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This trip to Bosnia was short but very targeted and effective. We did so many more things than we shared in the blog. We had many conversations with leaders in Bosnia. We were able to encourage several people. There were a couple of people that were experiencing some real challenges in their lives. I can’t share more but it seemed like we were in the right place at the right time to be friends to some people that really needed it. We all felt the effects of jetlag much more than usual. We all needed a couple of days of downtime to recover. We think we will return in October. We hope to stay longer this time though.
The trip back home wasn’t without its challenges. We experienced flight delays, massive security lines, difficult travelers, seat assignment mix ups, being put on the back row with seats that didn’t recline and our luggage got lost. But, they were just minor inconveniences. Overall, everything was fine. We didn’t land in Houston until 1am. We made it to our host home around 2am. We slept from 3-10am and awoke feeling the effects of jetlag. We decided to go ahead and get up and head toward home. We got showers but since we didn’t have any of our luggage, we couldn’t change clothes, shave, brush our teeth and other niceties. We did some shopping while we were in Houston. We ended up going to several stores and found some good walking shoes on sale that will work better than the ones we wore to Bosnia on this trip. We made it home late on Sunday night. Our luggage didn’t arrive until late morning on Tuesday. It was a good trip and we left feeling like we had made an impact in several lives.
Friday, March 19, 2010
Our last day in Bosnia and Herzegovina went well. We rested up some for the travels back home. We finished up some laundry and ran some errands. We got to spend some time with some of our old Bosnian friends and missionaries. We toured a waterfall that pours out from the base of a mountain at the opening of a cave. We had some coffee next to the waterfall with a missionary friend named Cory. Tom, Anita and I went to David and Sabrina Lively’s home for dinner and more fellowship. Becky wasn’t feeling entirely well and stayed back to rest up for the travels tomorrow. It was a wonderful time of chatting around their table. We prayed for them and their ministry here. We exchanged lots of hugs throughout the day with so many precious people.
We arrived back to the school a little after 9pm. We’re now packing up luggage so that we’re ready to head to the airport at 8am. We chatted on the phone with our friend Mladen who pastors the church in nearby Breza. We didn’t get to see him this trip but he is planning on coming to the airport in Sarajevo in the morning to see us off. We tried to connect with some of our other friends here but it wasn’t possible to fit in all the visits in this short trip. It was a busy and productive week. A lot of lives seemed to be touched, including our own. We’re looking forward to returning in October (we hope). We should arrive back at Houston around midnight tomorrow. Anita and I will spend the night there with friends and then drive back to Whitney on Sunday afternoon. Blessings to you all. We’re looking forward to reconnecting with you soon.
Thursday, March 18, 2010
We took a little break this morning from the busyness we’ve experienced all week. We got caught up on blogging and emailing and such. Then, we had an enjoyable lunch with some of the students and David Lively here at the school. Then, we did some laundry in the afternoon that stretched into every spare moment. Both the school’s washer and dryer take an incredibly long time. We had hoped to have time for an afternoon nap before getting ready for the evening prayer and worship service. But, it crept up on us too quickly along with the preparation work for the service, so we never managed to fit in a nap.
Jelena picked Jennifer and us up, as usual. It was good to see everyone back at the church. Anita and I discussed some changes we wanted to make from the previous night’s service to train the church on other ways of structuring a prayer service. We wanted to have a little more structure to tonight’s service than yesterday. We worked out a good plan that touched on several topics in a progressive manner.
The people were very responsive and the Spirit was clearly present. We structured much of the service around inviting people up to the microphone to pray, read scripture and sing. We focused the topics around Revelation 5 and Isaiah 6. Whereas yesterday’s service was more focused on the Father, tonight was on Jesus. We listed on the overhead projector 12 attributes the inhabitants of heaven declare about Jesus in Revelation 5. We invited people to come to the microphone to make declarations about how Jesus has been faithful to them in any of these 12 areas/ways. There were other opportunities for people to come to the microphone. They were very responsive without having to be prompted repeatedly. It was great to see.
The pace and momentum of the service was high throughout the night. I played more of an active role leading out the prayer portion of the service, so Anita could stay focused on the worship aspect. This allowed us to keep the topics focused. We also asked the translators to stay at the microphones to not only translate what we said into Bosnian but to translate most of what everyone else said, prayed and read into English for us. We got lost a little last night, because the translators got so caught up in the service that they forgot to translate for us. They did a great job translating everything for us tonight.
