Friday, December 2, 2016

The Golden Triangle today: 3 countries meet at the Mekong River -Thailand + Burma + Laos, with China just over the mountain! More gold on the idols but Holy Spirit is raising up real gold in these wonderful young eagles, changing what used to be the world's opium capital into a centre for gospel outreach to these nations!

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

This was April 1999, docking in Durres, Albania on a boat from Bari, Italy in the middle of the Kosovo Crisis.
I was part of a team helping distribute food +clothing to refugees who’d fled their homes with nothing but their lives. 10 years before, I’d dreamed the following 3 nights in a row: I was docking in a port somewhere near Greece;
the front of the ship opened up and I felt a whole new area of life, ministry and relationships also opened before me!
3 nights in a row convinced Erica + I that God was not calling us to teach English in China, but to focus elsewhere.
It took 10 years before this part of the dream was fulfilled, but God who does ‘exceedingly abundantly above all we can ask or think’, saw even further. Look closely + you can see a white cross painted on the dock right where we are landing: not a common welcome in an overwhelmingly Muslim-atheist nation! 17 years later I have returned + this ‘writing on the wall’ continues as a beacon of hope and a mark of blessing for Albania’s full healing in the gospel!

The 1999 Crisis in Kosovo shocked many in the West: how could modern-day Europe experience such cold-blooded massacres as the Orthodox Christian Serbs were waging against its Muslim Albanian population in Kosovo?
Our civilized culture thought we were beyond such atrocities. Apparently not.  And I wondered if I could help?
After all, almost 30 years before, my friend + I had finished a day’s hitch-hiking in Kosovo’s capital, Pristina and its people had overwhelmed us with their hospitality. Serbia’s plains had given way to rugged mountains; donkeys and even oxen now pulled heavily weighed down carts; minarets replaced steeples dotting the landscape; men wore unfamiliar, white felt kaftans. It was clearly a different, poorer, more agrarian and more Muslim culture than what we’d left in the north that morning. We tried to find out about getting a train further south to Skopje that evening, but rather became the objects of attention ourselves. Backpacking foreigners were quite the novelty then in this part of communist Yugoslavia and a crowd of interested, inquisitive students from the local university quickly gathered. Spirited questions rose in a noisy crescendo: a babble of tongues, and I tried to answer as many as 4 different languages at once! ‘Von wo kommen sie? Parlez-vous francais? Po-russki? and even some in broken English!
Our self-declared hosts soon ruled out a train and decided we would instead be staying the night with them. Their spokesman, Hilmi, and a cohort of friends determined and put into process what they deemed the best plan of action. We needed food? Almost magically, 2 meal tickets appeared for the dormitory cafeteria. A place to sleep? A bed suddenly became vacant because one students’ roommates had  gone to another city for a few days. 
So it was decided as they whisked us off to supper while our packsacks followed behind. A hot bowl of soup and lots of  bread – double helpings even! for only 16 cents! And afterwards, a train of more interesteds followed us into the lounge to drink chai and practise English. Many difficulties in understanding arose and the power went off many times, but we talked long into the dark. Finally, it was time for bed and they led us to their room, a dirt floor with a wood-burning heater in the corner to keep the winter cold at bay. We snuggled in our warm sleeping bags; the other 6 in the room had single blankets.  In the middle of the night I awoke to discover 2 others sleeping on the dirt floor. I guess their unexpected trip had suddenly been cancelled? Or perhaps their simple hospitality just knew no limits to even their own discomforts?  This picture of generosity remained imprinted in my heart and mind over many years.
So while I watched the 1999 Crisis unfold on the evening news, I wondered if perhaps some of those same students who’d so unselfishly helped us now needed help themselves?
The story became even more personalized when the CBC reporter from Lezhe, a city in the north of Albania, turned out to be Paul Workman, Erica’s cousin. Halfway through his report, the venue changed as he was standing in front of a ship in Durres, explaining that due to nightly NATO airstrikes across Albania into Serbia, ships were now the only means of  transport into the country. I saw the ship’s name: Paladio in the background and as he continued speaking, I suddenly heard the Holy Spirit clearly say, ‘That’s your ship!’
I thought I was just hearing things, so I put it on the back burner in my mind.
The next day, an American pastor friend phoned me. He had just heard through some of his English friends that one of their contacts headed up a Bible School in Albania-- in Lezhe, the very town Paul had reported from the night before. He wondered if I would lead a team there to help distribute food, clothing and supplies to help the refugees.
What a quick answer to my prayer! and after talking and praying with Erica, I found someone to deliver my mail route, 2 weeks later, 3 young guys + I were on  our way: flights to London + Rome and an overnight train to Bari, from where we hoped to catch a boat to Albania. We arrived at the port early in the morning only to find that the boat to Durres wouldn’t leave until midnight. As we sat waiting on the dock, looking across the Adriatic, I saw a small speck off in the distance and heard the same voice speak the same words, ‘That’s your boat!’ We couldn’t even discern it was indeed a boat out there, but sure enough, as the dot moved closer and became larger, it grew into a boat, pulled into the harbour and docked right in front of us! Same boat, same name: Paladio!
I was convinced: something more than natural was at work here!
And then I remembered that dream from 10 years before; my dream onboard a ship coming into a port near Greece. I somehow knew it was not Greece, only near Greece, and I remember being disappointed because Greece had always been my second home while backpacking and I’d always wanted to return.  The sun was rising as I stood on an outside deck; the front of the boat opened up and a whole new scene also opened up before me! And that was all!
But after 10 years: years of pastoring, both elation and dejection, was ‘my ship’ finally indeed coming in?
We watched the passengers disembark. They looked shaken, dishevelled; some appeared thankful to be back safely, while others strongly advised any embarking passengers not to go to where they had just escaped.
We spent the day walking around the old city, taking in the sites of ancient stone walls and churches, eating gelato.
Then early in the evening, we returned to the port and elbowed our way into a pulsating line-up of passengers wanting to board  The Paladio for Durres. It remained rather unclear how to get actual tickets: if you’d paid in a travel office, you still had no assurance your tickets would get you on that particular boat. Your only verification you would actually sail came only once you were on the boat, so wannabe passengers jockeyed for position in line. It seemed like all nations were pushing for a place on my boat: a large contingent of American Muslims, Scottish mercenaries, fresh from the The Congo civil war seeking new opportunities to fight for the KLA (Kosovo Liberation Army)., as well as other Christian missionaries.
It took 5 hours before our group successfully pushed our way up the gangplank and onto the boat together.
And still no guarantee we would actually sail! We then had to manoeuver up a spiral staircase, verify our tickets, and finally gain Albanian visas so we’d actually be accepted into the country on landing. And visas didn’t come cheap: US$190 each!
Somehow we passed all the tests and finally set sail at 230am. In all the confusion, only 3 ½ hours late! So many people on board, there were not enough seats for everyone, the smoke-filled lounges and bodies trying to sleep everywhere, many just slept out on the wind-blown outer deck. But my faith and confidence had grown throughout the day: this was ‘my ship’ + I was going to sail on it, and sure enough, here we were, right in the centre of God’s apparent will. He was not only going to do something, but He was doing something. It was present, more tangible than the smoke-filled lounge, so rather than fight to sleep, many passengers just stayed up to talk and share our story. I got to share our story with a group
of Muslims from Detroit. Their imam, a young Dean Shaska, had just visited with President Clinton the week before concerning the crisis, was now on his way to find out if his family was safe, but couldn’t figure out why a group of young Christian men were coming all this way to help Albanians they didn’t know? So I told him my experience in Kosovo and my dream from 10 years before and my conviction that this was indeed ‘my ship’ and even described the way we would all be arriving in Albania and God was doing wonderful things and would even do more if we only had hearts to receive it all. It was a long night and we all grew progressively more tired as it wore on, but I grew more excited as the morning approached and as I shared my dream with others, they also got excited about what prospects awaited us in Albania.
So when the day began to dawn and the captain announced we were approaching land, our group of 4 had grown to about 24 and they followed me up to an upper deck. Darkness broke with the morning sun.  A voice cried out, ‘Land!’ just as we passed  a battleship stationed just outside the harbor; high dock cranes appeared in the distance, the boat’s door opened to the harbor and its city before us + just like the God who does ‘exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think’ had led me this far also continues to lead, there before us, right on the dock, before a  scene of chaotic confusion,  at the entrance way to a predominantly Muslim country, someone had boldly painted a white Cross! Emblazoned directly before us, right in our approach, opening the way and welcoming us in more than my dream had ever envisioned.

