Site search Web search Search this site or the web powered by FreeFind
Click here to add this page to your favorites folder!
"In the defense and confirmation of the gospel, you all are partakers of grace with me."
In all my life, in all we do, we are ever conscious that you are partaking in this work. We represent you and you enable us. It is humbling and motivating. As blustery January snow blew, I put 4000 miles on a Thrifty-rented Neon. My mission was to make the most of my sojourn in the US by building relationships with Americans partaking in this grace.
These are the people who lead "what appear to many to be fairly normal lives, [holding a job and raising a family, but they are noted] for their zeal to make disciples wherever they are... caught up in a war that many of their friends and relative do not or will not acknowledge. Their hearts yearn for people they have never seen. They disciple themselves to doggedly love friends that they see once every four or five years.... They relish extended times of prayer. Theirs is a joyous detachment and yet an earnest involvement in the affairs of the world." (Sjogren and Stearns)
This was a moment to stand back from our work and make sense of all we do in light of our giftings. One more church was able to make sense of all I said and became partakers of the vision.
Let me share with you the highlights of a very eventful first half, 2003. It rounded off Aurelia and my first year of marriage. (For more pictures of the marriage, click here.) Both of us will be the first to admit that we are glad to see the end of our "honeymoon period". As our counselor wrote me, "At the wedding, the bride and groom vow to become one. During the first year they fight over which one to become." Now, we have mellowed into what I call our honeymood. We were hoping that God would provide the Sabbatical year devoted to getting to know each other as recommended by Deuteronomy 24. In faith, we postponed our honeymoon but God did not provide as we expected. Maybe we will go next year. (Yeah, right!) Instead, He blessed us with 3 months to appreciate each other from afar. One of those months was January when Go Ye called me to come for "Perspectives" training in missiology.
Romanian ministry development
Aurelia is enjoying her ministry. Cristian, a 7th grader who couldn't even hold a pen when she started working with him is now taking dictation! We have amazed and earned the respect of the teachers and of the Director, Ionel. Aurelia is partaking in what I learned at Perspectives. For instance, we started to apply Jacob Loewen's principle of never directly answering the questions of new Christians such as, 'What should we do?' Instead, he would ask them, 'What is the Holy Spirit showing you?'" This gets them to have an individual relationship with God. it also develops an ownership interest in their lives and replaces fatalism with a sense of responsibility for their own decisions. Let me give you an example of a recent meeting with the children.
"What do you do that makes people angry?" I asked them.
"I hit my sister," volunteers one. "I curse," confesses another. "I call my brother 'stupid'." They decided to work on renouncing these sins and hold each other accountable. Whoever was able to go a day without committing their pet sin got a point in the next session's competition. Each of our classes finds the kids trying to respond to as many questions as possible. We don't believe in dull Bible story times. There is screaming, cheering, laughing and shouting. Every point counts toward the special prize like a seashell or candy. They are so incredibly interested in getting together that they are begging to come every day. In addition to Bible story night we have English lessons with the Bible and a game night. These are with the adolescents. Then, there are the two nights a week with the teens!! Pray for more harvesters!
As the February war winds blew, American actions and European reactions demonstrated to me the vast difference in our worldviews. Most Europeans, being fatalistic, were content to let Hussein decide their futures for them while the Anglophones led the way in shaping the future. In Eastern Europe, most governments submitted to our cause while the populace opposed it. Neither of these reactions bode well for relationships between Americans and locals. According to a recent survey of Romanians, foreigners are the most feared and least trusted of all entities. Since Aurelia and I are both "straini" we don't have the deep friendships which we have in Italy and the US.
Personally, Aurelia and I were enthusiastic supporters of this war. In fact, I asked the Army if they wanted me to serve again. They have still to answer me. We in the West don't understand how much of our civilization depends on trust and trustworthiness, of our leaders and of others. Italians have begun to appreciate trust and honesty but Romanians don't see the importance of them except in the government. Italy went through a history where family was defended above all but predatory behavior, Machiavellian deception, and trickery were acceptable outside of the family sphere.
Lack of ethics is a common handicap to third-world countries. This is a virtually weekly experience for us. Romanian worldview is that one makes a living only by crafty forms of deceit and theft or, at best, luck. Rarely can you achieve it by hard work, cooperation, and strategy. The Romanian word "/shmecker/" ("furbo" in Italian) is a compliment to them, although for an Anglo-Saxon it would be an insult because it implies that you can weasel things from others through deception. The result is a reduction in their social or economic productivity. (For more about social capital, read Robert Putnam's Bowling Alone.) Some, including the Romanians, like to blame the government for these problems but elected governments usually reflect the character of the voter. Aurelia said that one neighbor told her, "Romanians are among the most smecher people in the world. Who produces the best Internet hackers?" Fellow missionaries in Romania write,
Romanians would reap significant gains in their life and
relationships, if only they were to view honesty as a basic Christian
characteristic and put it in practice. This will be
particularly critical if Romania aspires to enter the European
Union. Through building
bridges from Italy to Romania and through our Integrity
InterNetwork , we are determined to enable this. The
Integrity InterNetwork continues to grow.
Bridge-building efforts develop
The Masterbuilder's bridge as it has been revealed to us so far:
We are humbled
by being able to partake in this work with you and
marveling at how it is all unfolding. We urgently need your
support. My first duty is to my family and I must ensure
that it is not compromised for ministry.