The worship was incredible. Anita did a great job. Everyone was participating without having to be pushed. The worship went into several crescendos of high praise. It was very easy to stay focused in worship for me and usually I tend to be easily distracted by what’s going on (and changes that need to be made to the flow of the service and such). That’s a great testimony for me. She has such an unusual anointing on her worship!
We ended on a sweet note as the Spirit was touching a lot of people tenderly. After Anita concluded with a final worship song, I spent some time speaking the Lord’s heart for the people to bring them encouragement and hope. I spoke a blessing over them as well. They were verbally responsive to what I shared and were clearly being touched at a heart-level. I could sense the Spirit on me, speaking the Lord’s heart through me. It is very affirming for me when that kind of thing happens.
We finished up and then the pastor wrapped things up. He asked for testimonies from his people about what this week had meant to them and done in their lives. The response was great. Some of the people shared such tender and remarkable testimonies of how God had met them and done incredible things in their lives. It was very touching.
With this being our last night ministering to this church, the pastor invited us up to the front of the church. Then, he invited his members to come and pray for us. We were soon being surrounded by and hugged by some 30 or more people in a big circle. They prayed for us and blessed us so graciously. It was an awesome experience!
One of the Muslim believers we’ve ministered to on both of our previous 2 trips to Mostar came tonight. It was great to see her. Last year, she asked us to pray that she would get accepted into the university here. So, we did. She reported tonight that she got accepted and is preparing to start classes soon. We rejoiced with her. She said she would be coming over to the school tomorrow, so we hope to get to see her again tomorrow.
They invited us back on a few occasions. We discussed some specifics. It looks like the first half of October would be best for the people in Mostar. We might stay longer and go to the Northern part of the country after that. We discussed the possibility of doing some inner healing counseling next time. I suggested they get a copy of our teaching CDs and manual from David Lively at the school in preparation. If we do those sessions, we would have to bring a much larger team next time to support one-on-one counseling sessions.
We also discussed the churches need for a Website. So, I volunteered to set it up for them on my server. I made a list of the things I need to do and to help educate them on in upcoming weeks and months. I’ll have to check into getting a Bosnian language pack installed on my server. I also need to help them pick out and register an appropriate domain name.
We had a good time of fellowship after the church service. Karmelo is in the process of setting up a beekeeping business. He’s been buying the equipment and getting everything ready. We had a lot of questions to ask him about bee pollen and other related topics. We had such a great time relating with all of their precious people. Karmelo and I had a good time of one-on-one prayer yesterday, and so I encouraged him about an issue he had shared for the Lord to give him wisdom. He asked me several times this week how I was doing, and I could see his compassion and tender heart.
They dropped us off at the school, and we said our goodbyes and exchanged hugs. They are such a great couple. I really hope we can come back in October and get more time with them, their leadership team and the rest of their church. They are such wonderful people.
We dropped off our things at the school and decided to walk down the street to Porto Pizza for a late dinner. We didn’t find many people around the school when we returned. Becky had gone out with some of our Bosnian friends a couple of hours before. When we arrived at the restaurant, Becky, Dejana and Remi were there. Although they had been there for an hour and a half, they were just getting their food. So, we ordered too and ended up eating with them.
Afterwards, Anita and I ordered one of our favorite desserts here in Bosnia Herzegovina. It is a nice pancake desert with a crepe rolled in fruit spread or honey, walnuts and whipped cream. I’m sure it’s packed with calories but it’s really good. We hadn’t had one since getting in Bosnia for this trip and so we splurged and each got one. They were really good, as always, especially at this particular restaurant.
We had a great time of conversation with them all. It was good to hear an update about their church in Breza as we have ministered there several times. We were sad not to visit there this trip. We also caught Becky up on the evening activities and some of the plans for the Fall that we discussed with Karmelo and Ivon. The walk back to the school is entirely up hill – much like San Francisco. So, we burnt off many of our calories on the trip back. Dejana discussed some important decisions she and Remi are facing in upcoming months. We are praying for breakthrough and God’s bountiful provision for them.
