Europe

Update from Andrew

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Though its a little late, I wanted to say Happy New Year! Wishing you a bright and hopeful entry into 2017. Thank you for your friendship and support. 

2016 was the toughest year ever for our family. As you know, my wife Debbie passed away in June in Ethiopia due to malaria and typhoid. This has been an indescribable loss for me and also for our five kids. We are getting on with our lives but she has left an enormous hole. Thank you all for your consolations, encouragements, thoughts and prayers. 

My health has improved, after contracting the same illnesses Debbie had, and I feel like I am almost back to normal. I still have to keep an eye on my blood pressure and heart rate but my weight has returned (still skinny though).

I’ve been musing  on the reformation of the church in this 500th anniversary year, focusing on the creative missional entrepreneurs who are reshaping the form of missions and church to impact the world. (Contact office@nzcms.org.nz for more.)

Your financial support helped us equip Europeans to reach out to refugees from Syria and beyond and bring God’s light to spiritual seekers in various festivals and gatherings. It also helped us to mentor African agriculturalists and social entrepreneurs in seven West African countries. 

In 2017, we plan to increase our efforts in Europe to respond to the refugee crisis, assist the formation of a training base in Europe, equip Christian leaders in at least 14 European countries, and offer training and teaching to churches and organisations in impacting the next generation. Your continued prayers and gifts will make this possible. Our support level is critically low at the moment and we really need your help.

Thank you for your partnership!

Syrians in Turkey

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I write this from a poor fishing village on the Black Sea, about 120kms from Istanbul. There are eight street dogs outside on the road but they don’t move for cars. One of those dogs guarded our truck last night. They are not territorial like the city dogs and they don’t bark all night.

The cafe is full of men drinking tea and occasionally playing cards. The summer fishing season has ended yet a few boats go out early in the morning and return at 5pm with meager amounts of small fish. They must be operating at a loss. Perhaps they are subsidised? Perhaps the fishermen just need something to do.

Two days ago we were in Edirne, not far from the border to Bulgaria and Greece. The Turkish authorities were using the stadium to house many of the refugees but these were moved away from Edirne to, or so they tell me, the bigger cities of Istanbul, Adana and Izmir. Refugees are now no longer to be seen in the city although there are accounts of some of them inside houses of generous people.

On our way out of Edirne we saw a group of about 12 young Syrian refugees walking fast along the railroad tracks. We parked a little ways ahead of them and walked over to the tracks. They all looked about 17 years of age and were quite scared of us but I waved at them and they eventually walked up to us. One of them spoke English and told us they could not stop or even walk slowly since the police were after them. We were able to convince them we had no connections to the police and he told us they were trying to get to Greece. I left the group with 50 TL to buy bread and tea for the group once they arrived at the next town – this came from the funds people like you have provided.

We have pulled back to a fishing village on Turkey’s Black Sea, about 120kms from Istanbul. The last few weeks have seen some intense times. We have been moved off by the police on many occasions not just in Turkey but also in Serbia and Hungary. Most times they check all our passports and it takes a long time. The Turkish police were quite friendly to us and took photos of themselves next to our truck.

The Turkish are a friendly people. At the fishing town where we are currently parked up, I have been to the cafe a few times but have never been able to buy tea because someone always buys it for me. Last night we were given a large bag of fish by the portmaster. Sometimes the subject of Gallipoli comes up and they call me “Anzac”. I remind them that the New Zealanders and Australians fighting here a century ago felt a friendly connection to the Turks that was unexpected and actually caused the English to send many troops away and replace the with new soldiers since they were not motivated to fight the Turks.

In many ways, both New Zealand and Turkey discovered themselves during that war and entered a new era with a new identity after the war.

It’s good to be back in Turkey. I hope the friendliness they extend to our nations, and what they extended to the European refugees during WWII, will be applied to the two million refugees from Syria, along with the willingness to recognise them as true “refugees” (with work permits and permission to stay) rather than the current status of “guest” that allows them no such privileges.

 

The Thornberrys are now focusing on the Syrian refugee crisis. They urgently need more support to enable them to effectively serve many in need. Please consider donating towards their increased expenses that this ministry is incurring for them. Your donation, whether one-off or on-going, will support real ground-work with the refugees.

Information about giving can be found by clicking here.

 

Image by Freedom House.

