something I came across this morning while waiting for lunchtime to get here…

This morning, I came across these Survey results… I’m a sucker for surveys – even more for stuff having to do with God & church & stuff…

For “Unchurched” People – top reasons for choosing a church are:

  • Pastor/the preaching
  • Doctrine
  • Friendliness of others

    For “Church Attenders” – top reasons are:

  • Doctrine/theology
  • People caring for each other
  • Preaching

    What keeps previously “Unchurched” people in a church?

  • Involvement
  • Sunday School (Kids program)
  • Obedience to God

    The survey wrangler sums it the findings by saying that the doctrine, pastor, friendliness of people, & the fellowship are the most important things, across the board…

    What do you think? What has made you choose/unchoose your church?

    The things that most surprised me from the survey was that the bottom two responses under the “Why do unchurched people choose a church?” were “Worship Style/Music” & “Location.” I guess I’m surprised because most of the prevailing ideas I’ve been exposed to within the church (see the little ‘c’) & in the stream of church would have emphasized both of these… with the Worship Style/Music being at or near the top.

    Makes me wonder – are these ‘prevailing ideas’ (& I’m using those words from now on with ‘quotes’ around them,) just figments in the imaginations of people who are responsible for worship in these churches over-estimating the importance & significance of that part of the church service? Like somehow the music part is a ‘make or break’ item… & because I have my own issues, preferences & involvement, somehow, someway I drank the Kool-aid (or at least was exposed to the Purple Drank) to think that the worship style/music would be more important to others.

    Maybe its that people are more concerned with relationships – being accepted & connecting… along with being able to understand & identify with the teaching… & that its not heretical. Or maybe its just these respondents…

    For me, I’ve never chosen a church to go to really – I’ve always wanted to, but church has usually been something that has chosen me… if that makes any sense.

    Over the years, theBean & I have visited a couple of churches in town – not so much to ‘check them out’ but just to go “BE” somewhere anonymously. I’d like to pretend that I didn’t care that people didn’t talk to me (& I even had my “Hi, I’m really trying” face on.) Or that we seemed to (felt like?) we/I? stood out like sore thumbs… thumbs that seemed to have very interesting people all around & behind them… it must have been, because everyone I/we walked by seemed to be on their way to talk with those around us.

    I haven’t really thought about those “visiting other places” experiences for a long time, probably because we haven’t been ‘out & about’ for a while… but reading the survey & thinking about looking for a church stirred up all kinds of thoughts & feelings… emotions even. Maybe I’ll write a bit about that later…

  • One of my favorite breakfast places is the Squeeze In. It offers all the usuals for breakfast, the biggest omelette menu selection I’ve ever seen, & lunch stuff too. Lately, I’ve been looking for excuses to eat there, & my recent favorite is a #7 – 3 eggs, double bacon, all the cheeses, & nacho cheese on top. Yum.

    Its a locally owned restaurant, with a laid back feel – so laid back that they not only permit but encourage people to write on the walls.

    This Sunday, I was downing my #7, & I heard a conversation going on at the table behind me – a conversation about church. This kinda stuff always catches my ear, & I love to hear what people are saying, talking about, processing on the topic of church… especially when I can do it incognito.

    Let’s just say that the couple at the table must have had a bad experience or 10 – but their summation was that they were SO glad that they hadn’t “wasted” their day at church, but instead had “Squeezed In”… They shared their thoughts with the waitress, & before they left, wrote on the wall. After they vacated their table, I went over & took a picture of what they’d written: (see the picture at right – “Omelettes are better than church.”)

    Made me sad. Made me wonder the specifics of their situation. What they’d endured, suffered, &/or caused… If it was the result of a drive-by, a big blow-up, or a long-term fizzle…

    Led to lots of thoughts about faith -& about growing up, putting it into practice. Thoughts about “faith sabotage” – something that is done to ourselves or done by another, undermining a foundation. The role of discouragement, frustration, fear & lies in the undermining of faith. Boring church meetings, spoken in a language that makes the goings on of the day inaccessible to beginners &/or the uninitiated…


    I spent 10 years of my life as a volunteer & vocational youth worker… & know firsthand the very real pressure that exists in wanting, needing to be ‘cool’ in the eyes of the students that one is working with.