We put our laundry in for another dryer cycle and consulted with some of the students and Bosnians here in the building on how to get the washing machine to spin dry correctly. I’m catching up on the day’s activities here on the blog and then will get a shower before heading to bed a little after midnight. Tomorrow is a more restful day as we wrap up everything and get some more time over dinner with missionaries, David and Sabrina Lively, who run the school here in Mostar. Then we’ll start packing up some of our things in preparation for our trip to Sarajevo early Saturday morning.
Wednesday, March 17, 2010
Anita awoke in the middle of the night and had one of those unusual experiences where she thought the Lord had awakened her like He had done with Samuel. She got her bible and writing tablet and sat in the women’s bathroom that is next to our room. For over an hour, scripture passages came to mind and she looked them up and wrote them down. She ended up tying together a wide assortment of passages that all gave insights into the process of restoration. Particularly, she felt this may be a message of hope to be proclaimed over the whole city of Mostar. And she wondered if it contained keys for how to pray while walking their land that had been defiled by bloodshed and other sins from Old Testament passages.
She shared with me what had happened while we were getting ready in the morning but she didn’t have time to discuss what specifically she had gotten. We gathered with the leadership of the West Mostar Church first thing in the morning. We made coffee and drinks and then Anita started sharing the passages she had gotten and some of the strategies for impacting the spiritual condition of the region.
One of the key passages she had gotten was Jeremiah 31 (http://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=jeremiah%2031&version=NIV). All of the Bosnian leaders took turns reading the passages in Bosnian. Anita and I tried to follow along in our English version. Then, Anita asked them to read Micah 4 (http://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=micah%204&version=NIV). After they finished reading the passages, they shared what they got out of the passages. Some of them were shedding tears as they spokes about their need for hope amidst the heaviness of sowing into this dark region for so many years. Karmelo and his wife Ivan had led here in Mostar since the war almost two decades ago. It seemed apparent that these passages had touched on areas of need in their lives. They shared their hearts and spoke of how the messages of hope found in these passages were really needed.
After an hour or so of reading and sharing, the group decided that they wanted to go up to the top of one of the mountains surround Mostar and worship and make some of the declarations the Lord told the Israelites to make on the mountain top in these passages. So, we gathered everything and loaded 8 of us into a van and drove toward the mountain. They choose the mountain that had the large cross on it as one of the most strategic points in the area.
It was an interesting drive up along the edges of the mountain. Being in the front passenger seat, I got a clear view over the side of the mountain, with no railing. The scenery was breathtaking. We had some good conversations. Karmelo has such a pastor’s heart. He and I spoke about them things on the drive up the mountain. He has a great sense of humor and yet a compassionate, caring heart. I had heard a lot about Karmelo from other Bosnian leaders in past trips, but he quickly won over my heart in our time together.
When we arrived at the foot of the cross, the leadership team had brought along some flags and musical instruments. We sang some songs in Bosnian. I recognized them by their tunes but I couldn’t sing along without the Bosnian words in front of me. They read some from the passages Anita had shared. We worshipped and prayed together for some time. Jennifer played the guitar and everyone sang.
After perhaps an hour of prayer and worship, one of the leaders suggested that one of the other leaders, named Peter, and I hold up the pastors hands outstretched over the city. So, we did. It was a profound symbol. Here was this key leader of the believers in this city who was weary from all of the years of battling in this dark region. We were upholding his arms in the same way as Aaron and Hur had upheld Moses arms as the battle raged on below him in the valley. We also thought it was significant that the only 2 men present who were available to hold up his arms were Peter and John.
We stood on the concrete base where the Croatian artillery canons were once mounted and rained down mortars onto the city below day and night for months at a time. Snipers were also stationed at this same location at the foot of the cross. In previous trips, I had heard of Muslim people seeing the symbol of a cross and telling how it reminded them of the place where the snipers fired from the mountaintop at their children.
It was grievous to me to see the cross of Jesus stand as a symbol of division between a city instead of a symbol that unified God and man. As I looked down form the mountain top, it was clear to see the street that divided the Croatian side of the city from the Muslim side. On the Croatian side there were many steeples and crosses and on the Muslim side many mosques.
We prayed and worshipped a bit longer. We made a lot of declarations about the Lordship of Jesus and His desire to bring healing, peace and freedom to this land. We declared God’s goodness and His desire to bring restoration to this land and people.
