Saturday, July 31, 2010

The Work Begins

Some have asked, "What do you do now?" In visiting with some national friends yesterday evening, one of them (when hearing about the work of the festivals) asked, "Do you do that all of the time?"

Some would think that we have a one-push effort and that is the big thing we do. Certainly the Gent Festivals Ministries take a lot of planning, preparation and work. It is hard to describe all that encompasses. It is a major opportunity to connect and sow seeds and we do not want to miss or minimize it. It is a lot of work and a major focus of time, talent, attention and effort.

But it would be impossible to operate at that level for 365 days of the year. Why? We are not sure even a young person could keep that pace indefinitely. Plus, people are not that open to contact outside of special days. It is a rare time when people open themselves up to new things and new experiences. Defenses go down and doors open that are not available most of the rest of the year. So we go all out for those days.

It is a big deal!

But there is still work to do after the end of the festivals. The real environment for experiencing life-change happens in ongoing relationships. It is as we share life daily that God opens and invades the hearts of the people. So what are we doing now? We are trying to find ways to continue to build possible relationships that developed during the festivals ministries.

That too is a lot of work. August in Gent is still vacation month. In comparison to as full as the streets and plazas were during the Gent Festivals they are as vacant in August. During the festivals it is almost impossible to take a step without running into someone. In August you could almost drive a truck sideways through the streets and not hit anyone. But we are out trying to follow-up on the sowing of seeds.

Now is the time we try to determine the quality of the soil. During the festivals we sow seeds broadly without much effort at determining the quality of the soil. (We do keep our eyes open for obvious rapid germination) During the festivals we trust the power of the seed. Within the seed of the Gospel is the power necessary to change lives. Our job is to be sowers. We take to heart the teaching that he who sows sparingly will reap sparingly and he who sows abundantly will reap abundantly.

Now we look more at the soil and try to invest energy, time and effort in the lives that are apparently good soil (or at least demonstrate the ability for more rapid germination and cultivation). We still sow seeds but spend more time in cultivation and care.

So we drink a lot of coffee with people and spend a lot of time in trying to develop deeper relationships and have longer and more meaningful conversations. The challenge is finding the folks. Pray we will be able to connect where God is sprouting seed. That is what we are doing now. Looking for little green shoots.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Sunday 25 July

No blog yesterday. Sorry. We took the Arkansas Festival Team to Brugge for a day out and some souvenir shopping. They needed the time off and have been working hard.

It helped me (John) as I am trying to get over a bad cold that has made the ministry even harder.

Today (Sunday) was the joint, outdoor worship service hosted by several of the Evangelical Churches of Gent. There was a play about some of the evangelical history and an evangelical message. A few of the not-yet-Christians we have been meeting chose to attend but not sure how well they felt connected.

Ministry is not over. We shared cookies with security workers, police, sanitation workers and firefighters. We made arrangements with the firefighters on post at the festivals to take a box with bags of cookies back to the main station so that all the local firefighters can receive a "thank you" gift. We will be doing the same for the sanitation workers as well as the tram and bus drivers.

The festivals end Monday (actually Tuesday morning for the party-all-night crowd) but there is still much to do in making contacts and making plans for follow-up.

We will meet the Arkansas Festival Ministry Team at the hotel at 05:45 tomorrow to help them get to the train.

We are looking forward to a little more sleep and cleaning the apartment so that it does not look like a cookie vending machine exploded inside. Gotta go grocery shopping too so we can get back to a more routine eating and lifestyle.

Still more to come . . .

Friday, July 23, 2010

Friday 23 July

Well it "Belgiumed" this morning. That means it rained and in fact it was a thunderstorm with hard rain.

The party-all-night crowd thought it was fun at first. Then the lightening and cold rain. In a half hour the cold rain helped to begin wiping out the money they had spent to get drunk. Drenched and chilled us too so we quit a little early today.

John got the Georgia team to Brussels. They fly out early Saturday morning. Lucy helped the Arkansas team keep going with the ministry to the sanitation workers and then joined a partner church in their outreach for the afternoon.

Still lots to do before the end on Monday. Actually there is much to do even next week.

Will update much more in our 1 August Prayer Update.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Thursday 22 July

A quote from the "A-Team" goes, "I love it when a plan comes together."

