kyle stayed behind with Mike to find the American embassy and try to get new travel documents, hoping to catch a later flight.

Fortunately, we were met at the Madrid airport by Josh, our American-born missionary to Spain. (He’s actually from Shelbyville, Indiana! The Hoosiers are taking over!) He helped us get ourselves and our bags to our hotel, then took us on a walking tour of Madrid. While we walked and ate, Josh filled us in on the condition of the Nazarene churches in Spain… which isn’t too different from the condition of the Nazarene churches in France that Kyle told us about yesterday. In both countries, we have few churches, and most of them are immigrant churches. One of their big challenges in these countries is to begin reaching the majority cultures.

Imagine for a moment if all the Nazarene churches in America were immigrant churches: Hispanic, Korean, Haitian, etc. Imagine only a handful of them were English-speaking congregations, in a country where the vast majority of people speak only English. If you can imagine that, then you can imagine the situation in much of the Western Mediterranean field.

So here I sit, in the lobby of our Madrid hotel, where the wifi works best, trying to hammer out this update so I can go to bed. Mike managed to get a temporary passport, and he and Kyle are here with us in Madrid. In the morning we’ll hop on a high-speed train to the town of Segovia, and tomorrow night we’ll meet with some pastors of the churches here in Spain.

Hopefully tomorrow I’ll have time to upload photos!