Travel Diaries: Getting from Greece to Bosnia- The Journey of Destiny Part II

Getting from Greece to Bosnia- The Journey of Destiny Part I

Getting from Greece to Bosnia- The Journey of Destiny Part II:

6.45pm Central European Time, November 15, 2004. Skopje.

Having been on the streets for three months, we knew better than to get in a stranger’s car.  That’s why I strictly refused to talk with the hyena-man who wanted to give us a “taxi ride.”  The man had just seen us hop off our train an hour early.  He knew we were vulnerable.  He did not know we thought we were wise.  “I am a taxi driver.  I speak English.  Let me help you guys out.”  “No thank you, sir,” I retorted.  “Okay, have it your way,” he replied.  Night was falling on the capitol of this ancient city, whose roots stretch back way beyond its biblical references.

This was a decisive moment for our hopes.  We needed to arrive in Livno, Bosnia on the 17th.  But, Skjope looked like a twilight giant.  Would we find the bus station?  Would we find a net-café to find the bus station?  Perhaps it would take until the 17th to get our money changed and to exchange that for the right ticket to Saraejvo.  As we leaned our packs against the train station bricks, the man drives up to us, in his taxi, and interrupts our meeting of minds. “Come on gentlemen, where are you going?  The bus station?  I can take you there.”

Either it was the stupidest thing we ever did, or it was the universe aligning our destinies with a kind soul.  We had no choice but to trust him. “We are going to Bosnia.  Where’s the bus station”?  Moments later we were off.  The man sped through the city like a bat out of hell and eventually pulled up to an unmarked building.  In the dark, we saw what looked like a small gas station with a few miniature cars parked outside.  Except there were no pumps or street-lights. This was it.  Inside was the most unlikely bus station, or it was the headquarters of our doom. I stepped slowly out of the taxi, pushed down my nerves, and walked through the smoky glass doors with my bags strapped tight and my dignity in tact.

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Prayers of the Saints: St. Teresa of Avila

 

May I Serve Your Desires

May you through your providence, Lord, provide the necessary means by which my soul may serve you at Your pleasure rather than at its own.  Don’t punish me by giving me what I want or desire if Your love, which lives in me always, doesn’t desire it.  May this “I” die, and may another live in me greater than I and better for me than I, so that I may serve Him.  May He live and give me life.  May He reign and may I be captive, for my soul doesn’t want any other liberty.  How will he be free who is a stranger to the Most High?  What greater or more miserable captivity than for a soul to be loosed from the hand of its Creator?  Happy are those who with  the strong fetters and chains of the kindnesses of the  mercy of God find themselves prisoners and deprived of the power to break loose.

Back to “Prayers of the Saints”

Saturdays Through Ephesians

For me and my family, Saturdays are for rest and the Word of God.  For a time, I am dwelling in Ephesians, so I thought I would invite you along.  What you will read is my translation, which like Eugene Peterson’s translation, reads more like a paraphrase than a literal interpretation.  So, with that in mind, here’s hoping that Saturdays through Ephesians gives us both rest in a restless age.

 

Ephesians 3. 8-13

This grace was given to me, the least important one, by all the saints to preach the  unfathomable riches of God to the gentiles.  Also, the plan was given to me to shed light on everything to some.  About this plan, it is the mystery, which has been concealed from all ages in God to all creation.   It was given to me so that the many sided wisdom of God might be made known now. It is the church’s job to make it plain to the rulers and powers of the heavens according to the proposal of the ages, which he accomplished in Christi Jesus our Lord.  In Christ Jesus we have the courage and access in what was entrusted through his faithfulness.  Therefore, I ask you not to be discouraged in my distress for you.  It is your glory.

Asbury International

TRENDING GLOBAL EXPERIENCES AT ASBURY THEOLOGICAL SEMINARY

 

Reflecting: Feb. 25-Mar. 4, 2011:                    Upcoming: Feb. 25-Mar., 2011:               Anticipating: March 2011:

Reflecting

In the past two weeks at Asbury, we have seen a global cornucopia of opportunities.  Just last week the community found herself challenged by Jeanine Brabon, long time missionary to the imprisoned in Colombia.   This week, two sage women (Dr. Sandra Richter of Wesley  Biblical and Asbury’s own Dr. Marilyn Elliott) preached on suffering on the life of Joseph.  Then on Thursday, chapel focused on global worship with preacher Rev. Hun Choi (husband of Asbury’s professor of Church History).  Also in these two weeks a group of students who are focusing on anti-human trafficking efforts met four times for prayer.  The ESJ School heard consecutively from Dr. Joy Tira, Senior Associate for Diasporas with the Lausanne Committee for World Evangelization and then from Dr. Darrell Jackson, Professor for Missional Leadership at Redcliff College. In addition to a group of students spiritually reflecting together on the harmony of action and peace, an international and multicultural group of 25 students, spouses, and their children journeyed together to the Underground Railroad Freedom Center for an overnight formational and community building experience.  The group toured the museum from 11-3.30.  From 3.30-5.30 they gathered as a large group for Formation in Common.  Even the kids all shared their reflections.  There was an over-arching theme from the group: that we are connected with the past and what is going on today. They asked, “What will be our role in the story of abolition?” The next morning the group went the extra mile and attended the church pastored by Rev. Harun Gatobu (husband of our incoming Dean of Practical Theology).

When it comes to global community and global opportunities, I sense this report merely brushes the tip of the iceberg of trending global experiences at Asbury Theological Seminary.

Upcoming

Lexington Life: Walk for Warmth

February 26th, 2011 :: Lexington

The Walk for Warmth will be held on Saturday, February 26th from 10 a.m. to noon, starting and ending at Phoenix Park (in front of the central branch of the Lexington Public Library). Register online at www.walkforwarmth.org, and help fight homelessness.

Help prevent homelessness in Lexington. Join us for the Lexington Rescue Mission’s 4th Annual Walk for Warmth to raise money for our Homeless Prevention Program. This program provides emergency financial assistance for rent and utility bills to families in need in addition to budget counseling, case management, resource referral and spiritual care. For every $100 raised, we can prevent an individual or a family from being evicted or having their utilities shut off.

Global Community Development: Wilmore Community Dinner

Monday, February 28, 2011 :: 5.30-7.00pm :: Sherman Thomas Student Center

Ever wish that you knew more folks in Wilmore?  Have you ever wished that the Seminary community could relate more closely with beautiful residents of Wilmore and High Bridge, Kentucky? The upcoming GCD Community Dinner provides a remarkable opportunity to begin relationships with members of our Wilmore community, specifically with those who are not connected to the seminary. Everyone, students, faculty, staff and local residents, is invited to come and share a common meal at 5:30pm on Monday, Feb. 28. We will gather, with attitudes of respect, hospitality and welcome, expecting to actively listen with our community members and compassionately serve as gracious hosts to new friends. And here’s how you can join in the action:

1.  Bring a lasagna-  sign up to cook 1 or 2 lasagnas for the meal.  We have a common easy recipe  you can use.
2.  Bring a salad or bread
3.  Be a greeter
4.  Help clean up
5.  Help everyone have a good time

If you are especially interested in creating this unique environment and relational ministry approach, we are forming a cadre and would much appreciate your help. Please contact Keith Jagger or Aaron Buttery via asburyseminary.edu email. We will have a lunch hour (lunch is on us) training Friday, Feb. 25, 12-1:30.

Campus Life: Student Abolition

Monday, February 28th, 2011 :: 7.00-9.00am :: Asbury House of Prayer

Looking for worshipers and activists, intercessors and non-conformists.  The Modern Abolitionists of Asbury Theological Seminary are looking for men and women who are willing to bring together the gifts of the Body of Christ, as the Spirit leads, to build God’s Kingdom in the area of freeing those affected by Human Trafficking

One of the ways we are being transformed and transforming the world in the area of Human Trafficking is through prayer.  On Monday Mornings from 7-9 am and Wednesdays from 12-12.45 pm, we will be meeting in the AHOP space on the camps of ATS. We would love for you to join us, helping us intercede for the millions held in bondage from Human Trafficking.

Our time together will also consist of sharing testimonies of those affected by this injustice, joining our hearts for specific geographical areas with respect to certain themes, and seeking God’s will through praying His Word.  If you have any questions or need further clarification, please contact Colby.Cuevas@asburyseminary.edu or Gary. Liederbach@asburyseminary.edu. On behalf of the Modern Abolitionists of ATS, thank you for taking the time to think and pray about joining us.  Whether God would have you join us in these times of prayer or not, be blessed as you follow the Way, liberating the oppressed and taking stands for justice.

E. Stanley Jones School of World Mission and Evangelism:

Wednesday, March 2nd, 2011 :: 8.15-9.30am :: ESJ Lounge

This week’s seminar features Betty Crouse, retired OMS missionary to Korea.  Her presentation will include a reflection on, “My Role in Medical Mission.”