Afterwards, Karmelo shared many stories of some of the things that had happened during the war. We found some bullet shells in the gravel and he said there had once been millions of them there but they had brought in bulldozers to try to bury them and cover them up. We loaded up the van and headed back down the mountain. He stopped and let me take a photo of the one of the land mine warning signs on the way down.
Karmelo shared with me how on many occasions during the war when they were helping refugees escape the country into Croatia and other surrounding areas, he found himself in situations where he was certain he was going to die. But, God rescued him time and time again.
Everyone was very talkative about everything the Lord had done on the mountaintop. It was clear that they were encouraged by the experience. They took us out to eat at one of their favorite restaurants afterwards. I had an excellent grilled chicken plate with French fries and Anita had a chicken salad. He enjoyed a lot of conversation in the smoke-filled restaurant.
Then, they dropped Anita and me off at the school around 3:30pm. This gave us a little over an hour before they were to pick us back up for the evening session at the c
hurch. We laid down and rest for over half an hour. I think we both dozed off for a little bit. Then, we got up, got back and gear and got ready to be picked up again. Becky came with us for the evening prayer and worship session.
The pastor’s wife Ivan shared with everyone all of the things that had happened during the week with our team. It was clear that she was encouraged and energized. Anita did a little training and then launched worship from the keyboard. We opened up a microphone for people in t
he congregation to come to and join in the prayer. The Bosnians really took off from that point on and we did little more than participate. Virtually all of the singing, prayers and declarations were in Bosnian with no one translating for us. So, it was a little challenging to feel like an active participant. So, I pressed in at a personal level and worshipped and prayed prayers in English to myself.
Many people came from the congregation and sang spontaneous songs, read scriptures and prayed. It was a powerful experience. This went on for a couple of hours. There were perhaps 50 people present for this session. The pastor from another church in the city, Dalibor came and played the guitar as part of the worship team. I recognized several others from that church where we ministered last year too.
I thought it was interesting that several people stood up and prayed for revival to break out among the believers in the region. This was interesting because the night before in our prayer meeting, we had chosen this as the highest priority topic of prayer. We had given half an hour to praying for God to revive His church in Mostar. Then, several people were praying for the same thing (these were mostly English speaking people who were praying in English and hadn’t been a part of the previous nights meeting).
I also found it interesting that the topic of guilt and shame came up in several meetings during the week after I had had a whole night of dreams about this topic. Becky and others touched on this topic and I gleaned a lot of revelation about how guilt and shame keeps us from seeing past ourselves and focusing on the goodness of God. I had some interesting ideas about how to explore this topic further in scripture after discussing it with Becky and others.
By the time we finished up, I was exhausted and ready for bed. We stopped by the grocery store and bought another fresh load of bread. Then, we sat in the dining area and ate some sandwiches. We got to chat with some more of the students, particularly Dehanah and Remi. Then, we wrapped it up and headed to bed a little after 10pm.
We had a great day today. Lots to report and lots of photos to post. But, I’m totally exhausted after being on from the moment we awoke to now (10pm). Going to bed. Hope to post more tomorrow.
Tuesday, March 16, 2010
I felt exhausted when I awoke this morning. We bought a box of Starbucks Via packets that allow us to make a decent cup of instant coffee. So, I had one of those first thing and followed that up with a 5-hour energy drink to get me into gear. Anita slept much better last night. So, she was up at working online in the Biblioteka (library) first thing in the morning.
It felt like there was a spiritual heaviness in the air. After talking with others, it seemed to be common. Becky didn’t sleep but 90 minutes last night. As soon as I got up, I started praying. I brought a copy of scripture downstairs in the break room and read some Psalms over coffee. Becky started one of her classes across the hall and so I left the break room door open and listened to one of her new teachings that compared how Adam and Eve veiled themselves after the fall with the unveiling Paul describes in Romans 3. It was good. I felt a spiritual heaviness left after an hour or so.
Anita and I both skipped the breakfast provided by the school as it tends to mainly be bread and fruit spread in the school kitchen. When Becky finished her first class, she wanted to go out for lunch. So, she, Anita and I walked down the hill and ate lunch at Porto Pizza. The meal and drinks were good. Anita and I both ordered a kafa sa slagom which is a really strong (muddy) coffee with a little bit of whipped cream. We had some good conversations about strategies, some of Becky’s new teachings and such.