    And yes, the video is over-the-top. But I bet while you watch it, you just MIGHT think that Ignatius starts to remind you of a someone you’ve known before… & comments on a bit of the mockery we’ve made of a relationship with God…

    mere christianity, grad school, & other thoughts…

    Ever since I learned to read, C.S. Lewis has been one of my favorite authors… I have read & re-read everything of his that I could get my hands on. Narnia. The Space Trilogy. The Screwtape Letters. You get the idea. There weren’t many months in the last 35 years of my life where I haven’t been in the middle of a Lewis book…

    With that said, I had never read through what many consider to be Lewis’ best work: Mere Christianity – a book that was compiled from a series of lectures Lewis gave on BBC Radio between 1941-1944, during the heart of World War II, a fact that cannot and should not be forgotten as the book is read.

    Since I’ve only got about 4 or 5 books on my ‘reading list,’ I decided that now would be the time that I’d finally tackle it… don’t know what kept me from it all these years unless it had to do with my love & preference for the known works, & possibly because so many had suggested that I read it. (No, I’m not passive/aggressive. i just want reading it to be my idea…)

    I’m 3/4 of the way through the book, & I’m enjoying it immensely… the provocation of thought, as well as the picture that is given, albeit indirectly, of a period in in Britain’s history as it was teetering on the brink of becoming post-Christian… with one man’s ‘talking’ through belief, & his own reasons to believe. If you like to think, as well as to consider & work through your own philosophical presuppositions, I’d highly recommend it to you.

    With Mere Christianity as the backdrop – I’ve been researching & looking for a grad school to ‘attend’ – whether taking classes online &/or finding a program where the amount of onsite attendance is minimal… because I would like to pursue a graduate degree in an area that would supplement & augment my day job & the life I lead now, I’ve been looking at a lot of accredited christian colleges & university programs… And I’ve found a few that have piqued my interest, most notably the program at Gonzaga, which fits the bill for what I’ve been looking for, albeit for the cost of purchasing a highly sought after free agent in one of the major sports…

    Something that has been a leeettle bit of a surprise to me is that many (most?) of the institutions I’ve pulled an application for have a policy written into their application addressing ‘conduct’ – a policy that any & all students, whether taking classes in person or online, need to agree to. That policy is one of no drinking alcohol (not moderation, but None. Zero. Zip.,) no smoking of tobacco products of any kind, no drugs, & for many, no social dancing.

    I’ve written blogs in the past about my thoughts on alcohol, which you can read HERE. And, like my heroes JRR Tolkien, CS Lewis, Sherlock Holmes, I enjoy reading & writing while smoking my pipe… which seem to DQ me from pursuing higher education from a christian institution unless I’d be willing to falsely sign a peace of paper stating one thing, while living completely differently… which I’m not willing to do.

    Nor am I willing to sign a paper agreeing not to drink any alcohol or smoke a pipe as though by doing so I’m ascribing to a standard of holiness that seems to be aimed at bolstering the smug-ness meter of a legalistic religion being passed off as christianity. Sigh.

    Now, back to Mere Christianity I came across a section where Lewis addresses “Morality” & “Virtue.” One of the virtues he discusses is “Temperance” – a word whose definition had been co-opted over time to mean Teetotaling, or complete abstinence from alcohol. Lewis’ writes:

    It is a mistake to think that Christians ought all to be teetotallers; Mohammedanism (Islam), not Christianity, is the teetotal religion.

    Of course it may be the duty of a particular Christian, or of any Christian at a particular time to abstain from strong drink, either because he is the sort of man who cannot drink at all without drinking too much or because he is with people who are inclined to drunkenness, & must not encourage them by drinking himself.

