Acts 11, people like us?, & other musings…

Now those who were scattered because of the persecution that arose over Stephen traveled as far as Phoenicia & Cyprus & Antioch, speaking the Word to no one except Jews. But there were some of them, men of Cyprus & Cyrene, who on coming to Antioch spoke to the Hellenists (Greeks) also, preaching the LORD Jesus. And the hand of the LORD was with them, & a great number who believed turned to the LORD. Acts 11:19-21

The great persecution that followed the martyrdom of Stephen resulted in the scattering of believers – Jews and God-fearers – from Jerusalem to points all over the Roman world. Many even traveled as far as Antioch, a significant and strategic Roman colony about 300 miles to the north of Jerusalem.

And as they went, they preached the gospel, the Good News of repentance, the forgiveness of sins, and salvation available through the Name of Jesus Christ for all who would believe.

What stood out to me as I read this chapter was that those fleeing persecution preached the gospel to most everyone they met. Most everyone that was like them… They only shared the Word with fellow Jews. Ouch.

The problem was they were running through areas populated by predominantly Greek/non-Jewish peoples. It’s normal, human even to gravitate towards what we’re familiar with – towards “people like us” with similar culture, interests, & experiences. Though it may be easier & more comfortable to do so, Jesus’ challenged to His followers in the Great Commission specifically says to do & live otherwise. When He told His followers that they would share the gospel in Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria, & to the ends of the earth, He was implicitly stating that they would be witnesses to ALL people. Not just the Jews, but everyone.

Fortunately, there were a few good men, Christ-following ‘outsiders’ from Cyprus & Cyrene, that intentionally & faithfully declared the Good News message to everyone. And not only was this message declared, it was received with joy & fruitfulness, & “a great number” believed & “turned to the LORD.”

My prayer is that the Holy Spirit, the One who fills us with power to live for Christ & to tell others of what we’ve seen, heard, & experienced from Him, will remind us of the call to lift our eyes from what we know, from what (& who) we’re comfortable with – & look to the fields that are white with harvest. The LORD is actively looking for men & women that will allow Him to work through them so He can gather people to Himself. Let’s be a part of that.

PS – Interesting to me to hear that Barnabas, the “Son of Encouragement” that was Paul the Apostle’s missionary companion for many years was from Cyprus (an island off the coast of Ephesus.) And Simon, the man who carried the cross for Christ on the way to Golgotha, was from Cyrene (in Northern Africa, most likely modern Libya.)

Deutschland Travels, Spring 2010, Day #10

Eddy asked me to talk to the TPLF ‘team’ on the topic of developing a culture of love, acceptance, & forgiveness. In preparing for the talk, I was studying my notes & reviewing all the life lived, highlights (& otherwise ☺) from the last 10 years at Hillside. Thinking back, I get weepy, pondering the cost of attempting to figure out just what that “love, acceptance, & forgiveness” looks like, lived out in the lives of fallible, imperfect people.

Trying to condense it into a 25 minutes window almost seemed impossible… but then it’s not. At this point, I think that while I (& we. Yes we,) are still a work in process, there is enough water under the bridge, the development of God’s purposes for me (& us. Yes us,) that talking to the TPLF’ers about this seems simple…

I found it spilling out of the overflow of what’s getting more & more bubbling up in my heart. I started by defining culture as a ‘set of shared attitudes, values, goals, beliefs, & practices…” & rolled on from there to HERE.

Living out love, acceptance, & forgiveness is costly… in that its risky & feels ‘dangerous’ because of the personal & corporate vulnerability that results. It’s also freeing, as it seems like living with no net, with a deeper & more reliant (desperate) need for cooperation to what God-the Holy Spirit is doing in & around us. Cause really, living love, acceptance, & forgiveness is simply putting a human suit on God’s heart & purposes for humanity.

On another note, evidently I had taken a picture at the Sunday coffee party at the Dueck’s house that had caught Aris’ beautiful girlfriend with her eyes closed. So, I’m posting another one that I snapped last night to make up for it. Very, very sweet.

After the meeting, Eddy & I were invited by a couple of people to head over to a place called “Loonas,” a kneipe (restaurant/pub) run by an Italian guy named Gianni (Johnny) right around the corner from the famous Bistro Sahin. Hung out there for a while, talking about times when we’ve been embarrassed by saying something in our mother tongue, not knowing that there was someone nearby that understood it… good times. Embarrassment & the gift of putting ones foot in ones mouth – truly a universal trait of the human race.

Gianni was quite taken with us, partially because it was the 2nd evening in a row that we’d been there… & business was pretty slow. I ordered a Maisel’s Weissbier from Austria. The hefe glass it came it was incredible, so much so that I asked Gianni if he had any for sale. He got a big grin on his face & went & grabbed one from behind his counter – & said, “For you, the American guy, it’s free. Just promise me one thing: don’t EVER put American beer in this glass. If you do, it will BREAK!” We all had a good laugh at that, & I’m coming home with a great souvenir reminder & sign of God’s blessing & favor. Booyah!

I’ve spent today meeting with a couple different people – for breakfast & then again for lunch. The last two days I haven’t been able to walk as much as I would like, so I took the U-bahn to the Hauptwache (main station,) where the outdoor mall (& the KatherinenKirche is, where we did the Leben ist Schoen outreach in 2007.) Walked up & down the mall, looking for a new shoulder bag. (NOTE: a shoulder bag is different than a man-purse. I can’t explain all the nuances of it, but you’ll have to take my word for it, especially if I ever actually pull the trigger on buying one.)

Been using a borrowed (& flimsy) backpack on the trip, & the more I wear & use it, the more my upper back & neck hurt. I’m at the point where I’m looking to spend money to deal with the pain, which should tell you that its become a nuisance… I’ve tried adjusting the straps etc. but to no avail – hence the search for a bag that would be easier to support, & more evenly balanced. Your prayers for healing (& relief!) are greatly appreciated.

Anyway, it’s been raining for most of the day, so I put my hood up, thanked the LORD that theBean had made me take my rain jacket, & walked. And shopped, which consisted of me looking into the stores as I briskly went by each of them. If anything caught my eye, I’d wander in for a few, & then get out as quick as possible. Truly, I am skilled at this. Oh yes.

