I know I said that when I was involved with student ministry at Pulpit Rock. In those moments it felt so true, but now I really am living in a church. This church in Leskovac, Serbia at one time hosted a Bible school, so it has bunk-bed accomodations, showers and an apartment for the Anderson family. This evangelical church actually hosts two congregations: one is a thriving Roma Gypsy congregation and the other is a Serbian congregation that is smaller and appears to be stagnant. It breaks my heart that these two ethnicities won’t join together to form a unified congregation. But that is something you can pray for.
Psalm 34:1,10 “I will extol the Lord at all times, his praise will always be on my lips. The lions may grow weak and hungry, but those who seek the Lord lack no good thing.”
“The important thing is this: to be able at any moment to sacrifice what we are for what we could become.” –Charles duBois
It is not possible to display pictures on my blog while I’m here. I’m sorry, but you’ll have to wait until I return to Modling, Austria before I can fill these entries with photographs. I will do my best to paint you pictures of what it’s like in Serbia and what my life looks like here.
This psalm and quote capture a bit of the struggle of my heart. My first few days here were hard. I had been spoiled in Sarajevo. I had other Americans to hang out with that were my age. I had easy access to the Internet through a Mac laptop. I had mountains and snow and a ski-type condo to stay in . Yes, spoiled. But when I got to Leskovac it wasn’t the living conditions or the landscape that really made me sad. It was missing the relationships I had started to build in Sarajevo. I didn’t realize how alone I felt as a 27-year-old DTS student until I had other women around my age to have fun and share life with. In some ways I’ve lost the identity I used to have with 18 and 19 year olds. In Colorado I was the small group leader. Yes, I could go to a movie with my girls and they enjoyed the fact that I didn’t look my age, but I also held their respect as someone older, as their small-group leader. Make sense? Here I’m a student. I think sometimes even my leaders forget I’m 27 and simply group me with the other two students because we’re all students. That’s a hard part of myself to sacrifice. It’s hard to give up my right to respect and acknowledgement of my age and life experience. But I also realize that right where I am is another moment to praise the Lord and seek Him, for He has many good things He wants to give me here.
goal: to play better than Forrest Gump
Didn’t Forrest Gump play a really good game of Ping-Pong? It’s been a while since I watched this movie, but I recall he could hold his own during a tournament. You may be wondering what Forrest Gump has to do with Serbia. Well, let me give you a recap of the last eight days and tell you how much our lives with Serbian youth revolve around a Ping-Pong table.
“Each instant is a place we’ve never been.” –Mark Strand
Monday, 15: 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Ping-Pong table assembled; found out that the focus of our youth ministry would invovle establishing Ping-Pong game nights to bring in unchurched youth.
Tuesday, 16: walked around Leskovac to see the town and pray
Wednesday, 17: 10 a.m.- 11:30 joined Serbian congregation for prayer for their upcoming national elections; began learning the Serbian alphabet and the Cyrillic alphabet (looks similar to the Greek characters). They use both languages here.
That night we attended the Roma mid-week service. I spoke for about 10 minutes on Ephesians 1 with an encouraging thought for their congregation.
Thursday, 18: Today we traveled to Nis. Here is where the emperor Constantine was from. I learned about him in church history thanks to Professor Helsabeck.
During our time in the city we met another YWAM team serving there. Their group of 10 showed us around and joined us for lunch and dinner. It was a fun day! That afternoon I had a tasty cup of dark hot chocolate! Yum!
Craig, Courtney and I also found a large, American style grocery store to stock-up on food items we haven’t been able to find in Leskovac. We knew it would be a good grocery store when we drove up because there was a big parking lot with flags advertising the store. *smile*
Friday, 19: We decided that our first Serbian youth event would be a lock-in. At 9 p.m. we started the lock-in that lasted until 7 a.m. on Saturday. One of the highlights of this event were the Ping-Pong tournaments. We took two large sheets of paper and made tournament brackets. (My experience with tournament brackets comes from my passion for NCAA March Madness basketball.) The 15 students who attended loved these tournaments. Every time a person or team won they ran to the paper to record the winner and continue the tournament process.