We stopped by a grocery store on the way back. Anita picked up some milk, eggs, honey, sugar and other ingredients to finish her Texas sheet cake to bring with us to the English class. They asked us to prepare a snack from Texas and bring along some photos and stories to tell. I laid down while Anita and the school cook worked on the cake. I never could get to sleep but felt like I needed it.
Anita had a bit of a mishap with the ingredients and accidentally dumped all of the cocoa into the batter mix, leaving none for the icing. So, the kitchen cook and her went to a nearby store and bought a dark chocolate bar and they crushed it up into the icing. The kitchen cook doesn’t speak English, so she and Anita had to do a lot of work and charades to communicate through the process. I sent along my iPhone with a metric conversion app, so Anita could convert all of the English ounces and cups into metric measurements.
Anita returned in time for us to get everything ready and head downstairs and wait for Jelena to come pick us up for the evening activities. One of the other people, Jennifer, dropped by, and we chatted until Jelena arrived and took us to the West Mostar church. The first thing on our schedule for the evening was leading a prayer meeting. We gathered the chairs into a circle and opened with some worship music.
There were 10 women present in the meeting and they had all been to the prayer and worship training session with us the night before. So, I started by asking them for feedback from that session. What was their experience? Was it helpful? Did they have any outstanding questions and such? The feedback was very positive. It launched some good dialogue between everyone.
The conversation led us into Revelation 4:8 because we spent the last half hour of the training last night mimicking the worship happening around the Throne from Revelation 4-5. We divided the congregation in half, had them face one another and then in declarations of worship to say the “Holy, Holy, Holy” passage in an antiphonal (responsive) fashion back and forth to each other. They said it was a new experience for them, as it was for us, but it had a profound impact on everyone.
So, this conversation led right into what I wanted to share with the group. I turned to the passage in Revelation 4:8 and shared how I had spent years focusing on this passage in my prayer and worship time. I shared many of the insights I had gained into this passage over those years. It all had to do with establishing awe in worship. When you begin to understand insights into what is going on around God’s throne 24×7 throughout eternity, it creates a fascination toward the beauty of God. I discussed how this is an essential element in developing a lifestyle of prayer and worship.
I then went into the Ephesians 2:4-6 passage and talked about the mystery of how although we are inhabitants of Earth, we are also seated with Christ in heavenly places. When we pray, we aren’t aiming our prayer toward the ceiling in hopes that they penetrate the ceiling. Rather, we are coming boldly before the throne of grace from a position of honor sitting at the right hand of the Father with Jesus making our petitions. It changes the way you pray when you realize God has made Himself available and even wants to hear you and answer you.
Then, we talked about having unity in prayer. When two or more come together in His name, we know He is present and hears us. So, we combined all of these concepts together to pray in unity about some common concerns for their city of Mostar, in boldness, awe, and fascination at who God is. So, I asked the women what they would want Him to do if they could ask God for anything together. They began naming off things like revival among the believers, peace in the city, ending of addictions, etc. I asked the pastor’s wife to write these prayer concerns on the white board.
Then, I helped them work through a strategy on how they could pick one of these topics each month and pray together for that thing privately in their homes each day and then come together every Tuesday for prayer and worship corporately believing God that He wanted to make these things happen in Mostar. Anita added a lot of value and insights into what this could look like. The women were clearly excited about the ideas. We talked about how the Lord gave the Israelites strategies in each of their battles and that the Lord wanted to give them more insights into how to answer these prayers.
Last night in my teaching, I had mentioned us enjoying being in Bosnia and loving the people there. As soon as it came out of my mouth, I realized that we were in Mostar, which is actually in the Herzegovina (as the nation is technically called Bosnia and Herzegovina and is divided between these two joined countries). So, I knew it was offensive to the people of Mostar to just say Bosnia and not add the Herzegovina to the name. I thought about trying to correct myself in mid-sentence and decided it might only make matter worse and so I didn’t. I apologized for my mistake on the ride home and the pastor said it was nothing and that believers were quick to overlook such mistakes from outsiders but nonbelievers might not be so forgiving. So, tonight in all of my teaching times, I made sure to say Bosnia Herzegovina every time mentioned the country. So, hopefully I made amends.