Found about 4 different, very, very manly shoulder-bags, complete with the imprint of a manly sporting goods company on it. Thinking about colors at this point, & may take the plunge & actually get one tomorrow. Just sayin…

I’ll be snagging a spare umbrella for the walk to TPLF tonight for Flying Ducks (College Group). Aris, the leader of the Ducks, asked me to bring something challenging, so I’ll be speaking from John 8, talking about the difference between BELIEF in Christ & being a DISCIPLE of Christ. Hillside-ers would most likely recognize the text & the substance of the message as we spent a good weeks on the topic in our Living as a Christ-follower series… Good times.

Something I’d like to ponder & work through later deals with a topic that has come up repeatedly over the last 10 days: fatherhood. I’ll put a “,” there & we’ll get back to it soon. Gotta study a bit, rest for 20, & then head over to TPLF.

Deutschland Travels, Spring 2010, Day #8-9

Monday is Eddy’s day off, & I heard that the family would be headed to a couple of hardware stores to check out & price supplies for the garden project. I asked if I could tag along, as one of the things I’ve never seen in Germany is a hardware store. Now I have. We went to two stores, both of them very reminiscent of the Home Depot & Lowe’s superstores; one, the Hornbach, even had the same color scheme & ‘feel’ of Home Depot.

In the afternoon, the Dueck’s went to a family birthday party, & I made my way over to TPLF to meet with a local pastor of an English speaking church named Richard Morschel. Richard is South African with German roots, & he & his family have been in Frankfurt since 1987, & he’s been pastoring Kingdom Life Church here since 2006. We made our way to the bakery/coffee shop near the Bistro Sahin, & had some cappuccino & spent a couple of hours getting to know each other.

I’d met Richard before a couple of times, but determined on this trip to actually try to connect for more than a brief conversation. In addition to pastoring, he’s employed by the Frankfurt Opera, & plays bassoon. We had great talks about philosophy of church, the significance of relationships, the process of building trust, & how our paths keep crossing in interesting ways. (For example, the man who leads the youth group came back to Jesus during the “Leben ist Schoen” outreach in August 2007… You can read about it HERE) I found that though we come from very different backgrounds, Richard & I have a lot in common when it comes to our ideas about what really matters… This Friday morning, I’ll be participating in Kingdom Life’s men’s breakfast, & giving the devotional. I look forward to seeing how our new relationship will develop.

There was a short interlude before my next appointment, so I took advantage of the down time to read. I’m currently in a book about Apple CEO Steve Jobs. Some of it is great, some absolutely cracks me up.

My ride arrived in the form of Levent’s VW; we chatted as he skillfully wound his way through Frankfurt’s crazy rush-hour traffic, making his way to their home. Levent is Turkish, & was one of the 1st people that I met at TPLF in 2005, & it is always good to be able to visit with him & Ines, his Bolivian/German wife. They prepared an excellent dinner with burgers, brats, bbq’d corn-on-the-cob, salad, & a South African Pinotage. We caught up on their lives, & also the new happenings in one of the areas that they help out at church in, the Twens Gruppe (College Group,) which is affectionately known as “Flying Ducks.” We made some tentative plans for Ines & I to go to Levent’s workplace on Friday for a tour & for lunch. (He’s in TV. Meaning, he is working to bring streaming television live to the internet.)

Day 9 began at 5:50 a.m. as I staggered my way out the door & down the street to TPLF for prayer for TPLF, led by my friend Sam Clayton. Several of us gathered for about an hour to pray for the church, Eddy & Laura, & whatever else we were led to. And coffee was served, which filled my prayers with a bit more energy than they otherwise might have.

Sam (from Manchester, England,) took me to his house right after prayer to spend time with his family: Wife Mirjam (Swiss), & their 3 kids; Danny 4, Becky (my god-daughter,) 2, & Benjamin 1. Danny had to go to kindergarten, leaving Sam, Mirjam & I to eat some great food, play with the kids & catch up on life. Sam & Mirjam had been a part of the Roundabout team with me, & have also been at TPLF since 2006. Sam feels a call to inter-national reconciliation & peace, & is currently studying to be able to put himself in a spot to help facilitate this. Their story always reminds me of the often winding road that our lives take: Sam left England & went to France, where he met Mirjam, a Swiss national on a mission trip. He tried everything he knew to learn her language (French) & her heart… which he was eventually able to do, marrying about 6 years ago. Then, this international couple felt led to relocated to Frankfurt – & so Sam learned German to go along with his English & French… They have story after story to tell about God’s faithfulness, provision, & care in their lives. I’m honored to be able to be in their lives.

I’ve been trying to catch up on blogging this afternoon, to take a nap, & then do some studying for the meetings I’ll be having over the next few days. My contacts with home have left me feeling a bit home-sick I must say. More than once, I’ve loaded a picture album of my family on my Mac & watched the slideshow play over & over, often pausing on pictures of each of my dear ones to pray for them… & extra long on theBean & her clear blue eyes, gleaming like sapphires, calling to me, making it hard for me to think anything at all except of her… sigh. Soon, my dear.

Tonight, in just a few hours, Eddy & I are going to a Man Meeting to talk about Manhood & what it means to be a Man. Great topic, & I’m really looking forward to the discussion on this, especially considering that there will be people from all sorts of backgrounds & cultures participating. Good times!

Deutschland Travels, Spring 2010, Day #7

Woke up around 8:30 to the heavenly smell of coffee & homemade cinnamon rolls; Laura is an amazing cook. Just sayin. Evidently, I’ve taken to saying, “Tasty!” so often in response to our meals that Taylor (6) & Elliot (3) the Dueck’s 2 oldest boys, have started using the word as well. Now just to get Max (2) saying it too…

Sitting around the counter eating, the personalities of the 3 boys come out. Makes me think about how very unique the experience is to be growing up as a pastor’s kid… having people in your home all the time… with church days not just ‘going’ to church but ‘running’ it… I’m reflecting back on my own childhood, growing up ‘in the church,’ & also the experiences of my kids; wondering how & in what ways that has shaped their personalities & life outlook. Note to self.

Different service schedule today at TPLF: 1 song, then some announcements & ‘missions discussion’, followed by the speech – with the last 30 minutes or so being set aside for worship/response. The worship team was led by Kyong-he & Steve G… Kyong-he has got a voice that reminds me a lot of Kate Miner, & she is a very skillful & sensitive worship leader, in that you don’t ever really NOTICE her so much as simply FOLLOW her in worship through songs, spontaneous spoken praise, silence, & celebration. Steve is an Englishman living in Frankfurt, & is one of the funniest people I’ve ever met, with a quick wit & ready story. He’s also incredibly willing to help in whatever way he can, & is a great example of how someone with the gift of evangelism has integrated into the ebb & flow of life in & around TPLF.