Saturday, 20: However, Ping-Pong wasn’t the only night attraction, we also played the card game Spoons, a few relay games and had two people compete in each unraveling a frozen T-shirt to see who would be the first to put the T-shirt on. I had a lot of caffeine and held my eyes open until 5:30 a.m. I pushed through the last 1.5 hours and then soundly slept until 1 p.m. on Saturday.
I had a great time at this lock-in. It was a good opportunity to interact with students in a no-pressure environment. They sure do love Ping-Pong! We’re planning game nights for each Saturday and Monday during our time here. And I imagine we’ll be playing more Ping-Pong.
Sunday, 21: Because we live at the church we’re asked to attend as many services/functions as possible. We attended a 10 a.m. Serbian service and then a 5 p.m. Roma service. In between the services I worked on homework and continued reading Lord of the Rings.
Monday, 22: We spent our morning praying and nailing down goals/objectives for the next five weeks.
1 John 3:21-22 “Dear friends, if our hearts do not condemn us, we have confidence before God and receive from him anything we ask, because we obey his commands and do what pleases him.”
“Great things are only possible with outrageous requests.”
Our small school continues to be put in positions of pioneering new things everywhere we go. We never asked to be a pioneering group, but that’s what we’ve become. Here we are in Serbia being asked and called to pioneer something great in youth ministry.
Psalm 16:8 “I have set the Lord always before me. Because he is at my right hand I will not be shaken.”
This is the verse God gave me as I sought His heart for these students. The Roma Gypsy youth have a thriving youth group. But the Serbian youth don’t even have a foundation for a vibrant growing youth group. I’m not sure that the students here could claim Psalm 16:8 as their own. And I know this is God’s heart for them. I realize that five weeks isn’t a realistic time-table to establish a youth group through completion. But I also don’t want to underestimate God’s power. It was through God’s power that the walls of Jerusalem were rebuilt under Nehemiah’s team in 52 days. We only have 38 more days, but who knows what our mighty god wants to accomplish.
how you can pray!
We’ve come to the conclusion that the students here need ownership of their faith, as well as the need for a strong youth ministry foundation in their church. This will involve one-on-one mentoring, partnering with these students to conduct local outreaches, finding key leaders and developing these leaders and seeking God for opportunities to deal with the brokenness each individual student carries. There is a big need for healing among this group of students.
Where’s my heart in all of this? Tonight I’m going to a cafe with a 17-year-old girl named Susa and her 20-year-old friend Tamara. I want to get to know both of these girls on a deeper level. Pray for our conversation. They both attend the church I’ve been talking about, but I’m not sure where they are in terms of their relationships with Jesus. Pray that God will lead me as we talk, showing me when I need to be direct with spiritual topics and when I need to hold back.
Pray that God will show our team what specific ways we can help start the establishment of a strong youth ministry foundation. We may not see the fruit, but could be involved in the plowing part of what God wants to do here.
On Thursday night, January 25 I am speaking at the Serbia mid-week service. I’m giving my talk on Nehemiah that I gave on the Peru trip. It has to be shortened and tweaked, but I’m glad I have something to work with. Pray that I’ll find a way to translate these truths into the Serbian culture, giving them something to remember and connect to their lives.
my next jump
Every now and then someone sends me an e-mail or I’m asked by someone I meet over here, What is God leading you to after DTS? I’ve been praying about these next months that follow my DTS. I’m the kind of person who likes to make a decision and go after it. I wanted some sort of direction by the end of October/beginning of November, but God has something else in mind. Over the course of the lecture phase of this school I found myself with two opportunities to join YWAM in England. Both would involve my interest in journalism and in traveling. They are tempting opportunities, but they lacked a key ingredient: youth ministry. I know I could also stay with YWAM in Austria and be involved in youth ministry. This seems like the next natural step, but it isn’t the way God is leading me.