A new church partnership

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Murray and I are pleased to say we have begun partnering with the Kisha e Perendise (Church of God) church and church plant in a densely populated suburb called Mëzez, on the outskirts of Tirana. We will be working with Erion and his wife Gena, and Elton and his wife Mariana. Erion is the pastor of the older church (planted eight years ago), which is at one end of suburb, and Elton (and Mariana) are leading the new church plant on the other side of the neighbourhood. The four of them form the basis of the leadership team for both churches, and are in their mid 30’s, and are bivocational. Consequently they are not able to work in the church full-time and need help – especially with the new church.

They have asked us to do four things:

Join their leadership team for regular monthly meetings. Meet regularly with Elton and Mariana in a mentoring relationship. Disciple the older folk from both churches. There are around ten older people (men and women) who come to one of the churches, but culturally it is difficult for people in their 30’s to disciple people of older generations. Murray to help in the church plant – however we are yet to work out the specifics of what this will look like.

We feel that we have a reasonable understanding of their church situation, leadership style, struggles, and what they want/need from us and how we can support and work alongside them. We confirmed that we will work with them, and will review the situation in a year.

 

September road trips

In September we went on a Balkan road trip from Albania to Kosovo, then through Macedonia to Bulgaria (Sofia & Burgas on the Black Sea) and on to Romania (Vanju Mare & Timisoara), and then back to Albania via Serbia and Kosovo.

The purpose of the trip was to support a new missionary family in Bulgaria, and then for Féy to meet with other ECM missionaries in each of those countries to encourage them and discover more about their ministries.

It was an intense two weeks, covering 2810 kms and meeting with 10 different people/couples/families who are involved in ministries ranging from anti-traffiking, church planting, a halfway house for single mothers, translating and publishing, children’s summer camps, pastoral support for pastors, and training.

This last weekend Féy also flew up to Austria for four nights to meet the missionaries in Austria and to attend the Austrian teams Prayer Days.

Responding to the Refugee Crisis

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We’re currently in Turkey, witnessing what some are calling the greatest humanitarian crisis of our time and the largest mass movement of people since WWII. There are four million refugees from Syria outside their country and two million of them are here in Turkey, a country that doesn’t want them. We’ve been active in feeding them at the borders and helping to manage relocations into homes of compassion and missional centres in European cities. It’s been good getting to re-establish relationships with ministry leaders again, joining forces to respond to such a serious crisis and huge opportunity for the Gospel.

Half of the four million Syrian refugees outside of their country are under 18 years of age and half don’t have passports. The two million refugees in Turkey are not given ‘refugee’ status but are rather treated as ‘guests’ – without permission to stay or work. Thousands have died this year in boats during their desperate journey to Europe. Some have suffocated in trucks during the land journey. It’s a horrible crisis but there is hope. Thousands upon thousands of homes have opened up for them around the world and we are witnessing one of the greatest acts of compassion in our lifetime. Many of these homes are Christian and already stories are emerging of transformation by the power of Jesus.

Through connecting country leaders with houses of compassion and hubs of holistic service in many countries, we hope to create a network that will enable refugees to find a new home, even if only temporarily. And we feel the best way to help at the moment is to be present in the areas where the refugees are. Please pray for us that we will have everything we need to fulfil God’s purposes.

 

The Thornberrys are NZCMS Mission Partners in Europe who are now focusing on the Syrian refugee crisis. They urgently need more support to enable them to effectively serve many in need. Please consider donating towards their increased expenses that this ministry is incurring for them. Your donation, whether one-off or on-going, will support real ground-work with the refugees.

Information about giving can be found by clicking here. (The above image is from European Commission DG Echo on Flicker.)

Myths about Language Learning

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Katie is currently in Spain, learning the language and culture to get ready to be part of a church-planting team. Here’s some reflections she’s put together about the process of learning a new language.

My myths about Language learning that got squashed quickly.

1. You learn by listening and absorbing. It’s true that you learn a lot by listening but also there has to be some hours at the desk too. Spanish seems to have a huge number of tenses and lots of irregular verbs to try and get your head around and remember.

2. Translating what I want to say directly from English to Spanish always works. My mind is a translating factory right now. The sentence goes in in English and attempts to come out my mouth in Spanish. One day I wanted to pay for a Coke in a Café and so I told the Waitress “I had had a Coke”. The literal translation of this into Spanish sounded like I was announcing to the Waitress that I had just given birth to a glass of Coke. She looked at me in an amused way.

3. Language learning is a 9-5 job. Not true most of my life now involves reading, speaking or listening to Spanish.

4. I’ll be fluent in a year. It’s amazing that your brain adapts and changes and I know I understand and can say so much more now than the few words I had when I first arrived. I still have a way to go but I am so often thankful I can focus just on this work of Language and Culture learning in order to better equipped for being here for the long term.