A better one might be "I love it when God shows up and demonstrates His glory." That happened today.

Since this is a public forum, it is not the place to share details but here is the summary.

Unbeknown to John, Lucy prayed this morning that this would be the day we would connect with people who could become a group here. John has been praying that we would be present and aware where God has created divine appointments.

Today God answered prayer as only He can. During the morning coffee outreach, John encountered one of the service industry people with whom we have been connecting. We will call him Harry (Not his real name) Harry asked John if he would be at their usual meeting place at noon. John told him that was not the plan for today but that we would be meeting them tomorrow. Harry told John that Harry's wife was coming to meet him for lunch and that Harry had told his wife he wanted her to meet his American friend.

Even John (suffering from a cold, being pretty exhausted and not always spiritually aware) could tell this was a divine appointment. So John rearranged his schedule to make the appointment. Remember that God often asks us to adjust our plans to meet His.

To make a long story short, John did meet with Harry and his wife. It was a divine appointment (even Harry and his wife agree) and they agreed to meet soon to talk about how God can be a part of our lives even in the tough times.

It was a God moment and obvious (even to those who do not follow God) that He was working here.

THIS is what the coffee and cookies are all about!

More to come.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Wednesday 21 July

July 21 is the national day here in Belgium (sort of like July 4 in America). Lots of places are closed so that means there were more people free to attend the festivals. It also meant there were less people available to work in the Coffee Outreach.

A quick guess/estimate indicated there were twice as many people who were at the location of the Party-All-Night area. Not only was the number greater but more people were less in control. As the festivals progress, the participants have less sleep and the alcohol poisoning increases. All that means people have less ability to be self-disciplined and self-controlled. That means the security guards and police have more to do.

In spite of that and the threat of rain, we had some great opportunities to engage people in conversation and tell them how God can change their lives. Overall, our teams felt more comfortable and had better opportunities to share. A couple of team members gained real insight into the magnitude and depth of the lostness and challenge here.

Today was also day 2 of the ministry to the sanitation workers. With this group the practice is to touch the same people, multiple times in the week as opposed to the other group where we are trying to touch as many as possible once per week.

The familiarity helped and many were glad to see us and waiting for us. The relationships and opportunities are growing. A local partnering church provided brownies and that was a big hit.

We also spread out across the city to touch smaller groups of other service industry workers. We had teams in four places simultaneously. God provided enough laborers for the harvest to do this effectively.

The festival participants are not the only ones growing more weary by the day. Long days with little rest in the warm weather takes its toll on those ministering as well. Both volunteer teams are being troopers and pressing through. The overall willingness to "do what it takes" helps us continue to implement the strategy of the ministry activities.

Pray for protection (spiritual and physical) as well as health and strength. There are still several days of ministry ahead.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010


That word describes a lot of today.

Temperature wise it is quite warm. Officially this is the warmest first half of the year since they have been keeping records. Certainly it is not blazing hot (or as hot as it is in America). But being on your feet doing ministry from 6:30AM until 2:30PM with only one short sit-down break takes the toll. Having non AC means trams, buses and buildings are hot. It means the bedrooms are none too cool in the evenings so sleeping is a challenge. Fortunately our volunteer teams have AC at their hotel.

Hot also describes some of the great opportunities we are getting to share about God. At team meetings people excitedly share "God Stories" about how He opened up opportunities to tell His story and how the volunteers are being obedient to step into the situation. I had the opportunity to share the Good News three times today with people who were open and capable of making a decision for eternity.  Accounts like that flow every time we get together.

Hot also describes the opposition. One does not have to be very spiritually aware to see how the enemy intervenes to try to stop the effective spread of the good news. Attacks come in many forms (for instance I have not been successful a fighting off a sapping cold and the Second Festivals Ministry Team missed their flight and spent a long day flying.

Thanks for the prayers. Step them up. It is hot here.

Monday, July 19, 2010

A Long Day

Flexibility is the key. It was today. It seemed like little went as planned. Certainly there were challenges but also great opportunities.

Missed flights, missed connections,  partners not understanding the process were just a few of the challenges.

But in all that we had some amazing conversations. Some went very far and to the heart of the Gospel.

Pray for obedience and insight for tomorrow.