Day 4 –
Saturday was a slow day with not much on the agenda until the afternoon, other than reading, having talks, & rehearsing the Sunday message with Julia who would be doing the translating for me. It was great to be able to see Julia in her natural habitat, & also to enjoy the time together. We took about an hour to compare Bible translations/languages, work through specific points & word choices, & then to answer any questions each of us had for the other… Arche Ottersweier (The Ark of Ottesweier) has been Julia’s home church ever since it was planted by pastors Roland & Manuela Lorenz; she’s involved there leading worship & in a variety of other areas, so she also provided a bit of a play by play to bring us up to speed since my/our last visit there in 2009 (Joni had never been there to the church/city/her parents house; I’d visited a few times & spoke at the church with her translating on one of the trips.)
That afternoon, we made our way to the house of die familie Kern (her parents home) for kaffee & apfel strudel with eis (ice cream.) Goodness. And this was to be our ‘appetizer’ for dinner. I’m glad we had a couple hours to let it settle because I was STUFFED after we ate & my stomach was already hurting because of all the food & laughter :).
Dinner was with Klaus & Pia (Julia’s parents) & Linda & Joah (Julia’s sister & nephew) at “Mucho Macho” an Armenian-owned tapas-style restaurant. We had Middle-Eastern, Armenian, German, & Spanish tapas in a family-style presentation (it makes sense if you see it) & ate until we couldn’t eat any more. SO. MUCH. FOOD. Klaus & Pia both have such a great sense of humor we find ourselves laughing almost constantly.
It was raining as we left the restaurant, so late that I thought I’d turn into a pumpkin before we got home. But I made it. And went quickly to sleep to get good rest for Sunday.
Woke up early-ish & had my normal Sunday am breakfast (Cafe Latte protein shake & a Quest bar) & a good cup of Julia’s french press coffee. We arrived at the church 1/2 hour early for prayer & spent the time in the upstairs praying in our native languages for the day, for the service, for the people in attendance, & for the churches in the town.
The sanctuary/building is set up in an inverted “V” pattern with chairs set up on both sides of the sanctuary so that the people in the middle rows on back in each section can’t see each other. I (& Julia) spoke on being TOGETHER from Acts 2:42; we touched on maturity, selflessness, the power of the Holy Spirit, unity, being on mission together, learning to prefer & defer in our people connections, & stuff like that.
After church, Linda’s husband, Heiko (sound guy today) came up to me excited & said, “You spoke to BOTH sides of the room today. The regular section AND the youth section. NO ONE has ever talked to the youth section.” I didn’t know it had been that divided up, but in retrospect I guess it was. That might explain the excited reaction from the youth a couple times during the message…
Right after church, a young lady named Jana (13 years old) came up to me with a cup of coffee, light cream & gave it to me. She told me, “I wanted to make sure you got a cup of coffee before the end of service. Sometimes people come & want to talk to the speaker so long that we run out of coffee before they can get a cup.” Yeah, that’s the kind of girl she is. She was absolutely glowing with the joy of the Lord, full of life & the Holy Spirit. She (& her mom) were just radiant; Jana speaks English better than me, German, French, & is tackling Spanish & Japanese now. She said, “God is going to work through me & my ability to speak languages well, so I want to work to give Him some good material to work with.” SMH, but in awe & thanks.
As we left the church, we said goodbye to Klaus & Pia – & Klaus followed us out of the building, waving us a majestic & heart felt “GOOD BYE.” My eyes may have misted over.
For lunch, we went to Roland & Manuela’s home – take out pizza & home grown field greens. We talked with them & their girls (Desiree & Deborah – 15 & 13) & our Julia. The time went so fast we had to pack up & head out to the conference – Goodbye with Julia was so difficult. We love this woman, & are so proud of who she is & who she is becoming. Leaving our German daughter behind was the hardest thing we’ve done so far on this trip… definitely planning on making it back next year…
After a 2 1/2 hour trip, we arrived in Oberwesel at the Youth Hostel where the conference “Foursquare LIVE” was being held. As we were checking in, we ran into Alex & Linda Krieger, dear friends we’ve known & stayed in regular touch with for 16 years. We’re going to end our trip with them in Berlin, so it was extra special to be able to have these couple of days with them here at the conference.
The theme of the conference is Discipleship – led by an American, John Lewis of Kingdom Story Ministries. He’s a great dude partnering with the Foursquare Church to prepare our churches worldwide with strategy/intentional plans for creating discipleship pathways (in the US its called D.L.T. Discipleship/Leadership Training. And it is good stuff.)