Today is the last of a 4 week series on the mission of the church – it’s interesting to me to see that though many things have changed, including the pastor of TPLF, the mission statement hasn’t.

    -Living for Jesus
    -Living for each other
    -Living for Frankfurt
    -Living for Germany & the World

The text I spoke from was Acts 8:26-40, about Philip meeting the Ethiopian eunuch/treasurer on the desert road from Jerusalem to Gaza. If you’re interested in hearing it, you can try to find it here. What really stood out to me about that portion of scripture is that “living for the world…” doesn’t always mean having to go to the far corners of the earth (ironic, I know, as I am writing this from Frankfurt, about 5500 miles from home.) The story of Philip is an example where the world has come to him – & he (Philip) responds to the leading of the Holy Spirit in starting a conversation with a man seeking to know God, & in turn, touches & helps change an entire nation.

To me, it’s not about aiming for greatness, or trying to be significant, let alone famous… its being available to serve, to obey, to be lead in a simple way to do whatever God puts in front of me to do… whether I can see the “WHY” behind it or not. Obedience is better than sacrifice, & the real joy comes from gladly doing the will & purposes of God.

I really enjoyed having the worship/song/reflection portion at the end of the service – it gave a lot of time & possibility for listening & responding to the LORD… & also felt like a ‘good’ fit for the message & the day.

Its always great to be at TPLF & have the opportunity to renew the acquaintance of old friends, & to meet new people. Today was even better – my dear friend Anja came over from Mainz (about 25 miles away,) & Julia, the young woman from Aachen, Germany that lived with us for 6 months,) made the 2-hour trek by with her sister & a friend to be in the service. It’s hard to put into words the response that that kind of love evokes. What special & dear friends.

After church, several of us made our way to a restaurant just around the corner from TPLF – Koriander (formerly Zimt und Koriander – now under new ownership.) I think that they have great pizzas, so that’s what I got – a personal pepperoni & pineapple, complete with a dark Hefeweizen. Mmmm. That should get your mouth watering.

We walked from the restaurant, talking & catching up on the last few months – & navigated the short distance to Eddy & Laura’s house. They were having an ‘open house’ for any who wanted to come by & sample some of Laura’s baked goods & drink some tea or coffee. The house was filled with great smells, peals of laughter, & good talks. Aris & Steve had us all rolling with their witty repartee.

Too soon, it seemed, the afternoon flowed into the evening, & our friends had to make their way home, especially those that had traveled so far. It brought tears to my eyes to say goodbye to my friends, for whom I’m so thankful.

The family & I spent a quiet evening with a light supper (tasty!) & now the boys are in bed & I’m trying to catch up on the happenings of the day with news from home & Hillside. When I’m here in Frankfurt, I try to be “HERE”; while at the same time, I dearly miss my wife, my family, friends, & church family.

a night in the forest… or Deutschland Travels, Spring 2010, Day #4

Jan picked me up in the early afternoon, & we made our way into the city center of Mainz. After parking & walking for a bit, we decided that it would be a good time for lunch: pizza. There was a place that Jan especially likes, run by an Italian family, that we made our way to – after reading through the menu, I decided I’d get the pizza called, “Der Teufel” (the devil,) which came with pepperoni, red (hot chili) peppers, & pepperoncini. Amazing.

We spent the better part of the afternoon catching up on the happenings in the churches that Jan oversees – especially those that we’d be spending time with over the next days. It was an absolutely beautiful day, with a temperature of about 75, with the slightest of breezes. I enjoyed it even more when I heard that it was snowing & hailing at home. Goodness. It’s April… practically May. This picture is a banner I saw while walking through the narrow streets of Old Mainz. Green Day is coming to Mainz. It is a small world.

No visit to an authentic Italian restaurant is complete without gelato . I chose chocolate & vanilla, covered with chocolate sauce & Schlagsahne (whipped cream,) for brother Ben.

The time came to make our way to Taunusstein, a small town about 30 minutes by car from Mainz. Whenever I ask people to tell me about Taunusstein, they always say, “It’s in the forest.” I can see why. Getting there is like driving Highway 28 from Spooner Summit to North Shore Lake Tahoe; beautiful scenery, fresh mountain air, & trees as far as the eye can see, with the occasional break in the woods that allows glimpses into the valley below. Very nice.

Taunusstein is a town of about 25,000 people – & while it has Catholic & State (Lutheran) churches, there has been no Freikirche (free-church, non-state church of independent or denominational status) there. Ever. (In comparison, Mainz has 7, & Reno alone has at least 250 free-churches.)

About 3 years ago, Jan & the enChristo church decided to partner with some of the people that had been traveling the 30 minutes to their church to see a bible study started, & hopefully, eventually, a church planted.

There’s been a good response in Taunusstein; a good group of people with a wide variety of church backgrounds have begun attending, many of whom have been praying for a free-church to come to their town for years. There’s also been some stops & restarts in the process, & a lot of things to work through, most notably the difficulties that inevitably arise with a group that each comes with their own idea of what this particular free-church could look like. Hearing some of their stories on how they’re attempting to keep Jesus Christ & the cross front & center give me a new appreciation for the need for the Church to focus on the essentials… referencing the Augustine attributed statement:

“In essentials, unity; in doubtful matters, liberty; in all things, charity.”

We met first with the appointed leader of the church plant, Curt Staab. He graciously welcomed us into his home & ushered us onto the back patio that his family shares with the other tenants of the ranch style/condo-type housing block. He’d prepared dinner himself, an authentic Bavarian feast: white sausage, kraut-salad, & fresh baked pretzel bread.

Curt & his wife Claudia have been a part of the church plant team since the beginning, & have served as assistants, then leaders of the plant which is still sponsored by & overseen by enChristo & the Foursquare Germany leadership. Curt is a practicing medical doctor in his “day job” & is a humble, dedicated, & faithful man giving his all to see people come to know Jesus & grow in him.

Over dinner, I received my assignment for the night: I’d be addressing a home cell group of about 12-20 people, using the book of Acts as my template, talking through the beginnings of the church, tying it in to what the people in Taunnustein are doing, & also referencing some of my own experiences from church life. Sweet.