The seminar meets every Wednesday morning, 8:15-9:30am.  The focus of the seminar is on spiritual formation, community formation, and development of academic skills.  For more information you can contact the seminar facilitator Dr. Eunice Irwin.

Anticipating

Ministry for Global Community Development: Spiritual Formation for Global Citizens: Reflection in Common

Thursday, March 10,  2011 :: 6-7.30pm :: Richard Allen Chapel

On March 10, we will reflect on calling out the best in every person we meet.  Masters include St. Paul, St. Teresa of Avila, John Wesley, and Martin Luther King, Jr.

Future themes include:

  • Courage
  • Action and Peace
  • Compassion
  • Making the Best out of Hopeless Situations
  • Seeing the Image of God in Everyone You Meet
  • Learning to Call Forth The Best in Others
  • Appreciating Uniqueness in Others
  • Cultivating a Globally Responsible and Interculturally Sensitive Heart
  • Turning Depression and Fatigue on Its Head with Appreciation

Our schedule looks like this (session runs from 6-7.30pm in the Richard Allen Chapel):

  • Thursday, March 10
  • Thursday, March 31
  • Thursday, April 14
  • Thursday, April 28
  • Thursday, May 12

We hope that you can join in this semester.

Ministry for Global Community Development: Local Service and Potluck Opportunities

Mondays in March 3.30-6.30pm:: Wilmore

Join the weekly rhythm of formational family friendly service opportunities. Build relationships across the ethnic, racial, institutional and city boundary lines. Start your ministry now through experiential hands on service together with fellow community members, students, and families!

If you would like to be added to the weekly service mailer, please respond to gcd.asbury@asburyseminary.edu.”

Internship/ Job Opportunities

Students should take care to notice three internships/ job postings:

  1. Heart of God: International Ministries“: Haiti.  We currently have an orphanage with 77 children and 12 Haitian staff members.  We are feeling urged by the Holy Spirit to develop a full-time support staff for the Director, relieving him of some of his duties and allowing him more freedom to evangelize among his own people (this is his first love).  Although we have just begun the search, we would like to be able to have someone ready to go in May, 2011.  The next several months could be spent in raising support and additional preparations necessary for a long-term assignment. Interested applicants can contact Jan Ross, President/CEO Heart for God International Ministries at jross@heartofgodinternational.org
  2. World Hunger Relief, Inc.“: Texas. WHRI is a teaching and working farm, with an emphasis on sustainable agriculture as it pertains to the alleviation of hunger worldwide. Interns & Live-In Volunteers train at the farm, learning about sustainable agriculture and technology appropriate to the developing-country setting, and leave equipped for holistic ministry through agriculture. The intern assistantship lasts 13 months, and during that time, interns receive a small stipend and health insurance, plus room and board. Interns learn by doing hands-on farming, personal experiments, and by attending twice-weekly classes, covering a broad range of topics. The classes are taught by farm staff, seminary and college professors, and local and commercial farmers. Live-In Volunteers stay for as short as two weeks, up to one year. Live-In Volunteers work 25 hours per week on the farm in exchange for room and board. LIVs do not receive a stipend or health insurance, but are encouraged to participate in all aspects of farm life, including morning devotions and intern classes. Interested applicants should contact Asbury Alum Kelly Lawson, Education Coordinator for World Hunger Relief, Inc. at educationcoordinator@worldhungerrelief.org.
  3. Internships with Good Works, INC. Not sure what you are doing this summer?Why not consider a 9-week paid internship in leadership development working with youth and adults serving at-risk children, widows, people who struggle with disabilities, people who struggle with poverty and people without homes in rural Appalachia?THE COMMUNITY OF GOOD WORKS has been providing internship experiences for 17 years. This summer, we will hire 6-8 interns who will live in Christian community and…