 

For a list of seven common language-learning myths (and how to fix them) click here.

Church Planting in Albania

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Murray has been partnering in the Shalom Church for the past two and half years, along with Féy (very part time) and Kent & Angie Morton (for the past year). The highlight of those years was witnessing nine people growing in their faith, and then get baptised last September. However, after the baptisms, Valbona took over more of the leadership and decision making, as she feels that the church has been planted. As our involvement and input steadily reduced, we realised that it was time our involvement came to end, and at the end of May we had our last official service with them.

Our time in the Shalom church has borne fruit, and we have learnt a lot about working within the context of a small local church. We plan to continue to meet with the church members as opportunity allows.

We are now exploring and seeking another Albanian church to partner with in church planting, and have already had some encouraging conversations. Please pray for clear direction, and wisdom as we set up a new mutually beneficial partnership to help plant and strengthen Albanian churches.

 

Féy’s Dad

During the first week of June, while at a week long training course in the beautiful Tyrol mountains in Austria, we received news that my dad had been admitted to hospital. On Wednesday we heard that he had had a very rough night, and that they had nearly lost him. For two days there seemed to be some hope and chance of recovery as they pumped him full of antibiotics and other drugs. For a number of reasons we made the decision not to travel to NZ at that point. We hoped and prayed for Dad to recover, but sadly Dad passed away peacefully on the Friday evening in the presence of my mum, my younger brother, our four children and three other grandchildren. We were able to come to NZ for a memorial service with family on July 4 and we will be here a couple of weeks to support my mum and move her into her new house before returning to Albania. Thank you very much for your thoughts and prayers.

18 Hippies in one Truck

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We’ve just emerged from a hippie family filled month on a mountain in the Balkans. We’re simultaneously exhausted and invigorated. We’ve felt in the centre of where God wants us to be and we’ve been having a great time!

Granted, we were the only Christians. The only in-tact family present. In fact, the only married couple. I was by far the oldest woman there. It didn’t surprise us that we were soon dubbed “Mother and Father.”

Who was at the gathering? Young people in their late teens and twenties mostly. Some of the men are older. They are mostly from the Balkans but some from around the world. A 19 year old who has been living on the streets in Israel. A young woman from an Australian finishing school on her way to a Canadian University. Young Serbians who can’t find jobs but refuse to give up so they move into the countryside and start growing their own food… and magic mushrooms. Some people just looking in. Many, many young people from around the world who live without houses and work as street musicians or doing odd jobs or dumpster diving in order to eat.

We arrived ten days before the gathering to ‘set-up’ with a small team. This included erecting a welcome centre, kitchen, chai tent, healing tent, meditation centre, main fire, bread oven, fire bath and water access points from the wells.

We were constantly being asked about our lifestyle, spiritual disciplines, family, travel. We were continually sought after for spiritual and relational advice as well as what role drugs have played in our lives. [none, actually]. Many times I would feel the hearts of the mothers of the young people hoping and praying for them.

The day of the full moon celebration we baked 300 bread rolls in the bread oven that Nigel made. I started the night before teaching several women to bake bread for the first time. I don’t use a recipe. I bake by instinct and am teaching this to the young women. More woman gather around. As we are mixing more flour in I start to mention an examination of the conscience. I learned this from the Jesuit bread-baking book I keep in the truck. We clear our workspace and our hearts. We know that our love goes into the bread with every motion of our hands.

All day long we are making unique batches of dough with seeds and herbs and whatever else attracts them. We take the dough up to the bread oven. Nigel is surrounded by men from all over the world. The oven is almost up to temperature. “Have you ever done LSD? I’m thinking about doing it so I can start thinking again.” They are shocked to find out that neither of us do recreational drugs to encourage spiritual enlightenment.  [Nigel: “Call us old-fashioned”]. We tell stories and talk about freedom. We talked of of other ways to attain spiritual enlightenment. This conversation, is repeated over and over with other groups of young people.

Our girls make many new friends. People comment on how mature they are. There is a different set of morals than we hold and we have many conversations with the girls about this. In this context it’s not good enough to simply tell our girls what is right or wrong. We need to journey with them to the truth.  Talking about good and bad of different choices. People are asking them questions as well. They make lasting impressions on many.

One Israeli man says it is like Plato’s cave. We come into the cave to the people who only see shadows and tell them about the real world outside the cave. He says we are the ones coming into the cave to say what real life is. He says we are ‘revered’ here.