I scratched a few notes on a pad, & we drove to the home where the group would be meeting; imagine my surprise, a couple from the Frankfurt area that I’ve known for several years, Speedy & Fema Rakus, happened to be there with their 2 sons. Speedy is in his residency, & recently relocated to Taunusstein… & in turn, joined the church plant. I thanked God for the friendly (& familiar) faces.

We began with a DVD message from my supervisor, Ron (the DVD I showed in church last week.) I was so thankful to have an ice-breaker – an introduction & personal blessing specifically recorded for these meetings we are in, as well as an explanation of what it means to be Foursquare, addressing at the very heart level fleshing out love, acceptance, & forgiveness. It was very well received, & the room noticeably brightened.

Jan was serving as my translator, & I tried to get my brain working on multiple levels – what I was talking about, & also how I was communicating it – aiming to keep it in complete sentences & thoughts for ease of “idea to idea” translation. The main scripture used was Acts 2:42-48 – where in the aftermath of the first church growth ‘explosion’ of 120 – 3000+ people, the apostles, in response to the leading of the Holy Spirit, found a way, a flexible though functional structure to make sure each believer was in a place to receive discipleship. As I talked, I was reminded of the great need we have to be in relationship; for the opportunity to be face to face with others on a regular basis in a group small enough to allow intimate & intentional discipleship to take place. I shot up a quick prayer for Hillside & mentally noted to keep praying for the continued development of ‘life giving small missional communities’ (small groups if you want to use a cliche) in our church family.

The time flew by, & illustrations & promptings readily came to mind – we laughed a lot. I’m thankful that some of the things I’ve learned the hard way were able to be used as an example that others might not have to go down the same route I did.

At the end of the talk, there was time for questions… the questions came, haltingly at first. On topics like elders. Leadership. Church structure & church government. Distinctions between elders & leaders (Germans are very, very precise & exact in their definitions.) Differences between the US & German Foursquare structure, bylaws, & government. Prayer.

We prayed together, said our heartfelt goodbyes, & Jan & I slipped out to make the drive back to my host home. Both of us were tired from the long day (& night) & also from sitting & walking in the warm sun for most of the afternoon. Briefly, we talked about our next days agenda, a visit to a town called Bingen, where we’d be spending time with an independent church that is in year 2 of a 3 year process to be adopted as a member church of Foursquare Germany.

Had the good fortune to make it home around midnight, just in time for my schedule & theBean’s to overlap long enough to Skype. Goodness, she has blue eyes. Sigh.

Woke to the sound of my alarm, the 1st time I’d not woken up before it. (In honor of Brintus, I used the Darth Vader music from Star Wars. Starts my day with a smile. Yo B! Thinking of ya!) Staggered to the bathroom to shower & then to the kitchen (with all the appropriate steps in between,) to find that my hosts had laid the table with everything necessary to start the day great. Again! A carafe full of steaming coffee. Mueslix (2 kinds.) Yoghurt. 3 kinds of juice. Dark German bread. Brötchen (little bread rolls.) Ahh. I feel so blessed. Wolfram & Heidi – thank you so much for your hospitality.

On her way out to travel, Heidi came to say goodbye – I’m going to be in another home about 30 minutes away this evening to facilitate my early Friday morning meeting in Gau Algesheim. She said, “Thank you for the opportunity to be a part of what you’re doing. You staying with us allowed me & my husband to be a part of what our church (enChristo) is doing. We’re often so busy with travel & work that we can’t be involved as much as we’d like. Hosting you gave us a chance to be a part of the blessing that you are giving to Germany.”

What an incredible perspective – to be thankful for hosting me? Recognizing that they were getting to partner in the declaration of the gospel Good News. It was a very cool moment that makes me all weepy.

I love my life, & am grateful for the chance meetings that are sign posts declaring God’s goodness, blessing, & care to me & mine.

Deutschland Travels, Spring 2010 Day #3

I arrived in Mainz about 7 p.m. as the preparations for the BBQ were beginning in earnest. It’s a bit surreal to be witness to the hustle & bustle of activity precipitating a church event, but not being a part of the actual “hustling…” Loved the energy.

Jan arrived & he, Eddy, & I spent some time talking, catching up, & making sure our calendars were synced – Eddy was on staff with Jan for several years as his associate, his right hand man. It’s an interesting dynamic between them, in that there is a lot of history & ‘being known’ that is obvious, as well as a deep love & mutual respect.

After Eddy left to head back to Frankfurt, (Tuesdays are “Date Night” for the Dueck’s, no easy feat considering they have 3 boys under the age of 6,) I talked with several of the people that had arrived, a couple of whom I have known (or at least met,) through the November Pastors’ conference I have attended for the last several years. The question of the evening, esp. with those that I hadn’t met before, was:

Why do you come to Germany?

Jan had told me that he wanted me to address the group on this topic later, so each time I answered the query with, “I will tell you later. ” And a smile.

My attendance at the BBQ was a bit of a surprise for some – they didn’t know I’d be there. This dinner gathering was a regularly scheduled get-together for the pastoral staff & ministry leads (childrens’ ministry, administration, hospitality, small groups, etc.) An intimate group of about 15 of us gathered outside on a patio with a U-shaped table configuration to maximize interaction. It was a pot-luck in the best sense of the word, as several great salads, meat selections, & desserts were provided by the people in attendance. The majority of our time involved interacting under the stars in the cool evening, talking, laughing, & enjoying each others company & a good Portuguese rotwein. It reminded me a lot of hanging out with my church family. :)

After about 90 minutes or so, Jan asked if I would tell the gathered group a little bit about me, & also tell WHY I was there… around the tables there was a general anticipation, as those who’d wanted that question answered earlier were FINALLY getting their wish.

I talked about my first trip to Germany, an accidental one. The friendship that developed with my friend Johannes. The discussions about the practicality & process of missions. My trip down the river Main, & how God used the simple invitation, “Come to Germany,” to sear a deep, lasting, committed love for the country, people, & pastors in Germany. Our attempts to move to Germany in 2/99. Beginning pastoring Hillside. The reestablishment of relationship with Johannes & Germany. Mission trips to Frankfurt that resulted in the budding “sister-church” relationship Hillside has with TPLF. The commitment to go to the German pastors’ conference each November, to get to know pastors for the purpose of supporting, praying for, & encouraging them in their endeavors. You can read more about that HERE & HERE & HERE & also HERE if you’re interested

After I finished talking, Jan had me field some questions… a few I remember:

    -what is your long-term vision for Germany?
    -What do you think the German church needs?
    -Does your church support you (believe in you) coming to Germany?
    -Do you really pray for us?