After we finished the strategic teaching and planning, we asked the women to pick one of the topics on the white board to pray and worship over for the remaining half hour of our time together. They chose revival among believers. Anita picked out a passage from Colossians 1:9-12 that spoke to this issue and Jennifer, who brought her guitar, selected a song that touched on this topic. Then, we spent half an hour praying together and worshipping as we asked God to revive His church in Mostar. The woman all prayed in Bosnian and Jelena translated what each woman was praying. By the time we finished this 2-hour training, praying and worshipping session, it felt like the intercessors in the church had made a great leap forward. It was great to see.
As soon as we finished this session, we had to go downstairs right away to start the English conversation classes. We were greeted by several new faces. We got introduced to everyone. Anita brought in her Texas sheet cake and several other people had brought refreshments. They were all chocolate. I set up my laptop in the corner of the room and started a slideshow of photos that highlighted various scenes and wildlife found in Texas that Anita’s dad, Garry, had put together for us.
Then, everyone got settled down and Anita and I were introduced to the group and asked to discuss our lives in Texas. So, we spend perhaps 15 minutes covering many topics and answering an assortment of questions posed by the 20 or so attendants. We had a good time of it and laughed a lot. Then, they served refreshments and divided up all of the good English speakers at tables with the rest of the group.
We enjoyed coffee, tea, refreshments and lots of conversations. The topics and questions spanned our personal lives, geography, sports, wildlife, cooking and countless other topics. After perhaps half an hour, we switched tables. Some of the ladies were asking for the recipe for the cake and discussing the techniques for making it. One of the people the coordinators were excited for me to talk to was the son of the Bosnian man who owned the building from whom the church leased its space. He didn’t speak good English and so he was a bit reserved in his conversation at first. When he found out that I worked in technology, Internet and Web development, he asked me for my email address, Facebook account and website. So, I shared that information with him. I gave him the web address of my www.ocean.org site that is filled with evangelism and discipleship resources. So, we will see if anything comes of that.
I had some interesting conversation with people. Some of them spoke better English than others. We had difficulty trying to understand some people and so others were pulled into conversations as needed throughout the night. We were both pretty exhausted by the time this 2-hour session completed. We made it home a little after 9pm bringing our teammates the last couple of pieces of TX sheet cake. We are getting caught up on email and I’m typing this blog update. Connectivity has been up and down all night so we will see whether I am able to get it posted or not.
We are planning on going up to the top of one of the mountains at 10am tomorrow that surrounds the city of Mostar and worshipping with drums, guitar and other instruments. We are hoping this has a positive impact on the spiritual atmosphere of the city. Well, it’s almost midnight and we have an early morning tomorrow. We hope to get some good sleep tonight.
Monday, March 15, 2010
Today went quickly. We went to the West Mostar Church in the morning where Anita trained the musicians and worship leaders in the church. Her training was skillful and impacting. After inquiring of the people that came about their level of knowledge and experience, she decided to move it up to the advanced level and cover some complex topics.
She took them all through scripture tying together many concepts about the 24×7 worship strategy King David set up in the tabernacle with a staff of over 8,000 fulltime paid musicians and worship to minister to the Lord and provide a dwelling place for the Ark of the Covenant. She discussed how scripture says that God will rebuild the Tabernacle of David in the last days, and we are seeing this movement happen in every nation of the Earth right now. God instructed King David how to combine prayer and worship and musical instruments and the roles of the priests before the Ark.
I got a lot out of her teaching myself. I took a few pages of notes not only about what she was teaching but I also got additional revelation and things it stirred up in me. It was like heaven opened up for me and I got a download of how several things tie together about descriptions of what happens around God’s throne room and God’s purposes on the Earth for prayer and worship. I typed a page of notes of additional things I wanted to teach on in the evening class to tie in with Anita’s teachings.
We didn’t get back to the school until mid-afternoon. We connected with Becky to share how it went and plan for the evening. Then, we had about an hour to rest before we needed to get ready for the evening session. Becky decided to join us for the evening training and practicum session.
This time went well too. Anita lead some opening worship, then I taught for about 15 minutes and then Becky taught for about 10. Anita then demonstrated many of the concepts of how to get the prayers, Bible readers and worshippers all on the same page singing, praying and worshipping out of the same scripture passages. It was apparent that the worship team really absorbed the teachings from the morning session. They hit the ground running and never looked back. Becky and I had planned on leading in some of the prayer and scripture readings but the Bosnians really ran with it and we never needed to add anything.