    • Oversee the relational discipleship of the visiting teens and adults who are participating in a week-long Work Retreat during our Summer Service Program. You will grow in a deeper relationship with Christ as you serve with hundreds of youth and adults who will visit Good Works from all over Ohio, Indiana, Michigan, New York and Illinois.
    • Provide leadership for our every day Summer Kid’s Discovery Club.
    • Assist with the daily Summer Lunch/Community meal provided to children and adults in the Athens, Ohio area.
    • Provide leadership for our visiting short-term mission teams in hands-on projects that serve people at their homes in rural Appalachian, Ohio who are elderly and/or who have disabilities.
    • Provide leadership for a teen agricultural summer internship program. Be involved in establishing gardens at the homes of widows and citizens with disabilities.
    • Discover and participate in direct service to people without homes who live in our shelter – The Timothy House. You will see a different model of ministry with the rural homeless.
    • Work alongside our friends struggling with poverty as they participate in service and earn “points” to obtain cars, appliances and food through our Transformation Station.
    • Participate in FRIDAY NIGHT LIFE, our weekly community meal followed by health education, Kids Club, live music, poetry readings and other community building activities.
    • Experience leadership development as you interact with the Good Works staff on the issues of discipleship, ministry with the poor, community, poverty and justice in weekly discussions.The Summer Service internship begins on June 12 and ends on August 13. Applicants must be at least 20 years old or have completed one year of college. Good Works provides housing and most of your food and pays $1,500.00. Interns can also raise additional funds. The
    deadline for applications and references is March 31, 2011.

    THE NEXT STEP –-
    1. Visit our web site and explore Good Works
    2. Read through the section on INTERNSHIPS.
    3. Select Summer Service.
    4. Request an application through e-mail at goodworks@good-works.net. Applications must be completed by March 31st. Interviews are conducted at Good Works in April.

    OTHER INTERNSHIP OPPORTUNITIES
    • Good Works also offers a year-long residential internship with a stipend called APPALACHIAN IMMERSION for people 18 years or older. Interns live together in the Good Works Hannah House and are immersed into the many different outreach initiatives of Good Works.
    • Good Works also offers a one-week internship, called WEEK OF SERVICE (especially during the summer), for anyone 16 years or older. Visit our web page and click on INTERNSHIPS for more information.

Guest Post by Geoff Whiteman: “What if Your Life Calling IS Gratitude?”

It is an awkward question.  We live in a self-help world—we spend most of our time anywhere but here, anytime but now.  We find fulfillment in what might be, not what is.  We crave plans and products.  We are convinced that the solution is in something or someone else.  In short, we pray a dyslexic Serenity Prayer, “God, grant me the serenity to change the things I cannot accept…” Therefore, we consume with reckless abandonment. Yet what if we could stop?  What if we could receive the present moment with full acceptance?  What if the aim and means of our life was gratitude?

It could be argued that gratitude is the essential duty of the Christian life.  As Alexander Schmemann said, “Everyone capable of thanksgiving is capable of salvation and eternal joy.” You might even say we are most ourselves (most fully human) when we are grateful.  When we see beauty breaking into the most mundane moments of our day—that is gratitude.  Being obsessed with the past is nostalgia, not gratitude.  Being fixated on the future is fantasy, not gratitude.  Gratitude is elusive, hiding openly in the present moment.  When we are not in the present moment we cannot know gratitude; and when we are distracted, afraid, compulsively consuming, or self-centered we are not in the present moment.

How can we foster gratitude as a way of being?  Three thoughts come to mind.  First, gratitude seems to incubate in solitude, stillness, and silence—to “be still and know that I am God” (Psalm 46: 10).  I could say a lot about silence, but that seems ironic.  Second, it seems to grow in the dance of receiving and offering—especially with those we are closest to.  Common courtesy is essential.  It is an odd phenomenon, but as acquaintances grow into friendships and blossom into meaningful relationships, something changes and we assume that we have arrived at some level of permanence.  While it is important to realize that those in our life will stick it out with us, we grow comfortable and dispense with the simple intentionality of common courtesy (which had set the conditions for the relationship to grow in the first place).  Finally, gratitude blossoms and bears fruit when we live our present life firmly rooted in the future life of the Kingdom.  When we face our personal trials and tribulations with the courage and good cheer of those who have found heavenly peace and conviction that Christ has overcome the World (John 16:33).  When we find that hope, we find the freedom to fully grieve.  It is the avoidance of grief that often fuels our reckless consumption, yet this grief transforms our denial into acceptance and gratitude.    So stop and show up. Be still and kind.  Weep with God.  Receive the gift of gratitude.

Joy is a Wild Spruce, Defiant and Full of Abandon

When Mother Teresa was building her order, she placed high value in joy.  She knew that her sisters would see some of the most horrific sights and care for the most disgusting wounds, and –as we would later find out– she knew that they would often live months at a time without sense that God was near.