As in any group of close friends, the talks gradually broke into small pockets of conversation, & Jan & I had the opportunity to just sit & soak in the brisk night, observing the people, & conversing ourselves about hobbies, exercise, kettlebells, (Jan was very interested in this, & even asked me to demonstrate several kettlebell exercises & techniques… which I so gladly busted out, much to the amusement of those who observed my demonstration but hadn’t been privy to the discussion leading up to it. Imagine me doing the swing, the figure eight with hold, & the famed “2 hand anyhow…” Good times.

It was close to 11 by the time Jan took me to the home where I’d be staying – words can’t begin to describe the thankfulness I felt at not only being prepared for, (which Wolfram & Heidi had done, setting up a great room & space for me, including wifi password & wasser mit koehlensaure,) but also that they were up & answered the door for their late arriving guest.

A quick tour of the home followed, (so I wouldn’t stumble around in the dark,) & then a quick phone call to theBean, then to bed for me. The picture at left is the garden (backyard) of the home where I’m staying.

I woke to the sound of giggling kids – evidently, having an American staying in Spare Oom is a pretty funny concept for little ones. I quickly shaved & showered, then stumbled out to a German breakfast, complete with strong German coffee. Heidi pulled out all the stops, & I was again so thankful for the love & care shown to me in something as simple as mueslix, yoghurt, the dark German bread, & plenty of coffee. Did I mention the coffee? Mmm.

One of my favorite things about staying in homes is the opportunity to get to hear the ‘story’ of the hosts; these serendipitous meetings have often resulted in the development of deep & lasting friendships, (ala Martin und Sandra, Alex und Linda, etc…)

Today, I’ll be having lunch with Jan & discussing the happenings within Foursquare Germany, specifically relating to the churches that I’ll be visiting over the next couple of evenings, & also hearing about the recent developments in Foursquare Europe (fresh from the conference that just took place just outside of Valencia, Spain.) Then, this evening, I’m headed to a place in the hills about 30 minutes from Mainz called Taunusstein. I’m looking forward to another great evening.

The confronting of fear, lies, & other Friday fun…

The experiences & interactions of the last few days have given me cause to… pause. Reflect. Pray. In the middle of it, what keeps running through my head is this:

Jesus traveled through all the cities & villages of that area, teaching in the synagogues & announcing the Good News about the Kingdom. And wherever He went, He healed people of every sort of disease & illness. He felt great pity for the crowds that came, because their problems were so great & they didn’t know where to go for help. They were like sheep without a shepherd. He said to his disciples, “The harvest is so great, but the workers are so few. So pray to the LORD who is in charge of the harvest; ask Him to send out more workers for His fields.” Matthew 9:35-38 NLT

Luke 10:1,2 also relays this story – with the added context of Jesus’ sending out 72 disciples, with the instructions to be doing the same as Him… & to pray for God, the LORD of the harvest – to send more workers for His fields…

And it resonates – not just because of the faceless masses, people I don’t know… but because of those within “my circle” – friends, & friends of friends – people needing the Good Shepherd, so many with such a wide range of needs that it almost drives me to distraction… I dig. Why?

It bothers me so much because of my own felt inadequacy, & brokenness – & I wonder what I can do? I know Jesus Christ, & I’m following Him. I know that the Holy Spirit convicts, changes, & transforms, brings from darkness to light. And I ‘know’ my role is to be somebody that lives, that models, Christ in me, doing what He would do, being what He is in the context of my circle. And yet I’m afraid. If & when I engage with people, I’m afraid it won’t be enough. I articulate my fear: what if God doesn’t follow through?

Now. It’s out. Brought into the light, the fear that has been twisting me, nagging in the shadows of my heart is exposed for what it is. A lie, sown in doubt, used to trip me to hopelessness. Inaction. Distraction. To focus solely on my own issues, short-comings, areas that need to be ‘put back together’… & not falling on the freedom, entering the adventure of faith, trust, & life. Knowing that I know that I know that God is able to heal. Restore. Transform. Forgive. Love. And that He has commissioned, empowered, & strengthened me to do just that. And to look for opportunities to do so.

So instead of waiting for someone else, someone stronger, farther along, more competent, more ‘together’ to be one of the ‘workers’ in His harvest, I know that God has sent me instead. And you. And it starts with love. First me receiving it from God, then sharing what I’ve been given with others. I choose love – healthy, Godly, unconditional, love. To speak the truth in love. Invest in people, without regard for what’s in it for me? Without hope of reciprocity. And I pray along with the Apostle Paul:

When I think of the wisdom & scope of God’s plan, I fall to my knees & pray to the Father, the Creator of everything in heaven & on earth. I pray that from His glorious, unlimited resources He will give you mighty inner strength through His Holy Spirit. And I pray that Christ will be more & more at home in your hearts as you trust in Him. May your roots go down deep into the soil of God’s marvelous love. And may you have the power to understand, as all God’s people should, how wide, how long, how high, & how deep His love really is. May you experience the love of Christ, though it is so great you will never fully understand it. Then you will be filled with the fullness of life & power that comes from God. Now glory be to God! By His mighty power at work within us, He is able to accomplish infinitely more than we would ever dare to ask or hope. May He be given glory in the church & in Christ Jesus forever & ever through endless ages. Amen. Ephesians 3:14-21

Missions Development…#10, or "Why ‘It’s all good’ Is Not Acceptable as a Missions Philosophy…"

The Romania team got together 1x with everyone who had signed up to go – about 6 weeks out. Turns out that our application & screening process, (supposed to come with an interview, age minimum, checking for a semblance of maturity in Christ,) had turned out to be a ‘suggestion’ for some groups.

There were approximately 12 churches represented, with 125 people on the team; most churches had at least 1 adult leader with them. At this point, the unanswered questions from the scouting trip came back to haunt us – magnified- became clear through our ‘interactions’ that there was a serious issue: we lacked a cohesive idea of what the mission was about – so, everyone made it about what they thought it should be.

I dreaded the real-deal.