We left the gathering in convoy with another van. We have one last food circle in the village before we drive off. We are still 18 in our truck. By the next day our numbers are down to eight.

Our plans are to go to make our way back north by the beginning of July. Over the summer we will go to three festivals. Please keep us in prayer as we visit these festivals where we will speak about new ways of doing church and spiritual communities, the radical Jesus life, and parenting the Jesus way.

Camping in the Balkans

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We’ve decided to go to gathering of spiritual-seekers in the Balkans. We’re having a fantastic time. We’ve been here for two and a half weeks with two weeks remaining. We came early to set up and with eight other internationals we built a kitchen, chain space, tipi, healing space, meditation space, bread oven and fire bath. We are now up to 40 people with the numbers growing everyday.

We’re having amazing times with seekers from all over the world. Many here are exploring different areas of Buddhism though some are looking into other religions as well. We’ve been adopted by all as mum and dad. Nigel has especially enjoyed building and having conversations on Sufism and peace. A highlight for me is time with a Eastern European man who had quit his heroin addiction three days before he arrived. We’ve met so many amazing people but Nigel and I fall into our tent exhausted at the end of each day. Part of this is the intense conversations. I think the low protein vegan diet at the shared meals contributes as well. Our kids are having a blast and have made many friends.

Please be praying for wisdom, strength and protection. It’s nice to know we are being prayed for.

What not to do in Spain

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Katie is currently in Spain learning the language and culture. Here’s some highlights from a blog post we’ve stumbled across that give some insights into the culture she is learning… and how it differs from the culture back in New Zealand.

The original blog is called 10 Ways to Totally Humiliate Yourself in Spain.

 

Go barefoot anywhere.

Spaniards have an aversion to bare feet. Even in their own homes, Spaniards wear slippers, so don’t even try to traipse around the pool at the gym without flip flops on!

Dress weather appropriate, rather than season appropriate.

Spaniards dress according to the season, not the weather. This means that even if it’s 27 degrees in winter, you’ll likely be gawked at on the street for wearing shorts and sandals. No matter how high the winter temperature, that is summer attire only!

Eat while on the go.

Spaniards like to make every meal a sit-down meal. Chow down on the street or in the metro and you might find yourself the subject of baffled gazes, feeling like the oft-stereotyped “fat tourist” who simply can’t wait to get to a table before shoving food down her gullet.

Try to get dinner before 9 pm.

Most Spaniards don’t even start thinking about dinner until around 9pm and usually don’t eat it until 10 or 11. Show up to a restaurant around 7 or 8 pm expecting to get dinner and the restaurant will either be empty, closed, or filled with Spaniards enjoying some after work drinks well before dinner.

Wear gym clothes outside of the gym.

In other parts of the world, it’s completely fine to run errands in sweatpants, walk down the street in your less-than-best outfits, or even grab lunch with a friend in yoga pants. In Spain, you’ll stick out like a sore thumb if you so much as enter the grocery store in your gym or lounge clothes. Don’t do it.

Even sorbet gets lost in translation

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Feeling like an ice cream I went to see what flavours a local shop was selling. I decided on a zesty looking lemon sorbet and so when a lady came over I asked for a scoop in Spanish and pointed to my choice. She said something back and I replied “si, si” ( “yes, yes”) and so she took a cone, scooped out a berry flavour and gave it to me.

My thoughts of walking away enjoying a zesty lemon sorbet had to change quickly to a sweet berry scoop.

It wasn’t a big deal and it made me chuckle a bit inside but it does give a little taste of what it’s like living life in a new language and culture. Most days I’m trying to understand and be understood, sometimes I have to readjust my expectations (lemon to berry) and often I feel more like a child than an adult. In two months there has been many highs and lows but I am so grateful that God is not like me and that he is always a strong rock and a secure fortress who doesn’t change. We can find true rest in God alone.

My soul finds rest in God alone; my salvation comes from him. He alone is my rock and my salvation; he is my fortress, I shall never be shaken (Psalm 62).

 

A few weeks ago I signed up for crochet classes as a creative way to learn Spanish and to spend time with people from the community. I go twice a week and join a table of nattering Spanish Women who are all working on their own knitting or crochet. My teacher is a very friendly and patient lady who seems to be the ‘go to’ person in the neighborhood if you need craft advice. She teaches me how to crochet in Spanish with drawings and small demonstrations thrown in, we laugh a lot. I am very thankful that it has been such a joy to sit and listen and to try using my Spanish with these women.

 

To learn more about Katie and the work she is involved with in Spain click here.