I recently heard a beautiful rendition of “Jesus the Center of my Joy.” Gorgeous.  The lyrics spoke of lonely places and troubling circumstances.  It posed that essential question: how can I remain joyful?  Joy is not a blissfulness ignorant of life’s trials.  Joy is not a conjured-up faithfulness to a promise we once made, way back.  Joy is a wild spruce that endures through harsh winters. It nourishes itself from the soil of defiance, drinks from the dregs of mercy, and stretches itself in abandon to the sun– knowing full well it will never touch that orb, which shoots forth its warming rays.  Joy endures the hardest of seasons.

I love how Mother Teresa put it:

A joyful heart is the normal result of a heart burning with love.  Joy is not simply a matter of temperament, it is always hard to remain joyful – all the more reason why we should try to acquire it and make it grow in our hearts.  Joy is prayer; joy is strength; joy is love.  She gives most who gives with joy.

To children and to the poor, to all those who suffer and are lonely, give them always a happy smile; give them not only your care but also your heart.  We may not be able to give much, but we can always give the joy that springs from a heart that is filled with love.

Travel Diaries: A Christmas Pilgrimage to Bethlehem of Palestine (Part I of II)

Christmas Eve comes and goes, but once in ten lifetimes, you travel to Bethlehem.

3.10 Eastern European Time, December 24th, 2004.

I often wonder how we got there in the first place, a couple of guys with their girlfriends in the holy land.  I am so glad we went for it.

After a night in Tel Aviv, we catch a sherpa to Jerusalem.  There we meet Reuben, a Jewish American.  He is traveling here alone during his winter break, for pilgrimage.  As we make our way to the old city looking for shelter, we find a hostel right in the heart of old Jerusalem.  We are not quite sure why Joel seems hesitant.  We climb the narrow ancient stairway ascending to the second floor lobby.  “Do you have room,” we six ask.”  “Yes, replied the manager.”  Then he sees Reuben. “We have room for five,” he retools, staring through our new friend who doesn’t seem surprised.  “We don’t serve your kind here. Out! Out!”

As I look back on that moment where we watched Reuben flee down the stairs, I am ashamed that we stayed.  It was realistic that we kept our mouths shut.  I had only seen the aftermaths of these types of tensions and only on the news: decimated markets charred by the anger of this place.  Now we are seeing the makings of racial violence.   We are not sure what “kind” Reuben is.  The only difference we see is his skullcap, courageously pinned to his head. He is run off for it.  And because of our clothes, we find our shelter.

Our plans are soft.  We might enjoy Christmas Eve in Jerusalem; find a good street bargain perhaps.  But Bethlehem is only six miles away.  Somebody has the brilliant idea: let’s walk there. We cannot resist.

So, with map in hand and the travel warning to Palestine unheeded, we set off on the road to the city of David.  It takes only a few hours as city fades swiftly into the groves of the hilly countryside.  We walk past suburb and aside Jewish settlements, which inches their way in to Palestinian territory like us.  After a short walk down and up a small mountain, the barbed wire comes into view.

There they are, Israeli guards with their AK-47’s checking the trunks of each pilgrim who wants to get to the midnight mass.  I think, “well, good try folks.  Here’s where we get turned back.”  But it is not that way.  We get closer to the checkpoint, then right up to the fence. I try to make a connection with the guards.  They seem not to care about five wandering Christians.  So with great hesitation we simply walk past the checkpoint. No questions asked. No worries.  Not even eye contact. It is as if we are invisible!  And better that way.

Once past the military outpost, we scurry forth until we see the city.  There she is, Bethlehem of Palestine in all her Islamic splendor.  Before we reach the gates, we come upon a crowd of eagerly checker headed taxi folk.  They gather to collect pilgrims. And, I think to my Western media saturated self, “not a chance of getting in a car with these dudes.”  My companions feel more adventure than I.  And before I know it, we are crowded like sardines in the vehicle, flying off to the heart of the city.

When we pull up to Manger Square I am taken back by the Christmas crowd, on the one side, and the sublime melody calling forth from the lofty minaret of Omar Mosque, on the other.   In between the two religious buildings there are hundreds and hundreds of Muslim men.   Small shops line the Manger Square, and there is a stage in the center with a children’s choir singing “Away in a Manger.”  It begins to rain, and there are six hours until midnight.  We soon find out the worst news of all: you need to order your tickets a month in advance to have a chance of getting in.  Our five spirits were soaked. But the spark of adventure would fuel our hopes and grace us with the most unforgettable compassion we would yet to encounter.

Read Part II