In August – we flew out of SF to Helsinki, Finland, the a plane to Budapest, then took buses to Romania. Rather than go through every day & every issue – the snapshots of the trip:

  • Groups of loud, obnoxious Christian teens making the “sleeping” portion of the trip east unbearable for just about everybody. And not sleeping. One memory is a guy playing his guitar at about 3 in the morning. On the plane. And when he was told to put it away by the flight attendant, he couldn’t believe he wasn’t allowed to ‘worship.’
  • One 16 year old guy got so scared on takeoff out of SF that he literally pooped his pants. Then sat in it for the 10 hour flight. It was only upon arrival in Helsinki that the accident was discovered & his adult leader had to make him (MAKE HIM) change his pants. The weirdest part was that he had a spare pair of skivvies & shorts in his carryon. The one he’d had on the plane. Turns out he was a bit emotionally disturbed, & probably shouldn’t have come on the trip in the 1st place.
  • Arriving in Budapest, & having the suitcase with all of our materials for the outreach not show up – (it arrived back in Reno 3 months later. Intact. Weird.)
  • Getting loaded onto buses in groups of about 20… & realizing that there was no one (or several someones) making sure that everyone was accounted for – & that the only one that supposedly knew where we were going was the bus-driver. Who didn’t speak any English.
  • Having our bus break down on the voyage from Budapest to Oradea, & waiting for hours for someone to come & fix the bus. Being left alone on the bus while the bus driver left & went… somewhere. He eventually came back, but not before many of us were THIS close to formulating a plan of action & an attempt to find help on our own.
  • Finally arriving at our “hotel” in Felix, very near Oradea, & finding that there was still at least 1 bus that hadn’t arrived yet. It stumbled in in the wee hours of the next day, with all the people who had been stuck on it looking like death warmed over.
  • Finding out that I would be staying on the 11th floor, (albeit with Chum!) & that the elevator didn’t work. And on Day 3 finding out by default that the water in the building didn’t quite make it up to our floor anymore. Meaning we had to use the facilities (showers, toilets, sinks) of our friends on the 3rd floor on down.
  • Cockroaches – initially it was repulsive, & Chum & I would count the ones we could see, & then try to squish them. It was tough because there were so many, it was impossible to keep them out of the bed – which made it tough to sleep for the first couple of days. However, the combination of familiarity & exhaustion soon made it so that we just either ignored the creepy-crawlers on the floor, walls, & bed, or we named them. Weird to think about the fact that we got “used” to having cockroaches in our beds.
  • Discovering that for all 125 of us, there was no firm plan for what we would do each day – & that any plans would be made on the fly by Stefan & our hosts from the Romanian Pentecostal Church. Which meant that things (plans, organization, scheduling, in every area) were worse than anticipated.
  • On that note – the food situation was rough – the area of Romania where we were & the state of the economy being what it was – our hotel had very little in the way of food. So, the breakfasts that we were to eat at the hotel usually consisted of a rotting tomato, a slice of moldy cheese, & stale bread, accompanied by boxed water.
  • The water was mineral (bubbly) water, which I like. However, there was a group-wide insurrection at having to drink “that”. So I & Fearless Leader spent 1 full day trying to find a place that had still water. Finally did, but it blew me away that our group (& the leaders were the BEST at this) would complain about the situation the way we did.
  • One day we found a McDonalds on our route to the hotel – & ended up finding a way to take our bus by it every day – we bribed the driver & would buy as much food as we could carry to stash for later, & to feed the driver & his family too. McDonalds never tasted so good.
  • Fearless Leader & Stefan kept disappearing for hours at a time, every day. Turns out, while we were waiting for our hosts to come up with a plan on the spot, something for 125 people to ‘do” on this mission trip, they were at a tennis club playing tennis together. That one still rankles me.
  • My group ended up getting set to the same place to do work for several days – even when there was no more work to be done. And, the 1 thing that we’d really wanted to do, & had been promised that we’d be able to, to go to one of the Romanian orphanages, didn’t happen. Dealing with that disappointment was crushing. As was the problem of an ever-decreasing group-wide morale.
  • There was 1 phone in the hotel that could be used to call the States – & only during a 2 hour period of the day, & only if the operator & owner of the phone was bribed $10 US by every person, every time, that wanted to use it. After the fiasco of the scouting trip, I decided that if I couldn’t call theBean, at least I would use a tape recorder to communicate with her during the trip – & then give her the cassette tape when I got back.
  • There was an undercurrent of personality conflicts, leaders having issues with each other, & out & out insurrection against Fearless Leader. Which of course modeled our Christianity up close & personal for all who were exposed to it.
  • From my perspective, our hosts made sure that the outreaches were tailored just for us – so we could have our missions experience, give an altar call, & pray for the people that came forward… And the focus was definitely on the “numbers of people saved” (e.g those that came forward) without any thought given to what happened to them after we went home…
  • One night, we found our way to a pseudo-restaurant near our hotel – turns out it was a restaurant (good!) & a dance club (bad!) It didn’t take long for the majority of our group to get onto the dance floor to bust a move. After a couple days of this, we found out that dance clubs were one of the things that Romanian Christians looked at as ‘the devil’s playground,’ & a place that was as distasteful & ‘sinful’ as a house of prostitution… meaning that in their view, the only people who went there were the unredeemed pagans, & loose living hedonists. And of course, the American missions team. Had a hard time talking through that with the whole team, as several of the American team leaders from different places wanted our Romanian hosts to just “lighten up,” & didn’t seem to care much that it bothered them so bad. So much for cultural sensitivity.
  • The crowning moment of the trip was the return of the mob – just down the hallway from my & Chum’s room, there was a collection of rough-looking characters (reminiscent of the Hotel Dacia, but without guns.) They were fairly rowdy, & had women in & out of the room – but mostly they kept to themselves. Except for this time.

    We had just gone to sleep, when there was a commotion. By commotion, I mean screaming, crying, & loud voices yelling. And a siren. Then there were what sounded like fireworks popping, but what must have been a gun being fired. I was mortified. Chum & I were praying under our blankets with the roaches. I grabbed my tape recorder, & dictated my last words to theBean, & a modified last will & testament. No exaggeration, it sounded like WW3 outside our door, & I was sure that we were going to die. Then, someone started banging on OUR door. To the room we were staying in. And yelling in Romanian for us to open it. We didn’t. We prayed more, & finally they went away. We looked out the window to the ground below & saw a ‘paddy wagon’ that was being loaded with a few people.

    Turns out, the Romanian cops had showed up & busted our mob friends from down the hall. Hmm.

    Its not that everything that happened was bad – its just that SO MUCH of it was. A few people came to know Jesus, & the group from our city had grown closer in the midst of adversity. At the same time, it felt like we’d wasted our money in going on the mission. Worse, we hadn’t been prepared for, & many of us felt like we’d wasted our time, been ineffectual, & had nothing really to show for our time there. Worse still, the majority of the bad could have been avoided by simply making sure that the questions that we’d had on the scouting trip got answered before we would go on the trip.