Foursquare Deutschland joined with the US Foursquare church to celebrate 100 years of Foursquare with their own celebration this year at this conference. After the meeting, we had late night talks with Alex & Linda, then headed to bed.
We ate breakfast with Brandon & Marcie Brazee, Foursquare missionaries & pastors to Köln (Cologne) Germany, along with their kids, Kaitlyn (14?) & Hudson (almost 8). Great time getting to hear their story & sharing a bit of ours; we share a lot of dear friends in common, so we really enjoyed the beginning of what felt like a good friendship.
Full day of meetings & interactions… so during our afternoon break, we (theBean, me, Alex & Linda) went to the castle next door for some desserts… Yes. The CASTLE next door. For reals. It was a 5 minute walk from the Hostel & we had our drink & watched theBean & Alex kill their cheesecakes while viewing the Rhein river below us.
Right before dinner, our dear friend Eddy (who we stayed with Day 1/2) hand-delivered a bag to us. 90 minutes each way. It contained 50 pounds (23 kg) of goodies we’d brought for the Brazee family, but that we couldn’t take with us to see Julia in southwestern Germany… it was a brief reunion for us, & also for Alex & LInda with their beloved former pastor. To me, Eddy’s selfless 180 minute journey to drop off a glorified (& Oh So Awesome) goody bag illustrates the kind of friend, man, & pastor he is. Truly one of the best men I know.
The food at the conference, served by the hostel, is super low in protein. Like nonexistent. And after a day and a half of greens & pasta offerings, we (theBean, me, Alex & Linda) decided to go to the Castle again for dinner. Alex & I had “beef cheeks, mashed potatoes, greens, & a nice Cuvee. TheBean had salmon, & Linda had a veal cutlet. Our protein cravings were satisfied, if only for a day.
That night was a night of extended worship, with prayer & prophetic ministry available as well. Specifically, prayer ministry was set out for the ‘stans (the countries that are Germany’s missions focus including but not limited to: Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, & a few others). Several pastoral reps from each country were there, & there was a very powerful time of prayer. We allso heard from one of the pastors from Turkmenistan, a man who’d spent much time in prison being tortured & threatened with his life… for the crime of becoming a Christian. Inconceivable.
Last day of Foursquare LIVE. We were dragging a bit this morning, but were buoyed by the worship time. This was followed by a Q & A with John Lewis, as German (& other) pastors in the room asked him clarifying questions about discipleship. One of the things that is an obstacle to discipleship in many/most Western countries is what John Lewis referred to as ‘consumer Christianity” which he defined as living Christian for the benefits & easy parts, while not necessarily taking the steps to obey & put into practice all the teachings of Christ, ala Matt 28:18-20 (see ‘teach them to OBEY’ in verse 20.)
Anyway, the Turkmeni pastor asked a question, which, by the way, was translated from Russian to German to English (!) to be heard / understood by the speaker. He asked, “What IS this consumer Christianity? In my country, you are Christian or you are not. You are disciple & as a result you may die. There is NO question about it. It is truly a life & death choice.”
He didn’t say it in a condemning fashion, but rather in an incredulous, you’ve-got-to-be-joking-me kind of fashion. Like somehow, someway this was just a joke his other ‘stan” buddies were pulling on him.
But it wasn’t. And it isn’t. It is a thing.
How would you answer his question?
The conference ended, we said our goodbyes (& see you soon to Alex & Linda) & got in the van to Bielefeld, where we were transported with 9 other people in their church van about 4 1/2 hours to Bielefeld. We talked some with new friends in the car & by the end of the trip, the woman sitting next to theBean told her, “You would be a great mentor. After sitting next to you for a couple of hours, I hear God speaking to me & directing me & answering my questions through the wisdom you share.” So yeah, it was a good trip. That’s my theBean.
Our hostess, Anna Marie, a Foursquare Missionary to Germany (from Washington) met us at the church & we walked to her place about 100 meters from the church. She got us situated & fed us a great dinner of soup & rolls, & we’ve been sitting quietly, decompressing for the last last hour while I type this blog & try to recover from the wall-to-wall people of the last several days.
I’ll dial in with updates tomorrow on what we’re doing here in Bielefeld for the rest of the week (leaving Sunday after church) but for now I am TOAST & am ready to head to Dreamland with theBean.
Thank you for your continued prayers. Thank you Jesus for the kind of friends who would drive 180 minutes to bring a goody bag. For dear friends to share life & talks & cheesecake with. For men & women who love You more than their own lives & embrace obedience as their life’s call & Godly mandate with a tangible grace & love for You & for people that is contagious.