    But the whole point is that he is abstaining for a good reason, from something that he does not condemn, & which he likes to see other people enjoying. One of the marks of a certain type of bad man is that he cannot give up a thing himself without wanting everyone else to give it up. That is not the Christian way.

    An individual Christian may see fit to give up all sorts of things for special reasons – marriage, meat, beer, or the cinema – but the moment he starts saying the things are bad in themselves or looking down his nose at other people who do use them, he has taken the wrong turning.

    One great piece of mischief has been done by the modern restriction of the word “Temperance” to the question of drink. It helps people to forget that you can be just as intemperate about lots of other things. A man who makes his golf or his motorbicycle the centre of his life, or the woman who devotes all of her thoughts to clothes or bridge or her dog is just as intemperate as someone who gets drunk every evening.

    Of course it doesn’t show on the outside as easily; bridge-mania, golf-mania do not make you fall down in the middle of the road, but God is not deceived by externals.


    Friday musings…

    Sitting at the completely clear & clean kitchen counter, coffee nearby, preparing for blog-age is one of my favorite things. Esp. on Fridays, which is my day of rest…. I love it. Along with brown paper bags, wrapped up with string of course…

    I’m really, really looking forward to my first Aces game – hopefully 4/18… Preliminary weather report: High of 68F, low of 40. No rain, light wind.

    So say we all!

    Life is simpler without having to put up a pretense to try to impress others. It’s at least less work. I want to “be comfortable in my own skin,”… I think that’s how Bono put it…

    As background, I occasionally have blood sugar issues – when I don’t eat often enough, or don’t get enough protein, my blood sugar plummets, as does my outlook, mood, demeanor… you get the picture.

    On that note, kids are funny. And pretty quick learners too… we were having an interchange with theWeez about a particular series of choices she made that resulted in us needing to have a “Talk.” Obviously, didn’t fully appreciate how the “Talk” was going, & further, had issues with the method of Presentation that I had chosen. But rather than take it up a notch & try to argue, bluster, or complain, she just said:

    “When was the last time you ate? You should eat something, & then we can talk…”


    Easter is this Sunday… I’m looking forward to it – the story of redemption never gets old. And I never want to just go on ‘auto-pilot’ & mail it in either, just because its Easter. May I never lose the wonder…

    NOTE: No rocks were thrown during the writing of the following paragraphs…

    Easter, along with Christmas Eve, seem to be times where churches are more prone to troll for newbies using the “Be Our Guest” scene from the Beauty & the Beast Disney film… where we put our best on, place our best foot forward, with the best music, best speech, & best egg hunt for the kiddies. All in the space of 70 minutes… & just in time for the next best service.

    It seems to be more designed for a christian culture than for one of pre-christians… to attract christians from other churches to come & see. I ponder consumer-church… Hmmm…


    I was asked out on a date, for tonight, by theBean. Don’t know where we’re going – it’s a surprise. I’m going to do my best to make myself extra pretty… :)

    musings from a Monday night at Pinocchio’s…

    Joey has practice tonight at Golden Eagle, & theBean is home painting (which, by the way, is a dangerous activity to be around, don’t you know?) So I sought out a quiet place to catch the NCAA Basketball championship & to pass the time until I can pick up Joey… ’bout a 2-hour block of time. My choice? Pinocchio’s, the restaurant where theBean works, a short .9 mile jaunt from home, & a relatively safe spot to sit, veg-out, watch the game, eat what may be the best chicken wings in the greater Reno/Sparks area, & to blog.

    I’m watching Michigan St. get worked by North Carolina… too many mistakes, & what seems to be an attempt to catch up all at once by shooting 3-pointers every time down the court. Bummer. The Spartans are moving away from the game plan that has worked throughout the tourney… & it’s not pretty.