    What I took from this experience was the fact that I needed a missions philosophy – some clear, concrete guidelines based on values & relationship… something that would provide a screening process for what we would/wouldn’t do in the future for missions.

    In the weeks after the trip, I put my thoughts on paper… & wondered if going to Germany was still as good an idea as I’d thought the previous May…

    Missions Development…#9, or "Just a few minor details is all…"

    We left Budapest (& Romania) in our rear-view mirror – I was thankful to have survived our trip & all the drama, sex, & danger of the Hotel Dacia… we were picked up at the Frankfurt Airport (Fraport) & taken to lunch with Johannes for bratwurst, handkäse mit music (a vinegar hardened stinky cheese covered with onions,) & apfelwein (a wine made out of apples, which is a Frankfurt specialty.)

    Keep in mind that this is happening in May ’97 – & that the purpose of this scouting trip was to prepare for a missions trip to Romania in August ’97. I was introduced to the “German way” – when Johannes told us what he’d been doing in the few days we’d been in Hungary/Romania – evidently, Germans like to plan, & to have little things like “a few minor details” together well in advance… Johannes had a ‘mock up’ itinerary of what we could be doing if we were to return to Germany for a mission in August ’98… as the German Foursquare National Youth Movement was already preparing for an outreach in several cities at that time. Johannes, Fearless Leader, Nate, & myself talked for a couple of hours about the possibility of about coming to Germany in 1998 to provide support for their outreach & to build relationship with the youth & leaders that would be participating.

    Here’s what was proposed, discussed, & pseudo-planned:

  • There will be a team of Germans, made up of students & leaders from the Foursquare churches within Germany, making it a ‘national event’ for the Movement.
  • We would bring a team of Americans, made up from our church in Carson City, & some others from our District.
  • For Phase 1, the first 3 days, all the Germans & Americans would gather at a campground just outside of Frankfurt – to spend time together, get to know each other – eat – worship – & prepare. This meant that the German/American teams would be split up into 3 mini-teams for specific teaching & preparation for where each of the mini-teams would be going in the next phase of the mission.
  • Phase 2, the next 7 days, the 3 mini-teams would head to the places that they would be going – 1 group going to Berlin, 1 to Mainz, & 1 to Kiensburg (a small ‘city/village’ of about 1500 in the south-eastern part of the country.) Then, each of the teams in the 3 cities would work together under the coordination of the local German church… believing that the local congregation would know best what they would like to do for outreach. The German/American teams would function in support for the local church outreach, providing man & woman power.
  • Phase 3, then, for the next 7 days: all 3 teams would come back together in Frankfurt – to do outreach with the local Frankfurt congregation (where Johannes was the youth pastor) in Frankfurt’s downtown – using what the local church usually used to connect with their city – random acts of kindness; drama; music; sharing of personal testimonies, & a open-air presentation of the gospel.
  • And, of course, all of these things would be confirmed by a ‘scouting’ trip – one where we’d come to Germany & visit each of the potential venues, meet with the local pastors, & plot out the specifics for each day (hour even?) of our time in-country.
  • Just a few minor details? I don’t think so – I had the sense that I was already more prepared for Germany ’98 than I was for Romania ’97… & by the end of our discussion, I was FEELING it. This resonated with me, in my guts. This was the kind of thing that I’d hope to be able to be a part of – something that would seemingly be beneficial to the local church(es), the kind of initial connection that would facilitate (or at least make available) a longer term connection for the building of relationships – I couldn’t wait…

    Johannes took us back to the airport so that we could catch our flight back to the UK … when he dropped us off, he prayed for each of us (a story in itself.) When he prayed over me, I remember him saying, “God has given you a pastor’s heart. You can embrace it. It’s good, & it fits you.” (Reference this POST for more on this.)

    This made 3x in the space of 2 weeks that 3 strangers had said basically the same thing to me – & I believe that it was 3x in order to remind me that this wasn’t something of my own creation – it had nothing to do with my dad being a pastor – it was a gentle hint, a nudge really, towards something that God would open up for me in the appropriate time, in the right place, as I would keep saying, “Yes” to Him & to what He’d put in front of me.

    And we flew home – London to San Francisco. The 3 of us talked briefly about what had stood out to us about our trip, & made some tentative plans for what would be happening over the next 3 months as we got ready for Romania… but mostly we slept, or tried to sleep…I discovered that the end of a trip is not the best time to strategize, as by that time, you just want it to be over, to be home, to shower, & to sleep in your own bed…

    Coming up:
    Final preparations for Romania ’97.
    A few signs that there was trouble ahead.
    And the trip to end all trips.

    Missions Development…#8, or "Welcome to the Hotel Dacia…"

    We left the church, drove the YUGO, & attempted to follow Moises, who didn’t seem to know where he was going – we hadn’t gotten around to eating dinner, & I was as hungry & tired as I’d been so far on the trip.

    Finally got to our hotel around 11:30 p.m. – the Hotel Dacia… I wasn’t sure if it was because of my cloudy eyes, the moonless night, or what… it was dark… even inside the Hotel… as though the lightbulbs were all 30watters that emitted only a yellowish light, making it hard to see any depth or details…

    As we headed into the poorly lit lobby towards the check-in desk…something grabbed my eye… at the side of the lobby, seated in a faux-living room set up, were about 5 guys, surrounded by several scandalously dressed women… obviously prostitutes or ‘call girls,’ higher end than what I’d seen on the road to Oradea… BTW: it wasn’t the women that caught my eyes… it was the guys standing next to the couch holding Tommy Guns. Yes. Real, ‘20’s style Tommy-Guns, like you’d have expected to see Al Capone’s guys using in The Untouchables

    What the heck? Who’d these guys think they were, mobsters?

    Then it hit me – from the time that the Berlin Wall fell in 1989, the communist & communist supported governments had been toppling… Romania’s own dictator, Ceaucescu had been executed in 1989, & with him, the Communist government & economy tumbled into chaos… over the succeeding years, one of the organizations most successful at filling the economic void & paving a road out of communism was the Russian mafia… & here they were, with business flourishing, in the lobby of the hotel I was staying in.