Their worship team was really gifted. They had a missionary couple from the U.K. on the team that plays the electric guitar and bass. Budo, a worship leader and skilled drummer from here in Mostar, brought a lot of skill and passion to the worship team. Several of the church members came up to the microphones and prayed during the 2-3 hour session. There were a lot of excited people chatting with us after it was over. We spent a lot of time encouraging them to continue exploring this area as it helps change the spiritual atmosphere over dark places.
We got back to the school around 8pm. We stopped by the neighborhood store and got some bread and meat to make sandwiches. We sat in the kitchen downstairs and ate and chatted with several of the students who we there. Our old friend Bobo came in and we got a chance to visit with him for a while. He was looking good and it was great to reconnect with him. We got to chat with some other precious friends Remi and Dehanah from Breza who were also taking classes here in the training school this week.
We are pretty wiped out and are going to get to bed extra early tonight. Tomorrow, we lead a prayer meeting in the early evening at the West Mostar church and then we are speaking at a conversational English language class. Anita will be baking a TX sheet cake in the kitchen here for the English class to try something from TX. It won’t be nearly as long of a day as today was. I’m hoping we can get some laundry done as I’ve been in the same pair of pants since leaving Houston.
Monday Morning – March 15, 2010
Just a quick update. I slept really well last night but Anita didn’t (trading our usual roles). I awoke several times in the night to find her awake, including typing her thought on the laptop in the middle of the night. She studied her teaching notes right up until time for sleep and then she just couldn’t manage to turn it off. I’d encourage anyone reading this to pray for her strength today. Thanks!
I had numerous vivid dreams in the night all having to do with guilt and shame. I shared this with Anita first thing this morning and she also wondered if they were from the Lord giving some insight into breakthrough. So, we are praying for discernment whether we need to adjust any of our messages on that basis.
We are teaching a lot about prayer and worship this week. Biblical prayer and worship are both centered around God. We are training them how to shift from self-centered prayer and worship to the Biblical model. Shame and guilt can definitely interfere with praying and worship as God intends. Since God gave dominion over the Earth to Adam and Eve in the garden, everything He does on the Earth He does through mankind and only by mankind agreeing with what He wants to do on the Earth. So, God doesn’t act on the Earth unless people come into agreement with His purpose and plans. So, prayer is the act of surrendering our wills, agendas and ways and aligning ourselves with God’s will so that His dominion can reign in the Earth. In other words, prayer is the process of asking God to do what He wants to do on the Earth. Prayer is asking God what He wants to do on the Earth and then agreeing with Him to enable Him to act and fulfill His purposes on the Earth.
So, we focus a lot of our training on how to pray scripture and how to worship out of scripture. Since we know that God has declared His will and purposes in scripture, we pray what He has already declared to be on His heart for people – such as love, repentance, justice, truth, etc. We particularly pray the prayers the apostles prayed and those Jesus prayed. We sing them too in worship. This combination of focusing prayer and worship around what God says is true and what God declares is on His heart and asking HIm to do those things, create a powerful combination to release His power to transform lives on the Earth. This is especially true in a nation where other people are agressively praying in agreement with other forces and declaring that those things be done on the Earth.
It is difficult to focus on God and partnering with Him to manifest His purposes on the Earth when you are distracted by guilt and shame. So, perhaps this is something the Lord is wanting us to teach on as part of our training this week. We pray for wisdom and discernment. All four of us on our team are teaching today so we would appreciate any prayers for such things today.
Well, we are heading downstairs to start our days and may not be back until late tonight. Blessings to all. If you are reading this, would you mind leaving a comment by clicking on the link under the title of this post so we know? Thanks and blessings, John
Sunday – March 14, 2010
After getting 12 hours of sleep, Anita and I both felt like human beings again. We were both rested and up before anyone else in our section of the buildings so we got ready, had a makeshift breakfast and made some coffee. I gargled some vinegar for my throat and it helped a little.
Our original plan was for Anita and I to go to the West Mostar Church and for Becky and Tom to go to the East Mostar Church (located here in the seminary building where we are housed on the fourth floor). After everyone was up and discussing the situation further, our whole team decided to go to the West Mostar Church.