Psalm 32: 8-10 “I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go. I will counsel you and watch over you. Do not be like the horse or mule, which have no understanding, but must be controlled by bit and bridle or they will not come to you. Many are the woes of the wicked, but the Lord’s unfailing love surrounds the man who trusts in him.”
Psalm 34:4 “I sought the Lord and he answered me; he delivered me from all my fears.”
I have begun the process of joining Greater Europe Mission based in Colorado Springs, Colo. They are a missions organization specifically involved within Europe (gemission.org). They have a growing youth ministry aspect of their ministry in Europe. I talked with a woman who lived in Austria for three or more years under GEM. She raved about the organization and the work being accomplished. I definitely connected with what she shared over the phone and hope to meet her some day. She sounded so much fun!
I know my next step in this tandem-living journey is to be in Europe and immerse myself in a culture, learn a new language and develop relationships with youth and those involved with youth. My heart is still for Austria. I want that language to be German and to develop relationships with Austrian youth and youth leaders.
God’s dream for creating a relevant media: magazine/Web site for teens in Europe is still on my heart. But I can’t begin to step toward that dream until I get a good sense of the culture/language/youth, so I can know what this magazine/Web site should look like.
When my school ends March 9, I’ll take a few more days to enjoy Austria with Tra’Cee. She comes on March 7 and we leave on March 14. During that time we’ll meet with some GEM leaders who currently live in Vienna. I’m hoping this will only confirm this next jump.
My process with GEM could take six months or more, so I see that my next few months will be in the States. This gives me an opportunity to connect with as many of you as possible. During this transition time I’ll be back and forth between Colorado and Indiana.
On March 14 I fly back to Colorad with Tra’Cee and will spend two weeks in our new house on Platte Avenue. I’ll use that time to start job-hunting (any suggestions?), figure out the public transportation system and tune-up my bicycle. Yep, I’m car-less. But I should be in good shape and save money. *smile*
Then I’ll travel to Indiana at the end of March and stay until the end of May. I’m excited to see my family!! Especially my growing nephew Kaleb!! I want to begin freelance writing again, so pray that I’ll be disciplined in brainstorming, cranking out stories and that God will provide the opportunities to write. It’s not like I don’t have stories to share. I always have a story. *smile*
In June I’ll be back in Colorado and will hopefully attend GEM’s week-long new missionary orientation. This is June 9-16. Unfortunately that conflicts with my cousin’s wedding. I’m attending her wedding no matter what, so pray that the committee will consider letting me make up June 15 and June 16 at another time this summer. Otherwise I’ll have to wait until the end of October/beginning of November to go through orientation.
I have no idea what my new temporary life in the States will look like. I have lots of fear that people won’t understand what God is up to when I’m not located in Europe actively participating in youth ministry/missions. But I guess that’s all a part of God’s wisdom versus man’s wisdom (see 1 Corinthians 2:6-10).
Raising support through Pulpit Rock church concludes on March 1, so if you desire to contribute before I return to the States please make sure your church are received by that time. I can’t offer tax-deductible support for my next few months in the States until I’m accepted by GEM, God-willing, and they start processing my account. When I have more specifics of how much support I need to raise for my next jump I’ll let you know. Any ways you want to support me–financially, encouraging cards, etc. can be sent to my new Platte address after March 1. Let me know if you’d like this information.
Thank you again for your support over the last few months!! I’ve constantly been encouraged by your generosity, whether it’s taking the time to read these entries, supporting me in prayer or even financial giving. I ask that you seek the Lord in how/if He’s calling you to continue this journey with me, and in what capacity. I sure hope you will!
Pray that God will continue to make His steps clear and that I will continue to know Him as Abraham did –“The Lord Who Provides” (Genesis 22:12-14).