    My brain clicked into high gear as I realized what was happening in front of my eyes. A local arm of the Russian mafia was running a pseudo-brothel at the largest hotel, (esp. for tourists) in all of Oradea… & though I was tired, it didn’t take a genius to figure that there MAY have been other illegal activities going on… the kind that would need a couple of conspicuously placed Tommy Guns for protection & muscle. I prayed, silently & fervently. The fear I felt was tangible & ominous.

    Upon arriving in the room, I told everyone what I’d seen, & asked Moises WHAT we were doing in the same hotel as the MOB… … he explained:

  • Yes, it is the mob. Romanian local bad guys supplied by a larger, Russian based family.
  • And, they’re all over the city, in just about every hotel, business, etc…
  • If you avoid them, don’t be disrespectful, & don’t flash cash, they usually leave you alone.
  • It was such a common thing to him – how he described it was like I would describe the existence of blackjack tables in a casino back home…

    At midnight, Moises helped us call for pizza – Fearless Leader ordered the biggest one they had, with “everything.” (NOTE: we were in Romania. What does EVERYTHING mean in Romania? I didn’t even know what EVERYTHING meant at home…) Within about ½ hour (Domino’s Pizza would have been proud,) our delivery guy showed up with the pizza. He spoke some English, & asked where we wanted him to put the pizza. Fearless Leader pointed to the dresser… so Pizza guy opens up the box, & dumps the pizza onto its crust on the dresser… & takes the box with him, presumably so that it could live to fight another day… & be re-used. We sat with no napkins, plates, utensils of any kind, looking at the pizza sitting on the dresser.

    I took a look to see what EVERYTHING meant in Romania – turns out I couldn’t identify many of the objects on the pizza… but there were a couple of creatures with eyes – I think they were fish of some sort… smelled fishy. A couple of fried eggs. Onions. Peppers. Olives. Various meat-type products. Hmm. I could pick off what I didn’t want.

    Went into the bathroom to find something we could use in place of napkins… & found that the toilet paper was… less processed than I was used to… it had what looked like toothpick-sized pieces of wood in the paper… NOTE: be very, very careful when using…

    There wasn’t anything to drink to wash down our EVERYTHING pizza… & we needed something to drink. Moises had told us that we should avoid tap water, as it would wreak havoc on our intestinal systems… So, Nate (the guy traveling with me & Fearless Leader,) decided that he was going to go down to the lobby & see if there was a Coke machine or something.. I voiced my objections, after all, the Mob was downstairs, but the guys were thirsty, & Nate was going. I couldn’t stand the thought of letting him go downstairs alone, so over my better judgment I went with him.

    We took the elevator down to the lobby & headed to the front desk. No luck – there were no soda machines anywhere nearby, & all the stores in the neighborhood were closed, (like you could have gotten me to head outside anyway,) He pointed us towards the bar – & thought that we might be able to find something there. I was pleasantly surprised to see that the Mob, the women & the guys with guns were nowhere to be found…

    We walked into the room where the bar was… It turns out that it wasn’t a bar, per se. It was a strip club. And the reason we hadn’t seen the mob in the lobby was that they had relocated to this room. Great.

    I asked the bartender if he had any sodas… Fanta Orange was all they had. Whatever. I paid for it, & we headed for the elevator. About halfway across the lobby, I heard somebody yelling, “Hey! Hey!.”

    We were being followed by two of the mob guys, & they each had a girl with them. I rushed to the elevator (didn’t run) & pressed the button, waiting for the elevator doors to open. By that time the guys had caught up with us. I pretended that I didn’t see them, & faced the elevator doors – one of the guys said, “You will take women.”

    Nate had positioned himself safely on the other side of me, so I was between the guys, the women, & Nate. I said something smart like, “Oh, no thank you. We don’t need women.”

    That evidently wasn’t the right response… the first guy stepped closer to me & repeated, louder & with more intensity, “You WILL take women!” Again, I answered him, saying something like, “Thanks anyway, guys. But we’re both married, so we don’t need women.”

    Open door. Open door. Open door. And nothing.

    By this time, I was facing the two guys, the women were hanging out all over & one of the guys with a gun was looking at us from across the lobby.

    Once again, he repeated, “You WILL TAKE WOMEN.” I sighed. And prayed. And looked at the guy, trying not to look threatening, thinking that he was going to take me out, & whack me (or do some other Mob stuff,). I said, ‘Guys, I’m tired. No offense, but I don’t want to take any of your women; I just want to go upstairs & go to sleep.” The guy looked at us long & hard, & said… “Ok,” & turned away, & with the other guy & the ladies, headed back into the ‘bar.’

    The doors picked that time to open up, so Nate & I jumped in & pressed the button to head to our room, Fanta in tow. Whew! I can remember going in the bathroom, shaking & crying. I prayed & thanked God for protecting me. I collapsed on the bed & slept like a log.

    Moises arrived in the a.m. to take us around to the nearby sites where we’d be working with the local church that summer. He took us to Felix, where we met with Stefan, the guy from the American parachurch organization, the same guy that Fearless Leader had worked with at some point in the past. Stefan spent about an hour with us – took us to the hotel we’d be staying at, showed us a field where we’d be able to do our ministry stuff… as far as the other things we’d be doing, like visiting orphanages &/or doing work projects… we were told that those things weren’t ready yet, but that everything would be ready upon our arrival in August. Really? I asked a couple of questions, & was told, “It will all come together BUH-dee. This is what I do for a living…”

    And then we were done. We’d spent less than 18 hours in country & now were headed back across the border. – & were on day 8 of our trip. I couldn’t believe it. (Well, by this time, I could. But I was incredulous.) Most of the questions that we’d had about that summer’s trip remained unanswered. Stefan was more interested in setting up tennis matches with Fearless Leader than with talking through details, & no one seemed to have a problem with any of the nebulous details except for me. At some point, it made me wonder if I was the one with the issue, the only guy that didn’t GET it. Why wasn’t anyone else bothered by the lack of details? And why would we go forward with the trip with so many unknowns? Esp. to a place that was so potentially wrought with danger?

    Nate & Fearless Leader chatted away the trip back to Hungary in the YUGO while I sat in the back & stewed. Tried to figure out what I could do, should do about the trip I said I would help out with – & struggled through my own insecurities & lack of surety about my own identity… & wrestled with how I could not NOT go on the trip – & explained away the alarms going off in my head, things that I would now recognize as ‘red flags…’

    I missed theBean. I missed my kids. I was tired, emotionally drained, & confused. I took solace that our trip back to Budapest would be a quick one, & that we’d be flying back to Frankfurt to meet with Johannes for a day.