    On one of the other TV’s, I can see CNN & the Larry King show – it catches my eye, because Larry is interviewing Rick Warren, pastor of Saddleback Church in the SoCal, author of all things PurposeDriven… it’s significant to me for a couple of reasons: Warren has become one of the de facto spokesperson for American Christianity (along with Joel Osteen,) & addresses in ‘sound-byte perspectives’ all things ‘christian,’ most notably, politics. It’s also significant to me because the sound isn’t on, & I can only tell what the subject/topic of Larry King & Rick Warren’s discussion by the large ‘headlines’ smattered on the screen at various times, which I’m assuming must be their talking points.

    It seems that a big portion of the interview centered on: WARREN ON OBAMA (capital letters were CNN’s,) & whether he should be a part of a particular church. Other topics that appeared were:

  • Does prayer help you get a job?
  • Is Warren anti-gay?
  • Why did President Obama select Rick Warren to play the role he did in the inauguration?
  • CNN also puts a “feedback line” that runs along the bottom of the screen, where viewers can put forward their own thoughts about what they’re saying & hearing… interesting. Lots of vitriol, rhetoric, & politicizing of ‘issues’ as christian/un-christian, esp. along political party lines…

    In other news, I’m through 2 of the 3 books in the C.S. Lewis space trilogy…. Once again, I’d highly recommend all 3 books to you, but especially the 2nd one, Perelandra. Without giving away too much, I’ll say that in this book Lewis explores what the temptation of Eve in the Garden of Eden must have been like – portraying the Tempter as a cunning, relentless, manipulative, deceptive, & diabolically clever adversary bent on one purpose: perverting the words of the Creator & attempting to steal, kill, & destroy those created in the image of the Creator.

    Though I’ve read the book many times, this time esp. jumped out at me – the Genesis 3 account can almost make Eve look & sound like a naive, unsophisticated & unintelligent human being, one that was so easily duped by a few sentences spoken by her own tempter that she must have been a virtual child, a simpleton, when nothing could be further from the truth. Eve was the LORD God’s final act of creation, fashioned from Adam, made to be a ‘suitable partner’ for him… She was made & declared by God to be “very good.”

    Whether it be out of ignorance, projection of an anti-woman bias that has existed within the church (machine), or some other error, a not-so-subtle placing of blame on ‘the woman’ because of her ‘naivete’ has fed, at least in me, a wrong or distorted view of the cause & nature of sin, temptation, & our propensity to shift blame.

    Read Perelandra.

    I’ve been thinking quite a bit on 1John 2:15-17… & think that I’ll do a series of 3 blogs on it…

    It’s time to get Joey.


    there & back again… Friday musings…

    I spent the 1st part of this week in Los Angeles… San Dimas, if you want to get specific… It’s the home of Bill & Ted, as well as Life Pacific College. I had the good fortune to be able to travel with Brother, & to hang out with some dear friends, both of whom there is years of history. Had gut level talks… listened… laughed a lot. Discovered a great pub, on St. Patrick’s Day to boot, one that specialized in Belgians… the set up of the pub reminded me a lot of the ‘traditional’ Frankfurt/Sachsenhausen restaurant, albeit with a long, tall table instead of a standard one. Great times.

    On that note, Brother & I stayed in the dorms – Floor 3 of Bldg D, #315. Through a series of negotiations that I shall not get into here I ended up with the top bunk, which was a great gig once I found a way to actually GET to the top bunk. Ended up having to climb up the desk/bookshelf & then launch myself up & over the rail. It was quite the experience. Not as comfy as sleeping in my very own bed with my very own theBean, but it was cool – esp. with the novelty of sharing a room with buddies.

    One of the highlights for me was sitting in on classes – Pentateuch/Torah, where the class was in the beginnings of working through Leviticus – talked about the theme being “Becoming who we are” – never heard it described that way. In light of that, the rituals (ceremonies, practices, daily reminders) lose their strange-ness, & take on a special quality… seeing a people be-becoming… learning to step into their calling & identity. Nice job David.