We stayed to help the Kosovo refugees for just about 3 weeks: working, meeting with the displaced, sharing their stories, pain and sorrows. It turned to be one of the most emotionally-difficult missions trips I’ve ever experienced, and it left its mark in my heart. But we’d done very little gospel ministry on that mission; we’d been advised to keep any evangelism low-key and keep it to practical helps, and now here I am again in Albania, 17 years later, but this time, at the invitation of indigenous Albanian Christians with a vision to raise up spiritual eagles in what has been known as The Land of Eagles! And I am once more excited to see what God is doing and will do in this spiritually vibrant land. Today, another young man gave his life to Christ and answered the call to see not only his life, but his nation, changed to the glory of God. Two pastors have volunteered to translate the Come Follow Me discipling handbook into Albanian! There is harvest here: pray the Lord raise up sons + daughters to labour and bring in the net bursting nets, a harvest of souls!

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Back to The Root!

God likens us to trees and Himself: Father is the Root, Jesus is the True Vine + Holy Spirit bears the fruit.As in nature, if 'mixed or bad' fruit show up, we can't just remove + paste 'good' fruit on the tree, but need to go to the root; so in the spiritual, we must go back to the Root. It's the root that produces the fruit: true for individuals + society as a whole. It's happening now: God is exposing the 'bad' fruit of our own ways + drawing us back to our Root: our Identity = sons/daughters +Destiny = walking in life of a Father who loves us!

Thursday, May 12, 2016

Friday, May 6, 2016

El Camino de Santiago de Compostela - Fellow Peregrinos!

Michael + I finished our Camino de Santiago de Compostela + here's some fellow peregrinos = pilgrims we met along the way! Buen Camino! Adios!