While I had hoped to post a few blogs while in Europe over the past two weeks, I should have known better. There was scarcely a break from the time we left on Monday, October 30th to our return late Monday night.
Having said that, I intend to do a brief post of each part of our trip, over the next few weeks, which included visits to a few of our missionaries, in Austria and Croatia as well as a quick trip to Edinburgh to visit Derek Prime, a dear saint who has had played a significant role in my ministry; Thomas Breimaier, my church history professor; as well as an unexpected visit with a German pastor, Matthias Lohmann, in Munich, Germany. I love the excitement of divine appointments which only the Lord could orchestrate.
This trip marked my 6th trek to Europe in almost as many years. My first venture in the Spring of 2012 was with a brother from our church to scout out the land so to speak. I will never forget that trip, as we watched the Lord open the doors for some wonderful ministry opportunities. It is hard for me to believe he has given me such a privilege to minister in Europe. I never dreamed such a ministry would be possible. At times I feel so ill-equipped and ever so thankful. Each trip brings with it unique characteristics and this trip was without exception.
And after some days Paul said to Barnabas, “Let us return and visit the brothers in every city where we proclaimed the word of the Lord, and see how they are.” – Acts 15:36 (ESV)
I have been greatly blessed on three of those trips to have had my wife Jenny accompany me. Every time I have visited without her I have been gently reminded that I should have brought her and must not let leave her behind again.
On one particular evening, at our last stop, I was sitting in a meeting with the elders of The Chapel, Salzburg. As I listened to my Austrian brothers I was overwhelmed by the goodness of the Lord to have allowed me to be a part of these young pastor’s lives. It is easy to forget how important our visits are until we are there and the people begin to express their gratitude for the relationship they have with our church. In many respects they consider The Chapel Church as their home church even though we did not initially send them out. It is a humbling to be introduced to their congregation as “their pastor.” I cannot thank the members of The Chapel Church enough for their love and support to have allowed us to visit these precious saints over the years.
One of the things that made this trip unique and distinct from all others was the addition of Clift and Gabby Barnes. Clift is the Senior Pastor of Horizon Christian Fellowship in El Paso, Texas. I have known Clift and Gabby for over 21 years. I first met Clift when we were both youth pastors at churches in our respective states. He, along with his church, graciously hosted our team of 19 people in the summer of 1996 when traveling to do missions work in a small town of Bachiniva (Chihuahua) Mexico. He has been instrumental in all the Lord has been doing in Mexico from that time to the present day. I have often remarked that he must regret the day he said “yes” as he has spent countless hours hosting teams, not to mention other missionaries of our church who have been serving in Mexico.
Clift and Gabby came a couple of days early, on Saturday. It was their first visit to Seattle so had to take them to Pike Place Market for some clam chowder and fish throwing. Earlier that day we were greatly encouraged by the word through a message Clift taught from 2 Peter on “The Sure Word of God.”
Over the years the Lord has had Clift and me on separate yet parallel journeys in our churches as it relates to some organizational changes we have felt led to make, both seeking to be the healthiest church possible. Clift planted his church just a few years after we planted ours in 2001 and the similarities of our journey have been uncanny and to say the least a wonderful confirmation of God’s heart for his church and an encouragement that we’re not alone in where the Lord had been leading us.
This is the kind of trip when being with another couple for 14 days straight, in such close settings, will either make or break a relationship. I had little doubt that it would go well, and this proved to be true. Clift an Gabby were real troopers and a tremendous blessing to have along. They are humble servants whom the Lord used greatly, though they would be the last to say such a thing. On our return home they expressed that the favorite part of the trip was meeting the people. They hope to return one day.
Up next, our first stop…The Lindsay Family and City Chapel in Klagenfurt, Austria…