    The other classes we went to were Biblical Preaching & a Youth Ministry seminar class, with 7 students who are already out & about involved in youth stuff. The professor had to go to a “meet & greet” for about 40 minutes, leaving Brother & I to talk to & with the students. It was a highlight, & really sparked me to remember how much I enjoy ‘school with a purpose’; learning, growing, being challenged in my thought processes, having to formulate new ideas & new conclusions. Good stuff.

    One of the other reasons Brother & I were there was to explore some distance learning ops – not a whole lot has surfaced, but in some way we’ll be back at school, if only from afar.

    It also spurred on & reignited some old ideas for a local institute within our church family – we’ll see.

    At youth group right now we’re talking about “Image & Identity” – reflecting on the fact that we’ve been made in God’s image. We aren’t mistakes. Individually, we’ve been marked as God’s masterpieces, unique, special, & well-made, really coming to life in all of its fullness as we embrace who God made us to be.

    And the enemy of that are the forces that exist to conform – reshape us, using a ‘1 size fits all’ approach. Its easy to look outward, to the country & culture that we’re living within… with its ideas about beauty, acceptable body shape, what to eat/drink, how to live… with the pressure to conform & take on behaviors & an ‘acceptable’ outward appearance to really fit in with those around us, even though it means living inauthentically based on someone else’s version of what I’m supposed to be & do.

    I was talking to a friend yesterday about this, & what came up was the sneaky & insidious way this same type of thing exists within the Church… where the pressure to become a ‘good christian’ with approved & authorized ‘good christian behaviors, thoughts, characteristics, & preferences’ can seemingly force us into a mold where we’re just as focused on the outward appearance, going through the motions of living this ‘good christian life’ in order to gain the approval of others within the Machine. All in the name of becoming a disciple. But WHOSE disciple? Faking the funk, putting on a show that we’re outwardly ok, while dying on the inside – living in a virtual prison of not wanting to do the WRONG thing, leaves us undeveloped, immature, & fearful. Is this the ‘life in all of its fullness’ Jesus came to bring? Don’t think so.

    Worse, the longer we go, the more difficult it can be to break out – because the longer we live the lie, the more fear & shame piles up, trapping us in a cycle of inaction.

    Makes me think… The enemy isn’t always out THERE.

    I’m stoked. Tonight, we get to go to Carson to hang with the Locke clan: brothers & fams. My dad’s birthday is tomorrow, & to celebrate, we’re gathering tonight for a Giant Apple Pancake (GAP.) Let me ‘splain.

    Back in the day, momentous occasions in our household meant going to Johnny Ascuaga’s for a GAP – its a monstrous, dense, battered concoction, smothered with apples, cinnamon, butter, & powduhed sug-ah, then topped with syrup. The batter itself has to sit out for a day, & it takes at least 20 minutes to cook, & involves a ‘flipping of the Pancake” that can (& sometimes did) result in disaster. Going to Johnny A’s meant an adventure, not knowing if our delicacy would actually make it to the table intact, but that if it did, we were going to eat & eat well, at least until the sugar coma came on.

    At some point, Johnny A realized that the GAP was more trouble than it was worth – to him at least – & stopped serving it. He did, however, put the recipe out for the adventurous soul that would try to recreate the greatness of the GAP.

    My dad, being the brave soul that he is, took up that challenge, & over the years has become quite the GAP maker. Chef-like even, producing GAPs that rival the best I ever had at Johnny A’s, marking great days, holidays, & just becauses with sweetness.

    But up until now, he’s the only one that knows what it takes to pull this off… I say until now, because we (me, brother Ben, & brother Moe & fams) have been invited to not only partake in the eating tonight, but also in the making, so that we too can carry on this great tradition of decadence. Ahh.

    Should be fun.

    Spring sports season is upon us. Pasty is in track. I-Doey is in baseball. TheWeez is a proper footballer (soccer to us ‘mericans) & I’m in softball. TheBean is breaking out her cheerleading outfit as I type… :)

    Life is beautiful. Tim & David, thanks for a great week.

    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.