The pastor of the church, Karmelo Kresonja, came and picked us up from the school here. It was good to get to visit with him on the short drive over. His is one of the largest churches in Bosnia with upwards of 70 members. Most of the people were gone today as there was a large women’s conference going on that drew Christian women from all over the Balkan region. As such, there were only about 20 people present. The pastor extended an invitation for one of us to bring the message but we didn’t find out about it in time to prepare for the opportunity, so we passed.
We had an opening worship song and then Karmelo brought an awesome message about how we identify 3 types of friends in our life from the closest to the most distant and how we set our expectations for those friendships. One of the church members sat behind us and translated his message into English. Afterwards, we worshipped together with several worship songs in Bosnian. They had a digital projector for the worship lyrics (which is unusual for Bosnia). So, it made it much easier to follow along and attempt to sing the lyrics.
Anita is really good at learning phonics and singing in Bosnian. She can have someone tell her how to pronounce all of the words in a song and then she gets up and leads the whole church in it and everyone tells her that her pronunciation is flawless. I spent years studying linguistics and languages from ancient dead languages like Egyptian and Babylonian cuneiform to Greek and Hebrew to more modern languages like Japanese, German and Spanish. So I tend to pick up on the technical aspects and structures of languages fairly well. But, Anita is naturally skilled and amazes me in many ways with her skills in this area. Between the two of us, we can usually read a menu and place orders at restaurants and such by the end of the first week being here. So, most of our team usually relies on us to do the ordering and transactions with native Bosnians who don’t speak English. Yet, at that level we don’t have to memorize which verb and noun endings to use in each situation. So, we are still very much at a beginner level.
Each time we come here, we have to learn the basics of the language all over. Fortunately, the pronunciation of the constants and vowels is very consistence, like Spanish. Yet, they do have more letters and letter combinations that represent more phonic sounds than English (many of which we can’t distinguish). These are not easy or instinctive to learn. Bosnian verb and noun endings are extremely complex, like Greek – that I had a very difficult time learning in college and seminary. The endings vary with gender and number, to mention a few. Like most Slovak languages, Bosnians is very difficult to learn for English speakers. I would think that I’d have to live here for a year or two to do any justice to the language. We have many English-speaking friends who have done it but most needed 2-3 years for it to really take.
After the message, Becky spoke some about our team and plans for the week. Anita went into more specifics. I offered some words of encouragement. Then, the pastor invited anyone who wanted prayer to come forward and our team spent about 20 minutes praying for half or more of the church. It was a moving experience. Some people shared needs with us via a translator and we prayed for them with interpretation. There were others who st wanted prayer and so we just prayed for them. We had some interesting dialogue with many of the people in the church. Many tears were shed.
I usually take all of the photos and so we usually end up with photos of everyone on the team except me. We’re going to try to change that some this trip, however.
After the church service concluded, coffee was prepared for everyone, as is customary in Bosnia. It was good – not quite the usual thick Turkish variety that’s best identified by its muddiness. The pastor drove us over to David and Sabrina Lively’s home. They oversee the seminar here in Mostar. They’re originally from Atlanta. We always have a wonderful time in their home. Their two daughters are getting so big. Anita caught their tention right away and she got the special treatment like getting to play with their dolls and getting a tour of their rooms.
We enjoyed a wonderful roast dinner and some enjoyable conversations. As usual, we talked about the week’s schedule and when and where everyone on the team needs to be throughout the week. We spent a couple of hours or more there before saying our goodbyes. David drove us back into town and dropped us off at the school.
Afterwards, Tom, Anita and I went for a walk into town to pick up something to eat for dinner. Anita and I forgot to bring along the Bosnian Marks we had leftover from the last trip for occasions like this in which we get into the country on a Saturday evening and the banks don’t open until Monday morning to exchange our currency. We managed to buy some groceries at the store using only credit cards and some Marks and Euros Becky had brought from previous trips. We stopped by a Pekara and bought a loaf of bread and then stopped by a third small store near the school to get some water and snacks.
We made it back to the school and rested for a while before getting back together and going through the teaching plans and strategies for the week in more detail. I took some time to update my blog posts as well as process and upload some photos. Now, I’m about to shower and get to bed around 11pm. G’night…